In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).
This year I decided to clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish, should they be the ones clearing it out one day.
The bag of someone else’s treasures in my car headed to Hope Thrift yesterday was my front-seat passenger. While Christmas music played, I occasionally looked over at that bag, and my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.
In the bag were several sets of vinyl Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.
Even though I don’t use those red and green placemats, I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.
In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. Themusical score was composed by John Williams.
Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me*
What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.
[Now the cloth napkins she made…and the crocheted Christmas ornaments…still with me.]
So Happy Saturday, kind readers. If you can’t afford the gifts you’d like to give your family, take heart. Christmas still comes for us. Most probably what your loved ones want most for Christmas…is you.
If finances aren’t an issue for you this Christmas, then still we have good advice in this image of a holiday bucket list:
I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift…or having every minute of your December weekends filled with parties or other invitations. One such grace for me that also happened yesterday was waiting for my order at Chick-Fil-A. I was standing at the end of the farm table in their dining room and saw the plaque below for the first time. Surprised by the joy of this.
Anyway….there you have my Saturday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2017. I do celebrate you amazing and persevering shoppers for just the right presents for your loved ones. It is such a joy for us on the receiving end of that.
One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them. Until then, gifts of some sort, probably severely lacking imagination, will make it under the tree…and the best part?
“All of the music, all of the magic All of the family, home here with me”.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 107:1
A heart for Thanksgiving this year took me all the way until the day before. Not that I am not grateful. There’s thanks in every breath. As the Psalmist proclaims, we have a multitude of reasons to be thankful to God. He is good to us. In fact, his love (mercy) endures forever. If you have a few minutes, read the whole of Psalm 107 to reckon the richness of how God’s mercies endure…through whatever we are going through.
This Thanksgiving, I have struggled to prepare my heart for a day of feasting. Until this morning, I had little stomach for it. Oh, I am looking forward to have all our children and grands around the table later today. Then on Thanksgiving itself, we’ve gathered a few neighbors and friends who, like us, won’t be with their families. It will be a sweet time.
Until this morning though, my thoughts struggled with the losses of late. Not my own, but that of some friends and extended family. The world’s a mess, isn’t it? Yet, within that mess, a good and merciful God is moving.
This morning, we said goodbye to dear dear friends who had passed through our home for a quick visit. They reminded us of other Thanksgivings spent together across the ocean. They stood in for family we would be missing, as we did for them.
Their making the time to visit lifted my heart. When I dropped them at the holiday-crowded train station and returned home, the list of preparations for this special day demanded attention.
Then in a moment…standing in this sun-drenched kitchen…
Thanksgiving came. As I began mixing the ingredients for cornbread dressing, my mom came to mind. I watched her for years doing this same action. Standing in the kitchen, mixing, adding love and sage to taste, no recipe. Years of comfort in that sweet memory.
My mom-in-law also came to mind…always preparing a loaded table of goodness for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving. Her table and company we will miss this time…as we wait until Christmas to travel home. Still, I know her. Even with a son and daughter-in-law cooking most of the meal, she will still scurry…still make her specialties…still lay a table fit for the family she loves.
Now as turkey and dressing bake in my oven, the fragrance calls to mind so many times of family together…food and football…hugs and laughter. Having adult children nearby, we are making a new set of memories with help in the kitchen…between this chef of a son of mine and two girls cooking in their homes as I am here.
There is a bond in that. In fact, there is a bond in this cooking for those we love…all over the world. What a blessing to think of being a part of that wonder today and forever.
Thanksgiving has come. God, in his enduring love and mercy, will get us through the dark times. He has done it before, and He will do it again. As for these shimmering bright moments of family coming and a table circled with love…I will be ever grateful.
As a small child, I loved my mama with all my heart. She was the source of all the goodness in our lives. She was my hero.
Through the many deep and painful hardships in Mom’s life, she had lost her way spiritually and we were unchurched in the early years of our childhood. When kind and persevering neighbors finally won Mom’s trust, we accepted their invitation to church. It was in that small congregation with hearts full of love that we found God.
It was no time before I was ready to receive, as my own, this beautiful, persistently loving, perfectly holy Savior. I was ready because of my own failed attempts to be good for my mama – to take some of the burden off her shoulders through my own small efforts. The knowledge from Scripture that we could never do enough on our own, that we needed a sinless Savior, was the best news I’d ever heard!
