Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.
1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.
2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.
As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]
How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.
3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!
Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.
4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.
It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.
That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other.– some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community
Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.
1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Blaise Pascal
According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.
The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana
[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]
Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – “We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”
“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana
Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.
[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]
3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother. The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.
Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.
4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.
“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.
We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.
Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.
A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””
“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
Her article frames this Friday Fave. Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.
5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.
How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.
Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.
It’s Friday! Summer solstice was just yesterday. Even here at the tiptop beginning of summer, the days will begin to shorten. Maybe that’s the pressure of summer to squeeze every bit of yummy goodness out of the days that have our children home from school and vacation plans unfold. On this shortening Friday, here are my favorite finds of this week.
1) Bringing Children into the Light – Even being a writer myself, I don’t trust media. To believe something that pops up on my newsfeed, especially something provocative, I go to different sources to try to piece together what could possibly be true in all the bias and politicalization of our news today. The detention of illegal immigrant children has been going on for years now, and I was totally blind to it. This week, it came to light for me and for many.Photo Credit: The Cut
I’m not going into detail here. The news is full of how this happened – how children are separated from their incarcerated parents and warehoused. Older children can understand and hold onto the hope that, in time, they will be reunited with their parents. Little children do not have the maturity to understand…
It is wrong. I don’t know what’s right in dealing with people who make such desperate decisions to flee their countries and cross into another one illegally. I just know this is wrong. Thinking of my little grandchildren being put in the same situation was unthinkable. How would a 2 y/o or 3 y/o not be somehow wounded in this action.
When I read Brene Brown‘s Facebook post on this, it was a much-needed wake-up call, bringing these children’s plight into the light for me. The over 5000 comments were also a great education, as one after the other gave personal accounts – not just about the kids in detention centers but others damaged or destroyed by their parents’ choices. Even choices they think are the only ones they have. Or choices for darker motives… Within the comments were laments about children in our broken foster care system as well as children who never see light themselves because of the choice of abortion.
I don’t want to just talk and talk and talk about these issues. God help us to do something of substance for the children, now that we’re paying attention. This is too critical to last just one week’s news cycle. This problem is way bigger than one executive order, although hopefully that will stop the hemorrhaging. Hopefully.Photo Credit: Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger
[We did see something this week about the powerful voice of the American people. The outcry, across political ideologies, was heard. I also think the anguished prayer of people of faith was also heard and answered by a much higher authority than our government.]
Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons. Do not wield them against the weak.
When giving a dog medicine, put it in a little piece of hamburger. They won’t even know they’re eating medicine.
Doesn’t matter what it is, earn it.
God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.
If you have to poop at a party, lock the door, sit down. Get all the pee out first. Then poop, flush, poof!
Learn to pray. It’s easy.
Nobody is perfect. You are imperfect, but there is a powerful Force that designed you that way. If you’re willing to accept that, there’s grace. Grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted. – Chris Pratt
Nancherla has this to say about depression: “No matter how far or wide you go or how many lives you touch or how much money you make or success you achieve, your brain can tell you different. It is a constant companion and you cannot take a break from it…The truth of depression is it is often quiet and it is boring and it is insidious in its lack of spectacle.” – Aparna Nancherla
5) Babies & Birthdays – This week brought a sweet new baby into our family and a second birthday. The baby is a girl and much-longed-for, making me a great-great-aunt (sounds old, I know, but the mommy and grandmother both married very young). Our little grandson can now turn forward in his car seat and he is discovering a whole new world looking in the same direction as his parents.
These are my five favorite finds of the week. I would love for you to share one or more of yours (in Comments below). Have a safe and sweetly peopled weekend.
