Category Archives: Kindness

5 Friday Faves – Writer Jeff Goins, Refugees, Community, Situational Awareness, and a Memorial

Happy Friday. Summer’s coming on hard here with temps into the 90s for the next week. Hope you get to play hard and rest hard over the weekend. Here are my favorite finds for this week. Enjoy!

1) Writer Jeff Goins – I am so excited about Jeff Goins‘ latest book. This is his 5th book – Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It arrived 2 days ago, and I’m already deep into it.

Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.

Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.

I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

2) Refugees –  We never want to lose sight of the plight of displaced peoples – of refugees. Photographer Steve Evans and writer Zee Jenkins put together a beautiful and riveting photo essay – Trail of Tears – Refugees in Greece. Take a look and remember this is happening every day.Photo Credit: Steve Evans, Life Force Magazine

3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army

How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.

This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!

4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.

Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.

A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.

5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News

I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.

Photo Credit: Facebook – The Alabama Baptist Newspaper

Breaking News: Multiple Huntsville Church Passengers Injured in a Bus Accident Outside of Atlanta

Another terrible incident that was short-lived in the news cycle was the slaughter of 28 Egyptian Coptic Christians last week. Again, in this moment, I want to memorialize them and…remember them.

Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims Off the Bus and Kill 28 – Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef

Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.

This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.

Bonuses

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes – Carey Nieuwhof

Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.

YouTube Video – Real Life Trick Shots – Dude Perfect

Worship Wednesday – Friends – Michael W. Smith

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Forever friends. What a grace of God! These are friends we don’t choose necessarily. They choose us, almost in spite of our own failings at being friends ourselves.

I thank God for the friends who have coursed with us across continents, through births and deaths, and in both the mundane and extraordinary of life. Today we’re settled, for the most part, and there are days, in the solitude of this current life that I wonder if I have friends (I know…silly thoughts…when too much alone).

In truth, this life of mine has been full of friends…lifelong, through all sorts of troubled water, friends.

Some of these friends turned out to be family, while others God Himself brought across our paths and a spark of commonality and community blazed into a fire. A fire that has warmed my heart from days to decades. A fire that snaps me out of my doldrums to be a better friend myself.

Am I having a kumbaya moment? Absolutely.

Friendship is not something to be trifled with in life. I’m learning (thankful for friends who have suffered long with me over the years).

Part of what has stirred this gratefulness today is in reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Each short but full chapter addresses a kind of friendship in our lives. Within each kind of friendship, Sauls points to the kindness and mercy of God within those relationships…and how, in both strength and weakness, we have our place.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Another writer, Dave Zuleger, exposes our cultural bias of casualness with friendships.

We need to begin defining true friendship and brotherly love not by conforming to cultural expectations, but by looking at the face of Jesus and being changed to look and love more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we look at Jesus, we find a friend who loves when we are unlovable, and a brother willing to die for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. We find and experience a love utterly unlike what we normally find in ourselves, in our own hearts.

We can be such fickle friends, distancing ourselves from difficult people and situations. If someone seems too immature, too demanding, or too inconvenient, we bail. We find excuses (legitimate ones of course!) to distance ourselves from these kinds of friends. Yet, Jesus — the perfect, holy Son of God — went and hung out among wicked sinners who were extremely immature, difficult, and even dangerous (they crucified him!). – Dave Zuleger

Zuleger’s words reminded me of a very old song by Sharalee Lucas:

I see Jesus in your eyes, and it makes me love Him

I feel Jesus in your touch, and I know He cares

I hear Jesus in your voice, and it makes me listen

And I trust you with my love, because you’re His.

I see Him…Sharalee Lucas

This is the sort of friendship I’ve known. That friend who came quietly to sit with Dave during my cancer surgery. Those friends whose love for my mama has been lavished on me since her death. The friend from work who refuses to define or disdain me by my different political views. The friend neglected who gives me grace. The friends who see value in me that I don’t see. The friends who include me in their great works. The friends who love in spite of…

A cherished local friend told me recently that she was moving away within the next few months. Thinking of losing her, I was reminded of another old song about friends – the one Michael W. Smith published in 1983. We never have to lose a friend. As our travels over the last 20+ years have shown us, God gives us forever friends, not limited by time or geography. For this mercy, I will always be grateful to Him.