In recent weeks, we have been studying 1 Thessalonians (the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church) through our church’s sermon series and in our home groups. The two short versions below were like a shock of glorious truth for me:
May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows, so that He may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Anything good in our lives comes through the hands of God. In fact, as Pastor Cliff said Sunday, “No matter how far away we feel right now (from being blamelessly holy), what God Almighty has declared so He will make so.”
Pursuing holiness is a theme much talked about in Christian circles – almost to the point of it being an idol. God orders the pursuit of holiness secondarily to increasing in love. What if we went after loving first? Not in lieu of holiness, God forbid, but…on the path to it.
We know from the passage in 1 Thessalonians, and many passages in Scripture, that God means for us to be all about knowing and loving Him and, out of that, loving others. Not just others we like or those we want to like us…but ALL others. The “so that” in verse 13 gives us the context.
As we strive to love others, in obedience to the Lord, He empowers us in that love. Then as our hearts are filled with deeper and broader love, then we have less room, inclination, or desire for or toward sinful habits.
Until the day we go to be with God when He completes His work in us and we are then blamelessly holy because of what Christ’s holiness accomplished in us.
The stuff of cold chills and face to the ground in awe of Him.
“If holiness is a matter of being increasingly conformed to God’s law, and if as Paul says in Romans 13, love is the fulfillment of the law, then it makes sense that as we grow in love, we come more in line with God’s law, and thus become more holy. This dynamic also makes sense to us experientially, as we face our sin. For example, if you grow in love for your neighbor, you are less likely to covet your neighbor’s possessions. The more you grow in depth of love for your spouse, the less attractive becomes the prospect of adultery. The more you love your fellow man, the harder it is to harbor any malice towards them. If we perfectly loved everyone, there would be no sin! Chrysostom, the great 4th century preacher, put it this way, “Love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression; there is not any sin, which the power of love cannot consume.” Love is the soil in which holiness grows toward perfection. Love is the means by which a person’s heart gets established blameless in holiness.” – David Scott
My husband Dave often talks about the ways God shows up in our lives and the role we have in those divine appointments (Psalm 127:1, as an example). “Our part is necessary but not sufficient”.
We can’t love well enough on our own…but as we give ourselves over to how God loves through us, we can know what it means to actually love unselfishly and unreservedly. That’s the kind of love I wanted to lavish on my mom as a child. She was so worthy of it…but I didn’t understand how. Until God’s truth penetrated my heart. Through the rest of Mom’s years of life and mine with her, I loved her imperfectly…but more perfectly than I could have without God at work in me.
The same for loving all others. It’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and only allow in those easy for us to love. No wonder our hearts bend so easily to sin and selfishness if that is our default. What a world God opens to us when we surrender ourselves to His redemptive purposes.
You might say, my mom fit in the category of “easy to love”. You are right. Still, as I grew in loving God, yielding to Him and His help in seeing others as He sees them, then loving comes easier. Even those as hard to love as I can be sometimes. Loving broadly is becoming a whole daily renewing and consuming adventure. Out of that, I know from His Word, He lavishes our hearts with His holiness.
The more we love, the more God shapes our hearts toward holiness. Wow!
We usually have a song together on Worship Wednesday’s. I’ve put a couple in the links. Today seems more for glorying in God’s provision and praying to be available to Him to love generously and flesh out blameless holiness to a world that needs to see Jesus in us.
Today, the idea of legacy fills my thoughts. To think of how to build and leave a legacy…to pass a baton well…planting it firmly in the hand of the next runner…how do we prepare for such a thing?
Yesterday, two events stirred my heart and mind in how well we can leave a legacy. In the morning, during their worship service, an older church in Richmond gave its keys to a younger growing church. Photo Credit: Chris Kollman
Such an example of selfless generosity caps the legacy of this church’s service to this community. Part of legacy, the passing of the baton, is for the second runner to take it and run hard with it…to finish the race…to win the race. For Patterson Ave. Baptist Church (the website is already down), the race is finished…and finished well…for Movement Church, there is still a race to be run. May we finish well, too.
The second event yesterday was a small party for a couple of friends of ours – a celebration of 60 years married. These two have taught usmuch about marriage, but they have also taught us and walked us through to a deeper faith. They are a living legacy to all who are fortunate enough to know them.
