The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one long, breathtakingly beautiful ride (a bit scary, too, if you’re not so keen about heights or deep water)…and it is the way home for us… The Eastern Shore of Maryland was my husband’s childhood home, and for the past 30 years, it has become another home to me. There’s nowhere else across the USA quite like the Eastern Shore.
After the up and over bridge experience, we find ourselves cradled on both sides of the road by sprawling farms teeming with life.I always want to stop and have a closer look, but our need to push on to get “there” keeps me in the car, pressed against the glass, watching the grain fields look a blur, as we pass quickly by. I wonder, looking out at each passing farm, what’s going on in that house; what the farmer is doing right then; what’s ready to be harvested or what crop will be sown next.
The land is flat, and you can see far and away the various crops planted and growing alongside the Bay and the wetlands. There are also more inland stretches, where the acres of grain, corn, and truck crops are watered, during dry times, by irrigation systems that stand as tall sentinels across the fields.
The seasons are marked by what is happening in the field. It’s mid-June now, and “Locally Grown” signs pepper the side of the highway. Strawberry season is fast over, and pumpkins will be planted in some of those fields soon. Right now, we can look forward to asparagus, sweet peas, early melons and tomatoes…maybe even the first peaches of the season.
Mine were delicious.
The pace of life slows considerably for us, after arriving at Dave’s parents’ home. It seems like all we do, on the Eastern Shore is eat, nap, and catch up on family stories. Yet, it is not so for the farmers in this rural part of the country.
The fields are always turning over from one crop to the next. I can’t tell the difference, but it’s not all wheat growing golden in the fields. Rye, barley, and wheat are all sown at various times on the Eastern Shore. Soybeans, too. Then there’s the corn. It is in its own special category of goodness. Right now, the dark-green leafy stalks are only knee- to waist-high, but in a few more weeks of warm summer sun, you can almost hear it grow. And I have never eaten sweeter corn than that pulled fresh from the fields of the Eastern Shore.
My husband’s family, for generations, has made their home east of the Chesapeake Bay, either in Maryland or Delaware. Our children have deep and enduring memories of vacations there – on the fishing docks of the Chesapeake or the sands of Ocean City, riding inner tubes on the river behind their uncle’s boat, picking out steamed crabs on newspaper on hot summer nights, playing hard in the winter snow or at games on the long dining room table, falling asleep on the living room floor at MomMom’s & PopPop’s, with cousins all around. And cooking out altogether, the dads tending the grill and the rest of us talking and laughing in the kitchen. If it’s possible to eat our way through the seasons on the Eastern Shore, we have.
I am struck at how much life we experience, in a few short days, at home on the Eastern Shore. Family, work, play, stories…life. Farms are never still. There are always different crops to plant and bring in. Animals to feed, and young ones to nurture along. Families are also changing with the seasons. Our parents turn into grandparents and great-grands. Our children grow up and don’t get to make the trip as often to the Eastern Shore as they did as youngsters in the backseat of our car. Between schooling, work, and blending families in marriage, it’s hard to get everything in, and I see the challenge for them.
My hope is that in the crazy pull of daily life, we never forget our way home…us or our children, to my family’s home in Georgia, or to the Eastern Shore…in time for the summer corn.
Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.
It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.
We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.
So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:
1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.
Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.
When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!
Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.
What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?
2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video – Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:
3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect. Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr
Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together. – Jack King
I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.
4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel. A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance. I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.
5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.
Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.
This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.
Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us. A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.
Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.
For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.
So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.
I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:
O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.
How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.
Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.
What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.
Here are my favorite finds for this week.
1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].
In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.
In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.
A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.
During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!
2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.
Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.
With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60). Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).
I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).
DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:
For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.
For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.
For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.
3)– Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.
4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.
Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.
Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:
1. Determine your goal.
2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.
3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.
4. Act the part until you become the part.
5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.
6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.
What Is Your Goal?
“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday
Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.
However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.
[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]
5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.
Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post
On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.
