Tag Archives: cancer

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Worship Wednesday – We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

Photo Credit: ABC News

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.Hebrews 12:28

The longer we live, the more we have those stop-you-in-your-tracks, breath-catching experiences. Those “Do you remember where you were when……?” moments . Those consummately positive memories like our wedding day, the birth of a grandchild, or that time a guitarist son‘s music video goes viral.

These are not the experiences that take us to our knees (except in gratitude, for sure). What shakes our core are times we are faced with something so devastating we fear we cannot recover – a cancer diagnosis, the death of someone dear, or even what could have just happened in our lives this week.

When the San Francisco Earthquake of 1989 struck, it shook (literally and metaphorically) that community in California…and all of our nation. We had grown quite accustomed to a safe and settled America. A time of relative peace before the wars began again. Since then, we have had so many natural and international shakings, we wonder if the ground will ever again be still under our feet.

John Piper, after hearing the news of the 1989 earthquake, preached comfort and truth on the unshakeable Kingdom of God. As he started speaking, he prayed:

O Father in heaven, it’s times like this in the life of a nation when the voice of the Lord needs to be heard, and you have much to say, and we have little time in which to say it. So come, Father, boil everything down to the bare essentials, sharpen the arrow of your Word, may it sink home to do its appointed work of mercy in the lives of every person here. I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.John Piper

The Christian group Building 429 well describes our experience as Christ-followers when faced with confusing and faith-shaking times. In the song We Won’t Be Shaken, we are reminded of the great truth that whatever we face in this culture and the larger world around us, God is always in the mix. God’s purposes are never thwarted and His love and mercies will help us stand, even when the earth shakes all around us. This is not platitude. We know it, because we’ve experienced it. We know God, because we’ve experienced Him…with us. In the darkness and in the shaking.

Worship with me.

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know you go before me
And I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
This way seems so unclear
But I know that you go with me
I will trust in you

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
Oooh Oh Oh
No we won’t be shaken

You know my every longing
You’ve heard my every prayer
You’ve held me in my weakness
Cause you are always there
So I’ll stand in full surrender
It’s your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than you and you alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come my way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won’t be shaken
No we won’t be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken

(3x)
We will trust in you
We will not be moved
We will trust in you*

Take time to read the transcript of Piper’s sermon. He closes with this appeal to those in his hearing who  do not yet know the God of the unshakeable kingdom:

Receive the kingdom that cannot be shaken. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you receive the kingdom like a little child, you will never enter it.” See how simple it is? What does “a little child” mean? It means you humble yourself and recognize that you can’t make a place for yourself to stand. You can’t cut it in life and make the future what it needs to be. You just humble yourself like a little child. You recognize that there’s a Father in heaven. You see the gift offered through his Son Jesus Christ—forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life and a firm kingdom that can’t be shaken—you extend your hands and say, “Sinner though I am, I receive it. This is now my portion forever and ever.” – John Piper

Photo Credit: Mariel Davenport

Lyrics to We Won’t Be Shaken by Building 429

YouTube Video – K-Love – Building 429 – We Won’t Be Shaken – LIVE

A Kingdom That Can Not Be Shaken – John Piper

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”Revelation 5:11-12

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – Jesus – John 16:33

Chris Tomlin is a songwriter and worship leader. He writes for worshipers…and has since he was 14.  My own worship life with God has been strongly influenced by Tomlin and his collaborators.

The song, I Will Rise, is a lyric that personalizes the experience of a Christ-follower laying this life down for the next. When our dad died recently, we were comforted by the truth of this song as we thought of what Dad must be experiencing entering Heaven. No more sorrow. No more pain.

Just as Chris Tomlin’s song I Will Rise gives us a sweet glimpse of Heaven, Ann Voskamp’s books point us to the beauty of life here…even when broken. Author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, she has written another very different book. Raw in its honesty and transparency, this book The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life delves deep into brokenness. Uncomfortably deep. Yet, that is where we find healing.Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

At the age of 16, Ann was broken…grieving the little sister who died suddenly, missing her mother in her own world of mental illness, and her father, though near physically but far into his own dark thoughts. To even feel anything, Ann….this exquisitely beautiful girl with the brightest of futures on her horizon….sank into harming herself, through cutting. The Broken Way reveals all this brokenness and more…yet with the loveliness of God’s provision in brokenness…His own good brokenness.

