Category Archives: Parenting

5 Friday Faves – Psychological Tricks, Leadership Hacks, Parenting, Egyptian Food, and Pressing On

Welcome to Friday, Folks! It’s a breezy, warming Spring day. Almost summer. Hope you have a safe and refreshing weekend. Here are five of my favorite finds this week. Please comment below what your favorites are this week. Blessings!

1) Psychological Tricks – Whether we are aware or not, we apply mental processes to our interactions. For better or worse. How we sit in a room, for instance. If we have a problem with someone, we are tempted to sit across from them, rather than beside them. This is actually counter-intuitive because people are less apt to attack the person seated beside them. Another action I’ve learned over the years is to never have a two-on-one difficult meeting. If the meeting requires the presence of three people, the person being disciplined should have one of those persons seated beside him/her, almost as an advocate. The meeting will then be less threatening and potentially more productive. Distractions, like posture and unnecessary verbiage, are easy for us to control with practice.

Photo Credit: The Power of Ideas, Ideapod

Saying “I think” or “I feel” is redundant and draws down the power of the message that follows. Also slumping or folding arms across your chest can communicate something other than your intent and again weakens your message. Communicating effectively is worth the study into our own quirks and applying psychological “tricks”. Not to manipulate but to increase message clarity. An interesting article I discovered this week is 15 Clever Psychological Tricks That Everyone Should Know and Start Using Immediately. Rapid read.

[Sidebar: Don’t be put off by a few grammatical errors. The piece doesn’t appear to be written by a native English speaker.]

2) Leadership Hacks – Two of my favorite leadership coaches are Marcel Schwantes and Carey Nieuwhof. Any of us who truly want to be effective leaders would do well to hear their counsel. Schwantes has written a piece entitled: To Be a Strong Leader, There Are 6 Things You Must Give Your People (Most Rarely Do). He delineates what strong leaders give their employees:

  • They give employees their ear.
  • They give employees empathy.
  • They give employees rewards and recognition.
  • They give employees space to recharge.
  • They give employees plenty of information communicating both the good and the bad.
  • They give employees fairness.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Click here for Schwantes’ commentary on each. Leaders too often think they do well in these areas and thus do not discipline themselves to keep tooled. Unfortunately, if not checked,  weaknesses in these areas will permeate a company.

Nieuwhof posted about a growing problem in leadership – Why Busy Leaders Make Bad Leaders. We expect to be busy as leaders because we have loads of responsibility. So why is it that some leaders seem to have the time to be the kind of leader Schwantes notes in his article above? Leaders who delegate and don’t need to control processes or employees are those who most see the value of employees and their impact on the product and customer satisfaction. Read his article linked above. Here is how he closes:

Busy people love to act like they have no choice and they’re oh-so-slammed. Until you catch them binge watching Netflix, or lingering over an iced coffee checking Instagram, or talking for 30 minutes at a workmate’s desk about nothing in particular.

I’m not trying to be judgmental. I’m all for iced coffees and Instagram. It’s just there’s a cognitive dissonance in many of us between what we believe and what’s true.

You have the time for what matters. After all, every leader gets 24 hours in a day. You have the time to get the most important things done. You just didn’t make the time—you spent it doing something else.Carey Nieuwhof

3) Parenting – Parenting is a tough job and advice abounds. I am cautious in recommending parenting books and articles because the sense of guilt for parents is already sizable. Every child is different and every situation is as well. Having said all that, I do see hope in simplifying one’s family life and environment…just so both the parent AND the child can breathe.Photo Credit: Simplicity Parenting

Kim John Payne is a writer, researcher, and speaker in the field of simplicity parenting. Having spent over two decades in the school and family counseling field, he has seen the chaotic nature of family lives and its impact on children. His book  Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids is a best-seller. I have not yet read his book but have already been captivated by his teaching on his website.

