Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:24

In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]

10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills – Classical Guitarist, Composer, Arranger of Themes from Films, TV Shows, and VideoGames

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13

Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – DebMillsWriter

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.

80 Years Young – A Birthday Tribute to One Extraordinary Woman – My Mom-in-Law

Mother-in-law jokes are lost on me. They’re just not funny and are so rude, really, given they are perpetrated against the mother of the person we chose to spend our lives with… Makes no sense to me.

My mom-in-law may be extraordinary, but she would never think so. Her name is Julia and she grew up in a farm family. She married young and had two sons (after miscarrying a first child). I married her oldest. Her life has always been centered on her family…loving them, serving them…and always pointing them to God.

My own mom gave me wonderful counsel when I married – about how to treat my mom-in-law. She told me to love her like I loved my own mom. Now, you have to know my mom has been my best friend from childhood. She was wise, funny, loving…and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. To even try to love someone like I loved her seemed impossible…but I knew she was right to point me in that direction.

This other young mom of the man I loved started out a stranger to me…but that didn’t last long. She welcomed me into her circle from the beginning, and I’ve been inside that circle for over 30 years now.

Julia has always treated me as something special…she somehow does that with each one of us – her husband, sons, daughters-in-law and now grandchildren and great-grands. It’s not a “something special” that puffs us up…like we’re the best out there…She marvels in a sweet humility…again, reveling in the goodness of God in bringing us all together. I totally feel that way about her as well. Grateful.

On this birthday, Julia becomes the youngest 80-year-old I know. She is as sharp and engaged in life as ever. Always a beauty, she is still lovely…smaller as the years have passed, but even cuter in her petiteness. Yet, she doesn’t draw attention to herself…ever. It’s just not her nature. She serves us…we are her joy…and visits home are always an occasion. A bountiful table. Beautiful touches all around the house celebrating the season. Special treats not just for the littles, but for all of us. She seriously thinks of everything. It used to tire me out, but through the years, I have relaxed in that I am not her, and that’s very o.k. Only one Mom-Mom is all we need.

A few highlights:

  • We are both picture-takers…so we’re not always in the picture. Still we are partners in this, as annoying as it is for the men (especially) in the family. We get those pictures…together.
  • With each child born/adopted into our family, Julia made the trip to spend a week with us – to help, love on us, celebrate the new babies and the big sister/brother. She cooked and cleaned, with zero fanfare – absolutely no drama – just lots of love.
  • She made birthdays and Christmas so special for our kids. There came a time that we finally insisted, “One package each, Mom”. That Christmas, when she and Dad John pulled into the driveway, that “one package each” was enormous…with lots of goodies tucked inside. Who could get mad at that? Such a heart she has!
  • When our lives took us in a direction that we would move overseas for a job, I was so afraid that heart of hers would break. It was painful at first, as she and John absorbed the shock of the news. Yes, we would be taking their only grandchildren to Africa… So hard… By the next day, she had steeled her heart. Not in an unfeeling way but in a hopeful trusting way. Distance would change nothing about her love for us…except to grow stronger.  
  • She and John would visit us in three countries. Complete with two 70-pound bags full of treasures for those grandchildren of hers. She had no ambition to visit the Pyramids of Giza, or Matmata, Tunisia (where Star Wars – a New Hope was filmed), or Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Still…we did all that, and so much more. She marveled…at the beauty of the places we love and even more so at the people we called friends and neighbors.
  • Part of her winsomeness to me was seeing the gentleness in how her husband and sons loved her. Once on a family trip to the Egyptian desert, we climbed Mt. Sinai. We took a slow, meandering route up to the top. It was amazing. However, on our return to the bottom, we chose a quicker (but unfortunately more brutal) route back down. 3,750 “steps of penitence”. At some point, over half-way down, Julia was feeling the burn of all that pounding down those stone steps. When Dave, my husband/her son, saw her struggle, he pulled back and helped support her the rest of the way down. Gently, quietly. That love and care for his mom spoke volumes to me…about him, and especially about her.Photo Credit: See the Holy Land
  • Julia doesn’t quit on people or things that matter. She is quick to forgive and always ready to reconcile. She is also brave, willing to do the hard thing, even when she wished it wouldn’t have to be hers to do. She and John have been a part of the same church for many, many years. As the membership aged, the church suffered  a lack of vision…and, in fact, began to die. Julia was one of a handful that continued to serve and believe God that He wasn’t finished with their church. She persevered…and when a revitalization program took off, with young pastors and many new members, she stayed the course with them. Oh I’m sure she may not always be easy on these young leaders…but they are wise to keep counsel with her. Her commitment to God, to the church, and to the nations is as passionate as ever…at 80. Think what a force to reckon with she might be at 90!
  • Finally, I want to speak of her servant heart. When she married John over 60 years ago, she took her vows very seriously…and continues to do so. In recent years, John has had to deal with Parkinson’s Disease…but not alone. She is right beside him… helping when he needs help, encouraging when he can do himself. She is there…”in sickness, and in health”…and she will be…there.