Vacation Bible School – This is a summer fixture around a lot of cities. Our church doesn’t currently offer Vacation Bible School, but young moms in my life are scurrying to find them around town as a wholesome summer option for their kiddos. I’ve decided that VBS is a community service. Tons of work on the part of the adults, not cheap, but worth it for families around town. The husband of a good friend of mine volunteers in the VBS at their church. 300 kids show up daily for that week of Bible stories, singing, crafts, and games. He helps the older elementary kids make their own Adirondack chairs. Great way to break up the routine of summer.
We definitely had a family lexicon – sayings that were part of our family culture that our adult children still remember and may use themselves today.
Ruddy emphasizes the importance of family mottos: “The words we hear repeated as children become our internalized voice as adults,” says Suzi Lula, a parenting expert and the author of The Motherhood Evolution: How Thriving Mothers Raise Thriving Children. “They reaffirm family values and serve as a real compass for kids as they get older. You’re doing your child such a big service to say these things to them now.”
I have racked my brain to think of things we had as family mottos and couldn’t come up with any…which really bummed me out. I am sure we had some… Dave would counsel “Deal with it, or die to it”…when we fretted over what someone said or did to us. I would go to the wisdom vault of Disney films at least for this one:
More than that, we would look to Scripture for our family’s values. One we still quote to ourselves on a regular basis is:
“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9
When our kids were older, I would remind them of our “Audience of One”…not sure they remember that but it was to call them to mind of not needing to please people but more to honor the God who loves them already and no matter what. [Do you remember that, Kids?]
“Redeem the time” was/is another family value of ours…
2) God of War – One of the perks of being a patron of Beyond the Guitar is to be privy to his creative process through livestreams of his arranging. I know very little about how one can take a grand orchestral piece and recast it for a single classical guitar – retaining its power and beauty. What I do know I learned from Nathan, as he does it time and time again. This week’s video is his arrangement of themes from the God of War video game – God of War 4 Meets Classical Guitar – click and enjoy.
3) Adam Grant Podcasts – Organizational psychologist Adam Grant has a podcast now. Like all his work, it is brilliant. Well-researched, practical, fascinating. This week, I listened again to Work Life: The Problem with All-Stars where he asks the question “How do you make your team better when you’re not the biggest star?”
Photo Credit: TEDAdd Adam’s podcast to your list. His book Give and Take continues to be one of my favorites and go-to wisdom texts.
4) John Newton & Friends on Controversy – John Newton was an 18th century English clergyman who had a dark past (as a slave ship captain and even experiencing slavery himself). He wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He understood controversy too well.Photo Credit: Flickr
Below are quotes from a longer letter Newton wrote to a minister who had sought him out for advice. This man was preparing to write a scathing article addressing the orthodoxy of another minister.
“I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself.”
“Consider your opponent: As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.”
“Consider the public: There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God….Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit…Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”
“Consider yourself: [Writers of controversy] either grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value…What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made? …if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.” – John Newton
There is something unwholesome in us that loves controversy – the exposing of another’s behavior or character different from ours. I’m not saying that “truth coming out” is not a good thing…it is… However, we must guard against what we do with that. We can stir up controversy, dance all around it, and the world remain unchanged [except for being more divided]. Unimproved. Just a lot of hurtful talk…and then nothing. We can do better…we can be better.
5) Old Books – This past weekend, after several days of heavy rains, our basement took on water. In our storage room, cardboard boxes, filled with treasures from Mom’s estate, were water-damaged and had to be discarded. That didn’t pose a problem to the many pieces of glass (decorative and tableware) Mom had given to each of us.
I peeled off wet cardboard and newspaper, washed them, and will either repack, use, or give away.
The old books packed not well enough were another story.
It made my heart sad…and then glad with memories still of those dear old books. Not saying that I had memories of them…but the sweet memories of the people who held onto them. My Mom and her four brothers (all gone now) grew up in the Great Depression. At least three of them (Mom and her two older brothers) loved to read. I know this because I watched Mom, the hardest worker I ever knew, take breaks not to watch TV, or nap…but to read. My uncles left books behind in our home, their names written inside on the title pages. The dear old book above is the 4th edition of an 1855 publication of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I will keep it still, though terribly damaged from age and this past week’s rains. Why? Inside are bits of paper that my Uncle George kept place with. Bits of paper he wrote quotes on and notes to himself. This old book brings him near to me…this old World War II Navy veteran who married but never had children, this elegant man who I idolized, this kind man who loved his little sister…my mama.
