Category Archives: Mom

Saturday Short – Love Notes – From Mom

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[From the Archives]

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

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

New Year’s Day – Rewind – Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry

Blog - Mom's funeral“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

It’s New Year’s Day – the first day of 2017. Yet, this Christmas was altered with the death of our father. All the observances of family gathering and celebrating his life sidelined some of Christmas for us. There just wasn’t room in our hearts for both. This leaves me, on New Year’s Day, not quite ready to close Christmas for 2016…including savoring the memories, not just of Dad, but of Mom as well.

[Following adapted from a previous blog]

It’s been 14 Christmases since Mom died. With all the joy that’s wrapped up in the great gift of being her daughter, there is that mix of sadness, especially at Christmas. I miss her still. After 14 years.

This Christmas, we have two wee grandchildren. What a gift again are these little ones. I knew it would be so from all around me with grandchildren…and I knew it first because of the deep joy her grandchildren brought to Mom.

When we boarded a plane, over 20 years ago, taking 3 of those grandchildren overseas, there were tears all around. We would miss so many Christmases together. Joy and sadness are a strange mixture but a deeply human, common experience. Common to us all.

As we celebrate the wonder of Christmas – the birth of the Messiah, the Savior – we know penetrating joy, infusing and informing all else in our lives. Entangled in that joy are the sorrows – the family we won’t have with us this year, the disappointments we never imagined, the loves in our life fighting to live to another Christmas.

So many stories we bring to the table with us. So many longings are unwrapped along with the gifts under the tree. There is an unspeakable silence in the Silent Night of Christmas… Both the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ and the ache of dealing with what is not yet.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other in the sorrow and the joy… We are all together in this very human in-between.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? …But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all. But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness.” – Mary Carver

Blog - When Christmas is Hard - Holley Gerth - 90.5 PERPhoto Credit: Positive Hits PER

Singer/songwriters Mandisa and Matthew West collaborated on the song Christmas Makes Me Cry. It’s not a worship song but more a narrative on our lives. Still, it takes us to the God of all comfort.

Worship with me as we pause a moment in this celebration of Christmas and reflect on the side of it that brings tears, either on the inside…or out…tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

I think of loved ones who’ve passed away
And I pray they’re resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder why it’s them instead of me
But for my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family, I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
‘Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that’s why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness and tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me
Oh, sometimes Christmas makes me
Christmas makes me cry
Christmas makes me cry *

YouTube Video – Christmas Makes Me Cry – With Lyrics

*Lyrics to Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Jason & ChristmasMundane Faithfulness Podcast with Blythe Hunt as Jason talks about  community-building, grief, processing loss with children, and his first Christmas without Kara.

Just Drop the Blanket by Jason Soroski

Moms, Mothering, and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

Mom pictures for website 012

[From the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she informs much of how I live life still.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have still other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t. My children are grown and I am not supposed to “mother” them now – a heart habit hard to break. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years. Still, like my mom, I will encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering. I pray that I will have a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. With the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May yours, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s dearest wisdom and deepest kindnesses.

Blog - Mother's Day

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham Tchividjian

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

“Father, You said that You would contend with those who contend with me and You will save our children (Isa. 49:25).

Television, magazines, the classroom, and now the Internet – all are filled with “contenders,”

But I am relying on Your promise.”Ruth Bell Graham

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers

“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?”Ruth Bell Graham

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May today not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners out. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same.MomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

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Love Notes – A Family Tradition – Started by Our Mom

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From the Archives

[On the eve of what would have been my Mom’s 89th birthday, I want to look back a bit to one of the sweetest customs she had – leaving love notes hidden to encourage us in her absence. She still encourages us…even in her absence. Love you, Mom.]Blog - Mom

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.Hebrews 3:13

Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.

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My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Blog - Mom and nathan

Worship Wednesday – My Story – Big Daddy Weave

Blog - My Story CoverPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Stories of people’s lives are so fascinating – the journey itself, the intersections of chance and providence, the losses and gains, and all the faces…all the faces and places along the way.

Mike Weaver, of the band Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Ingram have written this beautiful song My Story that illustrates something of how our story gets woven across time. There is actually very little “chance” involved. Even our failures and missed opportunities become priceless threads in the finished texture of a life.

If I told you my story it would include the bewilderment of a little girl abandoned by her daddy while still at home with us. I was second of four children, the only girl. My mother was beautiful in every way a child could understand. She loved us fiercely and cared for us alone…for what seemed a forever, for a child. Then my step-dad entered our lives, and I understood the love of a father for the first time.

Not long after that, we were welcomed into a circle of neighbors who invited us to their church. This was an altogether different experience for us, and it was among those people that I was introduced to God. It was then that something new and yet strangely familiar came to me…still a little girl. A God-love, an other-world kind of love that pulled me close…closer than even the tender protective hug of my sweet mama. A love that I recognized was present with me even, especially, in the years of hard. God.