[BTW – for any younger friends who can’t wrap their sensibilities around this old song – I would love to know songs about friends that are super meaningful to you – so please let me know in the Comments.]

Worship with me, please…the God who calls us friend and who gives us the great grace of friends.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And with the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

We’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

To live as friends

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

No a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends*

 We need to learn to see every friendship through the lens of the work of Christ on our behalf. To see that at the cross there is more than enough grace to cover a multitude of sins committed against us. To see the cross of Christ as the depth of suffering a perfect Brother was willing to endure. We need to remember a true brother moves closer when times get harder, and never leaves or forsakes a friend, even when the trial lasts a lifetime. – Dave Zuleger
Here’s to friends (images of just a few of the many amazing friends – would put up a lot more and you would get tired of scrolling) that God has given over the years):

*Lyrics to Friends (1983)

Song Facts – Friends – Songwriters: Michael W. & Debbie Smith

The Best Friends Are Born For Adversity – Dave Zuleger

Find a Friend to Wound You – Greg Morse

5 Friday Faves – Reversing Diabetes, Circle of Gratitude, Love Songs, Asking Good Questions, and the Ideal Team Player

1) Reversing Diabetes – Maybe you don’t think about diabetes. I do.
So far I have held it off. Not because I’ve mastered a healthy diet or an active lifestyle. Just teetering probably on the brink. Diabetes is one of those diseases that, if we live long enough, will probably hit one out of three of us. 1 in 3. So when I come across a great article about reversing it (which is rare), I jump on it. Lou Schuler has written a powerful piece for Mens’ Health on How to Reverse Diabetes. He writes in a non-shaming, matter-of-fact way with lots of pragmatic counsel and success stories. Our problem is we don’t think we can reverse it…we figure it is inevitable if we continue with reckless eating and holding our couches down so they don’t get away. I was encouraged by Schuler’s article.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

We can reverse diabetes with three specific interventions – lose the weight (or don’t gain the weight over our lifetime); especially control our belly fat; and exercise (even just walking after we eat can make a big difference). I have loved ones who are diabetic or pre-diabetic. I hope they are encouraged by this….I am. Resolved not to be 1 in 3.

Photo Credit: Flickr

2) Circle of Gratitude -Gratitude is a terrific gift all by itself. What’s really fun is when our expression of gratitude actually triggers gratitude in the person for whom we’re thankful. Justin Kanoya describes this as a circle of gratitude. You have been the recipient of some great service or other good thing (fill in the blank) and you want to thank them well for what they did for you. You don’t just send an effusive text or Facebook message. Nor do you pick up a one-card-fits-all-purposes to send them. You want it to be reflective of what they did themselves. Kanoya carefully picked out some hand-made cards from local artisans. He then wrote specific detailed thanks for each person’s generosity toward him. Lastly, he slipped in gift-cards for spa treatments.Photo Credit: Flickr

Kanoya describes how satisfying that was, but the circle of gratitude closed for him when he received back all manner of thanks for his thanks, from those who received his cards. Sweet. Have you had this experience – when someone’s gratitude felt even more generous than what you did for him/her? That’s a circle of gratitude.

3) Love Songs – Do you have a favorite or meaningful love song? For Dave and me, it was the oldies song playing on the radio when we first kissed. I Only Have Eyes For You. He tells me he actually waited for just the right song because we would remember it always (not like “Hotel California”). That was a long time ago. It was such a moment that, after we married, we even asked a local artist to do a painting for us as a reminder of that sweet song and sweet moment. Photo Credit: Artist – Betty Skaggs

Facebook has become a bit redundant for me lately – not just the political parlay but all the videos. Still there was one this week that touched my heart. It was a homemade video at a church Valentine banquet. A couple was standing at the mic and the husband was singing a karaoke version of Lionel Richie’s Truly to his wife. So funny and deliciously dear.

Do you have a favorite love song and moment? Please share with us in Comments below.

4) Asking Good Questions – There was a season in my professional life when my husband and I directed a study abroad program with young adults right out of college. They would return to the US to attend graduate school but wanted a deeper understanding of the Middle East, through an immersion experience. During those sessions, we would often have visits from their parents. One mom gave me surprising and difficult advice. She said her son (along with these other 20=somethings) prefer coming up with their own answers (solutions to their own problems). The key for us in supervision and mentoring was to ask them the kind of questions that would get them to those answers. I wanted the easy way out; I wanted to just tell them what they needed to know. Saves a lot of pain for all of us, but didn’t help them become better problem-solvers. Ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask good questions.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

When leadership coach and blogger Paul Sohn interviewed talk radio host and author Ken Coleman, they talked about this very thing. Asking good questions.  about asking questions.  – What’s the greatest question a person can ask/answer? “Why am I here?”

