Category Archives: Words

Valentine’s Day – Making It Ours

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[Adapted from the Archives]

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities… and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “Is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want. ..so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.Blog - Heart & Love Much

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.Blog - Morocco friends2014 Phone pics July-December 119

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. I don’t eat chocolate these days, but Hershey’s Kisses still speak. Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day…as do the other treats that come out especially on this day of the year.Blog - Valentine Goodies

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4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Whether it’s decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall or lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).Blog - Valentines on a cubicle by Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater2013 Feb Valentine's Day 001

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves. Blog - Valentine #2

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.Blog - Friends - Valentines #1

The Single Way to do Valentine’s Day – Mandisa

A Tribute to Charlotte Ray – Cal Thomas

Saturday Short – Love Notes – From Mom

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[From the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

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The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

5 Friday Faves – Kids in Costume, Infographic for Learners, Words, Eric Metaxas, and Walking to School

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It’s Friday! Another week finished… I’m looking forward to catching up with some family this weekend. How about you? Choosing favorite finds for the week was difficult – lots to choose from, but some were most note-worthy negatively rather than friendly favorites – political commentary, etc. I decided to stay more upbeat with the faves posted. So here they are.

1) Kids in Costume – Don’t you love kids in costume? When our children were preschoolers, we had a toy-chest full of dress-up clothes thanks to grandmothers who made or found fun outfits for them. Some of those costumes ended up overseas with us. [See below.}img_9943With Halloween around the corner, I’m sure we’ll see kids of all ages in their favorite character wear. It’s nice when there are more opportunities to dress-up besides just this one day of the year (like superhero day at school). We didn’t celebrate Halloween when our kids were growing up, but I do love the costumes….well, and the candy (but that’s another topic). There’s sometime transformative when kids put these kinds of duds on… Let the bravado begin!blog-kids-in-costume-bourdoff-familyPhoto Credit: Aaron and Jamie Burdorf

2) Infographic of Usual Tips for All Types of Learners – Two of my favorite things to discover are 1) infographics and 2) helps for various types of learners. Here it’s two-in-one. Design Taxi created a study guide to aid four types of learners – the visual learner, the auditory learner, the read and write learner, and the kinesthetic learner. I’m a blend of visual and read/write learner. Check out the infographic, especially you students out there – could help you change gears through your heavy reading assignments and exams. As an example, a visual learner comprehends more information off a printed page rather than a screen. Highlighting words in my notes also helps me focus on key concepts. Lots of great study hacks.blog-lachlan-brown-infographic-of-useful-tips-twitter

Photo Credit: Lachlan Brown, Twitter

3) Words – Gary Chapman has written several books around the theme of love languages. Here’s one. Chapman defines love languages as the ways we most clearly experience love from a spouse, a friend, a coworker. He lists five love languages – touch, words of affirmation, gifts, time, and acts of service. Words are definitely one of my love languages. I really appreciate when people affirm something they see in me that they love.

My mama was always encouraged by the gift of words.  In 2002, the cancer she had already had for two years was getting worse. She died in November 2002. Some time afterward, I was one of the family responsible for packing up her personal belongings. In the drawers of her computer desk, she had hundreds of cards.img_9942

I just couldn’t throw them away. That day, too near to her dying, I just put them all in a box.  Just this week I pulled them out and went through them. It was a huge and healing experience. All the words – cards chosen by friends and family in the year of her fiercest battle. All the words that they also wrote to her to express their love and to remind her how strong she was…and how big her God was. As I read through card after card, I could feel the deep love between these card writers and my mom. Some of these friends have also died since Mom died. So grateful for the legacy of these words and the love they expressed so beautifully. Thankful for them…and for you who took the time to share them with her.

That era when people sent cards…I miss it. What a blessing to have folks in my life who still write and send cards. Those words fill my heart and lighten the load.

4) Eric Metaxas – Do you know him? His writing and speaking have been excellent company for me this year.  Eric Metaxas is a historian, writer, lecturer, and social commentator. His books include Bonhoeffer, 7 Men, 7 Women, and most recently If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Metaxas has been a strong conservative voice in this election year. I have learned from him.President Barack Obama stands with keynote speaker Eric Metaxas as Vice President Joe Biden takes their photo during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.blog-eric-metaxas-eventbritePhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Eventbrite

What has been especially gratifying for me this year is Metaxas’ take on what is happening in our country. I am ignorant about so many things and he has aided my understanding of some of the cultural changes we are experiencing.

