Category Archives: Mothers

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

Saturday Short – The Judge – A Raw, Painful, Healing, Magnificent Film – and the Soundtrack that Sealed It

JUDGE, THEPhoto Credit: The Judge Movie

Here’s a film, released in 2014, that received mediocre reviews but drew me in tightly from the beginning scenes. Before filming, the original script of The Judge went through two re-writes by separate screenwriters. I wonder why…was it to make the story more gentle or more biting (most probably)?

The plot story focuses on a father and three sons. They come together for the funeral of the mother who, although only seen on home movies, was clearly the center of this family, holding them together. Now with the mom gone, the men wrestle with the sharp edges of their relationships. All this happening in the midst of a mesmerizing courtroom situations.

blog-the-judge-2-the-judgemoviePhoto Credit: The Judge Movie

There is so much to love and hate about this film. It seems to have no filters. The dialog is raw and unrestrained. Some of the lines cut to the heart, leaving little will to reconcile. Yet, the characters are bound together somehow. That’s the hope in the film, actually…and it doesn’t disappoint.

Four of my favorite actors star in The Judge – Robert Duval, Robert Downey, Jr., Vincent D’Onofrio, and Billy Bob Thornton. Every other actor in the supporting cast seems perfectly hand-picked also and they play out the story powerfully.

This film is R-rated which is usually on my no-watch list. Beware of the language and the intense dialog. I watched it because of the ensemble cast and the courtroom drama.

The music also is a gorgeous backdrop for the story. Hearing Willie Nelson singing the Coldplay song The Scientist was surprising and fitting to the film. [Our oldest son, in high school years, used to play and sing this song]. Another song, Holocene by Bon Iver, slowed down the tempo of the film in a couple of scenes, the same way that grief does. Beautiful choices for the soundtrack.

My family growing up was not so much like this family…yet there were similarities that pulled me into the film story. Our mom was the center of our home and our childhood. Where this father emotionally abandoned his family for a time, our biological father walked away from us (as children), never seemingly looking back. I had three brothers. We had loud, sharp-edged fights with each other. The memory of those fights and that father wound has colored our adulthood. Our mom died…too soon. Fortunately, because of our faith in God and our love for each other, the past doesn’t define us anymore. We have come to a peaceful and amicable place in our relationships…for which I’m eternally grateful – especially since it began just before we lost our oldest brother.

I’m not necessarily recommending this film (especially because of the R-rating and the language), but on this Saturday morning, it came to mind. Now it’s in my head again for a bit. Especially the powerful scenes, like this courtroom scene – where the one most alienated son is questioning his father, the judge, who is convicted of murder (you have to see the movie or read the spoiler for the details). Beautiful and sad and finally…closure, of a sort, in the end.

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

Richmond sunrise - flickrPhoto Credit: Rich Terrell, flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Short – Parenting and Growing Up on TV

Blog - Screen time - telegraphPhoto Credit: Telegraph

I missed the bus once because, as a first-grader, I got completely immersed in a TV show. It wasn’t pretty. Both my parents worked, and my younger brothers were already squared away at a sitter’s house. Freewheeling it, a mostly responsible 6 y/o, I spent the day alone because of the power of screens in my life from an early age.

[Sidebar: No shaming of parents follows. You have a hard and important job…especially those who are the primary caregivers, Mom’s usually.]

Spring forward a few decades to my own raising children. I still loved TV. It was then and is now an entertaining diversion from the day’s work, providing a break from thinking, studying, decision-making.

However, my own filter for “not appropriate for children” in terms of content and how much was not very reliable. Finally, one day when our oldest child was maybe 18 months old, my husband made the unpopular decision of recommending we cancel our cable subscription. He came in, when I was taking a break, and watching something (detective show or romantic comedy, can’t remember), and our little one was watching right along with me.

Sigh…I was really o.k. with the intervention.

[Be kind in your judgment of my husband. I could have appealed that decision, but it was the right one, for us at the time. Truly I wanted our children to be able to engage in conversation with adults, and to have varied interests and skills, and to serve others. When my go-to down-time diversion was TV, it was easy for me to disengage from other more substantive uses of our time.]