[When you read Sohn’s interview, don’t miss the Comments. Really fascinating.]

One Question: Life-Changing Answers From Today’s Leading Voices – Ken Coleman

5) Ideal Team Player – Pat Lencioni’s book The Ideal Team Player is one of our favorite books lately, and I’ve already written about it here. It’s a fave again this week because I discovered some helps for discovering just how humble, hungry, and people smart we are. On Lencioni’s website, he offers several free resources and tools. Photo Credit: Pexels

One tool was a free self-assessment of these three virtues of an ideal team player.  It was very helpful, especially in pointing out areas where I tend to hold myself back. Check it out. Seriously.

Photo Credit: Table Group

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché

Those are my five faves for this week. Below you will find a bonus from one of my favorite documentary makers – Andrew Morgan. He’s directing a series of short films on Untold America. This past month, he focused on the many sides of democracy in America. Next, I believe, he is covering immigration stories. Follow him and Untold America on Facebook or Twitter. You don’t want to miss any of these films and the people whose stories they capture.

Have a safe and refreshing weekend, Friends.

Bonus: Untold America’s Documentary Series on Democracy

Untold America – Facebook Page

Saturday Short – Love Notes – From Mom

IMAG2718 (2)

[From the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

5 Friday Faves – Spoken Word, Final Fantasy Guitar Arrangement, Kindness, Becoming a Super Achiever, and Acts of Service

Friday Faves is a highlight of my week. Just like my reading and life experiences are enriched by other writers’ weekly favorite finds, I take pleasure in thinking mine also encourage and even delight you as well sometimes. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, I’ve run out of steam by week’s end. Travel is part of the drag on my writing, and some grieving over a very ill dad. Not many words to float my faves. Thanks to you who continue to stop by. It means the world to me. Following are five of my favorites for this week…enjoy…

1) Spoken Word – A poetry form, spoken word is defined as “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play, intonation, and voice inflection – includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, and traditional poetry readings”.  Glen Scrivener is poet and performer of spoken word. He’s Australian now living in the UK, so he’s got the accent and all.  He also has to be a very cool minister, given his gift with words that grab the heart. I just discovered him this week as one of his videos crossed my Facebook news-feed. It is entitled Santa Vs. Jesus and follows:

He Came Down and Christmas in Dark Places are two others that will minister to your heart…especially if life isn’t going as you thought it would. You can read more about Glen here and here.Photo Credit: Mackellars

2) Final Fantasy Guitar ArrangementNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has added another haunting arrangement to his guitar repertoire. His inspiration this time was the main theme (“Somnus”) of the video-game Final Fantasy XV. Nathan is an accomplished classical guitarist who has also applied his craft to arranging themes from movies, TV shows, and video games – music he’s loved over the years. I am still astounded at the beauty of these pieces when they are rendered through his skill, heart, and classical guitar. So lovely.

3) Kindness – When you are distracted by the stresses of life, and you’re just not yourself…every kindness is a great mercy. I’ve certainly experienced many over the last year during the illness of my dad. This week was not an exception. Traveling to Georgia to help care for dad, I was struck again at all the kindnesses extended to him by other family members, hospice staff, and friends. His pastor has become a pastor to me even. It got me thinking again of how we teach kindness to our children… I have the book Each Kindness by  Jacquelin Woodson and E. B. Lewis about a young girl, new to a school, who didn’t quite fit in. Although she was kind herself, she was shunned by other children. That tension and the story’s resolution captured so much about the transforming nature of kindness.

Modeling kindness is foundational as children see and then do. Reading about kindness can also strengthen that message. Joanna Goddard and her commenters have listed a treasure trove of books on kindness lessons for children.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead is a sweet story about a man caring uniquely for various animals in the zoo. Also The Empty Pot by Demi speaks of both kindness and truthfulness. Lastly, Mo Willems’ My Friend Is Sad speaks to a tenderness found between true friends. 

