Category Archives: Mom and Dad

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads

Bonuses:

Gut Check Podcast – A podcast like no other – with Ted Kluck and Zach Bartles

Life On the Other Side – The Humbled Homemaker – Erin Odom

The Brain Benefits of Your Child’s Dinosaur Obsession – Kate Morgan

5 Friday Faves – Concerning Hobbits, Flag at Half Staff, Relational Shock Absorbers, Leader Smarts, and Making Family Happen

Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area,  we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.

1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.

This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.

I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:

“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest

[Beyond the Guitar is presently posting a video/week. Concerning Hobbits came out last Friday, and today, he published DESTINY 2: Journey – Classical Guitar Cover – check it out!!]

2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.

When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, again, our flag is at half staff. This time, in our state, it flies in mourning for those victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.

This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.

Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.

I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.  

Ordered on this, the 6th day of November, 2017. 

Sincerely,

Terence R. McAuliffe

3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.

What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Family Systems, Emotions, and Behaviors – Teach Through Love – Lori Petro

4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
Photo Credit: USDA
Schwantes makes a bold claim that the “smoking gun” of why too often employees leave their jobs – Employees are simply not valued as human beings.
He lists out 5 ways leaders (and all the rest of us) can demonstrate that we value employees (fellow volunteers, family members, fill-in-the-blank):
  • Invest in employees’ growth and development.
  • Create an environment of psychological safety.
  • Display the leadership strength of humility.
  • Share information.
  • Give them decision-making discretion.

Read more of Schwante’s insightful commentary here.

Want Your Boss to Be a Better Leader? Persuade Them to Try Any of These Top 5 Habits of Smart Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
 In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish People Try American Thanksgiving Food – Dustin Nelson [Despite brief politicalization, this video was so fun.]

Bonuses

The Instant Pot – Haven’t bought one yet but now I am – thanks to this blogger – family. life. organized.

Favorite quote of the week:  Focus is finding a big “Yes” and saying “No” a thousand times.John R. Bell

Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Off Our Masks – Greg Richardson

Free T-shirt in the mail today – Emory Cares International Service Day

5 Friday Faves – Super Mario Brothers, Great Television, Not Hoarding, Thrifting, and Simple Pleasures

As I write the sun’s going down on another work week. Friday came and has almost gone as the days shorten in Fall. Before the day passes into the weekend, here are my favorite finds of the week.

1) Super Mario Brothers – Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, Nintendo is releasing its latest version of the popular video game series: Super Mario Brothers Odyssey.  Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has played these games for much of his life. So many memories.

When he arranges and performs some of composer Koji Kondo‘s themes, you will hear the love and sweet nostalgia, in his playing.   Check it out.

2) Great Television – So many viewing options these days with cable channels, Netflix, etc. It is amazing to me how many great shows are on TV right now, without us viewers having to be bombarded with vulgar language, and so much sex and violence. Three of my absolute favorite shows are on the regular networks. They are The Good Doctor (ABC), This Is Us (NBC), and Blue Bloods (CBS). Photo Credit: Facebook, International Business NewsCBS

The writers on these shows really seem to know their audiences.  Intelligent, touching, and riveting stories. I’m not going into all the reasons why these shows are favorites today, but I would love to know why you love these or other shows (please share in the Comments below).

3) Not Hoarding – In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on a project that has required much manpower and discernment. It relates to clearing out a much-loved property left “as is”, in order for the next occupants to use the space. The word “hoarding” has been thrown around several times, and I’d like to address the use of that word in today’s culture. Actual hoarding is a painful, psychologically and socially debilitating disorder.

About Hoarding Disorder – Stanford Medicine – Rodriguez Lab

To call anyone a hoarder is insensitive. It’s not a word that should be used casually to judge people. What some would call hoarders are actually resourceful, frugal, or innovative.

Financial planner Amy Jo Lauber posted a great piece on this:
There’s a Fine Line Between Being Resourceful and Being a HoarderOn the surface, some could appear to be hoarders, but their reasons for holding onto things make a difference. My mom and dad had two sheds full of tools and treasures when Mom died. As we cleared out those sheds, I was reminded of her reasons for having the things she had in storage – it was always to bless others. She didn’t hold onto things because they gave her some measure of comfort or stability. They were in storage and in transition, on their way to others…and she just didn’t get to finish. After she died, Dad began going through his tools and did give most of them away to family members and friends.

