Category Archives: Fall

5 Friday Faves – Destiny Meets Classical Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Storms, Waffle House Index, and Country Stores

Friday! For our part of the world, these days bring teasers that Fall is on its way. Cooler temperatures and the brush of color in the trees are lovely signs of change in the seasons.

Hurricane season also peaks this time of year and we’ve seen it in Harvey and Irma – such nice old-fashioned names for such catastrophic events. We are moved to pray for, serve, and give toward the needs of those most affected by these storms.

Today, these are my favorite finds of this week:

1) Destiny Meets Classical Guitar – For video gamers, Destiny 2 just came out. Nostalgia is high for those who grew up with the original Destiny game of battles and heroes. Among those is classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

No nostalgia for me, but Nathan’s arrangement of several of the themes from Destiny is lovely. Catch it here…featured also this week at Bungie.

2) Parenting Hacks – Don’t you love truly helpful parenting advice? The gentle sort that is genius without being judgmental. I found a YouTube channel with just this variety of help – Nurture. Check it out. The video on retrieving something a child put up her nose is “Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?”

Orange Pip | Children's Hospital

Would you know what to do in this situation?

Posted by Nurture on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

3) Storms – I have never endured the path or aftermath of a storm like Harvey or Irma, so I wouldn’t give counsel on how to deal spiritually with such a thing… However, other storms have blown against my heart and that of those much loved in my life. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leslie Leyland Fields is a fisherwoman and an author. She deals with storms of a physical nature…as well as spiritual. Fields writes fascinating stories about her family’s Alaska fishing business. Especially riveting are the stories of the storms that come up. Read her blog on a recent storm they experienced (her son’s video could give you motion sickness, so be prepared).

We live too much in a too human world, most of us, surrounded by the work of our own hands, cossetted and comforted and cozy most hours of the day and night. We fashion our lives and our prayers around safety, success, We cannot escape ourselves or our own small desires. But enter a storm, climb a mountain, sail the sea, wander an old-growth forest—be afraid—and you will so suddenly and gloriously disappear. You will feel the wind blowing through your clothes and your soul. If you are lucky you’ll be terrified and you may cry like Peter, “Lord, I am a sinful woman, go away from me!” Your little household gods will die, and part of you will die with it.

And you’ll be glad.Leslie Leyland Fields

There is something in the experience of storms (or earthquakes, drought or flood) that forces us to deal with the frailty of both stuff and life itself. We reach out…to God, and to others. We reach out to what is most real.

Check out Fields’ latest book: Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas.

Baptist Global Response – Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

4) Waffle House Index – I love the Waffle House. We have big family memories of breakfast with my parents and their grands and great-grands. Waffle House never closes…unless…Photo Credit: Flickr; FLickr

Unless a storm is so fierce, Waffle House employees are at risk. Because of this, there is actually a storm measure called the Waffle House Index. If this tiny all-service restaurant closes, then you need to get out of town!Photo Credit: Screenshot, CNBC

5) Country Stores – Another chain of restaurants that offers its own unique comforts is Cracker Barrel. Just last night, we ate there, and our friend accompanying us gave his reasons why he never tires of it. “Cracker Barrel always reminds me of home. As much as I travel, it guarantees a meal that tastes home-cooked.” For me, as great as the food is, it’s the country store of Cracker Barrel that enchants. Fall is fully displayed right now, and Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t far behind. Love that. Always a reminder of the stuff of celebration. Like the porch light is still on, through the storm. I know…a bit sappy…but a sweet respite. 