What books or experiences do you recommend to help young ones learn to be kind? Please comment below.

4) Becoming a Super Achiever – Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield have authored a book on how any of us might become a “super achiever” – The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Swell. I have not read this book yet (nowhere near a superachiever in this skin…yet). However, thanks to Forbes writer Tanya Prive, we have a great intro to the subject in a quick list of 10.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Sweeney and Gosfield interviewed several highly successful individuals across many fields and discovered ten practices common to “super achievers”. They are:

  • Good Storytelling
  • Dedication to a Vision
  • Listening and Remaining Open
  • Pursuing Happiness
  • Intelligent Persistence
  • Testing Ideas in the Market
  • Fostering a Community
  • Constantly Evolving
  • Managing Emotions
  • Practicing Patience

Read more on each of these from Prive’s article, or better yet, check out the book. From the reviews so far on Amazon, it’s less a “how-to” for us and more a “how they did it” – as a myriad of super achievers tell their stories to the authors…worth the read for me to hear those stories.

5) Acts of Service – Years ago, I read this book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He talks about how we express and receive love in five major ways – time, touch, gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. My husband, Dave, and I both experience love most deeply through words of affirmation and acts of service. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Christmas is a huge gift-giving holiday in our culture. I’m not the best at that, BUT I understand it, especially for those who experience love most happily through receiving gifts (our youngest son, for example). For me…acts of service and words of affirmation. Now…that can come through gift making or buying. [I need socks, etc., like everyone else.] Or, it can come through the raw work of serving. Dave has taken on a much harder job of giving me a requested act of service for Christmas, and the time he’s putting into it is already like receiving this gift every day, even before Christmas arrives. I won’t go into details, but we are both “pilers“. It’s just hard for us to expediently go through and get rid of stuff we’re no longer using. Order is a lovely thing, and as we get older, it is even more calming to a stressed and tired mind. He is giving the gift of “order” to me this Christmas…and hasn’t even asked the same from me. What love!!Photo Credit: DawsonandDawsonInc

So….there you have it…another Five Friday Faves…and on a Saturday. That’s just the kind of week it’s been. Enjoy the rest of your weekend…and receive every kindness as the gift it’s meant to be.

Monday Morning Moment – Uncommon Courtesy in the Workplace

blog-courtesy-adding-value-john-maxwell-iluvquotesPhoto Credit: iluvquotes

My mom raised me to be courteous…thoughtful towards all…civil in every circumstance…extending grace. Recently, I have become aware that my behavior in the company of others has become less courteous overall. Not in an intentional way, hopefully, but in a careless neglectful way. This is disconcerting because it makes me wonder how long has this been a part of my demeanor and deportment. Not necessarily with those closest to me…but with “the others” in life – the stranger, the coworker, the customer.

blog-common-courtesy-quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: Quote Addicts

Yesterday, not at work, I interrupted the conversation of three people. Not overtly, maybe, but it was a quiet drawing away the attention of one of them. Without even thinking, I was rude.

We don’t really mean to be rude or discourteous probably…but in the neglect of practicing courtesy…we can become “those people”…rude, disingenuous, self-serving people.

What does that look like in the workplace?

John Kyle describes rudeness at work:

“It can range from subtle things like eye-rolling to outrageous things like berating a colleague in a meeting.

Here are some common examples:

  • Gossiping and talking behind someone’s back.
  • Giving colleagues the silent treatment.
  • Interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Leaving trash and food containers in public areas like the office kitchen.
  • The work around – excluding colleagues from projects or meetings even though they should, by role and responsibilities, be included.
  • Being late for meetings or in other ways not respecting someone else’s time.
  • Speaking to people in a condescending way.

All of these examples of rudeness are forms of disrespect. A pastor-friend of mine once said that giving someone the silent treatment is the relational equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t respect and care enough about you to talk to you.'”

John Kyle, Chief Operating Officer for The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, also delivers some simple advice on how we might overcome rudeness at work. One of his tips is to make a practice of greeting people…just saying hello (using their name if you know it). How simple is that?! Yet, too often, we walk quickly by, head down, lost in our brilliant and important thoughts, or hanging on every word of that one we’re accompanying. Is it so hard to smile and nod our head at those we are passing by? Those who work with us, have the same vision, hope for the same outcomes, wrestling with the same struggles at work or home.

