Category Archives: Family

5 Friday Faves – So Taken by the Beauty Around Us – in Music, Nature, Technology, Words, and Community

Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.

1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist.  That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know

the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.

For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.

The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.

[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]

Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.

YouTube Video – Downton Abbey Theme – “The Suite” – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Bioshock Infinite: Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.

Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.

What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.

3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.

Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).

I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.

…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.

4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr

Check out his commencement speech on putting God first. As well as another on Falling Forward.

Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift  and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.

Quotes About Words

5) Community – Oh the wonder of real community! Of people coming together for something larger than ourselves. To give aid or to just enjoy one another. I have been graced with grand community.

This week, the beauty of people who serve well really resonated. Also, along with that, the intentional care or stewardship of such folks. I came across this stellar article by non-profit leader Joanne Fritz. She posted on Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?

Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.

Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):

G. Personal growth and well-being

I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.

V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.

E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.

R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.

S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Making Time – Getting to Givers – Join In UK

Then Fritz prompts 10 observations that can guide us in how to show true care for a community of volunteers:


  • Want you to be prepared for them.
  • Want to feel welcomed.
  • Want good training.
  • Want to do interesting work.
  • Want to know up front how much time the job will take.
  • Want to be appreciated.
  • Want you to communicate with them well and often.
  • Want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • Want to be socially connected.
  • Want to learn something new.     Joanne Fritz

Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?Joanne Fritz

Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.

When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.


That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.


Like a Child: the Virtue of Children’s Books – Samuel Loncar

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Generous Child at Any Age – Rachael Boyer

The iPad Is a Far Bigger Threat To Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Do You Choose Convenience Over Principles? – Frank Sonnenberg

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t you wonder where the recycling goes? One day I’m doing a field trip, but for today, these were helpful:

Photo Credit: Brené Brown

Quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.Thoreau

Photo Credit: Facebook page Humor Is Contagious

Photo Credit: Writing About Writing, Facebook page

5 Friday Faves – Easter Reading, Classical Guitar Wonderment, Giving Place/Space/Voice, Touches of Whimsy, and Food for Thought

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in – here are my favorite finds of this week…

1) Easter Reading – Every year during Lent, I pull out a small pile of books. One, in particular has been a companion of mine for 20 years: British author Adrian Plass‘ book The Unlocking: God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. Another book found a place in my pile just this past year, yet the author has many years’ influence in my life as well. This one is Preparing for Easter by another British author, C. S. Lewis.

Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:

“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.

All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.”C. S. Lewis

“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.”Adrian Plass

Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.

2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:

YouTube Video – Full Metal Alchemist: Brothers (Kyoudai)

YouTube Video – Civilization VI: Sogno di Volare

3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.

You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills Writer

How to Help Emerging Leaders Find Their Voice – Ron Carucci

4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds.  He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.

This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:

[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]

5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.

C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.”

5 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t Get Seduced into Skipping Stones – Dan Lovgalia

7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know – Erin Canty

Photo Credit: Brene Brown Twitter

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can’t Pay Attention – Jacqueline

A Kick-starter Campaign by Composer Christopher Tin – the video itself is so beautiful.

This Restaurant Way Out in the North Carolina Countryside has the Best Doggone Food You’ve Tried in Ages – Shatley Springs Inn and Restaurant – Robin Jarvis

I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellatathis one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:

The one below for us writers:

What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Firefighter’s Gender Reveal, Olympic Gold, Black History Month, and Brené Brown on Guns

It’s Friday…again! Here are my favorite finds, with love.

1) Beyond the Guitar – Probably our all-time favorite films are set in Middle-Earth – a wild and beautiful place created by writer J. R. R. Tolkien. Those films are The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (one book, three films). Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar takes us back, with his arrangement, to that far home place Misty Mountains.

His performance of this piece transports us to Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit house. Nathan could be playing for the warrior dwarves, all sitting dreamily in front of the fire, as they reminisce in song about what was once their home. Enjoy!

