Yesterday was a perfect Spring day around here. Sunny, warm, with a constant breeze. Today? Cold and rainy. Typical of the weather in Richmond, Virginia. Changeable.
I have spent the day cleaning and going through old boxes and footlockers. Consolidating. Organizing memory boxes for the kids. Feeling a bit lonely and nostalgic…coming across old pictures helped.
Then the rain and the looking back got me thinking about popovers. Steaming hot from the oven. I haven’t made them in over 20 years. In fact, it was only recently that I found a popover pan while thrifting one day and brought it home.
Popovers always take me back to a trip to Maine one summer in my 20s. With my dear friend, Paulette. We discovered a tearoom in the woods along the Maine coastline. Jordan Pond House.
Having the pan and a rainy day gave me the courage to try baking them again after all these years.
OK…a little bit scorched on top, but it took nothing away from how yummy they were…with blackberry preserves (strawberry for me), a bit of butter, coffee, and this dearest friend. Not bad for my first time in a long time.
Do you have any go-to foods for a lazy, lonesome Saturday? Please pop a comment below. Thank you for spending a bit of time with me, here.
Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.
1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy
For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist. That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know
the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.
For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.
The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.
[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]
Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.
2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.
Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.
What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.
3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.
Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).
I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.
…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.
4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr
Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.
Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.
Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):
G. Personal growth and well-being
I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.
V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.
E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.
R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.
S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.
Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.
When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.
That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6
My family didn’t start our lives going to church. I was probably 6 years old before God even came into much of our conversation or routines at home. By then, my mom had long felt the weight of caring for four kids by herself. My father (not the sweet step-dad I write about but my biological father)…my father just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. Unemployed and uncaring. By the time I started school, we had moved several times, and Mom finally divorced my dad (for my Mom at that point, weary and without hope, it was just “one less mouth to feed”).
When neighbors persisted in inviting us to church, we finally accepted their invitation. It was then that we discovered something bigger than what we’d known before. A God who loved us…even more than our Mom did…and her love was fierce. A God who truly cared for us and who had been there all along for us…and we just didn’t see it.
The church* through which we discovered God was a little congregation, situated between two small Southern towns. Those folks extended love to a wildish little family that had no upbringing in the whole God thing. We soaked it up – all the Bible stories, all the hymns about God’s character, and all the love.
When David Crowder sings, along with Tauren Wells, I am reminded of those early days in that church. My older brother and I got saved the first summer we were there. We were also baptized together in a sawmill pond. I remember singing songs on Sunday nights or during protracted revival services…songs that seemed to go on forever, or at least until the Spirit got hold of our hearts.
Crowder’s song All My Hope Is In Jesus reminds me of the songs of that day. The lyrics are full of sin and redemption…of where we once were, far from God, and need be no more…of lives changed when surrendered to the Savior. There’s a load of hope in those songs.Photo Credit: YouTube
Earlier this week, just driving back home from doing errands, some memories flashed back into my consciousness…memories of a rougher time in my life. A time when I had allowed myself to stray from the nearness of God and the hope He’d given me.
Those memories of a wayward time wrapped tightly around me, in that moment, like the bondage of sin I knew in those days. It was so real…and terrifying. The shame of it…and the deceit. For a season, I had believed lies and chose the world over the One who had chosen me.
Praise God…those memories, like the sins He forgave, are not today’s reality. Today, “all my sins are forgiven; I’ve been washed by the blood”.
If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7
If you will, worship with me the God who holds us, who forgives us, and forgets what separated us from Him. That yesterday is gone! Today we can be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…for us. [1 Peter 1:3-4]
I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to that river
And I ain’t the same, a prodigal returned
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood
I’m no stranger to the prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
I’ve been freed and forgiven (yes, I have)
I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood
There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord, but He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man
So I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone (it’s gone, yes)
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood
Friday has come and gone this week. These favorite finds of this week come to you in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Still…there were too precious to me to be lost to you. I hope you are encouraged in these finds.