What Kyle reveals in his article on being courteous at work is that we expose our lack of regard for those around us by not taking the time for them…to say or do the small graces for each other that communicates that “there are no ordinary people”.

blog-courtesy-no-ordinary-people-c-s-lewis-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest – WitandWisdomofCSLewis

His counsel echoes a book I recently read by John Maxwell – Intentional Living – Choosing a Life That Matters. Maxwell, like Kyle, talks about adding value to people…communicating that if we are not intentionally adding value to people then we show that we devalue them.

What do you think? It would be such a gift to have your comments on stories where you were treated with uncommon courtesy at work. Do you have examples of how such actions and attitudes are rewarded in your workplace? Do your bosses display this sort of worldview? Please share your stories…even the negative ones that might have given you pause about your own altered attitudes over the years.

As I described in the story earlier, this has certainly given me pause. I want to be a load-lifter at work. An encourager. A respecter of all persons…not just the ones who can help me get ahead with my career. It’s possible that I might have become a bit more curmudgeonly over time…and that’s not really the kind of coworker I want to be. My mom would be glad to see that I’m climbing out of this insufferable ditch – resolved anew to make a habit of uncommon courtesy.

Bringing Courtesy Back to the Workplace – Harvard Business Review – Ron Ashkenas

Why Is Common Courtesy Increasingly Uncommon at Work? Rudeness on the Rise – John Kyle

How do You Practice Common Courtesy at Work?

Workplace Etiquette – 4 Ways to Show Courtesy to Coworkers – Rachel Wagner

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog

Slideshare – Courtesy

How To Become a Curmudgeon – WikiHow – just for a chuckle!

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

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[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

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That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

5 Friday Faves – Recovering from Surgery: Cheerleaders & Caregivers, Glimpses of Beauty, Words Fitly Spoken, Comfort Foods, and Sports Movie Speeches

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10 days ago was the last time I posted a blog until right now. It was the day of my surgery. My surgeon decided the time had come to lay to rest exactly what was this little nodule – this incidental finding that has persisted now 6 months. He assured me that it is either “nothing or early”.  Hours later I would discover that it wasn’t nothing but it was early. Stage 1 cancer. He did that “gold standard” surgery to remove what was necessary to lead to cure. Now my job is to heal…from the reality of the diagnosis and the protracted recovery time (from days originally to weeks/months now).

This week’s Friday Faves relate to these days of recovery thus far. It’s an open letter of thanks for the great and many graces of God through all those He brings across our paths in times of pain and weakness. I have been much changed by this experience and by the kindnesses given to one unable to give back. Thank God. Thank God for you.

1) Cheerleaders and Caregivers – What would we do without those persons in our lives who step in, extend a hand, share a truth, or just steady our particular rocking boat? My close nurse friend, Kathy Visneski, coached me through this recovery business, from her vacation on the beach. She didn’t have to…that’s just who she is and what she does. Over the last 10 days, I have had so many strangers, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and family members come near in this experience with me. It’s reminded me of Kara Tippetts‘ book Just Show Up. We all bring different giftings, different strengths into this arena. In particular, Dave, this husband of mine, has juggled well his work, his chores and mine at home, and all the many extra demands that recovery has made on both of us. Thank you, Dave. Thanks, Kathy. Thank you all.Dave April 2016

2) Glimpses of Beauty Beyond the Pain – I’m not a “cut flower” kind of woman. They seem so extravagant…that is, until the day comes, when pain stabs you through the chest and you don’t want to get out of bed. Then a bouquet of irises, roses, and hydrangea show up from a friend states away. She said, in the card, that she knew the irises would remind me of my mom and would be an added comfort. She was right. Other flower arrangements would follow and would turn our living room into a quiet garden where I would begin healing. Beauty to rest my eyes.Blog - Hospital - Irises

3) Words Fitly Spoken – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11 We sometimes silence ourselves for fear of not saying the right thing or not knowing what to say. My bias is that lots of grace should be given those who try to fill the awkward places between people with whatever words they can find. For me, words haven’t come so easily in these days of dealing with a cancer diagnosis, even caught in the earliest of stages. I’ve had some of the kindest words spoken over me in these days. One friend, visiting shortly after I came home, said something like, “Debbie Mills down?! No way!” It was my sentiment and confusion exactly. I’m fairly tough, resilient. This surgery and aftermath have humbled me in such a way as to remember that “when I am weak, God is strong in me”. We want to be able to say that to others in need…living it is a whole other thing. I’m discovering the faithfulness of God in a way I would never have sought out before.