[So Kids…when it’s time, and you find this book, just throw it out. It gave me comfort for a season.]
These were my favorite finds this week. How about you? Any discoveries you would be willing to share? Just respond in Comments below.
This is Memorial Day weekend in the US. Rain is predicted here so not sure if we will grill or not. Hopefully we’ll see the kids and grandkids…we will keep putting our basement back together…and we will remember the great sacrifices of those in our military – living and dead. Thank you for your service.Photo Credit: Military
Snow days are past in Richmond, Virginia. For now. School is back in session. Today was even unseasonably warm. Hope you had an eventful and significant week. Please feel free to comment about it. I would love to hear and then share. Also any of your own favorite finds of the week…this can be your platform as well to share. Here are mine:
1) Fifty Rules – Those of us who are parents hope we raise our children with wisdom they can carry into adulthood. Then we want to leave this life having pointing them, as adults, to what matters so their children will also have a strong foundation.
2) Favorite New Podcast – Author and business coach Kevin Prewett just launched a new podcast entitled Rising Tide Startups. Once a week he will interview entrepreneurs just beginning to really get things moving in their new or side businesses. These rising stars are still on that sharp learning curve side of success. Prewett offers them an opportunity to tell their story. Then he invites his listeners to give feedback to these startup folks to help them over the hurdles they are facing. Photo Credit: Rising Tide Startups
I love this concept because we often hear (on podcasts) the work details of highly successful people. Fascinating stuff, for sure, but I’m intrigued with the stories coming out on Rising Tide. Young artists or business people taking the risks to go for it (whatever that passion is for them). Prewett closes his interview with questions of what the toughest part of their endeavor is currently, and we, the listeners, get to speak into their lives. Wow!
The premier podcast interview on Rising Tide was with guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. You can listen here or watch here. This is a brand new podcast. Get in from the beginning. Maybe you yourself are an entrepreneur, starting up a business, and would like to be interviewed and then receive feedback by the listeners. Go to the website and click on Guest Request tab. Prewett ends his podcast with this: “All boats rise on a rising tide.” Good stuff!
3) Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story – A friend of mine was lamenting recently about how hard it is to find products NOT containing wheat for his daughter who has celiac disease. As he talked, and I sympathized, I couldn’t help but think the same about sugar. It seems to be everywhere. Not just in sweet products, obviously, but in savory products as well. Why? Is it possible that we have, as a society, been slowly seduced, over decades, into becoming sugar addicts by the food industry itself? If you wonder then you’re wise. Check out author Allison Hart‘s very readable and fascinating piece Has the Sugar Industry Been Hiding Research Linking Sugar to heart Disease for 50 Years?
4) Interventions for Childhood Depression – Mom and author Becky Mansfield has written an incredibly empowering article on what we as parents can do to intervene in childhood depression. You won’t be surprised when she targets electronics, especially smart phones.Photo Credit: Your Modern Family
It isn’t adolescence that births sullen, distant, disconnected kids. This development begins much earlier, and that’s why she recommends our kids be evaluated by age 11 if we suspect depression.
Read her article for foundation (really helpful). Here I will list what she encourages us as parents to do:
Screen children for depression if you are concerned.
Get back to what we did before phones – spend time playing games with our kids [What else? Working in garden/yard, hiking, serving as a family in the community. What else? Comment below.]
Spend dinnertime talking.
If you can, drop everything that you are doing when when the kids get home from school to TALK to them (I think she intended this to mean to listen to them and help them process their day).
Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet turned on.