1) The Legacy of Dr. Billy Graham – Pastor to US Presidents and faithful messenger of God’s Word – Billy Graham died this week at 99. Years ago, he had this to say about dying:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God. – Billy Graham (and also Dwight Moody previously)
I’ve known of Dr. Graham my whole life. When he was having one of his evangelistic crusades and it was televised, that’s what we watched, growing up. There was almost a reverence about those events – not idolizing him but an awareness and expectation that God would move in the hearts of people who heard the message of hope that Dr. Graham preached.
Dave and I, in our first year of marriage, were counselors at his Hartford, Connecticut crusade. Below is one of his sermons from that week’s events:
I wonder how many who are reading this also have memories of this man. This man who never turned from the God who loved him and called him to preach to the nations. This man who stayed faithful to God all the days of his life. If you have memories of Dr. Graham, please share them in the comments.
If you’re not a gamer, this may seem of little interest to you – the music from this game, even if it’s considered one of the greatest video games made. However, if you love guitar music, don’t miss this beautiful piece.
3) Teacher Villages – This week I heard of an innovative move on the part of the City of Newark, New Jersey. The problem that this city government was addressing was the loss of teachers, year after year. Apparently, finding affordable housing became such a financial barrier for teachers, they would take to leaving and moving to a more suburban school system.
Teachers Village is a huge enterprise built in downtown Newark. Within the multi-block complex, there is housing (marketed to teachers, in particular) as well as schools, shopping, and other retail and service sector elements.Photo Credit: Jersey Digs
This is helping to bring life back into the city schools of Newark…as well as the downtown neighborhoods.
Newark is just one of several cities investing in teachers by making housing available to them. How about where you live?
4) Black Panther – What a film! If you haven’t seen it yet, you will want to. Just to celebrate the people of this fictional yet fantastic place called Wakanda…and to celebrate the possibilities in our own real world.Photo Credit: Desiring God, Black Panther
In the movie, Wakanda is a fictional African homeland hidden from the rest of the world. It is uncolonized, technologically advanced, brimming with black excellence and beauty, industrious, mountainous, breathtaking. But the utopia itself, not the black superhero, hit an ancient ache that four hundred years in America hasn’t come close to soothing. We rally around superheroes like the Black Panther because we hope that they can lead us to Wakanda. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse
In God’s word, I learned that his Wakanda has borders that expand beyond cultural similarity. All nations, all tribes, all tongues share a common citizenship, an everlasting fellowship that unites irrevocably. And this reality has already begun.
In Christ, I can greet a teenager in the mountains of Guatemala as “my brother.” I can divulge my deepest pains to an elderly white woman as I ask her to pray for me. Marrieds commune with singles; the rich dine with the poor. The healthy church is a foretaste of the coming paradise where Jesus, our King, unites a people of differences. Our distinctions don’t disappear, but a greater reason for unity appears. This family is connected by better blood: his.
In God’s coming Wakanda, he offers something even greater than the world of Black Panther: a unity made perfect through diversity. The different colors will complete the painting. The different notes will strike the chord. The eye will join with the nose and the arm to make the body whole. In that place, union — not uniformity — will be the greater light. There, the temporary brotherhood of the Panther will be engulfed by the diverse and eternal oneness of the Lamb. – At Home in Wakanda – Greg Morse
I read a piece this week by this extraordinary young woman, Rachel Macy Stafford. She writes about being new in a situation and the anguish of trying to be a part of a group of women who were just plain not interested.
As she used the painful experiences as a teachable moment, she said:
Remember this when you are in familiar territory and someone new walks up looking for guidance.
Remember this when you see someone on the outskirts anxiously holding her own hand.
Remember this when someone approaches you and asks a question – see the bravery behind the words.
Remember this when you see someone stop trying – perhaps he’s been rejected one too many times.
Remember this when you see someone being excluded or alienated – just one friendly person can relieve the painful sense of feeling invisible.
Remember the deepest desire of the human heart is to belong … to be welcomed … to know you are seen and worthy of kindness.
With one invitation, we can take someone From outsider to insider From outcast to beloved member From unknown neighbor to coffee companion From wallflower to life-of-the-party From shortened life expectancy to 80 years of joy.
Here’s the link to her article in full. Don’t miss it.