 Along with all the voiced encouragements, I’ve received some beautiful cards. How kind of people to still go out and search for an appropriate card and either take the time to drop it by or send it in the mail to arrive providentially. The card below came on a hard day when recovery seemed to be going very slowly. It was perfect.

2016 June - Greeting Card - Turtle after surgery - Getting There 0012016 June - Greeting Card - Turtle after surgery - Getting There 002

4) Comfort Foods – A side effect of the pain and weakness seems to be this loss of appetite. Never before have I just not wanted to eat anything… Nothing sounded good. Not even my daily cup of coffee delight in the morning. I’ve lost 8 pounds since surgery. Then one night this week a friend brought over a chicken almond casserole. I ate some in a little bowl, nestled in my “sickbed”, and it was actually very good. Since that night, my appetite has been coming around.

Unforgettable Chicken CasserolePhoto Credit: Mr. Food

Yesterday, something made me think of Biscoff cookies, a crisp spice cookie offered to travelers on Delta Airlines. I told my daughter and she remembered some she had in her cupboard, a gift from her mom-in-law. She brought them over, and this morning, I had my first full cup of coffee with two of these lovely cookies. Returning to normal.
Blog - Comfort food - coffee and Biskoff Cookies

5) Sports Movie Speeches –
My normally short attention span is even worse in these days since surgery. Reading the briefest of passages in the Bible or a book is about all I can handle. Except for TV. It is definitely a medium that can be taken in completely passively (not that I recommend it because of that). In these days of moving from loveseat to sofa to recliner, with my phone and TV remote tucked under my pillow, watching movies has helped me to be occasionally distracted from my situation. This week, I saw the 2004 football film Friday Night Lights. Near the end of the film, Coach Gaines, gives the most inspiring half-time speech to his weary, busted-up team, two quarters away from winning or losing their state championship. See the clip here. Blog - Friday Night Lights - sports movie speech - fanspeakPhoto Credit: FanSpeak

There is another YouTube video of the Top 10 Sports Movie Speeches. Sure these speeches aren’t always full of truth and all are colored by the pop culture of that film setting. Still, when you are down and not sure what it will take to get up again, inspiration is a very good thing. [Honestly the most inspirational, deeply resonate “speeches” were spoken by Jesus to his followers in strange and stretching situations. I am one of those…inspired by Him now.].

Well…that’s my Friday Faves – being posted on a Saturday. The first time I’ve written since before the surgery 10 days ago. I hope to write more about what this surgery and diagnosis are teaching me but all that is in process right now.  If you have any stories, links to inspiring speeches, recipes for comfort foods, or whatever you’re stirred to share, please do so below in the comments. ,Thank you for showing up here…in this time of my life. You encourage me…and one day, maybe I will have the opportunity to encourage you. It is my desire…Blog - Debbie - Home from the Hospital

One day….the beach.

Blog - Ocean, Sky, Sun - Kathryn VisneskiPhoto Credit: Kathryn Visneski

One More Sleep Until Surgery – Staying On This Side of the Bridge

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Tomorrow I have surgery…a biopsy. One more sleep, and then finally (hopefully) I will know what it is that we’ve been following for six months now. Your thoughts can go all sorts of places during a time of waiting. My dear friend, Kathy, who has now been in cancer nursing longer than I comforted me with this wisdom:

“For right now, you need to stay on this side of the bridge.”

She is so right. Bridges… As helpful and beautiful as they are, bridges stir up my fears of heights and deep water. There’s this one bridge we cross going to and from visits with our family in Delaware. Located  on Hwy. 301 in Maryland, it’s named the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. The bridge itself is not so nice if you struggle with bridges. It’s steep and narrow. As you ascend, you can’t see really where it’s going.

If your imagination runs wild, you could envision cars ahead of you (and you eventually) drop right off the top into the Potomac River… Of course, once at the pinnacle of the bridge, you see, with great relief, what seems an easy downward slope of the bridge and the other side of the river…and all will be (was always going to be) well.

