Category Archives: Babies & Children

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.

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. These are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies

IMG_0065[From the Archives – as we seem surrounded by beautiful pregnant women and so many darling little babies – sweet times.]

My family, growing up, was not in church until I was 6 years old. Any awareness of spiritual songs began then for me. The Baptist Hymnal of my childhood was my worship textbook in those days. Then came the Christian Contemporary Music worship movement of the 1970s. When our children were born in the ’80s, there were songs deep in my heart that would become heartsongs for our three little ones as well. The main reason is that they would fall asleep to them at night, as we sang them during that wind-down time before lights-out.

My husband and I wanted to be the kind of parents who had family devotions faithfully [“Bible before breakfast” sort of thing], but that turned out to be more challenging than we thought it would be. He and I both had our own quiet times with the Lord, but adding people (especially little people) to that mix was a discipline that eluded us for most of the years of our children’s growing up. We had Bible teaching in our home and prayer bathed our routines, but that family devotion habit…sigh…now, we encourage our parenting children to better us in this area.

We did succeed at bed-time rituals – we needed those routines probably as much as the kids did. No matter where we lived (and we lived a lot of places), bedtime was a sacred benediction to the day – bath, pj’s, teeth-brushing, a bit of play just for fun (to draw out the rest of the day’s energy), and then to bed. “To bed” also included a story, prayers, and a song or two. By that time, our children were, for the most part, settled, snuggled down, ready to let the day go.

We always sang the same 2-3 songs. All through their growing up years. Right until they somehow arrived at that point when lullabies went the way of story-time. They read their own Bibles and they chose their own music. It happens so fast,,.always. Sigh.

Those 3 songs (linked below) were Jesus, Name Above All Names (Naida Hearn, 1974); Jesus – There’s Something About That Name (Gloria & Bill Gaither, 1970); and I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice (Laurie Klein, 1978). These three songs soothed to sleep our three little ones wherever we were. Today, they are grown and their millennial music tastes have grown with them. Still, these songs remind them, and us, of a time that seems not so long ago – when we were a family of five who, at the end of the day, loved Jesus – no matter where we were, with children growing up across four countries. Those simple little praise songs, turned lullabies, sealed each day with the hum and the cuddle of God’s unfailing love.

What lullabies do you remember? Singing them or hearing them as you nodded off to sleep…

Jesus, Name Above All Names – YouTube with Lyrics

Song Story of Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus – There’s Something About That Name – Godtube video

Song Story of Jesus – There’s Just Something About That Name

I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice – Youtube with Lyrics

Song Story of I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice

Song Story of I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice with added verses by John Piper

Phil Keaggy’s Instrumental Version of I Love You Lord on The Wind and The Wheat album

Don’t forget to post in Comments what your favorite lullabies were…or what songs you can imagine would make great lullabies for raising up worshippers.

As you think…I’m posting a “through the years” sequence of our sleeping child…the one who could sleep anywhere at any time…who still needed those lullabies at night…and is one of those worshippers today.

IMG_0100 - CopyIMG_0076 - Copy - Copy - CopyIMG_0059IMG_0012 (4)IMG_0013 (3)2008 December Christmas 0652009 Nov 006

This Quiet Girl – To Know Her Is To Love Her, and I Know Her Very Well

30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.

“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.

This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.

As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.

Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.

This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.

She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.

When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.

Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. They are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.

When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.

After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.

This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.

Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).

…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.

[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]

I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.

So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n.jpg

To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Birthday Freebies, Decluttering, Untold Stories, Global Ancestry, and Rhythms of Life

What a week! Maybe all weeks finish with an exclamation point… This one sure did. In the midst of all the crazy, there are delights to discover and life-enriching finds for all of us.

Here are five of mine:

1) Birthday Freebies – Having just experienced another birthday, I make a practice of celebrating not just the day but as far as I can take it. Sometimes weeks but definitely several days. Birthday freebies grease the tracks. We all have favorite restaurants, right? If you sign up for email updates, many times you’re placed in a VIP club of sorts. You probably already do this, but it’s new for me. It’s especially nice when you’re not deluged with email….otherwise they become less favorite.

Four of my favorite “clubs” are Mission BBQ (free sandwich for your birthday), Silver Diner (an entree AND a dessert free for birthday person), O’Charley’s (free dessert), and Qdoba (buy one entree get one free). In the comments section, pass on your favorites to sweeten our birthday celebrations even more.

2) Decluttering – Okay…I have a small problem with this. However, much that’s written these days feels so punishing, like a character-beat-down. I have no interest in dumping all my clothing in the floor and deciding whether each piece makes me happy or not…and then thanking the discards before they’re shipped off to wherever.  Sometimes, people discard only to buy more of the same stuff. Their choice; not my business.  [See the fascinating Opposing Views’ video below.]