I can’t begin to say how much she has taught me about loving my husband and serving my family. When my precious mother died too many years ago, Julia drew even closer to love me through that… She has continued to teach me, on the foundation my mom laid, to put others first and to pray my heart out for those God has placed in my life. What stewardship I have learned from this sweet mom.

Mother-in-law jokes?! Please! What a grace God has given me in her. Is she extraordinary? She would definitely balk at that. Maybe she is just a picture of what God can do in an ordinary life surrendered to Him. She models for me a wife, mom, and mom-in-law I want to be.

Many things I leave unsaid. Some of the tears, and some of the laughter are ours to cherish privately… She did teach me her pie crust secret for which I’m forever thankful…on this side of life. As for the other side of life…and the other side of this 80th birthday…I am so grateful for our times together, for the witness of her life, for all she has taught me, and for the memories…all the sweet memories.

Happy birthday, Mom/Julia! Many more memories to make ahead!

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.” – Proverbs 31:28-31

Love Is a Laid-Down Life – Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

5 Friday Faves – Answered Prayer, Christmas Cookies, Rogue One, Christmas Babies, and Unconditional Love

The Friday before Christmas…only children long for this day to come quickly. The rest of us try to balance work and to-do lists with the celebrations and the sweet kindnesses of this season. Sometimes our health doesn’t cooperate as I am fighting a cold writing this. Still, the weekend has arrived and Christmas fast approaches. Here are my faves for this week.

1) Answered Prayer – What an incredible thing that we can cry out to Almighty God, the Creator of all things, and He hears and responds. For several weeks, I’ve been wearing a prayer reminder on my wrist to keep a young woman in my thoughts and on my lips before God. She has been going through an unimaginable trial over many months and it seems only a merciful intervention from a loving God was going to make her situation turn around. Who knows how many people prayed for her….hundreds, for sure. I have never met her, but we were bonded together by her need and a God who calls us to come boldly to His throne…in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). We can’t presume on how God should move in a situation, but we can absolutely trust His wisdom and goodness. Over the last several days, we were able to see a miraculous turn of events…and her situation is redeemed. Does God always act in such a way? No…but He always acts on our behalf…

Any prayer that you have had answered that you could share in Comments below? Anything you continue to wait for God’s intervention? I would be pleased to pray with you.

2) Christmas Cookies – I don’t make Christmas cookies but love that others do. Just this week, we received several from sweet friends and my daughter. They are so cheery. It seems they also taste especially nice with coffee in front of a fire on a cold winter day. Hope you got to sample some this year.

3) Rogue One – On the Christmases when a Star Wars film is released, viewing it as a family has become one of our traditions. Photo Credit: Independent

Rogue One was really good. No spoilers here. It could definitely stand alone but also had several happy reminders of other Star Wars films. It is actually a prequel to one of the films, but I won’t give it away. We still get to look forward to more from LucasFilm to follow the 2015 A Force Awakens.