If all we do is throw away toys as a way to simplify our children’s lives, we are not really dealing with the issue of chaos in their lives. Too often, we replace material possessions with the pursuit of experiences (what we may call social, athletic, or academically enriching). Experiences, especially where our children learn to serve and value others, can be life-transforming. However, we must be careful that experiences don’t continue to cause our littles to be over-stimulated making them addiction-prone in later years. Needing more, more, more to be satisfied.

Check out Payne’s website, and listen to his lectures both on his website and YouTube. I love when parents write comments (on Amazon reviews, for instance). Some have experienced his prescriptions as heavy and guilting, creating their own form of chaos. The major take-away of all parenting advice must be what speaks to you and your child’s situation. The rest is its own clutter.

YouTube Video – LoveParenting: Simplicity Parenting – Which Toys to Get Rid Of (Minimalistic Approach to Play)

According to Harvard Psychologists – Parents Who Raise “Good” Kids Do These Five Things

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children

YouTube Video – Raising Children – Jeff Foxworthy

4) Egyptian Food – I’ve spent the last several days in the home of a very good Egyptian friend. She is an incredible cook. Egyptians are known for their hospitality and it was lavished on me in that visit. We had many of my favorite Egyptian foods, and my friend is an outstanding cook. In celebration of that, I wanted to extend to you the recipes of three of those dishes: Macarona Bechamel, Koshari (or Kushary), and Basboosa.

Macarona Bechamel

KoshariPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)Photo Credit: Flickr

5) Pressing On – A friend of ours, Marlo Salamy, writes a blog about life, God, and her family following the death of their youngest, Anna, to cancer in 2007. I’m always touched by the honesty and faith reflected in her writing. In this week’s blog, What Matters, she writes about how we might act in the potential lost moments of our lives. Her illustration is from the tornado that blasted through Joplin, Missouri, when over 100 people lost their lives on May 22, 2011. The video posted in the blog makes you think. Wow!

Bonus: Spotlight Syria

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_6aXNB77us or https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/966031366871704/

Mother’s Day – On Mothering and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

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[Adapted from the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she informs much of how I live life still.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have still other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t. My children are grown and I am not supposed to “mother” them now – a heart habit hard to break. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years. Still, like my mom, I will encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering – a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. Wife of Billy Graham, with the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.Blog - Mother's Day

Prayers for Our Little Ones

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,IMG_0022

Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?”Ruth Bell Graham

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May this day not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners out. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same.MomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

5 Friday Faves – Adoption, The Last of the Mohicans, Being Single, Craveability, and Honoring

Another Friday…they come so fast. Today, I am not in my usual spot but didn’t want to miss sharing this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy…

1) Adoption – I don’t hear the phrase much anymore, but in my child-bearing years, when asked what a couple wanted (boy or girl), the response was often, “I don’t care…just as long as it’s healthy.” A wise older friend told me one time that God gives life and every child is perfect in His eyes. One population we see less of in our country these days is people with Down Syndrome. Photo Credit: Flickr

Of of the genetic tests done during pregnancy, one is to rule out Down Syndrome in the fetus. If the parents have objections to keeping a baby with Down Syndrome, abortion is an option to some…as is adoption. Raising a child with health or developmental issues is challenging. We adopted such a child and thrill to see how he continues to meet his challenges…and to bless all around. We did not adopt a child with Down’s but we have friends who did. The videos below are a beautiful sampling of this population of perfect children and adults.

2) The Last of the Mohicans – To be honest, I have never been able to watch this painful and beautiful film all the way through. Its theme (originally composed by Dougie Maclean and arranged for this film by Trevor Jones) is exquisite. Listen here on YouTube with a composite of scenes from the movie. When Nathan arranged this grand orchestral piece (“Promentory”) for classical guitar, I knew it would have to be extraordinary. See what you think. Listen here:

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans – Promontory – Classical Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

3) On Being Single – The whole dating scene in my 20s was something I pulled out of long before marrying. It wasn’t pretty. By the time I entered my 30s, life was filled with great friends, strong family relationships, challenging work, and serving in church and community. Loneliness crept in at times, but it still does even after marrying later in life. These days I am privileged to enjoy the friendship of several women (and a few men) who are single. Do some of them want to married? Yes, but not all. When I saw the video below, it resonated – how society can mis-communicate the great value of these women and men…I never want to do the same.