Years later, a long way down the road from her own childhood, Ann writes about a dark day as a mom. Her farmer husband drew her close to him and responded in this way:

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right?…The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory…Never be afraid of being a broken thing.” [p. 25, The Broken Way]

Photo Credit: Melanie S. Pickett

We all have some measure of brokenness…as I turn the pages of Ann’s book, I realize we can’t compare our broken with another’s. God meets us in the darkest places…I know that from my own experience and seeing it, over and over, in the lives of others. Like Ann Voskamp. Reaching up our hand, we find God reaching down.

Watching Dad in the last year of his life…his Alzheimer’s taking more and more of his memory, and his cancer roaring out of remission…God was there. To experience the grace in those days…with Dad…and to watch family members and friends rally around him…was seeing God move in close to him…and to us.

In the brokenness of Dad’s life in those last days, we saw God’s glory shine through the cracks and imperfections of age and illness. In our brokenness, serving Dad in our weakness, God gave us more love, more grace, more strength…than we ever had before.

Back around to Tomlin’s song, I Will Rise. In death…and in life, we have this anthem.  What confidence, joy, and peace are ours in Him. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: The Gingham Apron

Worship with me.

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise*

*Lyrics and Chords to I Will Rise – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, and Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin Talks About I Will Rise

YouTube Video – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin (Live)

YouTube Video – Laura Story – Open Hands (Lyric Video) ft. Mac Powell

YouTube Video – The Broken Way – A Daring Path into the Abundant Life – Take the Dare

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – DebMillsWriter

Love Your Neighbor – the Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend a screening of the film Resilience. This documentary introduces the health issue of Adverse Childhood Experiences* (ACEs) and how, if unchecked, lead to adulthood diseases and dysfunction. This was both alarming and eye-opening for me. A closely related issue had already captured my interest – Trauma Healing – involving intervention with children and adults displaced and wounded by wars, famine, and other calamities.

The long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences was first identified in a huge and significant study done in the 90’s by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda. You can read more of the study, but the main take-away for me is that children who experienced trauma, and do not experience informed intervention, will have compounded health issues through their adult life.

Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, had this observation: “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Drs. Felitti and Anda developed a short 10-question questionnaire which can be used by any one of us to identify risks in our children or self-identify high risk. After watching the film, I came home and decided to take the ACE quiz to see what my numbers were. My numbers were low.

Take the ACE Quiz and Learn What It Does and Doesn’t Mean.

[PDF of 10-question ACE Quiz]

However, looking longer at the quiz, I thought of my mom (whose childhood – growing up in poverty with an alcoholic and abusive father – was very different from mine). Even though my childhood had some adversity, Mom buffered our lives from some stresses we would have experienced. I also thought of others in my family and among our friends who have had to endure much tougher childhoods. They are all adults now, so I wondered what their options were to reverse some of the trauma and build resilience. This research and the trauma-informed care that has developed out of it give tremendous hope.

There are so many resources now available to us to heal and help others heal. One of the young pioneers in this field is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Here is a bit of her take on the issue of ACEs and their impact on adult health:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and faux patient (for the photo)

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass. – Jane Ellen Stevens, Aces Too High

[TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris]

If you are like me, you will want to learn more and be a part of trauma-informed care, you can search for local agencies to help. In our city, we have a cooperative called Greater Richmond Trauma-Informed Community Network. I am looking forward to taking advantage of training and volunteering through this agency.

This may be very new knowledge for you. It was for me. Huge “light-bulb” experience. There are children out there put on medication for ADHD when (after further evaluation) are struggling to attend in the classroom because they are chronically on edge (as Dr. Harris defined with the constant threat of an attacking bear).  What a difference could be made in these children’s lives if their stressors are properly confirmed and then counseling for them and education for their parents/other support adults are initiated.

To think about how children who have been traumatized will still bear that trauma through their adult lives and bodies is unthinkable. Now that we know better.

Have a look at the ACEs Quiz. Pour over the infographics.  Learn from the links below.  Think about your own situation and that of those you love or serve (in a classroom, community/medical setting, faith-based institution). Then act…it could mean longer and higher quality of life. Resilience and healing can come out of this.

In closing, I would love to hear something of your take on all this. What did you discover in taking the ACEs quiz? What was your score?