[A sidebar on Metaxas is that he was once a wary and restless intellectual. Then at the age of 25, he had a dream that drew him to a personal faith in God. He describes more about his faith in the I Am Second video. Still a studied intellectual, he is focused, fearless, and empassioned…a Christ-follower and patriot.]

5) Walking to School – This week, on Facebook, I saw a video short entitled School The World: Journey. It compared two children’s very different experiences of getting to school each day. One was a young Guatemalan boy whose trek to school took him 2 1/2 hours.

I then discovered another film by French director Pascal Plisson. This documentary, On the Way to School, follows four children (in Kenya, India, Morocco, and Argentina) on their difficult paths to schools far from their homes. We take easily accessible education so for granted in the West.  Tymm Hoffman, a regular guy, who works for Compassion International decided to do something about this…at least for one community, for now. He and his wife, Laura, spearheaded a great effort called Brighton Their World. One of the goals of this was to fund a school in Ethiopia. Brighton Academy is a reality today, thanks to them and those who help support this great work. By the way, Brighton is the name of one of their children – all of whom were born in Ethiopia, but he died before coming home to them in the States.

On the Way to School – Film Review

Bonus: 16 Personalities – The Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Indicator(MBTI) is a fascinating look at our differences. It’s not really about putting us in some behavior box; it’s about seeing what our preferences are how we are energized, how we take in information, and how we make decisions. I’ve enjoyed knowing coworkers’ personalities (based on the MBTI)…it’s helped me better understand them and how to communicate to them in ways they prefer. Cuts through a lot… Anyway, here’s a free test with good commentary.  In case you’re interested, I’m an ENFP – a “campaigner”. What is your personality type?

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Photo Credit: Snapcraft

Have a sweet weekend…be safe. Share your favorites with us in the Comments. Thanks!

Monday Morning Moment – Men and Their Friends

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Recently, my husband has begun dropping the message “I wouldn’t mind having a bass boat” into our conversations. At first, I didn’t take it seriously, but the more he talked about it, the more it became obvious it was something he was somewhat seriously thinking about. In fact, he asked for a hitch for his truck for his most recent birthday. Here’s a man who has a sizable workload, a garden he loves to tend, and a deep commitment to church and community. When is he going to have time to fish?

The more we talked, in tiny but regular snippets, it has become clearer to me what may be happening. He had a bass boat once when we had preschoolers, and he fished the beautiful lake country of East Tennessee. With this buddy and that. Getting out before sunrise on a Saturday morning, spending hours together on the lake, catching or not catching fish. I’m thinking it’s “the buddy” part of fishing that is most appealing…not that he would ever say it.

My husband, like my sons and son-in-law, is an introvert. Friendships with them may not look the same as my friendships with women. Still, they are critical. They may not talk for hours, like us, but they may…un-pressured. In shared experience, that hangout time can mean everything to both physical and emotional health.

In fact, regarding talk, men’s conversation is woven into what they’re doing together – a sport, a project, an affinity moving them to action. The conversation and bond of friendship comes in the doing of things…together.blog-men-in-utilikilts-meninutilikilts-twitterPhoto Credit: Twitter (@meninutilikilts) – I love utilikilts – but my husband is not in the picture above, just to be clear.

We women can make great friends for our husbands and brothers and colleagues (occasionally). However, try as we may, we can’t deliver friendships to them through our friends. Believe me, I have tried. It doesn’t work that way, because our women staying power is at a much different energy level than that of our male counterparts. [Of course, this could be very different if the men are extroverts and the women introverts.] I still don’t believe we can make friendships happen for the men in our lives, as much as we ache for them to have those close friends to share successes and shoulder some of the stresses (and vice versa).

Men can go deep with friends who play on the same recreational teams as they do. Or in front of a TV watching or playing a game. Or around a table. Not a lot has to be said…but having a friend who knows you…and knows in a word, spoken or not spoken, where your head is right then…can help you get out of that funk and gain perspective on life. Men don’t seem to need a lot…but they need a regular touch-base with someone they may call a friend. As the women in their lives, we may can help that along…but only ever so subtly…since, we are not like them, I’m learning more as the years go by.Friends in competition playing games console.Photo Credit: weroom

Because of the nature of my husband’s work, as an example, we have had several moves in our lives. He has actually kept a running account of how many places we’ve lived. That one factor has kept him from having a close friendships over his lifetime. Granted, he (we) still have friends from all those eras, but the opportunity to just “hang together” is rare.