So often when we think about legacy, we think of older ones, but legacy building can start in youth. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps started very young. He began as a young athlete pouring into the lives of children who hoped to grow into athletes like him.Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
Phelps was amazing to watch in the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning gold medal after gold medal. Then in the 100m butterfly final, he lost to Joseph Schooling, of Singapore, who met Phelps when Joseph was just 13 years old. 8 years earlier. Michael Phelps’ legacy of 27 gold medals may be what most will remember about him. However, his silver medal will be what Joseph Schooling will remember, after winning the gold medal himself in that event. Michael Phelps is still young and his legacy-building continues.
My mom is in Heaven now…for 15 years so far. Her impact in my life and that of many others goes really deep. However, I’m not sure how long my children will remember the incredible good she poured into their lives. Their children won’t even know her. It is what it is with life in our youth-oriented culture. Still…my mom’s legacy is safe with me. I will never be the tireless servant or the big-hearted womanshe was…but it is my endeavor to grow in that direction. As long as my memory endures, her life blends with my own.
Leaving a legacy is on the minds of us moving into our senior years, but building a legacy begins much earlier. I have enjoyed reading about it in preparation for this piece.
Bart Astor wrote a piece on legacy for Forbes. He proposes four ways to leave a legacy:
Provide a family history. – Websites and guides abound on this subject. Asking older family members good questions can start that process. I will never forget when my mom died that it wasn’t 5 minutes before something came up and my immediate response was “Mom would know”. Too late. Ask questions early; label pictures; build a family history. Even if others in the family may not seem interested. It’s worth doing.Photo Credit: Success
Give to charity. –What do you care about? Leaving money to our children may help for a season. Giving to charities during our lives makes a difference in real time. Giving builds a legacy and models legacy-building for our family. We also believe in supporting causes that aren’t necessary considered charities ( crowd-sourcing, for instance, like Patreon helps us support a favorite musician).
Write a legacy letter – In a way, I started blogging with this in mind. Writing a letter as if you knew you were going to die sooner than later may seem morbid, but it is really a beautiful way to speak the words you want to make sure get said before you’re gone. Whether it’s in months…or many years later. A legacy letter can be written over the course of years…almost like a journal. Some things are too precious to leave to an aging memory.
Prepare an ethical will. This is something we can all do, whether young or old. A will is not a document we want to use to punish people or reward some and leave out others. A will is a final blessing we can give to others. Putting off writing a will is not helpful. We’ve encouraged our children to do wills while in their 20s. Wills can always be changed but they are an excellent way to provide for those we love during a terrible time of loss. When writing a will, it’s wise to do all we can to make our intent completely understandable and loving. We have tried to do just that with our wills.
We do well to mark our position in the race before us…to grip our baton…and then run hard. Our race does not last forever. There comes a time we hand off our baton to that one waiting eagerly to grip the baton at our release. Hopefully that runner has done all she can to be ready for the next leg of the race. Hopefully we have done our part…well…building legacy and leaving it in good hands.
My mom was an intuitively reflective person. All of life was full of meaning for her. People mattered – what they said, what they did…what they didn’t say or do. She noticed how things played out, and she made decisions based on outcomes. Her decision-making was tempered by her faith and her understanding of the constancy of God. She was intentional in all she did.[a magnet always on Mom’s refrigerator]
She wasn’t perfect, of course. Reflection can spiral down to worry or fretting, and Mom struggled with that. Reflection can also err in over-thinking or over-analyzing. Mom could fall into “meddling”, giving instructions, or offering advice not asked for, but this was a most rare occasion. Even when she did it, I knew and appreciated her heart. She was right on the mark much of the time.
My whole life I have strived to learn from her and to be like her.
Reflection as a life habit is difficult for me. I like to fill time…even if it’s only with purposeless activity. Screens are my nemesis, be they computer, phone, or TV. Also over-committing or over-scheduling also hamper reflection. There seems a perverse and mythical work ethic that requires our days be full of meetings. If we don’t have our weekends similarly filled, we vigorously look for ways to fill them.
To our peril.
Reflection is to look back – over our day, or an event, or a conversation – and to pause and think deeply about it. What did we learn? How do we adapt our thinking and actions related to what we experienced? How do we go forward?
We can have reflective practices in our work and personal lives, even built into our days. These include alone thinking time, “sharing thoughts” conversations, and journaling/writing. My husband comes home from work and, in good weather, changes clothes and heads to work in his garden. After awhile, he settles into a lawn chair and just sits, watching and thinking. At some point in those moments, reflection blossoms.
[I benefit because he shares those reflections with me…and others later sometimes.]