The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. Here is the devastating toll "fast fashion" is taking on our planet:

Posted by Opposing Views on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brie Dyas has written a thought-provoking and kindly piece on 11 Things in Your Home That Are Making You Unhappy. Some of the clutter she covers doesn’t make me the least bit distressed, and she writes in a way that doesn’t judge the reader for her clutter. In fact, I was incentivized after reading her post. Decluttering doesn’t have to communicate devaluing (of the person or the clutter)…nor do we need to express ungratefulness when gifted with what we might consider just clutter.  There is a stewardship principle that applies to managing our possessions. I want to be a good steward of the stuff of our lives and the time necessary to manage it. A more ordered home…life…is also my desire. I do appreciate the loves in my life who guard against conspicuous consumption. I am also frugal. So where do I begin decluttering? The stuff that’s sentimental to me?…still keeping. The piles of papers I’m afraid to file and forget somewhere? Maybe I can happily let those go!  Dyas’ piece has encouraged me to deal with the things I have hung onto…for no good reason. Definitely don’t need the stress of excess. Any thoughts? [Comments]Photo Credit: Prairie Home Therapy

3) Untold StoriesMatthew West is a songwriter and story-teller. His website I Am Untold gives the accounts of abortion survivors (both the babies and the parents) and other like stories. There is so much division in our world over life issues – the pre-born, the men and women who unwittingly conceive or who abort and then regret. Here are stories from a very different side of this issue.

Then there are also people challenged all through the life-cycle (with disabilities or problems of poverty or aging). We hear from those in the business (Planned Parenthood) and those with political motives.

I don’t have my own abortion story, but knowing and loving friends and family who live with heartache – the heartache of a decision they would make differently now also need our care and consideration.Photo Credit: Insider

4) Global Ancestry – The United States is a “melting pot” country – a nation of both native peoples and immigrants from all over the world. It’s one of the many things I love about my homeland. Photo Credit: Ellis Island

Defining words like populism and nationalism have taken on a whole new intensity and seriousness in our current political situation. I’m hopeful still that our country will continue to be founded on the ideas of our founding fathers and shaped by the great men and women of more recent years…Photo Credit: Urbs

Part of the richness of this country is what others have brought with them from other homelands. My own history tracks back to the Bruce’s and Wallace’s of Scotland. Watch this video of how we are connected much more than we could imagine.

It would be much more complicated for us to choose certain peoples that we don’t want as part of our country when we see that we are more part of each other than not.

Exploring the Origins of Language – Video

5) Rhythms of Life – Rhythms are defined as “strong, regular, repeated patterns of sound or movement”. We all have them in our lives. Some rhythms in our lives relate to our habits and routines. Others are strictly recreational which can dampen the rhythms which require us to go deep. I hadn’t give rhythms much thought until Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, talked about them as a discipline of grace.

Photo Credit: NewsongPDX

In this Sunday’s sermon, Cliff talked about the deep rhythms of intaking God’s Word. Too often, we treat spiritual disciplines as a task to be checked off with little impact on us at all. Or even as a sidebar to other pursuits or pleasures that absorb our hours and focus and energy. Oh what we miss in not going deep into the knowledge of God and what He wants to say to us…through His Word. I have known rhythms in life when pouring over and meditating on Scripture was a deep passion for me…to know God and to make Him known…my heart has been stirred afresh this week.

Podcast – The Rhythm of Intaking God’s Word – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Explore God

Finally…there is this guy…publishing a most ambitious video next week. Can’t wait. Because of him…I’m now a patron of the arts.

Have a great weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

Love Your Neighbor – the Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend a screening of the film Resilience. This documentary introduces the health issue of Adverse Childhood Experiences* (ACEs) and how, if unchecked, lead to adulthood diseases and dysfunction. This was both alarming and eye-opening for me. A closely related issue had already captured my interest – Trauma Healing – involving intervention with children and adults displaced and wounded by wars, famine, and other calamities.

The long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences was first identified in a huge and significant study done in the 90’s by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda. You can read more of the study, but the main take-away for me is that children who experienced trauma, and do not experience informed intervention, will have compounded health issues through their adult life.

Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, had this observation: “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Drs. Felitti and Anda developed a short 10-question questionnaire which can be used by any one of us to identify risks in our children or self-identify high risk. After watching the film, I came home and decided to take the ACE quiz to see what my numbers were. My numbers were low.

Take the ACE Quiz and Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean.