Besides the moves, a team of men of which he was a part in recent years was broken up during a company reorganization, and they all took different jobs, some in other cities. It was devastating in a unique way because not only did they miss working together, but clearly, they would miss the friendships established there, around a shared vision. I share that to emphasize how friendships among men are made in ways we as the women in their lives can’t predict, nor can we reinvent them for our men.

However, I do want to make space for these friendships. These rare, soul-invigorating, stress-squashing minimalist relationships between men. There is a 2015 romantic comedy titled Aloha, that came and went…you probably didn’t see it. The chemistry between the actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, and John Krasinski) was electric and just plain fun to watch. For the purpose of today’s conversation, I wanted to find a YouTube clip of the conversations between Cooper and Krasinski – they were mostly made up of head nods, knitted eyebrows, broken sentences, and half-hugs. The film actually gave the audience sub-titles for what was going on between these two men on the screen.

Men and their friends… I want to make space for them (even if it means buying a bass boat, or blessing the video-gaming interests of sons, or saying less and praying more for these friendships to happen – up-close and in person). May such friendships among men be life-long (when positive) and as deep as it’s possible for them to go.

Why Do Millions of Men Have No Close Friends? – Phil Barker

A Fine Bromance: the 12 Rules of Male Friendship – Chris Moss

Making Guy Friends as an Adult: Male Friendship 101 – Kyle Ingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

blog-bumper-stickers-pjmediaPhoto Credit: PJMedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Faves – Summer Olympics, Global Leadership Summit, Life after Being Locked-In, Walking Her Home, and KevOnStage

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Happy Friday! School is starting around the country, but not here yet. It’s still sunny summer with long days and beach trips and abundant locally grown fruits and vegetables. Tomato sandwiches and juicy perfect peaches. Mmmmm. Below are my five favorite finds of the week.

1) Summer Olympics – Watching the Olympics has been a joyful experience this week. I’m trying to keep up with the Refugee Team, and this BBC article is a helpful update. As for the Gold medals, several are being won, as you already know, to these two favorites of mine – Simone Biles and Michael Phelps. USA! USA! USA!Blog - Simone Biles - Olympics - the guardianPhoto Credit: The GuardianBlog - Michael Phelps - Olympics - livenewschatPhoto Credit: Live News Chat

2) Global Leadership Summit – This is an incredible leadership conference…the best I’ve ever attended. It’s simulcast from Chicago to sites all over the world. You’ll be hearing much more about the content in the days to come. I’m halfway through it as I post this. Brian Dodd does a live blog on it where you can gather quotes from each speaker, and on Twitter and Facebook, watch for the trending hashtag #gls16. Great content!

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3) Life After Being Locked-In – Vegetative states and the locked-in syndrome have always been fascinating to me, as a nurse. An unforgettable moment for me in teaching nursing at Yale University years ago was walking into a patient’s room to meet him. He was in a wheelchair and when I entered he was looking in my direction. I said hello and he just continued to look at me…expression-less. This beautiful young man…seemingly not there at all…in some sort of vegetative state from a brain injury.

When I was a child, I watched a rerun of Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Breakdown” from the very first season in 1955. It was a psychological thriller about a man who survived a car accident but was paralyzed, completely unable to move or communicate. It was terrifying.

Martin Pistorius, a South African man living today in the UK, had his own terrifying journey, in real time, through being locked-in. At the age of 12, he developed some sort of illness where he quickly lost his abilities until he went into a full-blown coma. He stayed in this condition until he was 16…when he began waking up. Unfortunately, he looked no different and wasn’t able to communicate.Blog - Ghost Boy Martin Pistorius - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

He continued “invisible” for almost another 10 years, until one of his therapists became aware that he was actually responsive. His story is amazing. Once it was discovered that he was actually conscious, he began the incredible journey of treatment and rehabilitation. He went on to learn to communicate with an adaptive device, graduated university, became a web designer, and wrote a book about his experience (Ghost Boy). During his locked-in experience, he found God his only companion and became a follower of Christ. Now, he has also found the love of his life in Joanna whom he married.Blog - Martin Pistorius - locked-in syndrome - nbcnewsPhoto Credit: NBC News

He communicates his own journey so well in this TEDx talk. The kindness and understanding in his demeanor speak volumes as well. Watch his TEDx talk below or at least read the transcript (in link above). I’m so glad to have discovered this young man and know his story.