“‘Leftover women’ are outstanding. ‘Leftover men’ should try harder.”Marriage Market Takeover

3 Ways to Guard the Single Women In Your Life – Grace Thornton

Invite Someone Single To Dinner – Jasmine Holmes – Desiring God


4) Craveability – A few years back, I took myself off of sugar. For over a year, I just refused to eat it (desserts, snacks, etc.). It was a healthy choice for me at the time. I lost a lot of weight and stopped craving sugar. Gradually, as with many lifestyle changes, I went back mostly to my old ways (still not eating chocolate or doughnuts – two trigger foods). I watched an interesting YouTube video this week on crave ability – Michael Pollan on Cooking. In it, Pollan compared the nutritive value of food cooked by corporations vs. that cooked by humans. Now, corporations (restaurants, food processing companies, etc) don’t really “cook”.  His premise though was compelling. When we cook, we control how much sugar, salt, and fats we add to food. When we buy food already prepared commercially, the craveability factor is at work. Foods we return to buy again and again have been developed to tap into our cravings.

My husband was on a work trip to California this past week. A much-loved fast-food restaurant was on the list of eateries. In-N-Out Burger. He and his colleague even ate there twice one day. Now, the food must be pretty special, but it speaks to Pollan’s observation about how we eat when driven by cravings. If we were eating at home, we have French fries rarely. Yet, eating out (for lunch each day, for instance), we might have fries more often.Photo Credit: Marco Fischer, Pexels

We in the US have a fair amount of food weirdness in our striving to eat healthy or, on the flip-side, in our indulging of cravings. Considering what is behind our food preferences, even our addictions, might help us make wiser choices in what we eat – especially related to sugar, salt, and fats.

YouTube Video – Michael Pollan: “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”

5) Honoring – Respect and honor are two very different actions and experiences. I’ve heard people say, “I just don’t respect him/her.” or “He/she doesn’t deserve my respect.” There can be such derision or contempt in those statements, they also seem to communicate “can’t” and “never will”. Honor is defined as “valuing or esteeming highly.” We live in a culture that defaults to valuing self over anyone else…we have to fight against this strong pull to elevate ourselves over even those we say we love the most. In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he writes: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10) Whether someone deserves honoring or not is of no consequence. We choose to honor others. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Do we choose to honor others in our every word and deed? Think about the trash talk we can so easily fall into in relationships. It seems harmless enough but it sets us up to follow suit with dishonoring actions and attitudes. My hope is to be a person you can trust to keep your name safe on my lips.

In our current political climate and knee-jerk one-upmanship in social and work circles…what if? What if we tried to “outdo one another in showing honor”? How would that change our homes, workplaces, world? How do we teach that sort of valuing to our children? How do we re-awaken our hearts to it as adults? I would love to hear your thoughts (in Comments below).

Well, those were my favorite finds this week. How about yours? Please share any of those in the Comments. Have a safe and refreshing weekend.

Bonuses:

Quote about Prayer:

“The greatest thing we can do for one another is to pray. Prayer is striking the winning blow at the concealed enemy; our service is gathering up the results.” Corrie ten Boom, Not Good If Detached

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking for a Remote Job? 15 Companies Reveal What They Look for in Remote Employees – Marcel Schwantes

Weird Parenting Trends We’re Tried the Past 100 Years – Good Housekeeping

Things It’s Time to Get Rid Of – Good Housekeeping

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

Love Is a Laid-Down Life – Slowing Down For a Season

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends…I have called you friends.” – Jesus (John 15:13, 15b)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16

My father has Alzheimer’s, and his cancer has recurred. His hospice team says he has weeks, maybe days, to live. Of course, they could be wrong. As I look at his sweet face, he seems so ready to go. When we put ourselves right in front of him, he sees and smiles and welcomes us into his love. When he lies alone in his experience, it’s like he is waiting. For how long…we don’t know.

