Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Monday Morning Moment – Home – The Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware

[From the Archives – Vacation Week]

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one long, breathtakingly beautiful ride (a bit scary, too, if you’re not so keen about heights or deep water)…and it is the way home for us… The Eastern Shore of Maryland was my husband’s childhood home, and for the past 30 years, it has become another home to me. There’s nowhere else across the USA quite like the Eastern Shore.

After the up and over bridge experience, we find ourselves cradled on both sides of the road by sprawling farms teeming with life.Blog - Eastern Shore FarmI always want to stop and have a closer look, but our need to push on to get “there” keeps me in the car, pressed against the glass, watching the grain fields look a blur, as we pass quickly by. I wonder, looking out at each passing farm, what’s going on in that house; what the farmer is doing right then; what’s ready to be harvested or what crop will be sown next.

The land is flat, and you can see far and away the various crops planted and growing alongside the Bay and the wetlands. There are also more inland stretches, where the acres of grain, corn, and truck crops are watered, during dry times, by irrigation systems that stand as tall sentinels across the fields.WP_20140614_006

The seasons are marked by what is happening in the field. It’s mid-June now, and “Locally Grown” signs pepper the side of the highway. Strawberry season is fast over, and pumpkins will be planted in some of those fields soon. Right now, we can look forward to asparagus, sweet peas, early melons and tomatoes…maybe even the first peaches of the season.

PeachMine were delicious.

The pace of life slows considerably for us, after arriving at Dave’s parents’ home. It seems like all we do, on the Eastern Shore is eat, nap, and catch up on family stories. Yet, it is not so for the farmers in this rural part of the country.

The fields are always turning over from one crop to the next. I can’t tell the difference, but it’s not all wheat growing golden in the fields. Rye, barley, and wheat are all sown at various times on the Eastern Shore. Soybeans, too. Then there’s the corn. It is in its own special category of goodness. Right now, the dark-green leafy stalks are only knee- to waist-high, but in a few more weeks of warm summer sun, you can almost hear it grow. And I have never eaten sweeter corn than that pulled fresh from the fields of the Eastern Shore.

My husband’s family, for generations, has made their home east of the Chesapeake Bay, either in Maryland or Delaware. Our children have deep and enduring memories of vacations there – on the fishing docks of the Chesapeake or the sands of Ocean City, riding inner tubes on the river behind their uncle’s boat, picking out steamed crabs on newspaper on hot summer nights, playing hard in the winter snow or at games on the long dining room table, falling asleep on the living room floor at MomMom’s & PopPop’s, with cousins all around.  And cooking out altogether, the dads tending the grill and the rest of us talking and laughing in the kitchen. If it’s possible to eat our way through the seasons on the Eastern Shore, we have.WP_20140613_012

I am struck at how much life we experience, in a few short days, at home on the Eastern Shore. Family, work, play, stories…life. Farms are never still. There are always different crops to plant and bring in. Animals to feed, and young ones to nurture along. Families are also changing with the seasons. Our parents turn into grandparents and great-grands. Our children grow up and don’t get to make the trip as often to the Eastern Shore as they did as youngsters in the backseat of our car. Between schooling, work, and blending families in marriage, it’s hard to get everything in, and I see the challenge for them.

My hope is that in the crazy pull of daily life, we never forget our way home…us or our children, to my family’s home in Georgia, or to the Eastern Shore…in time for the summer corn.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 163

A Panorama View of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Harvest Time on the Farm – Eastern Shore, MD – Youtube Video

Farm Fresh on the Eastern Shore

Eastern Shore of Virginia – “If You Throw Seeds on the Ground, They Will Grow”

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Outpouring of a Thankful Heart

Photo credit: Womensministry.net

Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.

Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.

This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.

Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us.  A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.

Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.

For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.

So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).

  1. Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
  2. 1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
  3. Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
  4. Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
  5. A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
  6. Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
  7.  Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
  8. A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
  9. Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
  10. A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
  11. The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
  12. Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.

I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.

Worship with me to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (sung by the David Crowder Band):

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.

Hallelujah!

How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.

Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Counting Your Blessings – 21 Inspirational Bible Verses – Bible Reasons – Fritz Chery

Come Thou Fount – Wikipedia article – interesting notation of the various lyric changes/additions

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount – A Faithful God to an Unfaithful People – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – I Wanna Go Back – David Dunn

Did Robert Robinson Wander…as He Feared? – Dan Graves

You Tube Video of The Aeolians of Oakwood University singing Come Thou Fount, with directors Dr. Lloyd Mallory and Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand Don’t miss this!

Blog - Aeolians - cassmacenterprisePhoto Credit: Cassmacenterprise

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

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

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

Photo Credit: The Power of Ideas, Ideapod

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube Video – LoveParenting: Minimalism – the only 10 TOYS you “need”

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

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children

YouTube Video – Raising Children – Jeff Foxworthy

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

Macarona Bechamel

KoshariPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

Basbousa (Coconut Yogurt Semolina Cake)Photo Credit: Flickr

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

Bonus: Spotlight Syria

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

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