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Photo Credit: Donna Jackson Nakazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic

*Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Life-long Consequences of Trauma – The American Academy of Pediatrics

Resilience the Film

TED Talk – How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nagazawa

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard of, Part 3 – Jane Ellen Stevens

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – CDC

Infographic – Road to Resilience – 10 Ways to Build Resilience – Mercy Family Counseling

Photo Credit: Pinterest

New Year’s Day – Rewind – Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry

Blog - Mom's funeral“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

It’s New Year’s Day – the first day of 2017. Yet, this Christmas was altered with the death of our father. All the observances of family gathering and celebrating his life sidelined some of Christmas for us. There just wasn’t room in our hearts for both. This leaves me, on New Year’s Day, not quite ready to close Christmas for 2016…including savoring the memories, not just of Dad, but of Mom as well.

[Following adapted from a previous blog]

It’s been 14 Christmases since Mom died. With all the joy that’s wrapped up in the great gift of being her daughter, there is that mix of sadness, especially at Christmas. I miss her still. After 14 years.

This Christmas, we have two wee grandchildren. What a gift again are these little ones. I knew it would be so from all around me with grandchildren…and I knew it first because of the deep joy her grandchildren brought to Mom.

When we boarded a plane, over 20 years ago, taking 3 of those grandchildren overseas, there were tears all around. We would miss so many Christmases together. Joy and sadness are a strange mixture but a deeply human, common experience. Common to us all.

As we celebrate the wonder of Christmas – the birth of the Messiah, the Savior – we know penetrating joy, infusing and informing all else in our lives. Entangled in that joy are the sorrows – the family we won’t have with us this year, the disappointments we never imagined, the loves in our life fighting to live to another Christmas.

So many stories we bring to the table with us. So many longings are unwrapped along with the gifts under the tree. There is an unspeakable silence in the Silent Night of Christmas… Both the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ and the ache of dealing with what is not yet.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other in the sorrow and the joy… We are all together in this very human in-between.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? …But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all. But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness.” – Mary Carver

Blog - When Christmas is Hard - Holley Gerth - 90.5 PERPhoto Credit: Positive Hits PER

Singer/songwriters Mandisa and Matthew West collaborated on the song Christmas Makes Me Cry. It’s not a worship song but more a narrative on our lives. Still, it takes us to the God of all comfort.

Worship with me as we pause a moment in this celebration of Christmas and reflect on the side of it that brings tears, either on the inside…or out…tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

I think of loved ones who’ve passed away
And I pray they’re resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder why it’s them instead of me
But for my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family, I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
‘Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that’s why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness and tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me
Oh, sometimes Christmas makes me
Christmas makes me cry
Christmas makes me cry *

YouTube Video – Christmas Makes Me Cry – With Lyrics

*Lyrics to Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Jason & ChristmasMundane Faithfulness Podcast with Blythe Hunt as Jason talks about  community-building, grief, processing loss with children, and his first Christmas without Kara.

Just Drop the Blanket by Jason Soroski

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad At His Passing – Grateful to God

Papa on 90th

In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. – Proverbs 14:26

Our dad, George Thomas McAdams, died on Christmas Day. Less than a month before his 94th birthday. He’d been persevering through both cancer and Alzheimer’s for a long time. He died at home with my brother and sister-in-law. When Dad’s condition had deteriorated such that he couldn’t stay in this beautiful assisted living situation he had, these two brought him home with them. They would care for him during “the long goodbye” of both diseases he had.

The hospice team said 3 weeks…it would be three months. I will always be grateful to my family for caring for Dad so well. My multiple trips coming in to assist probably helped me more than them…but those trips are done.

Now we gather and he’s gone.

We are just beginning to grieve fully. In recent years, we grieved by degrees as he lost parts of his memory and and his independence – both of which served him well for most of his long life.

I’ve written about Dad other times. The following glimpse of his life is adapted from a previous blog. [I left the “present tense” verbs…he was…and he is…and we will see him again in Heaven.]

Born in 1923, Dad was six years old at the start of the Great Depression. He would have to drop out of school in the 6th grade to help his father with their farm. He worked alongside his little sister and marveled how she seemed to always pick more cotton than he did in a day. A mischief was born in my dad in those days that continues today. When he and his sister talk about these lean years growing up, they both have such a joy in them remembering those days. This sweet aunt also has Alzheimer’s, and although her memory, like Dad’s, has worsened, her personality continues to be untouched, again like Dad’s. It’s such a joy for me to see her face light up when Dad remembers a story that she also remembers. Blog - Dad & Aunt Rosie[Dad with his beloved little sister Rosie – both with Alzheimer’s in their last years, both dying within months of each other]

Dad only finished 6th grade, but he schooled himself in life, learning farming from his dad, and then in the years since, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work. To me, he could always do anything.