I love Bill Peel’s article Christmas Truth in Star Wars where he points out the themes of these films: “extreme evil, great good, desperate danger, genuine love, hopeless odds, and costly sacrifice”.

“Star Wars’ heroes are nobodies from nowhere, insignificant and irrelevant individuals as far as the world is concerned. Yet they change history.

Like Star Wars, the key characters in the Christmas story are nonentities: powerless peasants who live far from the halls of influence. A homeless couple with a powerless child born in an obscure village. Yet in fiction and real life, things are not always as they seem. These seemingly rag-tag nobodies are part of a web of cosmic events they cannot understand nor resist and take center stage in God’s kingdom.”

YouTube Medley Star Wars Medley – Beyond the Guitar

4) Christmas Babies
– A friend of mine had her first child this week…and on her birthday. This Christmas baby had a Christmas baby. Babies any time of the year are lovely, but at this time they dress up Christmas cards so beautifully. So darling, right?Photo Credit: Nameberry

Nathan of Beyond the Guitar posted a special Christmas greeting in his rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: YouTube

YouTube Video – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Beyond the Guitar

5) Unconditional Love – Christmas and the birth of Christ remind us of a love that we don’t deserve and cannot earn. Our parents showed us that kind of love and introduced us to the love of God.

Mom went to be with the Lord 14 years ago, and our Dad is days away from that same Homegoing. So thankful that because of what Christ did for us, we will see them again…and we can one day be face-to-face with the Lover of our souls.

YouTube Video – Noel – Chris Tomlin – Featuring Laurel Daigle

Photo Credit: Pinterest

May you have a blessed Christmas, drenched in the joy of the truth of the season…whatever your circumstances currently might be. For those who read this but do not celebrate Christmas, my prayer is that you know the love of Jesus…through those who follow Him…until the day you are personally acquainted with Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How thankful I am for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have certainly experienced that kind of love through you.

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

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

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Saturday Short – Parenting and Growing Up on TV

Blog - Screen time - telegraphPhoto Credit: Telegraph

I missed the bus once because, as a first-grader, I got completely immersed in a TV show. It wasn’t pretty. Both my parents worked, and my younger brothers were already squared away at a sitter’s house. Freewheeling it, a mostly responsible 6 y/o, I spent the day alone because of the power of screens in my life from an early age.

[Sidebar: No shaming of parents follows. You have a hard and important job…especially those who are the primary caregivers, Mom’s usually.]

Spring forward a few decades to my own raising children. I still loved TV. It was then and is now an entertaining diversion from the day’s work, providing a break from thinking, studying, decision-making.

However, my own filter for “not appropriate for children” in terms of content and how much was not very reliable. Finally, one day when our oldest child was maybe 18 months old, my husband made the unpopular decision of recommending we cancel our cable subscription. He came in, when I was taking a break, and watching something (detective show or romantic comedy, can’t remember), and our little one was watching right along with me.

Sigh…I was really o.k. with the intervention.

[Be kind in your judgment of my husband. I could have appealed that decision, but it was the right one, for us at the time. Truly I wanted our children to be able to engage in conversation with adults, and to have varied interests and skills, and to serve others. When my go-to down-time diversion was TV, it was easy for me to disengage from other more substantive uses of our time.]

Josh Squires, pastoral counselor and father of 5, posted a blog today on binge watching and on-demand entertainment. I’d love to hear what his wife says as well, but the piece is fair, reasoned, and compassionate. He talks about what affects our decisions for our children’s screentime – content, time, and (heart) attachment. For you caregivers (Mom’s), there are still times to just curl up with the kids and watch something on TV…or to let them relax with a favorite film while you get something done. Totally.Blog - Screen Time - desiring GodPhoto Credit: Desiring God

I’d rather you read his words than my own, so I’ll close with this. Being a grandmother now, I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to babysit, and already I can see using some sort of screen time as a good diversion when the littles are older… However, having said that, I hope their parents will be able to trust me to model drawing them into thoughtful service of others, talent- and skill-building, and the practice of conversation. That’s my hope for myself for sure.