Hope your weekend is out of harms’ way – far from the storms passing throuagh, but especially I hope you have a sure safe harbor. Until next time…

Bonus

How I Paid Off My $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

How I Paid off my $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

5 Friday Faves – Community Helpers, Leadership Scoreboard, Better Together Cultures, Networks, and Bread

September 1st and it feels like Fall. This time of year always stirs the possibility of new beginnings. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Here are this week’s faves:

1) Community Helpers: We are currently in the long aftermath of flooding in the US and other parts of the world. Photo Credit: JSC Features, NASA

What a wonder to see neighbors helping neighbors…even among the poorest of the poor.  Rachel Stern describes the impact of this beautiful phenomenon below:

Natalie Simpson, chair of the Department of Operations Management and Strategy in the School of Management, says there really is no good evacuation plan when it comes to major disasters in densely populated areas. Simpson, who studies on-the-ground first-response and disaster preparedness, says the reality is that when a disaster gets beyond a certain size, there will never be enough professional help. It will take everybody…

“We’ve already gotten remarkably stronger at channeling people’s individual efforts to support the larger response,” Simpson says. “This is very evident right now as we watch fleets of boats continue to save people in Houston.

“When it comes to disaster preparedness, we are experiencing a dawning of awareness. Everyone must solve large problems together. The key is motivating and empowering everybody to feel confident enough to start solving what little part of this big, messy thing they can on their own.”

Neighbor Helping Neighbor Is Best Practice in Large Disasters – Rachel Stern

YouTube Video – Fred Rogers – Look For the Helpers

2) Leadership Scorecard – If we’re honest, we can be pretty analytical and judgmental when it comes to our leaders’ character and performance. I’m no fan of scorecards, but Frank Sonnenberg has developed one that we would be wise to use. Not just on our leaders – absolutely not – but on ourselves as well.Photo Credit:  Frank Sonnenberg

The only leader I know who could ace this scorecard would be Jesus. However, it shows areas we might have blind spots in and in Sonnenberg’s article he goes into detail about the various components of being an effective emotionally intelligent leader. Worth a look, for sure. Any of these areas you struggle in? Please also share (in the Comments below) any examples of leaders you have experienced who demonstrate this sort of excellence.

Leadership Scorecard – Frank Sonnenberg – Linkedin

3) Better Together Cultures – When we lived in North Africa, I had the privilege of working with a great group of parents who founded a parent-teacher organization for our children’s school. It was a relatively new concept there. Well, in a positive sense. We determined to keep it from being an arena for airing complaints but rather a movement for good in our school. For families, staff, and the community around us. We named our organization Better Together.I think I learned at an early age, and beginning with my mom, that so much more can be accomplished in an environment of inclusion where people genuinely care for and trust each other. Serving goes deeper and celebrating comes naturally. Nurturing a culture of better together at work or in any organization is worth the effort and the risk.

[Search inside DebMillswriter for “Better Together” and you’ll see my fascination and concern/hopefulness in the topic.]

4) Networks – A lot of my faves this week seem wrapped around groups of people. Organizational psychologist, and all-round interesting guy, Adam Grant has posted an encouraging piece on networks – To Build a Great Network You Don’t Have to Be a Great Networker.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant

Here is Grant’s wisdom on the subject:

“…many people view networking as the path to accomplishment, forgetting that accomplishments make it easier to network.

When you create something exciting, you don’t have to rely on charisma or name-drop mutual acquaintances to get your foot in the door. The door opens to you. Sponsors, mentors, investors, and collaborators gravitate toward people who demonstrate potential, and a portfolio is a stronger signal than a promise.

It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.Adam Grant

He has much more to say on networks along with fascinating stories. Read more here.

5) Bread – Can we just take a minute to sing the praises of bread? There may be some countries in the world where bread isn’t a staple, but I’m glad to have lived places where it is. In fact, everywhere I have ever been, it is a staple. From Southern biscuits (best eaten with gravy) and cornbread, Mexican corn tortillas, Egyptian baladi pocket bread, Ethiopian sour-dough injera, British seeded breads, French croissants and baguettes,  Tunisian flatbread, and Moroccan khboz and msemen…and I could go on. Don’t you just love the pull and chew in bread.

Ironically, bread isn’t a part of my diet currently…BUT it’s a part of every food memory I have associated with happy times with family and friends, here and overseas. So…a new grocery store with a European bakery opened here recently. Lidl‘s bread loveliness is with us. When bread comes back into my diet, it will come from there…or my daughter’s bread machine.

Those are my Friday Faves. How about yours? It’s raining out there in our “neck of the woods”. Be safe and be kind to each other…we never know what is really going on in each other’s lives.