He closed his talk with these words:

We are told that actions speak louder than words. But I wonder, do they? Our words, however we communicate them, are just as powerful. Whether we speak the words with our own voices, type them with our eyes, or communicate them non-verbally to someone who speaks them for us, words are among our most powerful tools. I have come to you through a terrible darkness, pulled from it by caring souls and by language itself. The act of you listening to me today brings me farther into the light. We are shining here together. If there is one most difficult obstacle to my way of communicating, it is that sometimes I want to shout and other times simply to whisper a word of love or gratitude. It all sounds the same. But if you will, please imagine these next two words as warmly as you can: Thank you.

4) Walking Her HomeMark Schultz wrote this sweet song Walking Her Home after he was inspired by this older couple in his neighborhood. The husband was so tender with his wife and he told Mark that he’d promised her dad he’d walk her straight home after their first date and never leave her. He was still keeping that promise. We have all been touched by stories of an elderly spouse dying and the other dying shortly after. This CNN news report tells an especially sweet such story…Blog - walking Her Home - bellevisionPhoto Credit: Bellevision

…and here’s the song (with video from The Notebook, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks).

5) KevOnStage – Kevin Fredericks is a very funny guy. I just discovered his videos this week. Here’s a hilarious sample:

Here’s to a relaxing weekend. Hope you recover some of your sleep missed by late night Olympics watching…if you’re like me. Be safe and savor this life…and the people we have in it. God keep you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

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

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

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

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

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

Blog - Friday Faves

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: A Fine Parent

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Phone Calls, Egyptians, Parenting, Contemporary Christian Music, and David B. Hart on Politics

Blog - Friday FavesHappy Friday! I woke up this morning to the sound of a summer thunderstorm – a real downpour. Now it’s done and hopefully won’t have discouraged the neighbors I’ll be walking with in just a bit. Hope this finds you off to a peaceful and gratifying end to your work week, or just the beginning of another adventure of the day. My 5 Friday Faves coming at you:

1) Phone Calls – In this season of texting as primary communication, I love a phone call. Even though I start with a text as well most of the time, not wanting to disturb the recipient…still a phone call is so direct and satisfying. I’m not the communicator that I once was. My friends and family, who are callers, are very merciful and their calls mean the world. So grateful to you who call. With our kids, they know if I don’t hear back from a series of texts, I will call. It is incentive of a sort to answer those texts. My preference is to hear their voices and to see their faces (Facetime is the best feature of the iPhone). For you who dread phone calls, consider that some of us really love receiving them. Just consider…Blog - Friday Faves - Phone calls

2) Egyptians – We’ve had great neighbors through the years, and especially in our current neighborhood. In our years of living outside of the US, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, we have known the best of the best of those cultures. Just yesterday, I ran into an Egyptian student I’ve come to know here because she works in a favorite store. Her welcome is always so warm and gracious, asking about my surgery (remembering that?!). So today, I want to give a shout-out to our Egyptian friends. Known for their hospitality and humor, Egyptians remind me of those most beloved in my life from the South. When we lived in Cairo, our Egyptian friends went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their lives. So generous, and funny, and unpretentious. Dave and I talk about going back some day to live there again. It is probably not going to happen, but it makes me smile just to think of it. So here’s to the people of Egypt – “Om el Donia” – “Mother of the World”.036_36 (2)Blog - Sherine, Debbie, HebaBlog - Egyptians - Debbie & FonFon (2)Blog - Egyptians - Dina and Debbie - June 2016

3) Parenting – Matt Diaz is a former professional baseball player and currently a sports commentator. He is also a dad and coaches TBall (tiny baseball players). He wrote a great blog on parenting little guys and how our parenting changes as our kids get older. Speaking with humility from his own parenting and being parented, he spotlighted two issues worth examining.