As a teen, he went with the Civilian Conservation Corps and  worked on various road and park projects with other young men. Then he joined the Army during World War II. He fought in the Hedgerow (or Hedge Grove) Battles of Normandy with the 315th Infantry. He was a machine gunner and worked with a rocket launcher team. When we were younger, Dad wouldn’t talk about the war, but in his elder years, and until Alzheimer’s dulled his memory of details, he would tell us about those days. He even once had a brief conversation with General George Patton. His stories sent me searching for details about those battles. Amazing stories.Dad in Military - BLog

He married very young and has 5 children from his first marriage. [They have their own stories and memories which make Dad’s passing hard as well.] Some years later, when he married my mom, he took on her four children.  He’s the only dad I’ve ever known. I’m so grateful for his love, and work ethic, and determination in life. He and mom made a good team. The years of growing up with them married were the years that I learned about Jesus and became a Christ-follower.Blog - Debbie, Mom, & Dad (2)

Dad always had a servant heart. If he wasn’t out on a service truck somewhere helping someone, he was on the phone, talking someone through how to fix something. Like I said, he loved to work, and never minded calls from family, friends, neighbors who needed him.Dad - Blog

He and my mom would do a lot of serving together. They were very active in their church and also had a special heart for widows and the elderly. Their home was always open to people who needed a good meal or an encouraging word. Mom and Dad cared for her older brother and wife, as well as an elderly friend. Two grandchildren also lived with them for awhile, along with their dad (my oldest brother) during a difficult time of his own.Mom pictures for website 014aMom and Dad traveled overseas together to see other grandchildren (that would be our children) while we were living in Egypt and then in Tunisia. Then Mom was diagnosed with cancer and for the three years she endured that disease, Dad was right there for her. We were home the last year, and as hard as it was for all of us having to say goodbye to Mom, we were so touched by the sweet love they had through all of it. Dad would come twice more to see us, while we lived in Morocco, before he put his passport away.Dad - 2009 - Blog - Checkers

Dad has always been a character. Until his health started flagging (having had two cancers and severe cardiac issues), he was remarkably strong for his age. He says it’s from all the hard work he did all his life, and I believe him. He loves the Atlanta Braves (especially the years of Chipper Jones) and Southern Gospel music (the Gaither’s, in particular). I have never beat him in checkers. In fact, the only one who I knew could beat him was Mom. We don’t play checkers any more because when his memory started dimming, I didn’t want to take the chance that I might win. It would be so wrong.Dad & some of the grands on his 90th bday - Blog

He LOVES his grandchildren and great-grands. Full stop.  Blog - Dad & grandchildren - Jaden

Before his eyesight worsened, he read the Bible most days (studying his Sunday School lesson) and he read the newspaper every day. He loved to go out to  eat – fried fish, okra, chicken livers (emphasis on fried) and hot dogs at The Varsity. He had coffee every morning and loved whatever anyone set before him (his favorite being a sausage egg biscuit from Martin’s). The servers all knew him at his favorite local restaurants, and it was fun just sitting across from him, as they came around to wait our table and just to talk. He preferred Ford pickup trucks and always wanted a red one (his last truck would be a red pickup but this time a Dodge Ram). He had a poster of a red Ford truck on his bedroom wall for as long as I can remember. Blog - Dad or Papa - red Ford pickup truck (2)

At 92, Dad entered assisted living. Dad, Steph, & I with Mr. Wally at assisted living - Blog

All the family, his pastor, and friends would make it a good transition for him. He will make a place for himself there, and we will all come see him and tell the stories back to him that he’s told us all these long years.

2013 January Papa's 90th Birthday - Dad sleeping - BLog (2)

 I have a little of Dad’s mischief in me because one of the things I do that annoys my family is to take pictures of them when they’re napping. Just like we love to watch children sweetly sleeping, that’s what moves me to capture these images. There in the middle of all his loud family gathered happily for his 90th birthday, Dad nods off. Maybe because of all the cake he put away (did I mention his sweet tooth?)…but more so, I think he sleeps safe in the sweet company of those who love him.

Finally, I love his hands. He used to have rough, work-worn hands. Strong and capable. Now, they are soft…and not so strong. That doesn’t matter. They are still beautiful…and now we hold his hands, like he once held ours. How thankful we all are that he’s still with us…in this different season of life.Dad's hands edited - Blog

With the ravages of cancer, his age maybe, and Alzheimer’s Disease, Dad became very small before he died. Still amazingly strong, but small. Never mind that. We celebrate this man across the long years God gave him.  He’s had a very large life.