Here is a lightning fast rundown of my favorite finds this week:
1)The Speech of a Great Leader – I wanted to quickly point you to Rams coach Sean McVay’s speech accepting the NFL award of 2017 Coach of the Year. He never made it about himself. He expressed gratitude for man after man in his organization (and also his mom and girlfriend). Great leaders make it about everybody else.
Also…just wanted to share this video of the Philadelphia Eagles:
2) Free USA3 – The Winter Olympic Games has its Opening Ceremony today. How beautiful to watch this display of international cooperation! To see all the athletes representing their nations is quite a sight. This year, as well as a few other times, North and South Korean athletes have walked together in the parade of nations. We will want to applaud.
Just yesterday, I was reminded of another sober reason not to celebrate. Three Americans are still being detained in North Korea. Businessmen. Educators. Americans. Held without reason. Sentenced without a trial to hard labor. Months ago…
Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, posted a video on Youtube about the plight of these three Americans.
Please do what you can if you are at the Olympics or on social media talking about the Olympics. Use #USA3 as a hashtag.Raise 3 fingers if you are present at the Games, when you cheer for our US athletes.
A Quote: “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” – James Baldwin
A Newly Discovered Product: Probably over 10 years ago, at Christmas time, in Cairo, Egypt, I attempted to make caramel. A Brazilian friend of mine told me how. Take unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk and cover them with water and heat on the stovetop for 3 hours. Really simple. Unless you fall back asleep after putting the turkey in the oven in the pre-dawn of a Christmas morning. At some point later, I awoke to a loud pop! On my way to the kitchen, another pop happened. When I arrived the white walls of our kitchen looked like the side of a Guernsey cow. The water had boiled out, and the cans had exploded. Golden brown caramel was splattered over every surface of the kitchen…on Christmas morning. I never made caramel again.
This was a lovely find this week:
and…Spring is coming:
Have a weekend of making memories with those you love. See you soon.
“…He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” – Psalm 78:5-8
“…they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward Him; they were not faithful to His covenant. Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained his anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh…” – Psalm 78:36-39
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23
When we are anything but steadfast, God remains so.
I read the verses above as part of my guided devotional reading (trying to get through the Bible in a year). God would act as judge, at times, with His people (those too-human children of Israel). More than not, however, He restrained Himself and continued to show mercy. This mercy borne out of a steadfast love.
I can’t read Lamentations 3:22-23 without an old praise chorus coming to mind. The lyrics of the song are the verses of Scripture themselves.
A memory of this song rises up, from years and years ago, when I was still in my 20s and single. I was sitting at the piano, at night, singing this song, over and over, in tears. Whatever was the reason for the tears is gone from my memory, but the deep sense of God’s love and mine, in return, for Him is still very much with me.
Worship with me, if you will…to this little chorus, repeating the great truth of God’s character.
In Psalm 78, God’s people are charged with remembering how He led the children of Israel out of captivity into the wilderness which would mean freedom for them. A land of their own possession. No longer slaves.
The psalmist also charges us to teach the next generation of God’s many acts of wonder on behalf of His children. We are also to warn them of how prone we are to settle for less than God…to settle for complacency and comfort. To seek for gods of our own making rather than the one true God.
God help us.
How thankful I am for the rock-solid steadfast nature of God’s love toward His people. How amazing is our God to show Himself, day by day, moment by moment…faithful, patient, steadfast. Perfectly loving a perfectly unlovely people. Praise His holy name!Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bible Verse Art
On Sunday, Pastor Cliff preached on thin places – those places and situations when the space between Heaven and earth is thin and God seems especially near. Moments when we experience that wonder and delight of God’s love in a powerful and physical way.
Do you remember a time? A time when you were held tightly, securely, by God? In the steadfastness of His love? Please share in the Comments below.
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.
Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.
Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.
Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.
If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.
Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.
Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.
If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2Corinthians 1:3–4
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually
Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.
Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!
This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.
1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?
2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.
Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.
I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).
3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.
[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]
[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]
4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna
5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous. I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.
That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.
A Quote from this week: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.” – Jack Kornfield
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.
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
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
“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