Bonuses:

The Impact of Hurricane Harvey Compared to Your State – Twenty-Two Words

The Largest Religious Groups in Every County Across the U.S. – DidYouKnowFacts?

5 Friday Faves – God, Zelda’s Lullaby, Tommy Emmanuel, the Long Goodbye, and a Beautiful Fall

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Friday, again! This will be a fast one. I am actually finishing writing this on my phone today. Between travel and more meetings than usual, there’s been little time at my writing desk. So here are my favorites this week.

1) God – Courage….. Every day I am grateful to know God…There are weeks, like this one, that I am even more grateful for the sovereignty of a good God. Margaret Nyman writes a beautiful blog on getting through whatever hard we find ourselves. In “Hand in Hand“, she talks about the reach of God into our lives and circumstances. A widow – who also, with her husband, endured a terrible economic loss – writes about the presence of God with her.blog-michelangelo-god-and-adam-getting-through-thisPhoto Credit: Michelangelo, Getting Through This

“When I [the apostle John writing here] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ ” (Revelation 1:17-18)

God is not surprised by our situation.  As we look to Him, He will give grace…and make  a way through the hard.

2) Zelda’s LullabyNathan Mills this week posted his latest arrangement on YouTube. The Legend of Zelda: Zelda’s Lullaby Classical Guitar Cover is another beautiful entry for me into the surprising world of gaming musical themes. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterSo lovely. Great for helping babies (and the rest of us) relax into a sleepy state. His latest is linked below. He performs these live on krue.TV.

3) Tommy Emmanuel – Speaking of guitar and live music, my husband’s favorite guitarist (after Nathan) is Tommy Emmanuel. We are so excited that he’s coming to Richmond, Va. in March 2017. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, don’t miss it. blog-tommy-emmanuel-guitarPhoto Credit: WFPK

4) The Long Goodbye – These days, I travel a lot to Atlanta to spend time with my dad. Between Alzheimer’s and cancer, he is winding down. Very thankful for his caregivers there, as he has moved from assisted living into the home of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad sleeps a lot, but when he wakes up it is such a delight for all of us to see the spark in his eyes and hear his intelligence, humor, and sweetness break through the cloud of his illnesses. Thankful for this long goodbye…which gives us the opportunity to enjoy him more and spend time with various of our family members in ways that will galvanize us as family when he enters Heaven.

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5) A Beautiful Fall – Words aren’t needed here. So glad for the opportunity to live in a place of four seasons.

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Hope you have a restful and reflective weekend. Would love for you to post some of your favorite finds in the Comments.

Finally, just for fun…

 

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Writing, Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs, Old Men Grooving, Friends Who Wound, and a Clean House

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Friday again. Nice. This week has been an easy one – lighter work load, early morning walks with neighbors, visits with old friends, and marveling at sweet grand-babies. Life on the side of simple. There was one significant dip in our week when my dad had a bad night, but he has improved remarkably since then. Each day is different. Rejoicing in the good days.

Here are my favorite finds from this week. Please share any of yours in Comments below.

1) Writing – Always an outlet for me. I’ve written journals from childhood (called them diaries in those days). blog-writing-lithubPhoto Credit: LitHub

All my life, people who were privy to some of my writing, have told me, “You should write a book!” I don’t have the discipline, message,…or passion, maybe, to write a book…yet. One day. I started this blog for my children, during a time I was frightened that my memory was fading. So far, it seems to be the forgetfulness of my aging (not diseased) brain. Still, blog writing continues to be a joy…almost a mission. When life keeps me from writing, as in the last couple of weeks, I miss it…and then it’s hard to get back into the habit.  Rebecca Solnit posted recently suggesting 10 Tips on How to Be a Writer. Her article is beautiful writing in itself. Here are two of her most encouraging observations:

“It’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.” – Rebecca Solnit

“It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people.” – Rebecca Solnit

2) Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs – It’s a big year here in the US. In just a few days, we will, together, vote to elect the next Commander and Chief of our country. Usually by this time, lawns and cars are covered with signs and stickers that declare our preferences (or decry the prospect of “the other guy” becoming President). blog-lawn-signs-and-bumper-stickersPhoto Credit: YouTube