YouTube Video – The Hobbit: Misty Mountains – Classical Guitar Cover (Beyond the Guitar)

YouTube Video – Misty Mountains (Cold) Full Song and Scene with Lyrics

2) Black History Month – We’re over halfway through February which is Black History Month in the US. What impact has this observance had on your thinking? in 2019, we will mark 400 years since the first Africans arrived in English North America.

American Revolution – 2019 – Black History Month

Photo Credit: Urban Theological Radio

30 Black Christians You Should Know: Complete Edition

3) Firefighter’s Gender Reveal – Don’t we love our first responders? Don’t we also love babies? Put the two together and a gender reveal is born in a most creative way. Let the video show what happens:

Firefighter and Wife Use Fire Hose for Baby’s Gender Reveal – Inside Edition

What makes this even more special for me? They are our niece and nephew. Bring on the stuff of Baby Girls!

4) Olympic Gold – If you’re like us, you’re not getting much sleep this week as the Winter Olympics are in full-swing. My favorite sports to watch are figure and speed skating, the luge and bobsled competitions, and (as of this year) snowboarding. Photo Credit: Detroit News

Below are videos of just three of the gold medal performances so far. Mind-blowing!

YouTube Video – Shaun White Wins Halfpipe Gold with Epic Final Run (Run starts at 1:30)

YouTube Video – Chloe Kim Lands Back-to-Back 1080s, Wins Olympic gold in Halfpipe (Run starts 30 seconds in)

YouTube Video – Savchenko, Massot Win Gold Medal Free Skate with Record Breaking Performance

What are your favorite sports? Please comment with a link to your favorite performances. It’s hard to take it all in with so many events going on. Thanks!

5) Brené Brown on Guns – This week we are stunned and grieved at the school shooting in Florida where 17 lost their lives. The news is full of talk of gun control and emotions are high. How I long for civil discourse that could extinguish political ambition for the sake of the people.

Writer and thought leader Brené Brown just last year wrote this piece on gun reform:

Gun Reform: Speaking Truth to Bullshit, Practicing Civility, and Affecting Change

It’s a worthwhile read as she exposes the incivility of the gun reform debate and how it doesn’t get us where we need to go. She closes out her piece with a call to discourse and to reasoned action:

When we engage in the “us versus them” argument, we lose. The only person who wins is the person who owns the framing of the argument.

Own your opinion. Fight for what you believe in.
And don’t let others frame your beliefs.

Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Take action. – Brené Brown

Photo Credit:  Brené Brown

I am one of those who wants us to be able to protect our children but who also sees more and more gun legislation as a slippery slope. What would be the right gun laws? Those laws that most protect those who need protecting without putting guns only in the hands of the lawless.

“When guns are outlawed only the outlaws will have the guns.”

Whatever your worldview, Brown’s article is thought-provoking. Today is not the day for more legislation, but today is the day we come alongside grieving families and friends…putting aside what may divide us and holding on to what unites us – truly caring for one another.


That’s it for this week…except for the bonuses below. I pray you have a safe weekend, spent with those you love. Let’s be gentle with each other…and ourselves. Life is precious…such a gift. Never to be taken for granted.


Quote: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.John Wooden

Favorite Podcast Interview with weekRising Tide Startups and Career & Business Strategist Mike McRitchie

The Good Doctor – on Arrogance – [I LOVE this TV show.]

The Heart of Man Documentary is now on Netflix (deals with the subject of pornography and other moral failings)

On Responding to an Offense (whew…so convicting):Photo Credit: Scott Phillips, Facebook

Valentine’s Day Friends Gathering

One Old Song & Three New to Me:

Lazem – This is a pop song I knew years ago in Egypt – Lazem Ahebek (I Have to Love You). My dear friend Heba introduced it to me – and it reminds me of taxi rides through Cairo – windows down, a hot breeze blowing our hair – and times together at home, dancing to it.

Owl City – Fireflies

The Tenors – Lead with Your Heart

Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home

5 Friday Faves – Right Bus/Wrong Seat, Live Streaming, Words, Mommy Blogs, and the Inevitabilities of Life

Today’s Friday Faves blog comes to you on Saturday. It’s been that kind of week, full to busting. Along with it were fun times with friends, poignant occasions to serve people in crisis, beautiful sunrises and sunsets (plus a Blue Moon), and a few moments of quiet calm to process it all. I hope your week was memorable.