I haven’t stopped to count the number of weeks over the last two years that trips to Georgia have punctuated life. Time with Dad is worth the interruptions. No question.

The women’s event where I was to be the keynote speaker…and I was so looking forward to being with old friends that weekend. Not happening…well, it’s happening, but I won’t be there. Just heard about a job (the third one this year) that had my skill set and giftings so woven into the job description it could have been written for me. Three different times. Not for me; not now. The high-dollar certification course to teach English as a second language – gave me the content and prized certificate…but must wait for another time. Even volunteering with refugees demands more of a commitment than I can give for the moment.

All these pieces of life are laid-down for now.

Something more important…something that can’t be easily calendared is priority right now.

How thankful I am for:

  • This time with Dad. To savor the memories we have together. To remind him of those memories since Alzheimer’s has clouded his.
  • Family members who have stepped into his care with generosity and humility. They work their own schedules around his needs. I am with him for days….they are always with him. Period. Full stop. What a blessing – I’m sure…for him, and for them. Still, I count the cost of that and am so grateful.img_9580
  • Friends, colleagues, and family here who flex in my absence…who watch out for and check on Dave while I’m gone…who fill gaps I must leave unattended were it not for them…who pray for Dad and us…who forgive my fatigue and dullness…who stretch to reach out to me when I don’t have it in me to reach out to them…even when I long for nearness. Thank you for holding space for me until I am back to myself.
  • Hospice workers and pastors who come often to serve Dad and all the rest of us. Gentle care. Encouragement. Wonder. Laughter. Scripture promises. So many touchpoints to reassure us Dad is not forgotten.
  • God who has shown so much of Himself in these days. When I was leaving Dad for home this last time, the tears finally came. I had wondered if I would ever cry again. Watching him lose his independence and seeing the cancer advance…painful experiences for us. Dad seems to bear it all with so much grace. God has answered our prayers in that. How grateful I am that when the time comes, we know that we will see him again. God’s peace is tangible evidence of His presence with Dad…and with us.

I heard Elisabeth Elliot* speak one time on “Love Is a Laid-Down Life”. Blog - Elisabeth Elliot - photoShe talked on how Jesus’ life wasn’t taken on the cross…He laid down his life for our sake. Going through this slowed-down season, I’m reminded of how parents do so much for their children growing up. Seeing our children with their tiny ones, I see that sweet sacrifice as they slow down their lives to give their children time for naps and toddling. It is love. Love is a laid-down life – our desires, our ambitions, our druthers…put aside for something far better.

Now Dad needs us to slow our lives down…for him.

We are also watching a beautiful picture of this in our other family – Dave’s folks. Parkinson’s Disease is taking its toll on Dave’s sweet dad. Watching Dave’s mom live out “for better, for worse” is such a witness of the love we’re meant to have for the older ones, the weaker ones, the sicker ones. I’m learning from her deep love shown in her resolve to be there for her faithful husband of over 60 years. Not on her terms, but right where he needs her to be. john-julia-60th-anniversary-2016

As I’m away from Dad this week, catching up on life back home, I’m glad to be here for now…and thrilled he has family with him. As the women’s event looms this weekend, and the planners wisely and mercifully (towards me) execute their plan B in my absence, I’m glad for that. There will be other times together, I’m trusting.

For today…it’s grace upon grace. Learning to live each season in ways that allow love to grow as we are called to lay our lives down for others and the God of this universe uses our hands and our words to administer that love beyond our imagining.

I have certainly experienced that kind of love through you.