Understanding Alzheimer’s in 3 Minutes (video)

Alzheimer’s Disease – Caregiver Advice by Marie Marley, Author of Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy

5 Tips for Talking with a Person who has Alzheimer’s

Website for The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care by Virginia Bell & David Troxell

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy Mace & Peter Rabins

Poem – I Am Standing Upon the Seashore – Henry Van Dyke

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How thankful I am for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have certainly experienced that kind of love through you.

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

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

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5 Friday Faves – God, Zelda’s Lullaby, Tommy Emmanuel, the Long Goodbye, and a Beautiful Fall

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Friday, again! This will be a fast one. I am actually finishing writing this on my phone today. Between travel and more meetings than usual, there’s been little time at my writing desk. So here are my favorites this week.

1) God – Courage….. Every day I am grateful to know God…There are weeks, like this one, that I am even more grateful for the sovereignty of a good God. Margaret Nyman writes a beautiful blog on getting through whatever hard we find ourselves. In “Hand in Hand“, she talks about the reach of God into our lives and circumstances. A widow – who also, with her husband, endured a terrible economic loss – writes about the presence of God with her.blog-michelangelo-god-and-adam-getting-through-thisPhoto Credit: Michelangelo, Getting Through This

“When I [the apostle John writing here] saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’ ” (Revelation 1:17-18)

God is not surprised by our situation.  As we look to Him, He will give grace…and make  a way through the hard.

2) Zelda’s LullabyNathan Mills this week posted his latest arrangement on YouTube. The Legend of Zelda: Zelda’s Lullaby Classical Guitar Cover is another beautiful entry for me into the surprising world of gaming musical themes. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterSo lovely. Great for helping babies (and the rest of us) relax into a sleepy state. His latest is linked below. He performs these live on krue.TV.

3) Tommy Emmanuel – Speaking of guitar and live music, my husband’s favorite guitarist (after Nathan) is Tommy Emmanuel. We are so excited that he’s coming to Richmond, Va. in March 2017. If you ever have a chance to hear him perform, don’t miss it. blog-tommy-emmanuel-guitarPhoto Credit: WFPK

4) The Long Goodbye – These days, I travel a lot to Atlanta to spend time with my dad. Between Alzheimer’s and cancer, he is winding down. Very thankful for his caregivers there, as he has moved from assisted living into the home of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad sleeps a lot, but when he wakes up it is such a delight for all of us to see the spark in his eyes and hear his intelligence, humor, and sweetness break through the cloud of his illnesses. Thankful for this long goodbye…which gives us the opportunity to enjoy him more and spend time with various of our family members in ways that will galvanize us as family when he enters Heaven.

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5) A Beautiful Fall – Words aren’t needed here. So glad for the opportunity to live in a place of four seasons.

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Hope you have a restful and reflective weekend. Would love for you to post some of your favorite finds in the Comments.

Finally, just for fun…

 

Worship Wednesday – God Who Moves the Mountains – Dustin Smith

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“…Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus – Matthew 17:20

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”  – Jesus – Matthew 13:31-32

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Jesus – Luke 17:6

Jesus taught about faith many times to his slow-to-understand disciples. Like them, we can get things backward, thinking that if we only had greater faith, we could pray more effectively and act more powerfully. It’s not about the mustard seed-size of our faith. It’s always been about the object of our faith.

What a relief and what a challenge. If my faith has to be big enough to deal with cancer, a job for a friend, the poor health of our dads, or this world’s woes, the focus is on me. That won’t get us far at all.

With eyes on God, there is no limit to the majesty or sufficiency of His presence and provision in our lives. Eyes on God.

When we look just for what we pray, we try to put almighty Creator God into a small box of “here and now”, while He is working out His purposes for both today and forever. Yet, He calls us to trust Him for the smallest desire of our hearts, at the same time, drawing us to the greatest love possible…in Him.

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I trip over wanting to have a greater faith in God than I have at present…but it’s not about going after more faith, it’s going after God Himself. He is more than big enough for whatever situation we are facing today…and He is good…and He loves us. Hallelujah!