Writing helps me remember (even if it’s a few lines in a journal or on an old-school calendar)…maybe your memory is better. Here are five of my favorite discoveries for the week. Please share yours in Comments below.

1) Right Bus/Wrong Seat – Writer, seminarian Chuck Lawless posted recently on dealing with employees who appear to be on the right bus, but in the wrong seats. He wrote about church culture but

10 Ways to Deal with People on the Right Bus, but in the Wrong Seat

his counsel reminded me of work situations as described by business leader and writer Jim Collins. – in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. Collins focuses on the importance of having the right people “on the bus”. Then he pushes deeper in employers or leaders getting those right people into the right seats. We can find ourselves wondering at times if we’re in the right company when really the question could be that we may not be in the right job within that company. Collins’ approach puts people over product, but he knows the better product will come out of better-positioned people. Right bus/right seat.

Have 100% of the key seats on the bus filled with the right people. This doesn’t mean 100% of ALL seats have the right people, but 100% of the key seats. If you think there might be a “wrong who,” first give the person the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he or she is in the wrong seat. Whenever possible, give a person the chance to prove himself or herself in a different seat, before drawing the conclusion that he or she is a wrong person on the bus.

Spend a significant portion of time on people decisions: get the right people on the bus, get the right people in the right seats, get the wrong people off the bus, develop people into bigger seats, plan for succession, etc. Develop a disciplined, systematic process for getting the right people on the bus. With each passing year, ensure the percentage of people decisions that turn out good versus bad continues to rise. Wendy Maynard, Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’tJim Collins

2) Live Streaming – I am really not fond of paying the high ticket prices required these days for celebrity entertainment. What intrigues me more are the younger (or newer) artists pushing into the public’s eye through live streaming. In 2015, KrueTV was launched, and it has made a huge impact on where I go for music. A live streaming app. Where I get to watch, listen to, and chat with artists who are just beginning to hone their craft. Rough sometimes, but so fresh and very much “in the moment. Beyond the Guitar streamed on Krue from early on. Photo Credit: Screenshot, KrueTV

A community of followers was born there, many of whom support him on Patreon. KrueTV also made it possible for me to meet and enjoy the music of other artists – a young country-western singer from Ohio, an Indie artist from Canada, a sibling band with killer harmonies, a Portuguese singer who brings us all-things-Eurovision. And many others.

The bad news came this week that Krue’s creators are going a different direction. Another app will eventually come, but Krue will be shut down soon. It made all of us sad, all of us who enjoy the streams there.

Beyond the Guitar’s Last Great Stream on KrueTV

Turning that sad into action, the artists continue to stream on Krue for now and commiserate with each other and their fans. Also sorting out what live streaming app to jump on next.

I was surprised to find out that there are several now. GigFM. StreetJelly. Twitch.TV. One of these apps will become my next favorite, depending on where these favorite artists land. Because it’s not just their performances, it’s also the community around them. Never would I have thought, in all my life, that this would become important to me. Online communities. Gamers understand this, but it’s new to me.

Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – The Hunger Games: Hanging Tree

3) Words – Any of you who continue to stick with me on this blog know I love words. If you walked into our home, you would see them everywhere. Bookcases in every room. Words on the walls.

Books by my bed and beside my computer. Notes on top of my keyboard. Words that can remind, instruct, encourage.

In my resolve to read more, this year of 2018, I’m currently in the middles of a strange and fascinating book. It is The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. It’s a book about the English language and what makes us love and remember certain phrases by how they are written. I will probably write about this book later, but here are some words that have caused me to think…this week.

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of PhraseMark Forsyth

Mark Forsyth Blog

Young at Heart (Slightly Older in Other Places) – Day Brightener

4) Mommy Blogs – The blogs I subscribe to are usually about leadership, the Bible, or living cross-culturally. However, lately, “mommy blogs” have come to my attention, thanks to the young women in my life who read and write them. This week, I discovered Liz B. who writes Life in a Coffee Spoon. A mom of two who also works outside the home, she posted this week on the challenges of life that literally drive her to write in order to process it all. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Her writing is like that coffee – real, strong, and just right for when you need it.