Bumper stickers abound broadcasting our various allegiances, in general. [Dave and I are not a bumper sticker people, but various ones make for fascinating distractions while stopped at traffic lights. Quite telling of the mixed bag of cultural values we have.]blog-bumper-stickers-cafepressPhoto Credit: Cafepress

Oddly this year, where we live, political loyalties are less obvious. Only occasional bumper stickers. Even fewer lawn signs. Not that they are relevant to election outcomes. Still, they were interesting predictors of where neighbors, co-workers, and random strangers stood politically on issues and candidates.

I wonder why there are so few this year. Are we less sure or even despairing at our options? Is it fear of displaying our colors? What do you think (without going all political in the comments)?

A postscript to this is the possibility that we now live in an age where “putting it all out there” on our vehicles, or in our yards, is not wisdom. Again, thoughts?

blog-bumper-stickers-pjmediaPhoto Credit: PJMedia

3) Old Men Grooving – On a lighter note, I discovered this British dance group, of 40-60-somethings, who performed on Britain’s Got Talent . They call themselves Old Men Grooving, and you will get a sweet chuckle watching them dance together. Very impressive really. Reminds me of when I took a tap class, for the first time, as an adult. Never too late to dance! Find Old Men Grooving on YouTube.

4) Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you. What seems counter-intuitive is actually something I welcome…and it’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment.

blog-friendsPhoto Credit: SomeEcards

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of negative people, walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us. This article talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing. I appreciate people who love me and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends.

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

5) A Clean House – Who doesn’t like a clean house? When our first child was born, my mom-in-law and her sister came to help me for a week. They were wonderful! One day, while I was sitting all pampered with Baby Girl in my lap, Aunt Nancy asked me what I used to clean the baseboards. Baseboards? First of all, I wasn’t sure what baseboards were, and secondly, I was positive I didn’t clean them. Years later we lived in North Africa and had house helpers all through our time there- those years of my school-aged children. A time when the kids thought that she was their helper rather than mine?!

What a blessing to have the so-daily dust of the Sahara Desert washed away by someone…else! Now back in the US, I am faced with the dust of Richmond, Virginia…Alas. There are endless numbers of articles out there on how to clean house, and I’ve read several. Reading does not necessarily lead to cleaning unfortunately.blog-messy-mom-clean-housePhoto Credit: Quadcity

The article by Valerie Fraser Luesse entitled Do You Clean Like Mama? is my most recent helpful, funny, and non-judgmental read on this subject. It gives me hope again that if I keep at it, one day the house might be clean…for a glorious moment or two, at least.

Those are my faves…although I could also go on and on about the goodness of God, babies, and the sweet arrival of Fall…but those we’ll leave to another day. Have a restful and restorative weekend out there.

State Fair Fun – Photo Montage

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Who doesn’t have vivid memories of going to the state or county fair? When I was still in school, we braved the crowds at night to take in the lights, rides, and eat our favorite fair foods. These days, it’s a daytime outing…still with lots of people to watch and memories to make with our people…grown-up and small ones.img_9315

These are our highlights of this year’s Virginia State Fair:

First fair of many to come for our little grands – p1280311

Fair Food – At a much younger age, it was all about candy apples and cotton candy.p1280369

Now…it’s the glorious fried foods that are only found most authentically at the fair. Even walking on the fairgrounds, the dominant smell isn’t the animals or the gas propelling some of the rides – it’s the smell of frying batter.img_9316img_9321Blooming Onionimg_9276Fried Oreosp1280309Funnel Cake – Once a year, this fried dough sprinkled with sugar, is my go-to fair food. Sharing it with the grownup kids with me that day was wise, but now I’m thinking I should have eaten more….next year.