Use any ‘car time’ to talk to our kids (maybe even not allowing electronics in the car). [This reminds me of times when our kids were still home and we were in the car with all of them having their ear buds in, each listening to their own music. That was before smart phones.]
Have the kids do chores: responsibilities increase their self-worth.*
Be sure that kids are getting enough sleep.
Don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house.
Take away electronics and tell kids to “go play”.
Don’t rescue kids [let them deal with consequences].
Talk to our kids about why they need to come to us if something is wrong.
Limit our own online distractions when the children are home.
5) Tidy House Hacks – OK…maybe most of you have figured out how to keep your home neat and tidy. I’m always amazed when visiting with my brother and sister-in-law. She never seems to sit down. Very much engaged with the people and conversation around her, but always spiffying up. Some day I have to figure this out. I’m pretty positive no one would ever describe my house, today, as tidy. “Comfortable” “Lived-in” maybe…but not neat. So…here is what I learned from this “nester” as she calls herself: 5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t DoPhoto Credit: Pexels
Tidy People don’t act like a slob all day, and then get their house tidy in one fell swoop.
Tidy People Don’t Run out of Cleaning Supplies. Photo Credit: Pexels
Tidy People never let the sun go down on their filth.
Tidy People don’t store things on the floor. [Such a struggle for me.]
It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!
1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.
2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity
3) Together at Christmas – When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.
At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.
Beyond that sweetness?
Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.
Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.
Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.
4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior. What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.
Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.
The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.
5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:
Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).
You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence. Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?
On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset
“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
― Eric Sevareid
“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke
“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily
“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree
It’s Friday! The day after Thanksgiving. Otherwise known as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US. Personally, I try not to even enter a store on this day. If you did, then you’re in better shape with your Christmas gift-buying than I am, so congratulations. For me, just one more day of Thanksgiving reflections. Another day of being thankful to God for this life…and for traditions that help us hold tight to each other…in the best of ways.
1) The Gathering – Our celebration of American Thanksgiving always involves some sort of gathering. When children grow up and start their own families, we parents are obliged to share them with their greater extended families on various holidays. I’m very thankful for the inlaws/in-loves I inherited through marrying Dave and we’re also thankful for our children’s inlaws. Whatever configuration you had this week, either for Thanksgiving Day or another occasion this week, I hope you had sweet times.
2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? My mom-in-law lavishes many lovely traditions on us with each holiday. One yummy one is her strawberry salad (a dessert, disguised as salad) served with the meal instead of after it. This year, we had Thanksgiving at home instead of at MomMom’s. Our youngest son Daniel followed her recipe and served up that dish of goodness, full of sweet memories for us. Also on our table this year was my mom’s turkey dressing and a sweet Southern cornbread from our daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s recipe.
The dilemma is when the recipe is a bit sketchy…as in this video below (so reminded me of how my mom cooked – a little bit of this and a little bit of that…to perfection).
Do you have any favorite family recipes you’d be willing to share? Even if it’s just the story? Please! In Comments below.
3) Table Talk – With so many around the table, the conversation is never dull. There’s always some variation of the theme of “what are you thankful for” – and then we turn to topics as varied as the feast spread before us. We hear about new girlfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category. This time, I learned about this thing called net neutrality. It’s defined as the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.
Basically, in the U.S., we have been able to access any type data we choose (whether it’s live-streaming, or an online game community, or an uploaded video of your nephew’s Christmas program). What puts net neutrality in the news is that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is moving to deregulate the internet such that internet service providers can have more say in their treatment of data. We may have to pay more for some services, internet speed could be affected, and we might not have the final say on what is available to us (data-wise). It’s an interesting issue because there’s big money companies on both sides.