Life in a Coffee Spoon – On Mommy Blogging in 2018

Family. Life. Organized – Bekkah Mills

17 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before + After You Hit Publish (Free Checklist) – Melyssa Griffin – for any of you, Dear Ones, thinking of blogging.

5) The Inevitabilities of Life – This has been one of those weeks when life has been full of the inevitable – sickness, hard news, death. There are also the inevitabilities, thankfully, of new babies, good news, and happy anniversaries. This has not been a week of those.

[There was a time just a bit ago that I didn’t take any meds. Then…it happened. The inevitable, I presume.]

Still in the middle of all the hard, I’m struck by the great gift of community, the strength of true friendship and family, the power of prayer. The presence in our lives of a loving God and those we can lean on – good neighbors, first responders, trusted colleagues, and those sainted strangers – all, in their time, are there for us, as we are for them. The leaning in and showing up – in the inevitabilities of life. It’s really quite beautiful…and takes so much of the sting away.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble; suffering], but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus – John 16:33

So there are my 5’s this week. What are some of yours? Have a safe and splendid weekend, hopefully with those you love or in your own good company.


Photo Credit: Rick Fischler, Facebook

In Which I Am Learning to Live with the Ache – Sarah Bessey

Quote: I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history. – H.G. Wells

[I finally saw the Denzel Washington film Fences adapted from August Wilson‘s play….whew.]

“I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans,” he told The Paris Review. “For instance, in Fences they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.” – August Wilson

TED Talk – Susan David: The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety, and More – Susan Heitler

Photo Credit: Amazon, Susan Heitler

5 Friday Faves – Favorite Book of 2018, the Courage of Rachael Denhollander, Good News, Love Across a Lifetime, and a Hint of Spring

It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.

1) Favorite Book of 2018 – It’s only January, but this 2016 book has already become my strong favorite for the year. It is Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch.

Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”.  In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!

Photo Credit: Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

The Best Quotes from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – Barnabas Piper

Strong and Weak Quotes – GoodReads

[Playing God by Crouch is also on my short list for starting out 2018 reading. Then, too, his The Tech-Wise Family. Has anyone else read any of his books? Please comment and let us know. Thanks!]

The Tech-Wise Family: Every Day Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family – The Matt Lewis Show – Interview with Andy Crouch

2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.

The Incredible Testimony as a Former Gymnast Confronts Her Sexual Abuser in Court (Justin Taylor)

Photo Credit: Neil Blake,

How the Indy Star and Rachael Denhollander Took Down Larry Nassar – Eric Levenson

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – Juliet Macur

*7 Lessons Learned From Larry Nassar Sentencing – Dwight Adams

  1. Believe children when they report abuse.
  2. Anyone can be an abuser.
  3. Reporting of child abuse must be improved.
  4. Child molesters strive to win victims’ trust.
  5. Children must speak up about abuse.
  6. Police must take on tough cases.
  7. Investigative journalism is crucial.*

3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here.   The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine wrote about good news in the midst of a horrific situation. She gave me permission to post this. I hope you will read some of her story below…it’s our story, in one way or another.

YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.

So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.

On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.

While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?

I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.

Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is.
God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)

You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy

Good News Network – a secular website with the goal of posting good news every day

Gospel – Explore God – several articles on various topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What is the Gospel? – Norman Herbst – Explore God

4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.

These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!

How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.

5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!

Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!

P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).


Amish Sayings

Disabled by Design – My Abundant Life Without Arms – Daniel Ritchie

Cracker Barrel – Lunch with one of my kiddos, Valentine’s Cards, and Rocking Chairs

5 Friday Faves – 50 Rules, New Favorite Podcast, Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story, Interventions for Childhood Depression, and Tidy House Hacks

Snow days are past in Richmond, Virginia. For now. School is back in session. Today was even unseasonably warm. Hope you had an eventful and significant week. Please feel free to comment about it. I would love to hear and then share. Also any of your own favorite finds of the week…this can be your platform as well to share. Here are mine:

1) Fifty Rules – Those of us who are parents hope we raise our children with wisdom they can carry into adulthood. Then we want to leave this life having pointing them, as adults, to what matters so their children will also have a strong foundation.