[PDF of 10-question ACE Quiz]

However, looking longer at the quiz, I thought of my mom (whose childhood – growing up in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive father – was very different from mine). Even though my childhood had some adversity, Mom buffered our lives from some stresses we would have experienced. I also thought of others in my family and among our friends who have had to endure much tougher childhoods. They are all adults now, so I wondered what their options were to reverse some of the trauma and build resilience. This research and the trauma-informed care that has developed out of it give tremendous hope.

There are so many resources now available to us to heal and help others heal. One of the young pioneers in this field is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Here is a bit of her take on the issue of ACEs and their impact on adult health:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and faux patient (for the photo)

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass. – Jane Ellen Stevens, Aces Too High

[TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris]

If you are like me, you will want to learn more and be a part of trauma-informed care, you can search for local agencies to help. In our city, we have a cooperative called Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network. I am looking forward to taking advantage of training and volunteering through this agency.

This may be very new knowledge for you. It was for me. Huge “light-bulb” experience. There are children out there put on medication for ADHD when (after further evaluation) are struggling to attend in the classroom because they are chronically on edge (as Dr. Harris defined with the constant threat of an attacking bear).  What a difference could be made in these children’s lives if their stressors are properly confirmed and then counseling for them and education for their parents/other support adults are initiated.

To think about how children who have been traumatized will still bear that trauma through their adult lives and bodies is unthinkable. Now that we know better.

Have a look at the ACEs Quiz. Pour over the infographics.  Learn from the links below.  Think about your own situation and that of those you love or serve (in a classroom, community/medical setting, faith-based institution). Then act…it could mean longer and higher quality of life. Resilience and healing can come out of this.

In closing, I would love to hear something of your take on all this. What did you discover in taking the ACEs quiz? What was your score?

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

*Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Life-long Consequences of Trauma – The American Academy of Pediatrics

Resilience the Film

TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nagazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard of, Part 3 – Jane Ellen Stevens

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – CDC

Infographic – Road to Resilience – 10 Ways to Build Resilience – Mercy Family Counseling

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – When I’m With You – Citizen Way

Photo Credit: Family Life

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  – Psalm 34:18

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.  Psalm 140:12

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
 – Hebrews 13:3

How people get through hard places and tough seasons without God? His love fills the broken places in our lives.

Just this week I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Resilience. It was such an “aha” experience for me watching this documentary on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their impact on adult health and quality of life.  [More about this here.]Photo Credit: GrowlerMag

As I sat mesmerized by that film, so many faces came to mind – children struggling to learn in my daughter’s classroom, adults with massive social and health issues in the hospital where I worked years ago, friends and family who have endured terrible things at the hands of others. How do we respond? How do we, as the film challenged, build resilience and help heal trauma?

Sometimes problems seem too big for us…what can we do to make a difference? What can we say to help? We can pray. We can get equipped. We can position ourselves beside those most vulnerable – be first responders if necessary – as Jesus became for us.

When Ben Calhoun, lead singer of the Christian band Citizen Way, talks about the loss of their son Jeremiah in miscarriage, you can still hear the pain…and the care he received from God. So much love. It inspired the song When I’m with You. Photo Credit: YouTube

Whatever struggle we find ourselves in…others may walk away, but God doesn’t. He won’t. Sometimes that terrible thing happens to us as a child…and I won’t begin to offer an explanation of why adults sin against children…but I believe with all my heart that God will enter in and rescue us sometimes…and other times, bring healing. He is the God of both justice and mercy. I have experienced Him that way many times over. We receive His mercy and sometimes we become an extension of it – through our hearts, our hands, and our words.

Whatever is going on in your life, I pray that you can feel God near …and worship with me.

These are the things
That I need to pray
‘Cuz I can’t find peace any other way
I’m a mess underneath
And I’m just too scared to show it
Everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
But it’s nice to know
I can come this way
When I’m with You
I feel the real me finally breaking through
It’s all because of You Jesus
Anytime anywhere any heartache
I’m never too much for You to take
There’s only love
There’s only grace
When I’m with You
Nobody knows me like You do
No need for walls
You see right through
Every hurt every scar every secret
You just love me
When everything’s not fine
And I’m not okay
It’s nice to know
I can come this way
I’m breathing in
I’m innocent
It’s like my heart’s on fire again
I’m not afraid
I’m not ashamed
I’m safe when I am with You
So I’m here just as I am
Bruised or broken
I don’t have to pretend*

Photo Credit: Among the Pages

Lyrics to When I’m With You – Citizen Way

YouTube Video – When I’m With You – Citizen Way – Official Music Video

YouTube Video – Citizen Way – Story Behind the Song When I’m With You

God has Not Forgotten You – a 31-Day Devotional – Leslie J. Barner

Resilience – the Film

ACEs Connection – Join the Movement to Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, Heal Trauma, and Build Resilience

ACEs Too High

Finding Your ACE Score (pdf)