It’s easy to just judge people as hoarders if you don’t know them well. A key to determining if it’s not hoarding is to look for margin. Are there chairs to sit in and room to maneuver in your home or that of your friends and family? Is the kitchen usable? Can you park cars in the garage (of course, the garage is sometimes used for storage? Are material things barriers to relationships or are they just stuff?

The Psychology Behind Hoarding: When Does Cluttered Turn Into Hoarding? – Gregory L. Jantz

Stuff management requires from its owner time and energy. However, so does shopping (and the finances) for replacements for the things discarded.

To judge others based on how they deal with their stuff can be as misguided as the old addiction of trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. However, we would be just as culpable if we negatively judge those who don’t hold onto things. I hope this makes sense; I’m wrestling with it this week…wanting to understand both sides.

HoardingNot hoardingPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr

Americans Are Pack Rats. Swedes Have the Solution: ‘Death Cleaning’ – Jura Koncius

[Sorry for the rant…words mean things.]

4) Thrifting – Don’t you love discovering great finds in thrift stores? This sort of thing goes along with “not hoarding” as we reuse, repurpose, recycle. Here’s a sweet story about thrifting. One of my favorite thrift shops is West End Thrift in Richmond, Virginia. It’s just been open since the Spring of 2017. When it first opened, one of the promotions was new wedding dresses at thrift store prices.Photo Credit: Facebook

The story goes that these dresses were donated by a consignment shop owner who was retiring. She apparently had final ownership of the dresses and gave them to West End Thrift. I was only in the store once when a young woman took advantage of this great deal. She had been in the store in the Spring and had seen a dress she loved… but didn’t buy it (for whatever reasons). More recently she dropped back by, and inquired if it was still available (doubting such a possibility). The dress was still there and fit her beautifully. Here’s this lovely young woman, and a handful of store volunteers, and about the same number of customers – who in that moment were like her moms, sisters, and friends. Complete with tears and picture-taking. What we pass on to a thrift store often becomes someone else’s affordable find. Love it!

5) Simple Pleasures – Lastly, can I just go on a minute about the simple pleasures of life? God is so kind to give most moments – and even days – of complete joy. Often, these pleasures require no special planning nor a ton of resources. They are just part of this amazing gift of life. Here are a few of mine from this week:

  • Visits with grandchildren (if you don’t have any yourself, borrow some – their moms would probably be grateful to share).

Photo Credit: Max Pixels

  • Brie and bacon with my coffee one morning. Perfect.
  • Fall sunsets – I do NOT know the meteorological phenomenon but the sunsets this time of year are indescribably beautiful.
  • An invitation, a revelation, a walk or drive with a friend, a surprise opportunity, a quiet evening, a cause for laughter, an occasion to serve with hard work – joys of this week.
  • A perfect treat. There was a time in my life that this would be Hershey’s Kisses (milk chocolate traditional, no other flavors needed).  It is the perfect chocolate.Photo Credit: Flickr

Ironically, I’m not eating chocolate anymore…but here’s what’s weird and lovely. Steam cauliflower, then apply just the right amount of butter and parmesan cheese…and it suffices nicely. Seriously.

So hope you have a wonderful weekend – with all the delights of the Fall season. Be kind to yourself and each other. Comment below what some of your favorites are…and add to our delight.

Bonuses:

12 Podcasts That Will Make You a Better Leader – Lolly Daskal

No One Warned Me About This Weird Season of Motherhood – Vanessa Hunt

9 Surefire Signs Your Colleagues Are Toxic – Marcel Schwantes

Could “Factory Man” Still Be a Catalyst for Eco-tourism? – Beth Barton

When Daddy goes to work, our grandson can still see him through his music videos (Thanks, B, for posting):

5 Friday Faves – Braveheart and Classical Guitar, Inheriting Our Parents’ Traits and Trauma, Destination Addiction, Confederate Monuments, and Lunch with Seniors

Friday! Yes…the weekend is upon us and the start of Fall. Hope you’ve had a week full of grace. What a season of hurricanes and earthquakes and wars and rumors of war! We hold onto God and each other, and perspective comes much more readily.

Here are five of my favorite discoveries this week, as well as a few bonuses at the end. Hope you’re encouraged and positively emboldened in the reading below.