Blog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. DiazBlog - Friday Faves - Parenting - Matt E. Diaz baseballPhoto Credit: Matt E. Diaz, Wikipedia

“We are pushing our young kids too hard.  We are expecting adult like performance from them.  We are frustrating them by asking them to handle things they were not designed to handle.
We are coddling our young adults too much.  Society is accepting way too much childlike behavior from them.  We are allowing them to behave in a manner that they were never designed to behave.”
I loved his illustration of how eagles feather their nests to protect the eggs and tiny eaglets and then remove the feathers to make the nest uncomfortable for the fledgling flyer.

4) Music Critics (Critique)
– Contemporary Christian music is genre that has been inspirational and comforting to me over my adult life. It has come a long, long way from the early years of odd, repeated lines and rounds of songs of the 60’s and 70’s. Still, with some glorious exceptions, the Christian music today is still not like the hymns of yesterday. There is contemporary worship music and Christian pop – very different from each other. In researching for my Worship Wednesday blog, I came across the Faithful Stewardship Blog.

The writer identifies himself as Jorge, from my home state of Georgia. He further describes himself as writing for the sake of his wife and children. On Tuesdays, he posts his critiques of contemporary Christmas music. He pulls from Top 20 lists of this genre and gives approval/disapproval ratings for songs based on how they line up with Scriptural truth. I don’t think he means any ill will at all in his disapprovals; he is focusing on Biblical truth in the lyrics of these songs. Some of my favorites are on his disapproving list, but many are also on his approval list, including For King & Country’s Shoulders.

Blog - Friday Faves - Music Critics - CCM - Twitter

Photo Credit: Twitter

I was surprised at some of his takes on songs but actually couldn’t disagree with his analysis.

An article along the same lines is T. David Gordon’s The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Blog - Friday Faves - Contemporary Worship Music - secondnaturejournalPhoto Credit: Second Nature Journal

He writes about how the church is embracing contemporary worship music to the exclusion of traditional hymns. His eight reasons that he sees this as a temporary situation are provocative and thought-provoking. This is not just a treatise on preferences. Gordon weighs in heavily on the grandeur of the lyrics and hymn tunes of worship music that has stood the test of time. He is not sure at all that much of what we cherish today will stand that same test. Some will, I believe, but how could we ever let go of such great hymns as Henry Francis Lyte’s Abide With Me, written in 1847? Or Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God written in 1529? Powerful.

Postscript: Whether all the songs I love in both Christian worship and Christian pop endure for centuries, it matters that they bring joy today. So, just wanted to throw that in, on the tails of this good read.

5) David B. Hart on Politics – a young Eastern Orthodox friend of mine posted a quote from Hart on his Facebook page recently. Hart is also Eastern Orthodox, and a philosopher, writer, theologian, cultural commentator. He is new to me and much too deep for me to understand on some points. His take on American politics in this election year is worth noting. So eloquent. I love when people use words like this…with such clarity, transparency, and skill. Granted (for those who will disagree with his take on this subject) it is just his opinion…but well-spoken.Blog - Friday faves - David Bentley Hart on PoliticsPhoto Credit: Patheos

“Our choices are excruciatingly circumscribed, since the whole process is dominated by two large and self-interested political conglomerates that are far better at gaining power than at exercising it wisely…Yes, I know: there are good and sincere souls who run for office, and some occasionally get in, and a few of those are then able to accomplish something with the position they assume, and some of those even remain faithful to the convictions that got them there. But, lest we forget, those are also the politicians who often create the greatest mischief…If one were to devise a political system from scratch, knowing something of history and a great deal about human nature, the sort of person that one would chiefly want, if possible, to exclude from power would be the sort of person who most desires it, and who is most willing to make a great effort to acquire it. 

Yet our system obliges us to elevate to office precisely those persons who have the ego-besotted effrontery to ask us to do so; it is rather like being compelled to cede the steering wheel to the drunkard in the back seat loudly proclaiming that he knows how to get us there in half the time. More to the point, since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer world—the world that cannot be—ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.”David B. Hart, First Things

That’s it for me, this week. Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead – longer than usual with our Independence Day celebration on Monday. Please share any of your week’s favorites in Comments below. Thanks for reading my meanderings.

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

Blog - Anger - beliefnetPhoto Credit: BeliefNet

Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

Blog - Anger - patheosPhoto Credit: Patheos

I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

The Angry Heart – Biblical Counseling CoalitionBlog - Anger - Angry man - Biblical Counseling CoalitionPhoto Credit: Biblical Counseling Coalition