My husband and I were talking about it today as to what the motives would be on wanting net neutrality vs. wanting to get rid of it. He brought up the issue of privacy and how willing we are to give up personal information over the internet. Right now, for instance, Facebook is free…or is it? Dave quoted someone in regards to this:
“If something is free, you are the product.” Are the internet service providers after our money or our information (personal data)? It is one or the other. Later this month the FCC will make their decision, and we’ll see what comes out of the loss of net neutrality…if that happens. What are your thoughts?
4) Living Room Sprawls – After we leave the dinner table, and the dishes are washed and food put away, it’s find a place to sprawl in the living room. Either for a football game or a nap (see #5).
What favorite activity do you have besides those I listed? A walk outside? Table games? Talking family history with the old ones? Playing with the babies?
One activity I would love to add to Thanksgiving is singing around the piano. We do that at Christmas time, but the video below, by People and Songs, below got me excited about pulling folks together to sing at other times of the year as well.
5) Thanksgiving Day Naps – My husband has a gift for naps. Not just after a big meal. He is one of those work hard/play hard kind of guys, and when he finally sits down…sleep can quickly overtake him.
It’s sweet to watch…until I, too, nod off.
Also, by the way, it turns out that tryptophan, the supposed sleep-inducing culprit in turkey, is actually found as much in chicken as in turkey…so tryptophan is not the agent bringing on sleep every Thanksgiving Day. What causes us to sleep after dinner this day – the HUGE carbohydrate load, right? Something along the order of 3000 calories in one meal for most of us. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it.
Now that Thanksgiving is properly celebrated it’s on to Christmas! Cranking up the radio for 24/7 Christmas music! Just heard Josh Wilson’s Jesus Is Alive for the first time today. One of these days, our son Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) will hopefully acquiesce to our badgering for a classical guitar Christmas album…so stay tuned. Also on the weekend post-Thanksgiving, Christmas lights seem to magically appear on houses all around this city (see Tacky Light Tour). How about yours?
Bonus: The Dennehy Family (here in Virginia)- “Family Is Adoption.”
The week has wound down to Friday again. I love Fridays not because the week is “finally” over but because it’s a day that gives the week an exclamation point. Or a period, as the case may be. This Friday is an exclamation point around here. Closure to a long and full week; closure with joy. Hope your Friday punctuates such a week as well. Savor the finds of your week…and mine.
1) Stranger Things – Buzz abounds right now as the Netflix sci-fi TV series Stranger Things debuts its Season 2 this weekend. I haven’t seen even the first series because of its spookiness; the latest trailer creeps me out. However, this series is crazy popular with younger folks. The brilliant music sets the tone of the suspenseful nature of the story…set in the 1980s, with the disappearance of a boy and his friends and parents trying to search out what happened.
Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangements of some of the lovely haunting melodies from the series. Watch here.
2) Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Just this week, I looked around a room full of women who deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that matter to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta
“Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.” —Timothy Keller
“When connections are real, they simply never die. They can be buried, or ignored or walked away from, but never broken. If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” —Victoria Erickson
“True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” —Author Unknown
“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.” ― Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me
Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them.
3) Sarah Harmening – This past June, a lovely 17-year-old girl from Alabama on her way to love on children in Botswana…died. It was a bus accident in Georgia and we all heard/read about it in the US. Her name is Sarah Harmening. It’s been four months and the wound of her loss is still fresh and painful for those who knew and loved her.
So young yet she reflects a walk with God that radiates His goodness and glory…she seemed one glad for the opportunities to serve Him but more glad for the day to see Him. I look forward to meeting her in Heaven some day. In memorial to her, I’d like to re-post her last journal entry, written while on that fateful bus trip:
“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad. I guess because I’m going to be gone so long and I was a little uncomfortable. Then I decided to read my Bible. I prayed and opened up to 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1. Pretty much everything I read applied to me now. It talked about watching over the flock entrusted to you which would be my little buddies in Botswana.’”