He was there all along…and He didn’t give up on us. He will never abandon us.Blog - Worship Wednesday - My StoryPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).Ephesians 2:4-5

…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:6-10

My story, like that of the song My Story, is infused and bubbles over with a love that has altered my life forever…

Blog - My Story - mrsandyrossPhoto Credit: MrsAndyRoss

Worship with me:

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy
If told you my story
You would hear freedom that was won for me
If I told you my story
You would hear life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long*

Blog - My Story - Beautiful Offerings AlbumPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

What is your story? My prayer is that you also see that God has etched Himself into every circumstance of your life. He is here with us…always. I would love to hear your story…

[Postscript: The last line of the song My Story comes from the song Blessed Assurance, a great old hymn all our kids know and sing along with us. Don’t miss that one, if you don’t know it – in links below.]

*My Story – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis, New Release Today

YouTube Video – My Story (Lyrics) – Big Daddy Weave

To Tell You My Story Is To Tell You Of Him – Mrs. Andy Ross

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – CeCe Winans and Terrence Blanchard – Cicely Tyson Kennedy Center Honors

YouTube Video – Blessed Assurance – Third Day with lyrics

Worship Wednesday – Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry

Blog - Mom's funeral“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

It’s been 13 Christmases since my mom died. With all the joy that’s wrapped up in the great gift of being her daughter, there is that mix of sadness, especially at Christmas. I miss her still. After 13 years.

This Christmas, we have a new granddaughter. What a gift again is this little one. I knew it would be so from all around me with grandchildren…and I knew it first because of the deep joy her grandchildren brought to Mom.

When we boarded a plane, 20 years ago, taking 3 of those grandchildren overseas, there were tears all around. We would miss so many Christmases together. Joy and sadness are a strange mixture but a deeply human, common experience. Common to us all.

As we celebrate the wonder of Christmas – the birth of the Messiah, the Savior – we know penetrating joy, infusing and informing all else in our lives. Entangled in that joy are the sorrows – the family we won’t have with us this year, the disappointments we never imagined, the loves in our life fighting to live to another Christmas.

So many stories we bring to the table with us. So many longings are unwrapped along with the gifts under the tree. There is an unspeakable silence in the Silent Night of Christmas… Both the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ and the ache of dealing with what is not yet.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other in the sorrow and the joy… We are all together in this very human in-between.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? …But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all. But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness.” – Mary Carver

Blog - When Christmas is Hard - Holley Gerth - 90.5 PERPhoto Credit: Positive Hits PER

Singer/songwriters Mandisa and Matthew West collaborated on the song Christmas Makes Me Cry. It’s not a worship song but more a narrative on our lives. Still, it takes us to the God of all comfort.

Worship with me as we pause a moment in this celebration of Christmas and reflect on the side of it that brings tears, either on the inside…or out…tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

I think of loved ones who’ve passed away
And I pray they’re resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder why it’s them instead of me
But for my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family, I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
‘Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that’s why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness and tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me
Oh, sometimes Christmas makes me
Christmas makes me cry
Christmas makes me cry *

YouTube Video – Christmas Makes Me Cry – With Lyrics

*Lyrics to Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Jason & ChristmasMundane Faithfulness Podcast with Blythe Hunt as Jason talks about  community-building, grief, processing loss with children, and this first Christmas without Kara.

Just Drop the Blanket by Jason Soroski

When the Baby Brother Turns 60 – What?! – Looking Back Through Pictures

Dwane, Wade, & Robert - BlogToday is my youngest brother’s 60th birthday. Wade is youngest of four. Robert, our oldest brother, then me (the only girl), Dwane, and Wade. Through the years, we’ve weathered a lot together. I am so grateful to have had these three men as my brothers. “Have had” in the sense that our older brother, Robert, died young and suddenly at the age of 61. Now there are three of us, living in three different states. Rarely together, all three.

Today Wade turns 60. I don’t know how that could be since Dwane and I are still so young. Seriously?! Still, I want to wish our youngest sibling the happiest of birthdays…and share some pictures of him and us.Family - BlogWe didn’t have a lot as children, but we didn’t know it. Mom was our only provider at the age of the picture above. That’s my grandma and her grands at the time. I am holding Wade, with Dwane on my right, and Robert sitting on Uncle Willis’ convertible.

Within minutes, it seems, our mom’s baby grew up and had a baby of his own.

Blog - Road Trip - Wade & MomWade & Jeremy

Wade has always been very laid-back, easy-going, and a peacemaker whenever possible (being the youngest, that could be a formidable task). He bore up well in our complicated household (as Mom re-married the man who became our dad but was already the dad of five children of his own).