 Will You Lay Down Your Life? – My Utmost for His Highest

*On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

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5 Friday Faves – Raising Mentally Strong Kids, Syrian White Helmets, Combating Stress, Frosted Lemonade, & the Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist

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End of the week. Short and sweet. Here are my 5 favorite finds for this first week of September. Comment on your finds also, please.

1) Raising Mentally Strong Kids – We all want our children to grow up capable to thrive in the world as it is today. To have capacity to both work and lead in situations that might prove stressful, even immobilizing if they hadn’t developed certain strengths. For them to be mentally Strong, mentally tough, resilient – what do our children need from the adults in their lives.blog-resilience-drgarybrowntherapyPhoto Credit: DrGaryBrownTherapy

After the first article below popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, my interest was piqued and I went hunting for others. Below I’ve bullet-pointed some good and quick reads on how we can help our children develop mental strength and resilience.

I may write on this more another time, to make it easier on you. Raising mentally strong kids takes a lot of study anyway…here we go!resilience-blogPhoto Credit: TracieCZabatol

2) White Helmets – Syrian Civil Defence – In an Al Jazeera article, Maria Jan writes of her interview with White Helmets founder, James Le Mesurier.  White Helmets are first responders, volunteer rescuers, who brave fresh bombing sites. Knowing they could also die in a fresh bombing raid…but they still respond. They make up the Syrian Civil Defence. Organized in 2013, there are currently 2700 rescuers, both men and women. Le Mesurier says of them, “They had a choice to either become a refugee, pick up a gun, or pick up a stretcher.” They are committed to care for the victims, no matter what political or religious group. “Their job is to save people’s lives not to judge them.”

blog-white-helmets-the-good-storyPhoto Credit: The Good Story

There is a multi-agency, multi-national effort for the White Helmets to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Heroes. Good news in a sea of bad.blog-al-jazeera-the-white-helmetsPhoto Credit: Al Jazeera

3) Combating Stress – Since my cancer surgery earlier this summer, I’ve become a student of how to live healthy. Still a student…not an expert nor practitioner, necessarily. While on a trip to the beach recently, I was reading two books simultaneously.  Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner Ph.D.  describes “9 key factors that can make a real difference”. I am not recommending this book necessarily because it features so many traditional and non-traditional practices, it’s overwhelming really. The strength of the book, however, is the whole mindset or perspective of taking charge of your health. I appreciated that. A friend of mine calls it a survivorship plan. The stories of those who are living “against all odds” are thrilling. Thinking about staying well and what I may include in practicing wellness have already brought down a large measure of stress in my life. blog-booksThe other book I’m reading is  The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. This is focused on the battles we all find ourselves in and how Christ-followers especially can deal with them. Taken from the Scripture Ephesians 6:10-19, the book goes in-depth on how we can walk in what is true and not in the shadows of fear, worry, and the “what seems true”.

4) Frosted Lemonade – You know on those hot, hot days, and you have lots of errands where you are in and out of the car, you could really use some lovely cold beverage, right? Sweet tea might be one of those go’to’s. For me, yesterday, it was the frosted lemonade with diet lemonade) at Chick-fil-A. I was shocked to find it is on the Dessert menu (ordering it with diet instead of their regular lemonade at least takes it down to 240 calories for a small). It is so refreshing. Even better (can’t believe I’m saying this) than the frosted orange from The Varsity. If you have neither of these options where you live, what’s your go-to cold beverage (while driving)?

blog-varsity-frosted-orangeblog-chickfila-frosted-lemonadePhoto Credit: Pinterest; Chick-fil-A

5) Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist – Nathan Mills posted a new video this week.  Those of you who follow him (or just me) know that he is a classical guitarist who writes and performs arrangements of themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. I have no idea what the game World of Warcraft is, but his arrangement of the Neal Acree’s Anduin Theme follows. Just lovely.

nathan-mills-twitter-world-of-warcraft-legionPhoto Credit: Twitter

Even composer Neal Acree thought so…and we agree with him, right?