Agriculture Exhibits – like with farmers’ markets, there’s something soul-refreshing about seeing produce brought straight from the earth where it grew. To have an opportunity to talk with the growers is very special. The pumpkins are as natural a part of a fall fair as cotton candy. The prize-winning monster pumpkins and melons, however, were a bit unnatural…doubtful that anyone eats those.img_9308img_9311img_9303

Artisans and Juried Crafts – Watching craftsmen make their art is fascinating (in its way, similar to what krue-tv provides in the music world). To be able to talk to them and watch them work is part of the draw for me to come to the fair.

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I also love the exhibit hall where the baked goods are displayed and judged. Alongside are the arts and crafts, and my favorite are the quilts. Incredibly beautiful!p1280380p1280388p1280390

Exotic and Domestic Animals – Mamas and Babies – The animals are so much fun, especially when you have little ones along. All the different species of animals – such a menagerie only seen at a fair! We loved the cows and their baby calves, and the hog with all her piglets. The baby ducklings and chicks…need no superlatives.p1280307p1280306p1280336p1280326p1280327

People and the Stuff They Buy – People-watching is so much fun at the fair. We, of course, figure we’re boring and blend in maybe….but who knows? I love seeing all the fabric of people in our culture. As often as I take pictures of strangers (much to my children’s chagrin sometimes), the only face-forward pic I took this time was of these young men. You kind of wonder what their stories are…and if they were skipping school. Hey…the fair only comes once a year, right?p1280360

Then there’s the stuff people buy – a huge exhibition hall was full of merchandise to suit various tastes of fair goers. My son, Daniel, said, it reminded him of the Ramadan Fairs of our times in North Africa. Aisles and aisles of stuff to buy, and people crowded in front of the displays. The Ramadan Fairs, like the state fairs here, are part of my “happy memory” bank.img_9329

Still thinking of the people at the fair: my favorite fair-goers were the kids and grandkids who took off that day to make memories together. Thankful for that.img_9319

Hope you are able to make it to the Fair this year…it was an extraordinary day…and, in the end, there was no room for cotton candy after all…and I didn’t miss it.p1280333p1280399

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful

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At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   – Albert Schweitzer

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re in the USA, it’s a big day. Lots of food (all favorites you expect/hope to see every year) with those you love crowded around. Then football. Falling asleep from all the turkey.

Dave’s family is in Delaware and most of mine is in Georgia. We’ve had Thanksgivings with both, on sort of a rotation…but not nearly often enough, since we lived overseas for so many years. During that season of our lives, friends became family for us.Thanksgiving 04 009

The food favorites varied somewhat depending on the family. If you knew us well, you would know which family gathering was that year, just looking at the food below. What are your “must-haves” on Thanksgiving Day?2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 1152014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 023

Better even than the food is the time together with people we love. We can’t always be all together because of distance…but it is a good day spent together…I’m grateful for every memory we’ve made together. So thankful for family – with all its imperfections. God put us together, and I want to always honor that.2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0582014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 0542014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 056

If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction.  The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.                                 Henry Ward Beecher2009 Nov 029

Football!2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 057Football! 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

[Sidebar about football and the mad cleanup that follows the huge Thanksgiving meal – this commercial.]

I cherish every memory these images represent and all the other memories not documented here. Thank You, God, for all Your good gifts to us. Your kindness is beyond our imagining.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”Romans 11:36

Look for things to be thankful for: a dear old face at an open door,

The table set for the family meal, a husband’s love that is true as steel.

A cushioned chair that you fixed yourself, your favorite books on a nearby shelf,

A green-hued twilight that sort of glows, the clean, fresh smell of a brier rose.

An old windjammer that you recall beating its way through an April squall,

Its old sides crusted with salty spray, limping in at the close of day.

The lovely odor of lemon peel; a humble man with a flaming zeal

For a worthy cause that he thinks is right; the feeling of warmth on a winter night.

Look for things to be thankful for: a braided rug on your bedroom floor,

A dormer window with curtains drawn, a bluebird singing across the lawn.