It’s best to stay in the moment on the ascending side of the bridge, because the “unknown” other side of the bridge wreaks havoc in our thoughts. Experience helps, of course, because the presumed “unknown” is no longer, and you can rest, knowing, you’ve been here before, and it works out fine.

For several weeks now, I have had to discipline myself to stay on this side of the bridge. Knowing God as I do, and seeing Him at work in the lives of loved ones who’ve known their own bridges, this journey is not supposed to be scary. It’s meant to be from beautiful to beautiful. God even redeems suffering…and I know that…but my thoughts betray my struggle.

How gentle God is with His children! Just hours ago, I walked out to a sun-drenched morning, and stood with my coffee looking out the kitchen window. There’s this small dedicated space over the sink which reminds me, even doing dishes, of the grander more beautiful life experience that is ours. The shamrocks Mom Julia gave me are flourishing in the sun this morning. The Blessings plaque from friend Kay reminds me to count mine. The little pile of stones are my Ebenezer – ”I raise my Ebenezer” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” IMG_6106

Then in my quiet time, in the reading for today, the Prophet Samuel speaks to a sinful but repentant people of God. He reminds them of the great faithfulness of God and how he will not forsake His people (1 Samuel 12), nor will Samuel stop praying for them.Blog - Samuel's blessing - surgery

How grateful I am for a faithful, faithful God…and for all those followers of His, faithful to pray. No wonder Samuel tells the people not to be afraid.

Whatever comes tomorrow, I know, from God’s Word and experience, that He will be with me…and with all those dearest to me. Whatever the outcome, we have nothing to fear. Nothing.

As this day unfolds, one sleep from surgery, my fear is dissipating, and peace is restored. I’m not saying there won’t be bumps in that experience over the next hours…but the most rock-solid object of my faith remains immovable. God has our lives in His hands, and “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Full stop.

Like Kathy advises, clearing my thoughts regularly, I “stay on this side of the bridge.” Tomorrow, I will wake up after surgery and hopefully will find out that it is “either nothing or early”. Whatever the outcome, God’s grace will be there for me…for us.

Blog - staying on this side of the bridgePhoto Credit: ParentingThatHeals

For now, I will trust God, rest in His care and the love of family and friends, and…just breathe.

*This song comes up all the time on the radio right now…probably not just for me, but it feels sweetly personal.

My prayer for you and for me today is that whatever the situation, we stay in the place where He has us, and by His grace, and the love of those He’s placed in our way, we will get to the other side…it its time.IMG_6107Postscript – that early morning coffee came with banana bread and prayer from my friend Harriet. So many graces in life.

Monday Morning Moment – How Our Expectations at Work Shape Our Successes

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A blog title intrigued me recently – Almost Everyone Who Is Unhappy with Life Is Unhappy for the Same Reasons. It was a re-post of a LinkedIn blog written by Dr. Travis Bradberry (author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0). He writes about the role of expectations (of ourselves and others) and the impact those expectations have on our work life and relationships.

I see this so much in myself and in relationships both at work and in community. On one end of the spectrum, there are the expectations that undermine our successes – we don’t think we have what it takes to realize our dreams or goals. [This can also include our expectations of others, in the same way, especially if our expectations influence those colleagues’ view of reality.] On the other end of the spectrum, we may have expectations that are so unreasonably and unrealistically positive that we don’t do the work of realizing those same dreams or goals. [Again, this works against relationships when we have these expectations of others.]

In his article, Bradberry lists 8 common expectations that impact our work life and work relationships. He lists them and talks about them. Here I have written my own observations related to these expectations.

As you read and reflect, Dr. Bradberry is not saying get rid of expectations, nor am I. Expectations when honest, thoughtful, and kind are great motivators toward success. The adage “Keep your expectations low and you will never be disappointed” doesn’t really get us where we want to go.

After you consider the following expectations and thoughts, I would love to hear some of yours (in the comments below).