Josh Squires, pastoral counselor and father of 5, posted a blog today on binge watching and on-demand entertainment. I’d love to hear what his wife says as well, but the piece is fair, reasoned, and compassionate. He talks about what affects our decisions for our children’s screentime – content, time, and (heart) attachment. For you caregivers (Mom’s), there are still times to just curl up with the kids and watch something on TV…or to let them relax with a favorite film while you get something done. Totally.Blog - Screen Time - desiring GodPhoto Credit: Desiring God

I’d rather you read his words than my own, so I’ll close with this. Being a grandmother now, I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to babysit, and already I can see using some sort of screen time as a good diversion when the littles are older… However, having said that, I hope their parents will be able to trust me to model drawing them into thoughtful service of others, talent- and skill-building, and the practice of conversation. That’s my hope for myself for sure.

These days my best naps are when the TV is glowing in the background. Still could miss a bus today…

Parenting in the Age of Binge-Watching – Josh Squires – Desiring God

Monday Morning Moment – Screentime – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Mother’s Day – Not the #BestMomEver Nor the Worst – Didn’t Mother Alone, and Then They Were Grown

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Happy Mother’s Day. Seeing that in print often brings that saying to mind, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  I never liked that saying and don’t want to put such a edict on my family. Motherhood does seem to carry its blessing and burden of emotions. Stores and restaurants are as crowded as Christmas this weekend with families doing what they do to celebrate their mothers.

With my own mom already with the Lord, and my other mom in another visit, this weekend, my thoughts are tuned onto these three kiddos – the ones who made me a mom in my 30s. They were a blessing come late and cherished all the more for their timing.

Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - first days of schoolDan, Christie, Nathan in Egypt

Courtney Reissig writes a thought-provoking and freeing piece entitled Don’t Call Me the Best Mom Ever. She calls out our tendencies to go to extremes in lauding the praises of moms or, on the flip side, in lamenting the bad mothering we received…or feel guilty of…

Take a minute to read her article and be gentle with yourself, and those moms in your life today. Making Mother’s Day some sort of competition or guilt fest doesn’t honor the gift or the giver. If I get to see our children sometime during the Mother’s Day season or get cards from them where they’ve written their own words…that is huge. I know loving moms who may not have either this year. We also all know women who would have been wonderful moms…if they had had the opportunity…this gives me pause on such a day as this.

I don’t take these three once-little people for granted…nor do I want to heap huge expectations on them. My hope is that the errors of my ways mothering them through the years did not leave a mark.Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - Cairo Covenant SchoolBlog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel - 2002

Reissig closed out her piece for moms in a way that resonates with my own heart.

“I simply need to be the mom God made me to be, to the children God created for me. Instead of striving for the best or embracing the worse, I hope to be the kind of mom who repents when I sin, admits my limitations, and asks God for more grace the next day.” – Courtney Reissig

We have this brief time with our children growing up. We will counsel well, and keep them well-fed and nurtured (heart and mind), and, for sure, we will make mistakes. The most important thing to remember is that we don’t mother alone…or we don’t have to… Redeem the time with them and soak in God’s great grace.

These precious children are in our keeping for a moment, it seems, with their own foibles and sharp edges (like ours)…

…and then they were grown.Blog - Christie, Nathan, Daniel

Happy Mother’s Day, dear ones. Be gentle with yourself and each other. I am grateful and filled with joy to think of you.

5 Friday Faves – Customer Service, a Documentary, a Rainy Spring Day, Taking Your Kids to Hard Places, and Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them)

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorites from this week…like you, I also have ongoing favorites (like time with my granddaughter, and the rest of the family, and deep talks with friends, and moments of revelation and inspiration – some hard and some gentle) that don’t get shared always…not sure why I wanted to share that even…but here are these! Have a safe and soaring day…and weekend.

1) Customer Service – Taking care of our customers and clients is important. Horst Schulze, renowned hotel executive and speaker, defines customer service as a three-part process: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. I was facilitating a meeting recently, and one of the participants raved about our restrooms. He says to commend our housekeeping staff, because that level of service takes genuine pride and caring. He also asked me if I had ever heard of these super-gas stations in Texas named Buc-ee’s. Apparently they are amazing. When you travel a lot by car there is pretty much nothing as winsome as a nice restroom. My story on customer service this week relates to the outpatient registration and imaging department at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

You know those occasions when you go in to register for service and you hardly see the person’s eyes (either fixed on a computer screen or at paperwork or just walking ahead of you or working the equipment attached to you). My experience this week with these personnel and volunteers was very different. Warm, engaging, refreshingly funny, full of life, making me comfortable, working quickly, and then getting me back out the same door I came in (much appreciated after going down a myriad of hallways)…consummate customer service complete with a snack. 🙂Blog - Customer Service

2) DocumentaryBono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms This week, a 20-minute film debuted highlighting the friendship of Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (Bible scholar and author). Their relationship centers on how The Psalms have impacted both their lives. I got to see a prescreening of the film and reviewed the it here and posted my takeaways from the Q & A with the filmmaker Nathan Clarke. The film is honest, loving, and thought-provoking. Watch it below or here.