He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:
Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.
Danny: It’s our home.
Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.
Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.
Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.
Danny then prayed…with his family.
Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.
30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.
“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.
This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.
As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.
Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.
This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.
She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.
When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.
Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. These are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.
When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.
After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.
This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.
Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).
…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.
[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]
I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.
So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13
Our family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was never easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.
Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.
When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me move. New Haven, Connecticut was a 2-day drive from Georgia. It’s the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in. While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.
She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.
My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There are a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.
Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.
Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27
I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is aging, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as today. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to my heart.
A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…
Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…
1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team!It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people. Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.
2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.
3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.
4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).
5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…
There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.
Mother-in-law jokes are lost on me. They’re just not funny and are so rude, really, given they are perpetrated against the mother of the person we chose to spend our lives with… Makes no sense to me.
My mom-in-law may be extraordinary, but she would never think so. Her name is Julia and she grew up in a farm family. She married young and had two sons (after miscarrying a first child). I married her oldest. Her life has always been centered on her family…loving them, serving them…and always pointing them to God.
My own mom gave me wonderful counsel when I married – about how to treat my mom-in-law. She told me to love her like I loved my own mom. Now, you have to know my mom has been my best friend from childhood. She was wise, funny, loving…and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. To even try to love someone like I loved her seemed impossible…but I knew she was right to point me in that direction.
This other young mom of the man I loved started out a stranger to me…but that didn’t last long. She welcomed me into her circle from the beginning, and I’ve been inside that circle for over 30 years now.
Julia has always treated me as something special…she somehow does that with each one of us – her husband, sons, daughters-in-law and now grandchildren and great-grands. It’s not a “something special” that puffs us up…like we’re the best out there…She marvels in a sweet humility…again, reveling in the goodness of God in bringing us all together. I totally feel that way about her as well. Grateful.
On this birthday, Julia becomes the youngest 80-year-old I know. She is as sharp and engaged in life as ever. Always a beauty, she is still lovely…smaller as the years have passed, but even cuter in her petiteness. Yet, she doesn’t draw attention to herself…ever. It’s just not her nature. She serves us…we are her joy…and visits home are always an occasion. A bountiful table. Beautiful touches all around the house celebrating the season. Special treats not just for the littles, but for all of us. She seriously thinks of everything. It used to tire me out, but through the years, I have relaxed in that I am not her, and that’s very o.k. Only one Mom-Mom is all we need.
A few highlights:
We are both picture-takers…so we’re not always in the picture. Still we are partners in this, as annoying as it is for the men (especially) in the family. We get those pictures…together.
With each child born/adopted into our family, Julia made the trip to spend a week with us – to help, love on us, celebrate the new babies and the big sister/brother. She cooked and cleaned, with zero fanfare – absolutely no drama – just lots of love.
She made birthdays and Christmas so special for our kids. There came a time that we finally insisted, “One package each, Mom”. That Christmas, when she and Dad John pulled into the driveway, that “one package each” was enormous…with lots of goodies tucked inside. Who could get mad at that? Such a heart she has!
When our lives took us in a direction that we would move overseas for a job, I was so afraid that heart of hers would break. It was painful at first, as she and John absorbed the shock of the news. Yes, we would be taking their only grandchildren to Africa… So hard… By the next day, she had steeled her heart. Not in an unfeeling way but in a hopeful trusting way. Distance would change nothing about her love for us…except to grow stronger.
She and John would visit us in three countries. Complete with two 70-pound bags full of treasures for those grandchildren of hers. She had no ambition to visit the Pyramids of Giza, or Matmata, Tunisia (where Star Wars – a New Hope was filmed), or Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Still…we did all that, and so much more. She marveled…at the beauty of the places we love and even more so at the people we called friends and neighbors.