  1. Life should be fair. I have never understood the lament “That’s not fair!” It really reveals the heart of “That’s not fair for me!” How do we even make life fair? Our children, growing up, were never rewarded when they cried foul on fairness. We tried to raise them to practice kindness and generosity. That usually led to better than fair. In fact, if we flipped fairness on its head, our western work situations and family lifestyles would be quite altered, if what was usual for other parts of the world became our usual. That would be fair, right?
  2.  Opportunities will fall into my lap. There are times that opportunities “fall” into our laps. I call it “a God thing”. Whatever you might call that, it is rare and wonderful. In the day-to-day, we are to go after opportunities. Sometimes our very expectations of entitlement or pessimism keep us from even seeing opportunities right in front of us). Continue working hard, build your skill-set, learn from mentors, help your colleagues, practice thinking well of your boss, and seek out challenging assignments – these are fields where opportunities grow.
  3. Everyone should like me. I have tripped over this expectation. We think our own foibles are so much less annoying than those of others. If I consider myself congenial, you should comply, right? [The fairness problem nudges in here, for sure.] Bradberry summarizes this workplace problem well: “When you assume that people are going to like you, you take shortcuts; you start making requests and demands before you’ve laid the groundwork to really understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.” Rather than expecting others to be won by our personality, expertise, and past experience, we should discipline ourselves to practice winning the trust of a colleague, boss or customer… every time, as if it were the first time. This is a game-changer.
  4. People should agree with me. We honestly don’t want to have to work for people to agree with us. In the workplace, whenever possible, our default is to hang with those who do agree with us. This temptation sets us up for failure because we don’t gain from the critique of those who see things differently. Put your vision or project before those in other departments and see with their eyes what you might have missed with your own. Granted, be wise with whose counsel you seek, but do the work of seeking that counsel. Then share credit as appropriate.
  5. People know what I’m trying to say. Emails and text messages are almost communication. In corporate culture, even meetings don’t always cultivate clear communication. Be as clear and succinct as possible. Don’t lose the message in a jumble of clarifiers, justification, or story-telling. I’m not saying story-telling isn’t valuable; it is. The problem with story-telling is it can be contrived to emotionally engage when it actually takes away from the message. Again Bradberry wrote: “Communication isn’t anything if it isn’t clear, and your communication won’t be clear until you take the time to understand the other person’s perspective.”Blog - Communication at work - cbbainsealcareersPhoto Credit: CB Bain Seal Careers

Having lived overseas, we discovered the importance of learning the local “heart language”. In a work situation, the same holds true. How you communicate is colored by the focus of the one you’re addressing – whether it’s about ROI/ROV, employee engagement, product development….or fill in the blank. You can learn to balance between being true to your own style or values and adapting somewhat to the person in front of you (as a chameleon communicator).

6. I’m going to fail. “If you pursue an endeavor, believe with all your being that you’re going to succeed in that endeavor.” – Bradberry    We all fail sometimes; having that perspective is healthy. The problem is when we are so insecure or self-deprecating, our colleagues, boss, or customers lose confidence in us, based on our own assessment of our abilities. Not something you want to ensure by your own hand. [Read the whole of Bradberry’s article to get at the heart of this.]

7. Things will make me happy. If you’re not happy at work today, there’s not one thing beyond yourself that can change that. Not a different boss, not a better team, not more vacation, not a higher salary. This is a work on the inside that has to change your experience of work on the outside. We all know this. We all know…this.

8. I can change him/her. Okay, if you’re married, you already know the futility of this statement (and your spouse can say the same thing, by the way). When we get our focus on that boss we don’t understand or that colleague who makes us nuts, we aren’t able to focus on our work or the relationships that encourage and empower us. So what if you can’t change that coworker or boss? Can you be successful in your work if he/she doesn’t change? Most probably, the answer is yes…whether it feels like it or not. We lose enormous time and emotional energy on colleagues with whom we struggle. If changing jobs isn’t plausible or desirable, then figure out how to compartmentalize the distractions, and get on with your work. You can be a rock star even with difficult work relationships. I don’t want to issue a bunch of platitudes…but it is disturbing how much is lost from our workday in ruminating over (or talking about) stuff we can’t change…when there is still so much we can accomplish. Don’t sideline yourself with brain clutter – negative thoughts that negatively affect your work and relationships.

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Keep those expectations high (for yourself) and hopeful (for others)! Happy Monday!

Unrealistic Expectations That Do You Harm – LinkedIn article by Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Quotes from GoodReads

Manage Expectations So They Don’t Manage You – Alli Worthington

The Key to Being More Attractive – Business Insider Video with Tony Robbins [Quote: “Trade your expectations for appreciation.”]

Set High Expectations Because Nobody Rises to Low Expectations – Barry Canada

The Expectation Effect – (in the classroom) – SlideShare

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Photo Credit: Amazon