These days my best naps are when the TV is glowing in the background. Still could miss a bus today…

Parenting in the Age of Binge-Watching – Josh Squires – Desiring God

Monday Morning Moment – Screentime – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – Customer Service, a Documentary, a Rainy Spring Day, Taking Your Kids to Hard Places, and Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them)

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Happy Friday! Here are my five favorites from this week…like you, I also have ongoing favorites (like time with my granddaughter, and the rest of the family, and deep talks with friends, and moments of revelation and inspiration – some hard and some gentle) that don’t get shared always…not sure why I wanted to share that even…but here are these! Have a safe and soaring day…and weekend.

1) Customer Service – Taking care of our customers and clients is important. Horst Schulze, renowned hotel executive and speaker, defines customer service as a three-part process: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. I was facilitating a meeting recently, and one of the participants raved about our restrooms. He says to commend our housekeeping staff, because that level of service takes genuine pride and caring. He also asked me if I had ever heard of these super-gas stations in Texas named Buc-ee’s. Apparently they are amazing. When you travel a lot by car there is pretty much nothing as winsome as a nice restroom. My story on customer service this week relates to the outpatient registration and imaging department at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

You know those occasions when you go in to register for service and you hardly see the person’s eyes (either fixed on a computer screen or at paperwork or just walking ahead of you or working the equipment attached to you). My experience this week with these personnel and volunteers was very different. Warm, engaging, refreshingly funny, full of life, making me comfortable, working quickly, and then getting me back out the same door I came in (much appreciated after going down a myriad of hallways)…consummate customer service complete with a snack. 🙂Blog - Customer Service

2) DocumentaryBono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms This week, a 20-minute film debuted highlighting the friendship of Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (Bible scholar and author). Their relationship centers on how The Psalms have impacted both their lives. I got to see a prescreening of the film and reviewed the it here and posted my takeaways from the Q & A with the filmmaker Nathan Clarke. The film is honest, loving, and thought-provoking. Watch it below or here.

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atU2Blog

3) A Rainy Spring Day – After a really hot day this week,  our flowers drooped and the greens looked frail…then the cool rain came. Joy! 2016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0212016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0422016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0382016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0262016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0192016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0122016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 002

4) Taking Your Kids to Hard Places – We don’t usually think of intentionally working hard experiences into our kids’ lives, but think about it. Our children haven’t been to really hard places in the world but they have had to wrestle with how to respond to beggars in North Africa…and here. Our boys have tended to a very ill grandfather. They haven’t been to many funerals, or visited many hospital rooms, or served in a shelter or soup kitchen. I would have done more of that with them, now that I see things differently.  Jamie Dew writes about this in 6 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Hard Places. He observes that, “Seeing poverty and brokenness has the ability to transform the most selfish child into a selfless child. Letting them see the broken world creates the same burdens in their hearts [as it does in ours] and gives them a true sense of dependence on God.” Any stories you have about this? Please comment below.Blog - Taking Kids to Hard Places - thestarPhoto Credit: The Star

5) Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them) – Moms of all ages and stages have challenging lives – whether they work both inside and outside the home or more inside the home. I was in both camps of moms at various times during our children’s growing up years. Some moms aren’t able to financially do without a job, and others dearly love their work, and the moms who work hard to stay home all have two things in common: 1) they all have children and the responsibilities that go with those darlings, and 2) they need our nurturing, not our judging. Jen Wilkin wote a provocative article on both stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and working-outside-the-home-moms (WOHMs). It’s worth your time (women AND men). [Dads, you, too, benefit from nurturing as well.]  I’m always glad for the opportunity to see something differently than I might otherwise – it helps me to love better. This was one of those reads.Blog - Stay at home moms - nurturing moms larksnotesthis

Photo Credit: LarksNotesThis

Bonus: Nathan Mills @beyondtheguitar posted a new arrangement of one of the Zelda melodies on YouTube. A friend of mine who works with PTSD survivors in Japan commended the soothing nature of his Zelda arrangements. Enjoy.