Benjamin P. Hardy, my favorite writer on productivity right now, doesn’t talk about reflection so much, but he preaches it without saying the word. He recommends the deep work that happens outside of work. He also strongly promotes journaling as a “keystone habit”. In his article Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life, he is so thorough in his support of journaling that I can’t imagine anyone NOT journaling after hearing him list out the many life benefits.
I have journaled all my life, but it hasn’t always been as focused as it could be. My journals have sometimes just been reporting tools, emotion-processing devices, rant writing, and the like.
However, like my Mom, I discovered that writing is a way to bring reason to my irrationality and resolution to conflict. After writing awhile, I can come back to life, refreshed and better equipped to do what’s next…whatever that might be.
The exercise of leadership is not unlike a sport you play. When you review your actions in the field you learn what worked, what didn’t, and adjust along the way. Leadership guru Peter Drucker said: “ Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. ”
Inam provides a kickstart to journaling with these questions and writing prompts:
What’s present for me now?
What’s going well? What’s creating that?
What’s challenging? What’s creating that?
What needs my attention?
What’s meaningful? What am I grateful for?
What strengths do I notice in myself?
What strengths and contributions do I notice in others?
What am I learning?
What is an action I’m committing to?
Inam’s questions are helpful. They can bring focus to our ramblings. You might choose a different approach to how you use journaling in your reflections. Please share in Comments. Also, journaling may not be your preferred vehicle for reflection. I love, for instance, when workplace leaders encourage reflection over the course of a work day. Isn’t it lovely when a training or conference has reflection time built into the program…so it’s not just an “information dump” with no time to process. If you have experiences, either negative or positive, about your own use of reflection in the workplace, please share with us. We’re not just talking about productivity here, but personal growth and community building.
Talk a few minutes and reflect on the possibilities.
“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 – 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. Wife of Billy Graham, 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 your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.
Prayers for Our Little Ones
“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
“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
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 this day 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.
On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills. His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon
His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy. Just wow!
Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.
2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.
Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language. – Wikipedia
“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.” – Edward S. Herman
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language
When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.
A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.
What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…
3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.
4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.
It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).
Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine
Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.
5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.
Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.
Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.
Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings
When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.
It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear
Happy Friday! We made it! You know those weeks where so much is going on it’s hard to process it all? I’ve surfed on top of the waves of this week…thankful for all the helps along the way. How was your week?
Always glad to hear your views on life, not only on the Friday Faves, although they’re fascinating, but on anything you want to talk about. Please share in Comments below.
Here are my Friday Faves. Enjoy!
1) Spring Flowers – Search “Spring” on my blog and you will find several posts on this incredible season. We’ve lived in countries where Spring isn’t as obvious as it is here, but Spring comes all over the world, in subtlety and in glorious spectacle. Where we are, trees are flowering, buds are popping, and leaves are unfolding. Oh the beauty of the earth! Love!
These guys give a bit of their stories and their counsel on what is required to build an online community and have a successful podcast. Great reading!
3) Organization – Fuzzy boundaries and project piles are part of my battle in life (work and home). Love to keep my options open, I guess. It requires all the discipline I can muster to finish well. When folks write about organization, routines, and habits, I take note. The best articles are those that are consummately practical – and encourage rather than condemn.Photo Credit: Flickr
4) Caring – In recent months, I have been increasingly aware of two health issues requiring great insight and caring – 1) Adverse Childhood Experiences and 2) Alzheimer’s Disease. A film debuted in 2015 titled Paper Tigers. Its focus is a high school in Washington state and how the staff and other caregivers began turning things around for traumatized high schoolers who deal daily with toxic levels of stress. These are the same kind of kids that too often get less care than more because they are difficult to engage.Photo Credit: Marshfield News Herald
Alzheimer’s Disease is a frightening disease as we watch someone we love change and diminish, both in their thinking and their function. As hard as it must be on the one who has dementia, it is also devastating to those who love that person. That’s what makes it so amazing when a son, for instance, takes the time and effort to honor a mom with dementia. Joey Daley, of Lima, Ohio, has taken on a video project to document their journey through dementia.
I haven’t watched all the videos, but the ones I’ve watched have allowed us, strangers to their experience, to see inside their relationship in a difficult time. His visits with his mom are as sweet as any son’s would be…with dementia added. He knows, and we know, the days will become more difficult. I think we will see his love for her endure…
5) Frosted Strawberry Lemonade – Chick-Fil-A, a US restaurant chain, has this incredible refreshment blending ice cream with lemonade. I already raved about their frosted lemonade here. This Spring, there’s a seasonal addition to the menu. Strawberries added – enough said.
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.
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.
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