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atU2Blog

3) A Rainy Spring Day – After a really hot day this week,  our flowers drooped and the greens looked frail…then the cool rain came. Joy! 2016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0212016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0422016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0382016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0262016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0192016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0122016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 002

4) Taking Your Kids to Hard Places – We don’t usually think of intentionally working hard experiences into our kids’ lives, but think about it. Our children haven’t been to really hard places in the world but they have had to wrestle with how to respond to beggars in North Africa…and here. Our boys have tended to a very ill grandfather. They haven’t been to many funerals, or visited many hospital rooms, or served in a shelter or soup kitchen. I would have done more of that with them, now that I see things differently.  Jamie Dew writes about this in 6 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Hard Places. He observes that, “Seeing poverty and brokenness has the ability to transform the most selfish child into a selfless child. Letting them see the broken world creates the same burdens in their hearts [as it does in ours] and gives them a true sense of dependence on God.” Any stories you have about this? Please comment below.Blog - Taking Kids to Hard Places - thestarPhoto Credit: The Star

5) Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them) – Moms of all ages and stages have challenging lives – whether they work both inside and outside the home or more inside the home. I was in both camps of moms at various times during our children’s growing up years. Some moms aren’t able to financially do without a job, and others dearly love their work, and the moms who work hard to stay home all have two things in common: 1) they all have children and the responsibilities that go with those darlings, and 2) they need our nurturing, not our judging. Jen Wilkin wote a provocative article on both stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and working-outside-the-home-moms (WOHMs). It’s worth your time (women AND men). [Dads, you, too, benefit from nurturing as well.]  I’m always glad for the opportunity to see something differently than I might otherwise – it helps me to love better. This was one of those reads.Blog - Stay at home moms - nurturing moms larksnotesthis

Photo Credit: LarksNotesThis

Bonus: Nathan Mills @beyondtheguitar posted a new arrangement of one of the Zelda melodies on YouTube. A friend of mine who works with PTSD survivors in Japan commended the soothing nature of his Zelda arrangements. Enjoy.

 

Open Letter to Our Young Adult Sons and to Their Moms

Blog - Mother & Adult Sons - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

When we were first becoming serious, my husband Dave answered his aunt’s question about a girlfriend and that’s how his mom found out we were dating. He would have told her, but she didn’t ask…not because she wasn’t interested…but maybe because that is the pattern we develop as moms of adult sons…

This past weekend I had the great joy of being with a large gathering of extended family. My place in that gathering was the aunt who has lived far away all their lives (at least, the young adults, for sure). I am only in town a few days, and maybe, we get one visit. It’s Q & A with Aunt Debbie – catching up, fairly non-threatening (I’m hoping), and it’s only for a few minutes with each one…so minimal and limited discomfort.

As I checked in with each of these young adult nephews, their moms were in the background in conversations of their own. When the question I asked (usually related to work/future) drew a response of new information to their moms, a maternal radar flipped on, and in the middle of their own conversations, these precious moms zeroed in on their sons. “What? When did you decide that?” When this happened with more than one nephew, it led to a sort of fascinating “aha!” moment – “No, it’s not just your mom who does that. All us moms do that sort of thing. We are just interested in our sons’ lives.”

Days later, this dance between moms and our adult sons has stayed on my mind. I’m still figuring out the steps myself, but thanks to other moms wiser and more experienced, I have grown in this area. So…if I had your sweet face in front of me right now, cherished sons and devoted moms, this is what I would say to you:

Young men…you are a marvel. Especially to your moms.* We believe we know you better than you know yourself. Forgive us for that… it comes from loving you across every day of your life…including the days you weren’t even easy to like. The closeness we have felt to you over the years isn’t an easy thing to let go. Somehow we missed the cues as you grew up that you were actually learning what we taught you – to manage your life, to make strong relationships, to become independent, to go after your dreams. We spoke into those things as you grew…and now you’re grown. Forgive us when we nudge our way into your life…we don’t really want to control as much as we want to be a part. You’re doing fine…and even when you’re not, we know from our own experience, that helping you too much isn’t helping. You know that yourself, in your heart. It may be why you hold us at arm’s length…when we press in.