blog-nathan-and-neal-acreePhoto Credit: Twitter

Have a low-stress, safe, and sweet weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

5 Friday Faves – FOMO, Parenthood in 120 Seconds, a Summer at Oxford University, Saving Mr. Banks, and Favorite Guitar Videos

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Good Friday morning! Hope this week has been kind to you. The world continues to open itself to us to learn and grow and, hopefully, choose wisely. Here are five of my favorite finds from this week:

1) FOMO – So this is a new term for me. I heard, just this past weekend, a young friend lament about being plagued by “FOMO” – this “fear of missing out”. It apparently is exacerbated by all the social media which tantalizes us about friends getting together and going to all sorts of exotic places. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, The Inner Ring, actually exposes the danger of FOMO. BLog - FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - the silver penPhoto Credit: The Silver Pen

Wanting to be “in”  or “included” is morally neutral, in itself. It is in the choices we make and the compromises we make within those choices that become dangerous for us.  In Thoughts on C. S. Lewis, he is quoted, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”  If we stop being so frantic about fitting in or giving into to our particular FOMO, then we will find ourselves in a natural community – fitted for us.

John Ortberg writes about FOMO in his book All the Places to Go…How Will You Know?  He raises the issue that God himself may have instilled in us this idea of wanting what we might be missing – but finally finding it in Him. Even Satan’s temptation of Eve was FOMO-oriented (Genesis 3:4-6) in that maybe she could be like God (if she ate the forbidden fruit). Ortberg observes: “The real, deep reason that FOMO exists is that we were made for more and we are missing out.  Only the “more” isn’t more money or more success or more impressive experiences I can write about on Facebook.  My hunger for more turns out to be insatiable if I try to satisfy it by wanting more for me”. God can satisfy, in Himself, the FOMO we may be experiencing.

Lewis on Disordered Desire to Enter the Inner Ring – Art Lindsley – The Gospel Coalition

2) Parenthood In 120 SecondsBuzzfeed India has published this funny and true video. Produced by Sumedh Natu and Umang Athwani, this 2-minute film is such a delight – so “been there, don’t that”. Loved it. Watch it here.Blog - Parenthood - cupofjoPhoto Credit: Cup of Jo

3) A Summer at Oxford University Beth Wayland, a counselor and writer friend of mine, had the great fortune to spend part of her summer at Oxford University. I’m sure she will write about it on her return to the US, but she gave us bits of her journey through her Facebook account. As part of her experience, she walked around in the steps of C. S. Lewis – his office, his favorite pub, the libraries, dining halls, grounds of Oxford.

Blog - Oxford University - Beth WaylandBlog - Oxford University - Beth Wayland - 2Photo Credit: Facebook, Beth Wayland

One special reminder was of C. S. Lewis’ dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He dedicated it to his god-daughter, Lucy Barfield, with these words:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be,

your affectionate Godfather,

C. S. Lewis.

This, to me, is Oxford University. Thanks, Beth. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.

4) Saving Mr. Banks  – I just saw this 2013 Disney film about the complicated making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins . Walt Disney would try for over 20 years to win the rights to the book Mary Poppins. Author P. L. Travers finally agreed but with strong stipulations. Saving Mr. Banks is based on this true story but with embellishments. I loved this film. There were so many takeaways about collaboration, the influence of fathers, the mind of creatives, perspective, and forgiveness (Brian Dodd writes more about these here). Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t.  Blog - Saving Mr. BanksPhoto Credit: Disney Dose

5) Favorite Guitar Videos – by My Favorite Guitarist – Finally, Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar has posted his latest YouTube video: Skyrim: Ancient Stones – Beyond The Guitar.