Wade’s baby, Jeremy, grew up and became a lot like him…in all the best ways…with a strong sense of what should be right in the world and strong opinions on how to make it so. They don’t always agree on what those things are nor how to right the wrongs, but they are alike at heart.Blog - Wade's BirthdayWade & Jeremy - Blog

As happens too often, Wade’s marriage to Jeremy’s mom ended…with heartache that filled all of us who loved him/them. Sometime later, Amy came into our family with a heart full of love. She and Wade have made a sweet marriage together, in mid-life, including the birth of Wade’s second son, Jaden, who keeps them young.

Live long enough and family will continue to grow, Wade gained a beautiful daughter-in-law, Sarah…and then that first grandchild..L.C.Wade & FamilyWade & Jaden - BlogWade & Lily Cate

That youngest brother has enjoyed a great life these 60 years…even with the hard bumps in the road of divorce, setbacks with health and work, hard deaths of people we love, and separation from family. With all that, he has kept his faith and faithfully extends grace and love, with that big heart of his, to those fortunate to be around him.

I am thankful to be his big sister…have been from the day Mom placed that newborn bundle in my preschooler arms…until now. We are too many states apart to have a lunch date, but here’s to you, Wade. Happy 60th birthday, Little Brother. Thanks for being my buddy, and for all the memories (some of which we remember very differently – but maybe yours are the real ones…who knows?).Wade & Debbie - Blog2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 314Debbie, Dwane, & Wade

P.S. One day, I’ll write about this other brother…this Dwane, the middle brother… who is so gentle with Dad in his Alzheimer’s years that my heart breaks with joy at his tenderness. In these days, I’m getting to know Dwane at an altogether different, deeper place. One day, I’ll write about you, Brother.2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 346

70’s Road Trips – Soaking Up America in a VW Bus – Wade & Me

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2) – Robert

5 Friday Faves – Leadership, Keeping House, Mentors, Wonderful Defects, & a Phenomenal Guitarist

Blog - Friday Faves

Fridays come so fast. So here we are again. My top finds this week (and there were so many great reads and experiences this week, it was hard to narrow down to 5). Hope yours is a lovely day and a stretched-out weekend.

1. On Leadership – Brian Dodd creates great lists. In this week’s blog, he published 24 Steps to Successfully Leading Through CrisisOf his 24 steps, these are my favorite (but do read all of them):

  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Provide Stability – Stabilizing the organization gives your people a sense of security.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Become A Giving Engine – Rather than focusing inward and solely on the issues you are facing, look outward and turn your attention to others.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Offer Hope – This tells others success is in their future.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Offer A Plan – Hope is not a strategy.  There must also be a detailed roadmap showing why hope exists.
  • To Successfully Lead Through Crisis You Must Change – The behaviors which got you in the crisis will not get you out of the crisis.

Also not to miss is Paul Sohn’s Top 30 Must Read Posts on Leadership October 2015.

2. Keeping House – I struggle with keeping order in my house, even though now it is only Dave and me. No one else to make the mess but us. Ann Voskamp, farm wife, mother of 6, and best-selling author, wrote about keeping house this week – 6 Ways to Speed Clean to a Clean Enough House. Her photographs of life are so gorgeous that it’s hard to imagine things out of place or not camera-ready. Yet, even Ann had to come up with a system of order which she shares in this blog. My two favorite suggestions from her list of 6 follow:

  • Make your bed every morning. I love this one because it’s so easily done. It gives its own cheer of “Hurrah! You’re off to getting lots more done.” BLog - Keeping HouseMy husband and I have very different “sides of the bed” – he’s a bit neater; I’m a piler. Projects, bits of paper, “things to read later”…sigh…but, the bed is made. Score!
  • 30 Minute Love SHAKs“Do Surprising Home Acts of Kindness — Love SHAKs — 30  minutes of random cleaning [right after dinner], just 30 minutes of every single person who lives here seeing something that needs to be cleaned —- and everybody cleaning as quickly as they can. The point of everybody working together at the same time to surprise everybody? Everybody models the kindness of cleaning for each other, nobody gets to say what they’ve got going is too important to get in on loving each other, real progress is made because everybody is working fast and together, spurring each other on — and we all get to say we are on the same team.” I love this! Might start with 15 minutes with the love of my life. What do you think, Dave?

3. Mentors Jon Acuff rarely has guest bloggers, but this week he shared his spot with Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness. Howes writes about his personal experience of connecting with top mentors. Having been a professional football player, he might have been tempted to just ask them out for coffee. No, he did something altogether different. He offered to serve them in any capacity they would find helpful. Don’t miss his wise counsel on this.