So much to be thankful for these days, so much to enjoy and love and praise. – Edna Jaques, Ideals, Vol. 57, #5

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Prayers for those of you who have said goodbye, for now, to loved ones this year – thinking especially of our dear friend, Tom Elliff, whose beloved Jeannie went ahead of him to the Lord this summer. May God’s tender presence be a sweet comfort to Tom this Thanksgiving…as he continues to bless his family and serve the Lord.Blog - Tom Elliff & Family at Thanksgiving 2015Photo Credit: Tom Elliff’s Family

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving Poems

Ideals Magazine – Christmas Edition 2015

5 Organic Ingredients of a Grateful Heart by Steve Graves

Blog - International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015 2VCU International Student Thanksgiving Dinner 2015;  Photo Credit: Donna Ange Photography

5 Friday Faves – a Country Store, Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas, an Argument for Trouble, Teaching Empathy in the Classroom, Teaching our Children to be Entrepreneurial

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Posting from Atlanta, visiting Dad and family.

1) A Country Store – In an era of “buying local”, it’s easy to forgive a huge franchise when it feels like a country store. Cracker Barrel is like coming home. It’s my dad’s favorite restaurant (breakfast all day, and a huge menu full of “home-cooked” favorites). Walking into Cracker Barrel, you enter the country store section ahead of the restaurant. It is a retail paradise, especially if you’re from the South. Or maybe for everyone. It was lovely  seeing it recently through the eyes of a Moroccan-Scottish friend visiting. So much fun, this place, whether you buy anything or not!

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2) Mixing Thanksgiving and Christmas – Beautiful Fall leaves and pumpkins are still with us in Virginia, although the season is waning. Even with our American Thanksgiving still days away, Christmas is also upon us – with decorations, music, and the wooing to the stores for gift-buying. I don’t mind the mix at all. There’s enough to delight in both holidays.

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3) An Argument for Trouble – Mark Modesti’s Argument for Trouble – YouTube video (TED Institute) – take the time to watch. Even the Bible tells us we will always have trouble, so wisdom is to learn how to thrive in it…and make it work for us and others.

4) Teaching Empathy in the Classroom – Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell’s article on Empathy in Action: How Teachers Prepare Future Citizens. I love when educators are committed to working with parents in helping our children to grow into responsible, thoughtful adults. Growing up happens all too quickly – redeem the time.

5) Teaching Our Children to Be Entrepreneural – Charmian Solter’s 8 Entrepreneurial Skills You Should Teach Your Kids (in an info graphic). Like 4), these are things we might as parents want to consider to help our children face the future that awaits them.

That’s the quick and short of my favorite finds this week – what are yours? Would love to hear about them. Enjoy your weekend!

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October 31 – Halloween Dress-up & Reformation Day Stand-Up

Blog - Halloween

Our kids were pre-schoolers the last time we celebrated Halloween – and that was a long time ago. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Amber reminded me of a different side of Halloween. It’s not just another commercialized holiday (second only to Christmas in the US). Nor is it just for dressing up children in fun outfits (although that is one of the best parts of Halloween).Blog - Halloween 2

Nor is Halloween just about giving and getting large quantities of favorite candies…although this might be THE BEST PART of Halloween.Blog - Fall - Candy Corn - twitter.com ERLCPhoto Credit: Twitter.com/erlc

Amber, still fairly new in town, was looking forward to Halloween to meet more of her neighbors. Over the years, we had separated our family from Halloween because of the darker side of the holiday (All Hallow’s Eve). I don’t think our kids missed out at all, really, but this year I have opened the door back up a bit…to meet more of our neighbors.

For the first time in two decades, we turned the porch light on, and had a basket of candy ready….and the children came. We marveled at their costumes and greeted their parents (and sometimes, grandparents). It was fun to chat with these little guys and then watch them meander on to the next house in their dressed-up otherness.

When the candy ran out, I flipped off the porch light. The glow of our next door neighbor’s luminaries still beckoned the small bands of children with their watchful parents close by.Blog - Halloween 3

So that was Halloween 2015. No new friendships forged or anything…but we at least showed ourselves friendly.