Just be gentle with us…your moms. We don’t really mean to be intrusive. We’re just trying to figure out the balance ourselves. What’s too much? What’s not enough? It keeps us up at night sometimes. Can you believe that? Yes…you probably can. Anyway, we will try not to ask so many questions, and we’ll try not to give unasked advice…but you know we’re going to fail at that. So call occasionally before we have to hunt you down… Be your familiar self at home with us sometimes (we miss that old normal). Share your successes with us, so our hopes can crowd out our fears. Your mama loves you…she just misses you sometimes…even if you’re still living at home. This next stage of your life…this newly grown-up stage is both exhilarating and strange for her…She will figure out her place in it…as you give her grace to do so. Stepping on toes is part of the learning, so thanks for your gentleness and your strong arm of support.Blog - Mothers & Adult Sons - goodnewsnetworkPhoto Credit: Good News Network

Moms of adult sons…I’m one of you. Doesn’t it feel like it’s always our fault…about something or other? Well, for a few minutes, let’s leave off blaming…ourselves, our sons, or anyone else in the equation. Right now, I wish we were having coffee around the same table and talking together about what we’ve discovered of this new life – this new relationship between our grown-up sons and us.Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - sagaPhoto Credit: Saga

Here’s what I’m learning and what has been helpful counsel from others:

  • Give space and keep space. I don’t understand it, but it does seem like our sons need a bit of breathing room. There is so much change in their own lives, they need to process it themselves. If they choose not to do that with us, we must give them the space to do it with someone else (best friend, Dad, girlfriend/wife). Don’t pull away when that happens (which might be our temptation). Keep space in our lives for these sons of ours. Whether through a card, a text/quick phone call, an occasional invitation for dinner. If you’re like me, you long for those regular family dinners like we see on the TV show Blue Bloods…but a quick burger out can also be a joyful experience…if we let it be.Blog - Mothers of Adult Sons - huffingtonpost - BLue BloodsPhoto Credit: Huffington Post
  • Helping and enabling may look similar but are not. I will be brief here because there is tons online about this. Related to our adult sons, we can help them (as they can, us) without it being a toxic or enabling situation. Do we treat our sons more like neighbors and friends or more like those little boys they once were? We have to examine our own hearts on this one. When it comes to our adult sons, do we love them in ways that free them to love others? Do we invest in them such that they actually are able to get farther down the road in life or the investment tightens their dependence on us? Puzzle this out as I do the same.
  • Communicate in our adult sons’ heart language. This came as a shock to me as our sons grew up, because I thought we communicated fairly well through the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that while they were in our home, it was Mom who too often set the tone and topic of our conversations. Now I am learning (still a beginner here) to follow our sons’ leads on conversations… I may still choose a topic but I don’t push it to its limit with them, as once was the case. Hopefully, this makes sense, and hopefully they have seen me grow in this area. How about you, Moms? Would love to hear (in comments) what your experience is in this language/conversation arena.
  • Keep our sense of humor. As these sons of ours are growing up, we are growing older. They are not us…their choices and life aspirations may surprise us, but they are still works in progress. Our lives are, as well. We have not arrived. When our values or decisions clash, moms tend to either get mad or hurt…neither bode well in our relationships with our sons. We must learn how to take our emotions by the neck and wrestle them to the floor… proactively. Some song lyrics come to mind as I think about this – also these lyrics reflect the advice received from wise moms in my life. “Get over it“, “Let it go“, and tell yourself, “I will survive” and “Tell your heart to beat again.” [Sidebar: I don’t even like the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film Frozen, but it’s advice that I’ve frequently received from mom friends].

So…that’s all I have today. Anything you’re willing to add to the conversation? It’s still somewhat of a forest for me…picking my way through…with you.

And, you sons of ours-  we love you. Not as well, maybe, as we had hoped…but if we all keep at it, we may find even our relationships will get sweeter as life goes on. I’m hoping, anyway. Believing.

Blog - Mothers and Adult Sons - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

*This open letter may only speak to some, so if this is not helpful or doesn’t address your situation, I don’t mean to offend or presume. Parenting and being parented can be immensely satisfying and, at the same time, greatly complicated. If I can encourage, that is my goal…having the answers has to come from someone wiser than me.