“Don’t ask for anything. Just offer to be of meaningful service, in any capacity that will help the mentor in achieving what is important to them. Offer to work for free. Say yes to anything. Hustle hard. Show them you are grateful and willing to learn. Keep your word.” – Lewis Howes

4. Wonderful Defects – This week, I discovered Paul Phillips and his blog He’s Taken Leave. He tells a beautiful story of an old beautifully marred violin and bridges that to our own propensity to comparing ourselves to others.

“As with the old violin, the comparisons with others prove nothing.  Each person who walks through my door is a masterpiece of unique design. Every one, a treasure.  Every single one. Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I can almost hear the music again.”

Blog - Old Violin - wqxr.orgPhoto Credit: wqxr.org

5. Phenomenal Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related? Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Once in awhile, it feels down-right wrong not to share with you something about him. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him…and be able to enjoy his music beyond YouTube, social media, or local performance. Mark it down.Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

What are your favorites from this week? Would love to hear about them. Share in comments, please.

Blog - Fall Back YardOur back yard this week – Fall

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong – On the Anniversary of My Mom’s Glorious Homegoing

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We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

My Mom was a young 72 when she was diagnosed with cancer. We were overseas at the time, and I wanted so to be home with her. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – supposedly “the best kind of cancer you can have”. Highly treatable. Long remissions. Often cured. Mom would die after 3 years of intensive, and sometimes experimental, chemotherapy. She never caught a break. Yet, she didn’t look at it that way.

Her journey with God in those days was other-worldly. The Mom I knew loved to serve people, and cancer would not stop that. She had grown up poor and with a dad who could be mean when he drank. She dreamed of college but it was never meant to be. Instead she became a student of life, and she never tired of that. She was a beautiful blend of Mary and Martha – wholly satisfied whether “sitting at the feet of Jesus” or serving the needs of those around her. I love that she was my Mom.

She taught me how to live…and she taught me how to die. We were home in the States when Mom’s cancer finished its course in her. She never spent a night in the hospital throughout those three years.  She stubbornly guarded her time at home and had the will and the support (of my Dad, family and friends) to endure from home…and there was God, holding her tight against the storm.

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Mom never prayed for healing, but we did. Mom prayed that this cancer, the illness and all that was part of it (including a devastating Shingles-related neuralgia), would bring glory to God. Her prayer was answered, and ours, ultimately, in Heaven.

Her dying took three days. If you had known my Mom, you knew a person that was all about life – helping and encouraging others, pointing them to God, determined, in faith, to make sense of what seemed utter nonsense. She continued to be about that until she went into a coma the last day. While she was awake that final weekend, I asked her (over and again) how she was. One time, I remember, she nodded a bit, and whispered, “I’m O.K.” It was her face that spoke volumes. Forehead lifted, blue eyes bright, an almost sunny expression. That “I’m O.K.” was accompanied by an almost delighted look of marvel…of wonder. Like, “Wow! I really am O.K.!” God was meeting her at the point of her greatest need.

Mom and I have always had amazing talks about the deep things of God and life. She told me one time that she envied us our certainty of His call to a life overseas. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard God speak so clearly to me,” she lamented. In the last days of her life, it came to me to ask her if she heard God speak to her lately. She answered right away, with that same look of wonder, “All the time!” If cancer had to be the instrument of such grace, then it became a gift to her.

Mom entered Eternity during the reading of 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (see above). Her young pastor and his wife came unexpectedly that evening, rushing in, wide-eyed, as if on a mission. We brought them back to her room, and they sat with us, around her bed. She had been unresponsive all day. Her pastor opened his Bible and began reading. Mom had this sweet habit of knitting her forehead and shaking her head, in response to something that touched her heart. As he read, after being quiet and still all day, she knit her forehead and breathed her last. We all felt transfigured in that moment.

Today marks 13 years since Mom went to be with the Lord, and I miss her today and every day. She was so spent when she left us, yet gloriously whole at the same time. A bit of prose from Henry Van Dyke always comes to mind in thinking of her Homegoing.

Gone From My Sight by Henry Van DykeBlog - Mom's Homegoing

Photo Credit: Curt Ellis

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

Mom taught us how to live…and she taught us how to die. She “fought the good fight…finished the race…and kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7). For us, there is still a race to be run.

Thanks, Mom, for showing us how it’s done. See you at the Finish Line.

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When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters:
Did I do my best to live for truth, did I live my life for You?
When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward
Will stand the test of time.

Lord, Your mercy is so great
That You look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Making sinners into saints

I will always sing Your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For You’ve shown me Heaven’s my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone.

Lord I’ll live my life for You.

Lyrics & Music by Jim Cowan © 1999 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music

Mom pictures for website 003Mom’s Irises

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done

Memory of Mildred Byrd McAdams

Her Children Arise and Call Her Blessed – Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on a Godly mother