“I am also called to humble myself which I will need to do and that also means being a little uncomfortable. It talked about the devil prowling about like a lion seeking whom he may devour which he will especially be doing on this mission trip. And now it is our mission trip. And how we will need to be alert and of sober mind. And lastly, how we will get to participate in His Divine Nature! I mean how awesome is that?
So mostly, I was just reminded of why I am here and that God has called me here and His has done this for a reason. So, I know He’s going to do incredible things.”
In a text she sent just before the crash, she quoted 1 Peter 5:23-25 and her thoughts about the text:
Since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For
All flesh is like grass, and all its glorylike a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever. – 1 Peter 5:23-25
“‘This is such a great reminder. We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment and this not about us, life is not about us, it’s about God who is eternal. So, I want to dedicate the one moment I am here, completely and entirely to Him’”.
4) Mother Daughter Bucket List – I’m not much on bucket lists because really all of life is such an amazing ride, I haven’t thought to add anything that isn’t already happening. Then writer Susan Merrill posted a mother daughter bucket list and linked to various other sweet possibilities (for other combinations of family members). It got me thinking so I asked my daughter what she might like to do together:
Thanksgiving, farmers market, flea market, beach day, apple picking, college campus if we were ever near there, baby pics, movie set, farm, cooking family recipes together, rainy day movies, read your favorite books from childhood, picnic…
Got me thinking and making plans to execute some of the above. Merrill’s lists include other family members, so I’ll be asking.
“I used to spend a lotta time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”
― Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me
After the book made Denver Moore famous, he was invited to speak in many settings, including the White House. How he wanted to be introduced:
“Tell ’em I’m a nobody that is tryin’ to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody,” Moore told Hall.
That’s the wrap on this week’s Friday Faves. Would love for you to share in Comments what has made this week all the more special. I am so grateful you read my blog. Please subscribe if you don’t mind. Blessings until next time, and be kind to yourself and each other. If you read this far, you are among those fiercest of friends, I’m sure.
Happy Friday! Jumping right in to this week’s Friday Faves:
1) Uncommon Friendship – Would you push a wheelchair for a friend across a 500 mile journey? Patrick Gray gladly did that for his friend Justin Skeesuck. They are both heroes. They love each other and give each other the opportunity to live large…live unlimited. Watch the video. Buy the book.
2)Compounding Your Time – Compounding your time is like compounding interest – a small investment over time that yields multiplying dividends. Writer and social entrepreneur Michael Simmons recently posted a super helpful article on maximizing your time use. In Why Successful People Spend 10 Hours a Week on “Compound Time”, Simmons describes compound time as an element of the day of high performers. They “step away from urgent work, slow down, and invest in activities that have a long-term payoff in greater knowledge, creativity, and energy. As a result, they may achieve less in a day at first, but drastically more over the course of their lives.” Simmons’ 6 hacks to incorporating compound time in your life are listed below, but don’t miss his fuller fleshing these out here.
Hacks for Compounding Your Time (Over Time):
Keep a journal.
Take a nap.
Walk 15 minutes every day.
Invest in conversation partners.
“To get started, follow the 5-hour rule: for an hour a day, invest in compound time: take that nap, enjoy that walk, read that book, have that conversation. You may doubt yourself, feel guilty or even worry you’re “wasting” time… You’re not! Step away from your to-do list, just for an hour, and invest in your future. This approach has worked for some of the world’s greatest minds. It can work for you, too.” – Michael Simmons
What have you found helpful to compound time in your own life? Please share in Comments.
3) Bon Iver’s Holocene – The American Indie folk band Bon Iver wrote and performed this incredible song, Holocene. It’s part of the soundtrack in a couple of favorite films of mine (The Judge and We Bought A Zoo). The music is ethereal and just plain lovely. The lyrics?