You demonstrate faith not by what you say but by what you do. Faith shows up in your feet, not just in your feelings. That is why Paul instructed us to “walk by faith,” not to “talk by faith.” Faith is an action. Jesus said that whoever has faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain into the sea. The power of faith isn’t based on who you are, it’s based simply on who God is. Your faith is as big as the God you believe in. Like David facing the giant, sometimes God gives you a bigger-than-life problem so that He can show you His bigger-than-Goliath solution. Keep your eyes on Him…He is faithful. Tony Evans

Worship with me to Dustin Smith’s God Who Moves Mountains. He wrote this song as part of his Healing Is Right project. Within the song performance, there is space, for the singer/worshipper to pray. Pray in your worship today for that deep hurt in your heart today…for that undone thing…for your eyes to be fixed on God who loves you and is working out His will in this thing…Whether you see it yet or not…see Him. Eyes on God.

He is not confined, He confounds
He will not resign, He resounds
He is not restrained, hear the sound
Oh hear the sound

Rocks are falling, the broken calling
To the God who moves the mountains
The Earth is shaking, the weary waking
To the God who moves the mountains
You’ve gotta move this mountain

He is not surprised, he surrounds
He can not be stopped, he astounds
He is drawing near, hear the sound
oh hear the sound

You say speak, so we say, “Move!”
You say watch what You can do
You say, trust, and then You prove
You’re the God who moves the mountains
You’re the God who moves the mountains*

*Lyrics to God Who Moves Mountains – Writers: Dustin Smith, David Leonard, Richie Fike

YouTube Video – God Who Moves Mountains (Live from Dustin Smith)

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart (with Lyrics) – Babbie Mason

You Are Meant to Move Mountains – Desiring God – Jon Bloom

How Jesus Helped His Disciples to Increase Their Faith – Desiring God – John Piper

The Confidence of Faith – Tony Evans

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You?- by Ghost Ship

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“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – God (Job 38:4)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”…and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.Job 42:1-6, 9b

I don’t cry easily. Maybe it’s all the years of cancer nursing where my tears were spent. Or having already lost loves of our own has drained them. Or this broken world has finished off my tears.

Or so I thought. This morning has brought tears as my sister-in-law texts with me about Dad. He is in his last weeks…days…we don’t know. This funny, intelligent, extraordinary and simple farmer’s son…this man who took in four more children when he married my mom…this man who has always been strong as an ox even in his 90s…this man who fiercely loves his family and friends…this man is winding down in this life.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I don’t ask God “Why?” about Dad’s dying…he’s lived a full and amazing life. My prayer has been that he can enter the healing of Heaven without the terror of late Alzheimer’s or the pain of cancer spreading. So far, he still knows us all and has sweet moments of reflection…when he wakes from his long naps. The pain, like the cancer, is growing, but so far, with medication and the close care of family and hospice, he is managing to be comfortable most of the time…and we’re thankful.img_9067

The part of life, for any of us, when suffering looms large does cause us to ask “Why?” sometimes. This past Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang Where Were You. We are in an Explore God sermon series along with several other churches in the Richmond area. This Sunday the topic was “Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?” [You can listen to that podcast here.]

The issue of suffering is a very personal one. It’s really a wonder, in such a fallen world, that there is not more suffering. God has always been intimately present with us in times of loss and suffering, and I hope to be able to trust Him in future hard places.

The song Where Were You? is taken directly from the book of Job. He suffered enormous loss and physical pain which could have entirely shaken his faith in God. The book describes his wrestling with the “why’s” with the help of three not-so-helpful friends. Beginning in Job 31, Job makes one last appeal to God to satisfy his questions. Before God speaks, another friend, Elihu, shows up and offers a glorious defense of God’s character. He speaks through 5 chapters of Job on God’s behalf. Then, God Himself, makes the closing statement to Job (Job 38-41). It is thrilling to read. God is the answer to all our questions…if we will listen.

Worship with me to the words from Job by the Christian band Ghost Ship.

I said God I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but suffering

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?

He said where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?

Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show

Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth

Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

We are not alone in our suffering. There is plenty of great teaching on suffering elsewhere (including John Piper’s article linked below). For me, for today, thinking about and praying for my dad…this song was a just-right reminder of God’s power and His goodness. He can do all things and His purposes are not thwarted. Hallelujah!

[If you’re reading this just after it’s been posted, we would appreciate your prayers for our dad and for those most closely caring for him. Thank you.]

*Lyrics to Where Were You?

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – with Lyrics – Ghost Ship – Mars Hill Music

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – Lyrics without Images – Ghost Ship

Video Collection – Why Does god Allow Pain and Suffering? – Explore God

Job: Rebuked in Suffering – Job 32:1-37:24 – John Piper