1) Braveheart and Classical Guitar – The 1995 Mel Gibson film Braveheart moved the hearts of all who saw it. Braveheart was an epic telling of Scotland’s fight for freedom from England into the 13th century. Historical accuracy wasn’t a goal of the filmmakers, but grandeur of the clashing battlefronts was riveting.I couldn’t watch every frame because of the medieval war violence and the grisly execution of William Wallace (played by Gibson). Photo Credit: Fanpop

My family is Scottish with both Wallace and Bruce in our family tree. When son Nathan of Beyond the Guitar arranged a medley of the beautiful James Horner soundtrack, I told him he should wear a kilt for the video… No kilt, but gorgeous themes bringing back the intense emotion of the film. Made me want to see Braveheart all over again. Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Here’s the YouTube video of Beyond the Guitar’s Braveheart. Lovely.

2) Inheriting Our Parents’ Traits and Trauma – My whole life people have told me, “You look just like your mother.” That was fine by me because I loved her deeply and thought she was beautiful.

As I’ve grown older, it’s not just looks but actions that also are a part of my link with my mom. Even though she is no longer with us, I will do things or react in certain ways that remind me of Mom.

April Dembosky has written a piece on intergenerational transfer of trauma. It is entitled Just Like Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and Tragedies.

Just Like My Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and Tragedies

Dembosky writes about a Vietnamese family immigrating to the US after enduring war trauma. She described vividly how the struggles a parent endures can be transferred to the children in the ways they also react to adverse situations and their coping mechanisms.

Love Your Neighbors – The Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Deb Mills Writer

Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.

My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight. I see that also in myself.

Children of Alcoholics and Addicts Have PTSD – Leslie Glass

3) Destination Addiction – No it’s not about our next vacation, but destination addiction is very much about whether or not we can find contentment in our day-to-day life. Robert Holden, a British psychologist, writes and speaks about the pursuit of happiness.

To be honest, I’m not taken with all Holden says about happiness or contentment, but destination addiction is something to avoid, for sure. When we long for that next thing…whether it is the vacation, or next job, or next house, or even next relationship…we cease to live in the present. This addiction, like all others, is never satisfied.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

If this is a struggle for you, and it sure has been for me at various seasons of my life, recognize it and deal with it. Sure, we can look forward to the “something new’s” in our life, but not to the exclusion of what is real and valuable and not-to-be-missed right now.

The links below are quick reads and excellent helps.

Destination Addiction – Edie Weinstein

Do You Have Destination Addiction? – Gabrielle Treanor

The Search for Happiness – a Brief Look at ‘Destination Addiction’ – Mark D. Griffiths

4) Confederate Monuments – Richmond, Virginia is a city steeped in American Civil War history…a history that has come sharply under fire recently. There has been a clarion call to take down the monuments to the Confederacy. Whether those monuments come down or not in the days ahead, the conversation spurred across cultural lines is crucial. The voices of those most marginalized by present-day racism must be heard. Five Richmond young people visited Monument Ave. recently, and their response might surprise you.Photo Credit: Richmond Cycling Corps, Facebook

Reporter Matthew Chaney‘s post revisted a Facebook post by Richmond Cycling Corps. Daquan, one of the five teenagers, wrote brilliantly their collective response on seeing the statues of Confederate generals displayed on Monument Ave.

“Everybody’s pointing blame at Monument Avenue and the statues that reside there, but those statues never did anything to me or people that I care about,” he wrote. “The only thing that ever harmed people in low-income areas is the violence that resides there.”

“Instead of using money to knock down statues that most people in low-income areas never even seen, how about using that money to improve schools, fix up the community that we see every day, or why not protest in our neighborhoods where we see violence and hate the most.”

Read the entire post as Daquan raises the more crucial issues of violence, hunger, poor schooling, and hopelessness they see every day in their Richmond community.

The monuments may still come down in the attempt to deal with the racism in this city. What is needed more is this 17y/o man’s counsel.

5) Lunch with Seniors – This is not about taking high school or college students to lunch. That would be much appreciated, I’m sure…but this is about going to lunch with those older ones in our lives. It’s what neighbor friends of ours did earlier this week, taking a 91 y/o widower out to lunch at his favorite restaurant.

Seminary professor Chuck Lawless gives 12 Reasons to Have Lunch With a Senior Citizen or a Bunch of Them. Some of the reasons include how much we can learn from those more experienced than us, how funny they can be, how they also need encouragement, and how they will sometimes pray for us.

It doesn’t take much sorting out to see the value in such an interruption to our day. Thankfully those older than us also understand the value of such times together…for them and for us. All we have to do is make that phone call…stepping out of the comfort zone of texting. So worth it.

That’s my five. How about you? Please share in the Comments something you’ve gleaned from this week. Have a weekend that replenishes your soul. Be kind to yourself and those around you.

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