Bon Iver’s obscure lyrics make those of us who love the song search for its meaning…here one commentor gives my favorite interpretation:
The point that struck me the other day though, was the beauty in the title. Holocene: an epoch spanning over 10,000 years- “connectedness” to the earth from present to the past. Not only are we are aware the world is vast- we are aware that we are only a small speck in time. There is beauty in such simple humanity of a flickering flame, the pink hues of a sunrise- things enjoyed by humankind for eons. It connects our present world of Facebook and Smartphones to centuries of humanity that existed before us- and to the future that lays ahead.
He has these “moments” where everything is right with the world: “not the needle nor the thread, the lost decree… Saying nothing was enough for me”. Conversation is not needed, you are absorbed in the moment of the “hallowed bright” of Christmas Eve or “Laying waste to Halloween”, but “at once”, you are struck with the realization that your “moment” is not significant… “I was not magnificent”. In this though, there is joy in the feeling that despite that, you are still a part of something.
You are a part of the fabric of humanity- over 10,000 years of ‘people’. “Hulled from far the highway aisle”, separated from race, religion, politics and war- but connected to love, jealously, empathy, depression and beauty- emotions spanning borders and time. “Someway baby its part of me, apart from me”.
4) Fear of Dying – I entered motherhood as a cancer nursing specialist. Cancer was all around me in those days, and I embraced what I learned of how precious and tenuous life could be. We were still in the first few days at home with our daughter when, while showering, I discovered a knot under one of my arms. It shook me so much, I literally had to lean against the wall of the shower for a few seconds. Well, thankfully, it turned out to be a non-malignant swollen lymph node common to breast-feeding mothers.
Still, then, and more recently dealing with the real deal cancer, I am acutely aware of how the shadow of death can fall on a life. Just. Like. That. A shadow is just a shadow and often it passes, and all is well again. However, we land at a different place emotionally and spiritually when “well” comes again. A better and broader place.
As she relived her medical emergency and hearing her baby crying and calling for her as the paramedics took her out to the ambulance, she became terrified at the idea that she might not make it and her daughter would not remember her.
I ask you to ask yourself: What will be said about you when you are gone?
Are you kind? Are you gentle? Are you giving? Are you loving?
Confessing to having previously been a gossipy, sassy “mean girl” before her medical emergency, she turned that all around…not perfectly, of course (not any of us can claim that)…but she altered her life’s course for her daughter…and all in her life from then on out.
The fear of dying should never consume us…that would be a form of dying while living. However, we can learn from a brush with death…that learning can help us live life differently…and better.
5) Parenting Post-Childhood Trauma – I have people in my life who have decided not to parent because of the trauma in their own lives growing up. They think they are too damaged and don’t want to pass that on to their own children. That is so tragic to me. It’s like the abusive adults in their lives continue to wreak havoc in the adult survivors of childhood trauma.
I’m sure there are situations where not having children is the answer, but it is thrilling to know of people like Byron Hamel.
“Childhood isn’t safe. Predators are everywhere. A guy exposed himself to my kid last week at a park. You get your kid out of the park and you call the police. Be vigilant. Learn what grooming is and how to stop it. Monitor their activity online. Ask them about school. Tell them they can tell you ANYTHING and they won’t get in trouble. Tell them they don’t have to fear for their safety, or indeed for YOUR safety. And don’t wait for them to come to you. Ask them regularly. Make your home a fortress for their well-being. Make it feel like the safest place they can possibly be. Show them the greatest love. Be their greatest protector. Listen the most intently.”
Friday! Yes…the weekend is upon us and the start of Fall. Hope you’ve had a week full of grace. What a season of hurricanes and earthquakes and wars and rumors of war! We hold onto God and each other, and perspective comes much more readily.
Here are five of my favorite discoveries this week, as well as a few bonuses at the end. Hope you’re encouraged and positively emboldened in the reading below.