 

5 Friday Faves – Parental Pressures, Global Leadership Summit Highlights, Tim Ferriss, NCAA Championship Highlights, & American Idol Finale

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday, again. Hope you had a wonderful week or, at least, now maybe you can recover from it. These are my 5 favorite finds this week – very different from each other. Enjoy the rest of your day and sweet weekend.

1) Parental Pressures –  Bunmi Laditan is the author of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting. In a piece for Huffington Post, she declares “I’m done making my kids’ childhood magical.” I loved it because the pressure parents feel today to make their children’s lives magical is so unnecessary. The pressures from Pinterest and other social media seep into our family cultures and place undue expectations on us to escalate birthday parties, vacations, after-school activities to “better and better, more and more”.  To what end? Fortunately for me as a mom, our oldest was extraordinarly creative and led in our children all playing well together as children. They performed plays with little figures which they drew and cut out. When it was too hot for outside play, living in Cairo, Egypt, they roller-skated in apartment hallways . OK, so we did get to live in extraordinary places. They have gotten to experience 5 of the 11 Epcot Center countries without going to Disney World yet. So they have had an advantage in that. Magical, however, was never a goal of ours for their childhood. Like Laditan says, “Childhood is inherently magical” already.  So I say hats-off to you parents who give your children occasions for great whimsy and delight, and hats-off to you who can also keep it simple. Hands in the dirt. Fishing with grandpa. Learning a second language. P.S. Laditan’s article How to Put a Toddler to Bed in 100 Easy Steps is hysterical (even for that weary parent).Blog - Parenting in EgyptBlog - Christie, Nathan, & Daniel in Turkey

2) Global Leadership Summit Highlight – Best money we have spent for a conference in recent years. Bill Hybels brings together great leaders to speak on a wide range of topics suited for any of us in positions of authority/influence – on business, community, service, relationships, and the world. You can register right here for the 2016 summit. We attended at a satellite location less than 30 minutes from home.Blog - Global Leadership Summit - 2016Photo Credit: Willowcreek

Brian Dodd’s 150 Leadership Quotes from Bill Hybels from the Global Leadership Summit (2013-2015 Leadership Summits)

Also: Slideshare by Maruay Songtanin entitled The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of All Time

3) Tim Ferriss on becoming an effective CEO – Well, Tim Ferriss didn’t write this one, although he teaches us tons of fascinating stuff through his Four Hour Work Week blog. This topic was covered by a guest on his blog – Chip Conley, author of Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success. Conley entered the hospitality industry in his 20’s and developed a strong ideology of valuing the intangible. He even became known as Chief Emotions Officer. [I can hear the eyes rolling.] Still, for those of you in leadership who are willing to learn something out of your comfort zone, learn from Chip Conley. Not necessarily about Buddhism or Maslow, but about employee engagement, work culture, and customer service.Blog - Child Conley - Emotional equationsPhoto Credit: True North Leadership

Leaders who don’t at least have processes in place to address such matters for their employees and customers have blinders on. Just sayin’. I wrote on another innovative and excellent hotelier, Horst Schulze, on a similar topic – world-class customer service.

TED Talk – Chip Conley on Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile

How to Become an Effective CEO: Chief Emotions Officer

4) NCAA Championship Highlights – This year’s March Madness ended with basketball greatness with the game between Villanova and North Carolina. Both tremendous teams and a battle to the end for the NCAA Championship. Such an incredible game! Villanova pulled out the victory in the last seconds. Blog - NCAA Championship - Basketball - woodtvPhoto Credit: WoodTV

If you didn’t see the game or want to just replay the great moments of the game, here are the highlights:

5) American Idol Finale – American Idol is over and I will miss it. I wasn’t a forever fan, but this farewell season has been fascinating from first to finish. On the final show, there were two hours of past winners, contestants, and judges showcased with lots of Hollywood hoopla. Also, the winner of this, the final season was revealed. This year’s American Idol is La’Porsha…..nope. It is Trent. I was surprised, although he is a completely amazing singer. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising as the culture of American Idol is driven by the voting of social-media savvy young people (I’m thinking) – possibly more girls (again, a guess). Handsome Dalton Rapattoni‘s fans, after his elimination, may have rolled their votes over to handsome Trent Harmon. Or, as the mic picked up one of them saying to the other as they hugged after the announcement: “It was God’s will.” La’Porsha Renae had to be a bit disappointed not to win. She is magnificent, and the only place she is going is up in the music world. She and Trent both got record contracts, so good news!AMERICAN IDOL: Host Ryan Seacrest, Contestant La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon during the AMERICAN IDOL Finale airing Thursday, April 7 (8:00-10:06 PM ET Live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Here’s a sample of La’Porsha’s gift. Don’t miss her, because she is a rising star, destined for wherever God and that voice will take her.

Then there’s Trent…also incredibly gifted and ready for the music industry. Don’t miss his interpretation of Sia‘s Chandelier.

lastly, here, quite poignantly is the announcement of the winner, the last song, and the last goodbye…for now.

Trent Harmon Wins Last American Idol Ever – TV Guide piece by Liam Mathews with Finale Highlights

‘American idol’ Names Harmon its Final Winner – Bill Keveney, USA Today

60 Years Married – Mom & Dad – a Tribute & Photo Montage

MomMom PopPop - Wedding Day - Anniversary (2)MomMom PopPop - 50th wedding anniversary (2)John & Julia – on their wedding day and their 50th anniversary

This week we celebrate Dave’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! How thankful I am to have been part of their lives for a bit over 30 years thus far. Living in the embrace of their love for God, us and each other has been a journey of constancy and intentionality.

Julia and John have been another set of parents to me. My own mom raised us four children pretty much alone, finally leaving my biological father, without looking back. She later came close to God again and wondered if she’d stayed what might have happened. After a couple of visits, right after their divorce, that dad never came again…and we grew up knowing he didn’t love us.

[I’m very, very thankful for a step-dad, who I write about, who loved us as his own. So I do know the love of both a devoted mom and dad.]

With my own mom with the Lord, and my dad dealing with Alzheimer’s, I am grateful for all the years with my mom and the years still with Dad, wherever his mind will wander.

That being said, what a joy to also have Julia and John, my “in-loves” still together, hanging in there with each other and with us. Growing older is not an easy thing. All the vows we make in our weddings become all the more vital in the days when mind and body wear down. To see the kindnesses between these two, and their enduring love, patience, and regard for each other is such a witness to what marriage is meant to be…

They teach us and our children so much through how they have both celebrated and weathered life together – the weddings, the divorces of loved ones, the births, the deaths, the distances between us, and the seasons of all our lives. All the stamps in their passports to be with us overseas…so grateful for that. They have spent long days apart because of work in the early years, and long days together in a different work in the latter years. The interruptions of illnesses and accidents. The great grace they’ve known and lavished on us. Their faith in a God who never left them; never forsook them…ever.

Pictures will tell you more than my words…let them speak for me:

John - PopPop - Dave & MarkMomMom home with us in tennesseeMomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations4 GenerationsMomMom, PopPop, ChristieMomMom, PopPop, Aunt nancy & Uncle BobJulia & John w/ her sister, Nancy & husband Bob – four close  friends

MomMom & PopPop - WilliamsburgMomMom, PopPop, Christie, Nathan, DanielMomMom & PopPop youngerMomMom, PopPop, DaveMomMom & PopPop earlierMomMom & PopPop 2014 (2)PopPop & ChristieMomMom, Nathan, Daniel 2015PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)MomMom & PopPop with grandkids2015 June - Mills Family PictureThe Mills Family, 2015

60 years…of faithfulness, and honoring, and loving through sweet times and hard times. So glad to be part of this journey with them…to be family with them.MomMom PopPop Nancy BobMomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding annviersary - with Dave and Mark, Stacie, and meHappy 60th Anniversary, Dear Ones. You show us what love is and how it’s done across a lifetime.MomMom & PopPop - 60th wedding anniversary