Lawyer, writer, father Tim Hoch is doing that for his children, I’m pretty sure. His lists of 50 Rules, one for sons and the other for daughters, are a collection of wisdom statements worthy of our consideration.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A few of my favorites from each list:

For Sons:

  • Be open to, and unashamed of, the possibility, however slight, that you might be wrong.
  • Don’t ever assume that someone else is looking out for your best interests. Some people are. Most people are not. If you find someone who is, guard and treasure that relationship above all others.
  • Do what you love but find a way to make money doing it or you won’t be able to do it very long.
  • Don’t assume that an obvious question has already been asked.

For Daughters:

  • Those who gossip to you gossip about you.
  • If you worship physical beauty, you will never be pretty enough.
  • Live the life that is right in front of you.
  • Even if it seems as though something goes without saying, if it is important to you, say it anyway.

What are some of your rules? Those sayings that became part of your family’s lexicon? We would all appreciate hearing them (in Comments below).

[Linked below you will also find writer Walker Lamond‘s Rules for his children – two books and an online list. Don’t miss them.]

Rules for My Unborn Son – Walker Lamond

Rules for My Newborn Daughter – Walker Lamond

1,001 Rules for My Unborn Son – Let’s Get Something Straight Before I Get Old and Uncool – Walker Lamond (Running list of his favorite wisdom sayings – not to 1,001 yet)

50 Rules For Sons

50 Rules For Daughters

50 Little Etiquette Rules You Should Always Practice – Reader’s Digest – Stuff some of which I was taught and passed on to my kids. Also some more current etiquette rules. Will be an interesting family conversation when we talk about what is our practice today.

2) Favorite New Podcast – Author and business coach Kevin Prewett just launched a new podcast entitled Rising Tide Startups. Once a week he will interview entrepreneurs just beginning to really get things moving in their new or side businesses. These rising stars are still on that sharp learning curve side of success. Prewett offers them an opportunity to tell their story. Then he invites his listeners to give feedback to these startup folks to help them over the hurdles they are facing. Photo Credit: Rising Tide Startups

I love this concept because we often hear (on podcasts) the work details of highly successful people. Fascinating stuff, for sure, but I’m intrigued with the stories coming out on Rising Tide. Young artists or business people taking the risks to go for it (whatever that passion is for them). Prewett closes his interview with questions of what the toughest part of their endeavor is currently, and we, the listeners, get to speak into their lives. Wow!

The premier podcast interview on Rising Tide was with guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. You can listen here or watch here. This is a brand new podcast. Get in from the beginning. Maybe you yourself are an entrepreneur, starting up a business, and would like to be interviewed and then receive feedback by the listeners. Go to the  website and click on Guest Request tab. Prewett ends his podcast with this: “All boats rise on a rising tide.” Good stuff!

Episode 2 – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar

Rising Tide Startups Tshirt

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

3) Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story – A friend of mine was lamenting recently about how hard it is to find products NOT containing wheat for his daughter who has celiac disease.  As he talked, and I sympathized, I couldn’t help but think the same about sugar. It seems to be everywhere. Not just in sweet products, obviously, but in savory products as well. Why? Is it possible that we have, as a society, been slowly seduced, over decades, into becoming sugar addicts by the food industry itself? If you wonder then you’re wise. Check out author Allison Hart‘s very readable and fascinating piece Has the Sugar Industry Been Hiding Research Linking Sugar to heart Disease for 50 Years?

‘Nuff said.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Recent list of best diets ranks keto last and DASH first

4) Interventions for Childhood Depression – Mom and author Becky Mansfield has written an incredibly empowering article on what we as parents can do to intervene in childhood depression. You won’t be surprised when she targets electronics, especially smart phones.Photo Credit: Your Modern Family

It isn’t adolescence that births sullen, distant, disconnected kids. This development begins much earlier, and that’s why she recommends our kids be evaluated by age 11 if we suspect depression.