1) Braveheart and Classical Guitar – The 1995 Mel Gibson film Braveheart moved the hearts of all who saw it. Braveheart was an epic telling of Scotland’s fight for freedom from England into the 13th century. Historical accuracy wasn’t a goal of the filmmakers, but grandeur of the clashing battlefronts was riveting.I couldn’t watch every frame because of the medieval war violence and the grisly execution of William Wallace (played by Gibson). Photo Credit: Fanpop
My family is Scottish with both Wallace and Bruce in our family tree. When son Nathan of Beyond the Guitar arranged a medley of the beautiful James Horner soundtrack, I told him he should wear a kilt for the video… No kilt, but gorgeous themes bringing back the intense emotion of the film. Made me want to see Braveheart all over again. Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar
Here’s the YouTube video of Beyond the Guitar’s Braveheart. Lovely.
2) Inheriting Our Parents’ Traits and Trauma – My whole life people have told me, “You look just like your mother.” That was fine by me because I loved her deeply and thought she was beautiful.
As I’ve grown older, it’s not just looks but actions that also are a part of my link with my mom. Even though she is no longer with us, I will do things or react in certain ways that remind me of Mom.
Dembosky writes about a Vietnamese family immigrating to the US after enduring war trauma. She described vividly how the struggles a parent endures can be transferred to the children in the ways they also react to adverse situations and their coping mechanisms.
Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.
My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight. I see that also in myself.
3) Destination Addiction – No it’s not about our next vacation, but destination addiction is very much about whether or not we can find contentment in our day-to-day life. Robert Holden, a British psychologist, writes and speaks about the pursuit of happiness.
To be honest, I’m not taken with all Holden says about happiness or contentment, but destination addiction is something to avoid, for sure. When we long for that next thing…whether it is the vacation, or next job, or next house, or even next relationship…we cease to live in the present. This addiction, like all others, is never satisfied.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes
If this is a struggle for you, and it sure has been for me at various seasons of my life, recognize it and deal with it. Sure, we can look forward to the “something new’s” in our life, but not to the exclusion of what is real and valuable and not-to-be-missed right now.
The links below are quick reads and excellent helps.
4) Confederate Monuments – Richmond, Virginia is a city steeped in American Civil War history…a history that has come sharply under fire recently. There has been a clarion call to take down the monuments to the Confederacy. Whether those monuments come down or not in the days ahead, the conversation spurred across cultural lines is crucial. The voices of those most marginalized by present-day racism must be heard. Five Richmond young people visited Monument Ave. recently, and their response might surprise you.Photo Credit: Richmond Cycling Corps, Facebook
Reporter Matthew Chaney‘s post revisted a Facebook post by Richmond Cycling Corps. Daquan, one of the five teenagers, wrote brilliantly their collective response on seeing the statues of Confederate generals displayed on Monument Ave.
“Everybody’s pointing blame at Monument Avenue and the statues that reside there, but those statues never did anything to me or people that I care about,” he wrote. “The only thing that ever harmed people in low-income areas is the violence that resides there.”
“Instead of using money to knock down statues that most people in low-income areas never even seen, how about using that money to improve schools, fix up the community that we see every day, or why not protest in our neighborhoods where we see violence and hate the most.”
Read the entire post as Daquan raises the more crucial issues of violence, hunger, poor schooling, and hopelessness they see every day in their Richmond community.
The monuments may still come down in the attempt to deal with the racism in this city. What is needed more is this 17y/o man’s counsel.
5) Lunch with Seniors – This is not about taking high school or college students to lunch. That would be much appreciated, I’m sure…but this is about going to lunch with those older ones in our lives. It’s what neighbor friends of ours did earlier this week, taking a 91 y/o widower out to lunch at his favorite restaurant.
It doesn’t take much sorting out to see the value in such an interruption to our day. Thankfully those older than us also understand the value of such times together…for them and for us. All we have to do is make that phone call…stepping out of the comfort zone of texting. So worth it.
That’s my five. How about you? Please share in the Comments something you’ve gleaned from this week. Have a weekend that replenishes your soul. Be kind to yourself and those around you.