YouTube Video – I Will Survive – scene from the film The Replacements

Parenting Adult Children by Todd Carey

When Helping Hurts – Are You an Enabling Parent? by Allison Bottke

When Is It OK to Be a Helicopter Parent? by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

Relationships Between Mothers and Adult Sons by Susan Adcox

The 6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Your Adult Child by Linda Bernstein

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5 Friday Faves – Parental Pressures, Global Leadership Summit Highlights, Tim Ferriss, NCAA Championship Highlights, & American Idol Finale

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Friday, again. Hope you had a wonderful week or, at least, now maybe you can recover from it. These are my 5 favorite finds this week – very different from each other. Enjoy the rest of your day and sweet weekend.

1) Parental Pressures –  Bunmi Laditan is the author of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting. In a piece for Huffington Post, she declares “I’m done making my kids’ childhood magical.” I loved it because the pressure parents feel today to make their children’s lives magical is so unnecessary. The pressures from Pinterest and other social media seep into our family cultures and place undue expectations on us to escalate birthday parties, vacations, after-school activities to “better and better, more and more”.  To what end? Fortunately for me as a mom, our oldest was extraordinarly creative and led in our children all playing well together as children. They performed plays with little figures which they drew and cut out. When it was too hot for outside play, living in Cairo, Egypt, they roller-skated in apartment hallways . OK, so we did get to live in extraordinary places. They have gotten to experience 5 of the 11 Epcot Center countries without going to Disney World yet. So they have had an advantage in that. Magical, however, was never a goal of ours for their childhood. Like Laditan says, “Childhood is inherently magical” already.  So I say hats-off to you parents who give your children occasions for great whimsy and delight, and hats-off to you who can also keep it simple. Hands in the dirt. Fishing with grandpa. Learning a second language. P.S. Laditan’s article How to Put a Toddler to Bed in 100 Easy Steps is hysterical (even for that weary parent).Blog - Parenting in EgyptBlog - Christie, Nathan, & Daniel in Turkey

2) Global Leadership Summit Highlight – Best money we have spent for a conference in recent years. Bill Hybels brings together great leaders to speak on a wide range of topics suited for any of us in positions of authority/influence – on business, community, service, relationships, and the world. You can register right here for the 2016 summit. We attended at a satellite location less than 30 minutes from home.Blog - Global Leadership Summit - 2016Photo Credit: Willowcreek

Brian Dodd’s 150 Leadership Quotes from Bill Hybels from the Global Leadership Summit (2013-2015 Leadership Summits)

Also: Slideshare by Maruay Songtanin entitled The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of All Time

3) Tim Ferriss on becoming an effective CEO – Well, Tim Ferriss didn’t write this one, although he teaches us tons of fascinating stuff through his Four Hour Work Week blog. This topic was covered by a guest on his blog – Chip Conley, author of Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success. Conley entered the hospitality industry in his 20’s and developed a strong ideology of valuing the intangible. He even became known as Chief Emotions Officer. [I can hear the eyes rolling.] Still, for those of you in leadership who are willing to learn something out of your comfort zone, learn from Chip Conley. Not necessarily about Buddhism or Maslow, but about employee engagement, work culture, and customer service.Blog - Child Conley - Emotional equationsPhoto Credit: True North Leadership

Leaders who don’t at least have processes in place to address such matters for their employees and customers have blinders on. Just sayin’. I wrote on another innovative and excellent hotelier, Horst Schulze, on a similar topic – world-class customer service.

TED Talk – Chip Conley on Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile

How to Become an Effective CEO: Chief Emotions Officer

4) NCAA Championship Highlights – This year’s March Madness ended with basketball greatness with the game between Villanova and North Carolina. Both tremendous teams and a battle to the end for the NCAA Championship. Such an incredible game! Villanova pulled out the victory in the last seconds. Blog - NCAA Championship - Basketball - woodtvPhoto Credit: WoodTV

If you didn’t see the game or want to just replay the great moments of the game, here are the highlights:

5) American Idol Finale – American Idol is over and I will miss it. I wasn’t a forever fan, but this farewell season has been fascinating from first to finish. On the final show, there were two hours of past winners, contestants, and judges showcased with lots of Hollywood hoopla. Also, the winner of this, the final season was revealed. This year’s American Idol is La’Porsha…..nope. It is Trent. I was surprised, although he is a completely amazing singer. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising as the culture of American Idol is driven by the voting of social-media savvy young people (I’m thinking) – possibly more girls (again, a guess). Handsome Dalton Rapattoni‘s fans, after his elimination, may have rolled their votes over to handsome Trent Harmon. Or, as the mic picked up one of them saying to the other as they hugged after the announcement: “It was God’s will.” La’Porsha Renae had to be a bit disappointed not to win. She is magnificent, and the only place she is going is up in the music world. She and Trent both got record contracts, so good news!AMERICAN IDOL: Host Ryan Seacrest, Contestant La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon during the AMERICAN IDOL Finale airing Thursday, April 7 (8:00-10:06 PM ET Live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Here’s a sample of La’Porsha’s gift. Don’t miss her, because she is a rising star, destined for wherever God and that voice will take her.

Then there’s Trent…also incredibly gifted and ready for the music industry. Don’t miss his interpretation of Sia‘s Chandelier.

lastly, here, quite poignantly is the announcement of the winner, the last song, and the last goodbye…for now.

Trent Harmon Wins Last American Idol Ever – TV Guide piece by Liam Mathews with Finale Highlights

‘American idol’ Names Harmon its Final Winner – Bill Keveney, USA Today

5 Friday Faves – Training Your Mind to Be a Winner; the Invisible Woman; a Great Speech; Resurrection of Jesus; and Nassim Haramein

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Some weeks provide very little time to write, let alone reflect on life. I’m in the midst of a bit of that craziness. This is Holy Week moving quickly to Easter Sunday. It’s a week I mean to savor even in the course of a hectic time at work and lots going on in the family and the neighborhood. Taking time to remember what happened each day of that week in the life of Jesus helps me to stop the world briefly…and monumentally.

My Friday Faves this week are sort of all over the place. They stirred learning for me, made me laugh, inspired me, and stilled my heart for a moment at the wonder of life. I trust you will find something here that does the same for you.

1) Training Your Mind to Be a Winner – The whole field of leadership development is often a focus of my reading. It’s fascinating to find helps from disciplines very different from my own.  LaRae Quy is a former FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent. She now takes what she learned professionally and applies it to her speaking, writing, and coaching in mental toughness and leadership. She is the author of Secrets of a Strong Mind and Mental Toughness for Women Leaders. Whet your appetite on the articles 5 Ways to Train Your Mind to Think Like a Winner, 4 Secrets of Mental Toughness, and How to Strengthen Your Mental Toughness Like an FBI Agent.BLog - LaRae Quy

Photo Credit: Twitter

2) The Invisible Woman – No, this is not referring to the 2013 film with the same name (Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones). This find is a sketch by Nicole Johnson of Fresh Brewed Life (author of the book of the same name). In just under 6 minutes, she speaks to the heart of women…especially mothers…dispelling the sense that much of what they do goes unseen. As if it were irrelevant or inconsequential. Not so! God sees…. Take the time to watch and listen and be encouraged (Men, you could do with some encouragement as well, I’m thinking).

3) A Great Speech – We slog on through the primary season of this U.S. Presidential Election year. Whatever our political views, a great speech can punctuate all the rhetoric and restore our hope…for sure, in that moment, anyway. When Senator Marco Rubio suspended his campaign, after losing his home state’s primary, he spoke to his supporters. Again, whatever our political views, it was a great speech… With all the mud-slinging, political wrangling, and various candidates pitted against each other, I was glad to hear him continuing to urge us not to give up and to stand for what we believe.

4) Resurrection of Jesus – I came across this short video on my Twitter feed. The question is asked, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” The video is produced by Impact 360 – a campus/curriculum/community which guides its students toward leadership, cultural understanding, and a Biblical worldview. Check out the video (and others on their website).

5) Nassim Haramein – Nassim Haramein is a physicist, inventor, and surfer. He is an example of how scientists can talk on, sounding brilliant, whether they really know what they’re talking about or not. Haramein has his critics and he has loyal fans. Whether he’s an expert or not, he is incredibly amusing as a presenter. I don’t remember how he came on my radar, but the video below captivated me. Don’t waste your life watching the whole of it, but 30 minutes in, there are some hilarious moments. I actually could believe I understood what he was saying. What do you think? Is he for real, or not?