The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids

Read her article for foundation (really helpful). Here I will list what she encourages us as parents to do:

  • Screen children for depression if you are concerned.
  • Get back to what we did before phones – spend time playing games with our kids [What else? Working in garden/yard, hiking, serving as a family in the community. What else? Comment below.]
  • Spend dinnertime talking.
  • If you can, drop everything that you are doing when when the kids get home from school to TALK to them (I think she intended this to mean to listen to them and help them process their day).
  • Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet turned on.
  • Use any ‘car time’ to talk to our kids (maybe even not allowing electronics in the car). [This reminds me of times when our kids were still home and we were in the car with all of them having their ear buds in, each listening to their own music. That was before smart phones.]
  • Have the kids do chores: responsibilities increase their self-worth.*
  • Be sure that kids are getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house.
  • Take away electronics and tell kids to “go play”.
  • Don’t rescue kids [let them deal with consequences].
  • Talk to our kids about why they need to come to us if something is wrong.
  • Limit our own online distractions when the children are home.

*Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Children Grow Up Before They Grow Old – Joseph and Claudia Allen

5) Tidy House Hacks – OK…maybe most of you have figured out how to keep your home neat and tidy. I’m always amazed when visiting with my brother and sister-in-law. She never seems to sit down. Very much engaged with the people and conversation around her, but always spiffying up. Some day I have to figure this out. I’m pretty positive no one would ever describe my house, today, as tidy. “Comfortable” “Lived-in” maybe…but not neat. So…here is what I learned from this “nester” as she calls herself: 5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t DoPhoto Credit: Pexels

  • Tidy People don’t act like a slob all day, and then get their house tidy in one fell swoop.
  • Tidy People Don’t Run out of Cleaning Supplies. Photo Credit: Pexels
  • Tidy People never let the sun go down on their filth.
  • Tidy People don’t store things on the floor. [Such a struggle for me.]
  • Tidy People don’t over decorate.

5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t Do – Nesting Place

That’s it for this week. Be careful out there this weekend. Be gentle with yourself and each other…I can’t tell you how much you bless me in reading this jumble of words. Thanks.


Want to Increase Your Happiness This Year? Science Says 1 Rare Habit Truly Stands Out – Marcel SchwantesPhoto Credit: Flickr

12 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer and Storyteller – Ann Handley

5 Friday Faves – Leaning Into Relationships, Year-End Review, Coco Guitar Arrangement, Attention Management, and For Better or Worse

Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.

1) Leaning Into RelationshipsDr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Robert Waldinger

Lean into relationships.

TED Talk – What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – Liz Mineo

2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay

This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.

Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry.  His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”

That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.

3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.

It is Remember Me by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The film depicts the story of a young Mexican boy seeking both his destiny as a musician and peace with his family’s past. Lots of skeletons and spirits in the film, as it focuses on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I may have to watch it now.

Here’s Beyond the Guitar‘s lovely arrangement of Remember Me:

4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”Oliver Burkeman

Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives – Oliver Burkeman

Are Smartphones Making us Stupid? – Christopher Bergland

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills Writer

5) For Better or Worse – Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.

As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.

She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.

Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.

His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.

Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.


Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.

Quote:  “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis

Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Commercials, Uncommon Generosity, Star Wars – the Last Jedi, Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff Recipe, and Beyond the Guitar’s Latest

Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.

Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!

This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.

1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?

John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017

BBC One Christmas 2017

The Fox and the Mouse – 2017

Top 15 Most Touching Christmas Commercials That Will Warm Your Heart

2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.

Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.

I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).

3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.

[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]

[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]

The All-Stars of ‘Star Wars’ – Interview with David Itzkoff

The Last Jedi: Have You Seen It? Let’s Talk Spoilers – Gilbert Cruz and Dave Gonzalez

The Best Movies of 2017 – Think Christian

4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna

5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous.  I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.

That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.


A Quote from this week: In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.”Jack Kornfield

A Christmas Question – a Sermon by Charles Spurgeon, 1859

A Twitter “event” where folks retweet and reply to Sam Altman’s tweet below:

A New Holiday Tradition—Better Than Giving Gifts

Seasonal Thrift Store Finds

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads


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