Earlier today, I was reminded of the other side of October 31. Reformation Day. My husband’s mom, Julia, reads through a couple of devotionals each day as part of her Bible reading. On a visit with her this morning, she read to us the page below.Blog - Reformation DayPhoto Credit: 30 Days to Change the Nation by D. James Kennedy

On this day, 498 years ago, Martin Luther stood up against a wrong done in the name of God. He challenged his beloved Catholic Church to stop certain practices of that day. Practices that drew people away from God really, rather than closer to Him. Practices, or indulgences, in particular, that communicated that we could actually buy our salvation or do service enough to earn our salvation from our sins.

He wrote 95 “theses” or indictments against the church and hammered that long list on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. They were serious accusations and started with the first one below:

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Because of Martin Luther’s protest, a reformation was birthed. Millions of believers worldwide “have submitted to God’s word as their highest authority (Sola Scriptura) and…that salvation is a gift given by God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia) through the instrument of faith alone (Sola Fide) in the death and resurrection of their one savior and mediator, Jesus Christ (Sola Christus), so that all glory would always redound to the Triune God alone (Sola Deo Gloria).” *

October 31 marks two days – Halloween and Reformation Day.

The first calls for dress-up. The second a call to stand up.

I’m sure Martin Luther took great courage in God’s Word as he stood firm in his understanding of it.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God…and having done all, to stand firm.”  – Apostle Paul,  from Ephesians 6:10-20

Be safe out there if you’re still closing out the night. I’m thinking the kids won’t notice if a Butterfinger or Snickers bar is missing in the morning from their candy haul tonight…or could be, they will. It’s a risk. Good night.

*Reformation Day – Jesus Came Knocking

What Are Your Thoughts on Halloween? – John Piper

5 Interesting Facts About Reformation Day

Halloween - Nathan & Bekkah, Cliff & April[Four of my favorite grown-up “trick-or-treaters” -one of the kids must have taken this picture.] Photo Credit: Bekkah Mills

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Music, Geese in Flight, Restaurant Salad, a Bookstore, Procrastination in Writing

Blog - Friday Faves

At a conference and am running late so this will be a super quick run-through of five of my favorites of this week. Happy Friday!

  1. Christmas Music – We start listening to Christmas music in October. There are so many songs that take us right to the throne-room of God Himself. This one by the King’s College Choir is so exquisitely beautiful. Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (“O Great Mystery”). Enjoy –

2) Geese in Flight – In the Fall, seeing Canadian geese (and sometimes even snow geese) flying in formation gives me so much joy. My husband’s family lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware, and the migratory return of geese northward is a common and extraordinary sight.  Greg Richardson wrote a piece this week on spiritual life and geese in flight. He reminded me of a long-favorite short essay – 7 Lessons from Geese.

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3) Restaurant SaladO’Charley’s – where kids eat free – or at least they did when our kids were little. My absolute favorite salad is their Southern Pecan Chicken Salad (so much crunch and chew with fried chicken, dried cranberries, pecans, and Mandarin oranges. Also just the best Balsamic vinaigrette. Dave prefers O’Charley’s California Grilled Chicken Salad – similar array of textures and sweet and sours, but healthier. Not distracting me from my favorite. [Our friend didn’t even order the salad; the Fish & Chips is also yummy!]Blog - OCharleysBlog - OCharleys - foodspotting.comPhoto Credit: Foodspotting.com

4) Bookstore – I’ve actually never been to this bookstore but the video below captured my book-lover heart. It’s a part of the Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I saw the video as part of watching the livestream of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation conference last week. If you love books and best practices, watch the video. Your heart will sing.

4) Procrastination in Writing – I knew I had this conference this week and could have already written the pieces for this week beforehand – even Friday Faves could have been of a different week’s “faves”. But, no! Procrastination is a struggle for me. So many choices, so many other things easier to be distracted by than focusing on writing. Jerry Bridges, a successful and prolific author, writes sympathetically and encouragingly about procrastination – something he has also struggled with. Such a helpful article. If I hadn’t procrastinated, I would list out some of his helps…but instead I leave you with a graphic from an altogether different article. Sigh…

Photo Credit: Tom Gauld, Gointothestory.blcklst.com

What are some of your faves of this week? Hope your weekend is full of making more.