Bonus: The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., was breath-taking as always this year. Here’s just a sample from my friend Jennifer Wong.Blog - Friday Faves - Cherry Blossoms - by Jennifer WongPhoto Credit: Jennifer Wong

What were your favorite finds of this week? Please comment below. Have a lovely weekend.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Shared Memories – On Family with a Grateful Nod to the Story-telling of Downton Abbey

Blog - Downton Abbey - Shared memories - vanity fairPhoto Credit: Vanity Fair

Shared memories…those places, friendships, events, emotions, experiences, and impressions known intimately by that little circle called family of origin. Notwithstanding, shared memories can also be the property of life-long friends or even a happenstance experience of strangers. Still I am enthralled by the great legacy of shared memories – some shimmering with joy and some we wish forgotten – both binding us together as family.

What a blessing are the in-law family members added to the fold! Those who listen with interest or at least value that bond – as dinner conversation is hijacked by memories of growing up together. What a gift that arena is where shared memories are rehearsed and celebrated…one. more. time.

For those reading not Downton Abbey fans, don’t miss this lesson on family life. Mary and Edith are adult sisters (missing the youngest, Sybil, whose sweetness had knit the other two together, before her untimely death). Their relationship is not close, to say the least, and their actions have, at times, been brutally hurtful toward each other.

In the next-to-last episode of the final season of Downton Abbey, Mary’s venomous words cut deep again, seemingly destroying once again Edith’s prospect for happiness. Then in a turn of the story, (spoiler alert), Mary accepts the proposal of Henry, and they prepare to wed days later.

Enter Edith…as we watch enrapt. What next between these two?

Sarene Leeds, of the Wall Street Journal, recaps this bit of the episode:

“By the time of Mary’s wedding day, Edith has cooled off enough to not only attend the nuptials, but take the high road when it comes to her relationship with her sister. She hasn’t gotten over what Mary did, but family remains paramount to her:

“In the end, you’re my sister,” Edith tells Mary. “And one day, only we will remember Sybil. Or Mama or Papa, or Matthew or Michael or Granny or Carson or any of the others who have peopled our youth. Until at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.”

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“Only we will remember…” How powerful that is! Not in an exclusive, “none others welcomed” sort of way…but in a high value, meant to be treasured way.

I think of our children – spending their pre-school years in eastern Tennessee, then living the rest of their childhood in North Africa. What they missed and what they gained…in this somewhat nomadic life with all the hellos and goodbyes…is their shared experience.

We also share it with them…for which I am beyond grateful…and out of which I can be, at times, this mama who clings a bit to them…not as much to the memories as to the ones who soldiered with us through that life. We know each other in that shared memory way.Blog - Running into His Marvelous Light2006 May -- Oualidia weekend 1522006 May -- Oualidia weekend 116 - Copy

They remember all the moves, the beauty of those places, and all the wonderful friendships in each place. They understand God’s grace in that. In some ways, as expats in countries not our own, we grew up together.

They remember the sweet times with family back in the States…and the growing up together (through too occasional visits but deep belonging). Blog - Shared Memories - OcracokeBlog - Shared Memories - Ocracoke 2013 (2)

They remember their grandmother, my mom, who died too early. They remember how much she loved them (I hope); for sure they remember the woman she was.Blog - MomIMG_0023 (2)Blog - Shared memories - Mom and Christie

So many shared memories include other loved ones who are no longer here (cousin Chad and their Uncle Robert)…and births, graduations, weddings, life accomplishments and disappointments…and on it goes.

My hope and prayer, like with Edith’s wonderful lines from Downton, is that, as adult life fills with relationships and experiences less-shared, we return regularly to the bonds of shared memories…including making new ones together. Edith returned to her childhood home to witness her sister Mary’s wedding…as hard as it was for her; it mattered.

You may be in the throes of change in your life that you can’t stop. A looming divorce, a frightening illness, a company down-sizing – where loss of history, situation, or relationship are all too present. Shared memories cannot be destroyed in community – they may feel altered by present circumstance, but they don’t have to be. Our memories belong to us.

My dad has Alzheimer’s. His memories are diminished now. When we visit, we remind him of stories that bring joy to his heart. We look at photo albums and remember together those faces who love him. We, his children, keep his memories for him. Such a privilege for us.Blog - Dad - Alzheimers - Feb 2016

What a great legacy we have with each other – this life we shared…this life we share.Blog - Shared Memories - egypt (2)