The arrangement is lovely and the cinematography, directed by Ian Edwards and Danny Caporaletti, is beautiful. Here it is:

Nathan also posted a vlog on Stop Waiting For Things To Be Perfect. It’s instructive not just for guitarists but for any of us who struggle with holding back, not wanting to proceed unless we get (fill in the blank) just right. Watch to the end for a peek at the humorous side of this guitarist. You can also interact with Nathan via his live streams on krueTV.

That’s it for this week. What are some of your favorite finds of the week? Please let us know in the Comments below. Have a safe, restful weekend.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

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This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

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Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

5 Friday Faves – Words, Trauma Healing, Street Smart Kids, Thunderstorms, #GrowingUpInABlackChurch

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Happy Friday! Another whirlwind week. Ours is to savor the moments and those sweet finds of each day of  life. Below are a few of my favorites from this week. Would love to hear about yours [in Comments].

1) Words – You know when you mean to send that card or make that phone call? Or when you could speak to that downcast stranger or give a shout-out to someone worthy of celebrating…and you didn’t? This is a salute to all you folks out there who use your words for life – to encourage, celebrate, comfort, guide, and lovingly speak the truth. We are bombarded with words. Literally, blasted with words. Some sound so true, we are swayed by them…to find out later, they were not true…and the course of our lives, maybe even our country, was set in a direction we wouldn’t have chosen, if we understood what the words really meant.BLog - WordsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

I’ve been blessed by good friends and colleagues who use words in a life-giving manner. They inspire me to do the same.2016 Phone Pics 2449

2) Trauma Healing – The Trauma Healing Institute is a training and service arm of The American Bible Society. The goal here is to respond at a heart-level to the trauma in people’s lives. When you think of the numbers of people who have endured extreme trauma (1 out of 7 persons globally), it is a good thing to reach out to them with shelter and  supplies but also with listening ears and honoring comfort. This intervention is Bible-based so may not be the go-to training for everyone, but I’m hoping to take it in the Fall. Check here for stories and more info.
Blog - Trauma Healing - THIPhoto Credit: Trauma Healing Institute

3) Street Smart Kids – Earlier this week, I wrote about situational awareness. One of the resources I posted was the blog by Chonce Maddox on 50 Things You Can Do to Make Your Kids Street Smart I wrote this week about situational awareness here. Maddox talks about her reasoning for writing: “As a parent, my worst fear is that I won’t be able to protect my child when he needs it. My second worst fear is that he won’t be able to protect himself and make wise decisions depending on what situation he’s in.” Her list of 50 things are age-specific and are brilliant and easy-to-apply. Whether you have a newborn or a soon-to-be-launched teen, take the time to equip your children in this way.
Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Photo Credit: A Fine Parent

4) Thunderstorms and Heat Lightning  – I love rain and especially thunderstorms. It’s been really hot here in Richmond, Va., the last couple of weeks. Occasionally the lightning has only been heat-related. We had both heat lightning yesterday as well as an amazing thunderstorm last night. My pic below is of the late afternoon sky. The rains that came later were drenching and cooling. No electricity outages – just a glorious and wet light and sound show.Blog - ThunderstormBlog - Heat LightningPhoto Credit: Wunderground

5) #GrowingUpInABlackChurch – Growing up outside Atlanta , in the suburbs, was a pretty homogeneous experience for me, culture-wise. When I finished grad school, my first job was in an innercity hospital in downtown Atlanta. This was my first time experiencing the richness and otherness of predominately African American worship or “church”. In those days, working on an oncology unit, I went to a lot of funerals. Both in those times and regular Sunday services, I discovered a very different way of doing church and community. Sunday morning church is still too often a too-segregated experience, but I’m glad for the opportunities to be in a more racially and culturally diverse worship. What got me thinking about this was the trending hashtag this month which was fun to watch…although, not having the experience of #GrowingUpInABlackChurch, I celebrate it. ALso trending this week: #blackwomendidthat.

Blog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - hbcuBlog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - imgurPhoto Credit: HBCU, HBCU

Have a safe and sweet weekend out there. Use the Comments below to post your own favorites from this week. Thanks!