Part of her winsomeness to me was seeing the gentleness in how her husband and sons loved her. Once on a family trip to the Egyptian desert, we climbed Mt. Sinai. We took a slow, meandering route up to the top. It was amazing. However, on our return to the bottom, we chose a quicker (but unfortunately more brutal) route back down. 3,750 “steps of penitence”. At some point, over half-way down, Julia was feeling the burn of all that pounding down those stone steps. When Dave, my husband/her son, saw her struggle, he pulled back and helped support her the rest of the way down. Gently, quietly. That love and care for his mom spoke volumes to me…about him, and especially about her.Photo Credit: See the Holy Land
Julia doesn’t quit on people or things that matter. She is quick to forgive and always ready to reconcile. She is also brave, willing to do the hard thing, even when she wished it wouldn’t have to be hers to do. She and John have been a part of the same church for many, many years. As the membership aged, the church suffered a lack of vision…and, in fact, began to die. Julia was one of a handful that continued to serve and believe God that He wasn’t finished with their church. She persevered…and when a revitalization program took off, with young pastors and many new members, she stayed the course with them. Oh I’m sure she may not always be easy on these young leaders…but they are wise to keep counsel with her. Her commitment to God, to the church, and to the nations is as passionate as ever…at 80. Think what a force to reckon with she might be at 90!
Finally, I want to speak of her servant heart. When she married John over 60 years ago, she took her vows very seriously…and continues to do so. In recent years, John has had to deal with Parkinson’s Disease…but not alone. She is right beside him… helping when he needs help, encouraging when he can do himself. She is there…”in sickness, and in health”…and she will be…there.
I can’t begin to say how much she has taught me about loving my husband and serving my family. When my precious mother died too many years ago, Julia drew even closer to love me through that… She has continued to teach me, on the foundation my mom laid, to put others first and to pray my heart out for those God has placed in my life. What stewardship I have learned from this sweet mom.
Mother-in-law jokes?! Please! What a grace God has given me in her. Is she extraordinary? She would definitely balk at that. Maybe she is just a picture of what God can do in an ordinary life surrendered to Him. She models for me a wife, mom, and mom-in-law I want to be.
Many things I leave unsaid. Some of the tears, and some of the laughter are ours to cherish privately… She did teach me her pie crust secret for which I’m forever thankful…on this side of life. As for the other side of life…and the other side of this 80th birthday…I am so grateful for our times together, for the witness of her life, for all she has taught me, and for the memories…all the sweet memories.
Happy birthday, Mom/Julia! Many more memories to make ahead!
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” – Proverbs 31:28-31
“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.
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
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 *
We close out this year – 2016 – with one missing. Dad, and Papa, died on Christmas Day. I have written about him many times…today I write about what he leaves behind.
Death is strange – even for those of us who have lives transformed by God and who trust His Word that we will be with Him forever in Heaven. Death feels final…and solitary… Dad is not with us, yet we gather because of him. We grieve together…we will miss him together.
Already a father of five, our dad took on four more children when he married our mom. For decades now, nine children grew up and through adulthood under his influence. We and our children are linked because of this man…some loosely, some tightly.
Rend Collective’s album Campfire Christmas – Volume 1 was a gift this year, and the last song is a re-do of Auld Lang Syne. The song For All That You Have Done For Us is both a perfect benediction for this year…and for what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. In our earthly father in part…and wholly in our Heavenly Father.
Listen (and sing along if you choose) to this prayer and battle-cry.
Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my soul’s forever song
My story and my light
From mountaintop to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years
For all that You have done, for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that You have done
In all our failures and regrets
You’ve always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm
In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand
Into the great unknown*
…..As we said goodbye (for now) to our father, grandfather, uncle, and friend…we were sobered by the reality of that generation gone from our lives. All the old ones on my side of the family have died…
What’s left?…our faith, our friends, and our family. What comfort…and what joy! I am so thankful to God that He doesn’t leave us alone…ever.
As you count down to the end of this year and look with hope to the next…may you find yourself surrounded by those who will love you, no matter what…and may you grow closer to a God who transcends suffering and death. In this week of parting…He has come close to us.