Tag Archives: home

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

[From the Archives – Vacation Week]

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

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

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

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

PeachMine were delicious.

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

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

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

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

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

A Panorama View of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

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

Farm Fresh on the Eastern Shore

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

Every Breath’s a Gift – Great Are You, Lord – All Sons and Daughters

Photo Credit: MVFC1

In a few days, it will be a year since this non-smoker received a lung cancer diagnosis (Stage One, fortunately). Over these last several months, breath and breathing have become something very precious to me. You can tell when you search my blog archives for either topic. We take breathing so for granted, even when we acknowledge that every breath’s a gift. That rhythmic rise and fall in our chest that strengthens and refreshes us. Breathing just happens.

Until it doesn’t.

There have only been two times as an adult that I couldn’t get my breath. The first was eight months ago (you can read about it here.) The second time was less than 48 hours ago.

For the second time in my life, I was surprised, just before bedtime, by a rapid and terrifying development of shortness of breath and quickly got to the place that Dave had to call 911. He was still talking to the dispatcher when we heard the sirens.

So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.

We live in a quiet neighborhood, and most of the residents are older. The rescue squad shows up often here, and, of course, no one wants to be the one on the receiving end of their excellent care. Every time it happens, a neighbor or two stand sentinel in the road watching and hoping for a good report. While the rescue squad was getting me stabilized and Dave was waiting in his car to follow to the hospital, he would tell me later of a neighbor standing in the shadows. Not wanting to intrude but standing watch. It’s a comforting thing.

From the first hours in the emergency room through the next two days in the top floor ICU, I received excellent and thoughtful care at St. Mary’s Hospital. The crisis was averted, and the testing began again to determine the cause. The same testing that was done eight months ago. The findings were not so much different as they were the first time it happened. Maybe they were taken more seriously with it happening twice. Anyway, I am now in the care of a cardiologist with some meds on board that will hopefully help me NOT to go through this experience again.

To go from thinking you’re going to die to feeling pretty much as well as ever, within hours, is a strange and wondrous experience. We will all die one day, so it doesn’t always end as it did for me these two times of not being able to get my breath. For this, today, I am so grateful to God for breath…and I am reminded it is His to give.

The song Great Are You Lord beautifully presents this truth. The band All Sons & Daughters introduces the song in this way:

“Worship is when we give God His breath back.”

Tonight, still fresh from the frightening experience of two nights ago, I give God His breath back in praise. So thankful for a husband who acted quickly for me when I couldn’t, for trained professionals and volunteers, for watchful neighbors, for kids who show up (physically and in prayer), for praying friends and family, for all the many employees at St. Mary’s (including my own youngest son) who were kind in their care …for all of this I’m grateful.

Most of all I am so very thankful for the God who gives us breath.

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. Psalm 116:1-7, NLT

Would you worship with me, as I am home once more, praising God for His healing and for His helpers?

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord*

*YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters (Live) – written by: Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan, David Leonard

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n.jpg

To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

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

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom at Work and at Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

[Adapted from the Archives]

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays and summer vacations have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into seasonal celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the these occasions helps.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, written for Advent but which also fits nicely into a block of summer days.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As summer hums along and return to school looms ahead, I hope you are savoring happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your summer vacations and holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Love Your Neighbor – Foster Parenting & Adoption – Every Child in a Safe and Loving Home

Blog - Foster - fatherlessPhoto Credit: The Forgotten Initiative

“I’m naive. I will admit it. Before I became a social worker I thought every kid had a birthday party. I thought every kid had someone cheering them on in the bleachers. I thought every kid was taken care of when he or she was sick. I thought every kid was read to at night before bedtime. I thought every kid lived in a safe environment. Now? Now I know that thousands of kids live in fear. Thousands of kids struggle with low self-esteem. Thousands of kids are abused. Thousands of kids witness domestic violence. Thousands of kids are in need of a family. Who will care for the orphans?” – a friend who works in foster care

“Who will care for the orphans?”

Did you know that in your city, at the end of any day, there are children needing placement in a safe home? Maybe just for one night, or maybe long-term. Is it possible that your home is just the place for that infant to begin to experience love or for healing to begin for that child or teenager?

There are two types of foster care – traditional and therapeutic. You can learn all you need to know about traditional foster care by going to the Department of Social Services website of your city or state. Foster parents are in high demand and these agencies make it as easy as possible for you to learn what you need to know to become that parent.

Therapeutic foster care involves finding homes and parents for children who have special needs – either medical, emotional, or behavioral issues. These are children who may have suffered violence or who have endured terrible losses. These could be pregnant teens or runaways. These are children that need love the same as any others. Therapeutic foster care involves many more support people than just the foster parents and case workers. If you sense that you could reach out to such children who need more “hands on” care, there are agencies who need parents like you. 

Blog - Foster Care - childrensaidsociety org (2)Photo Credit: Childrensaidsociety.org

 Foster children may need to be placed in a home for short-term or long-term stays, but they may also need emergency placement with very little notice to the foster parents. Their ages and situations vary widely. These kids need love, care and a safe place to call home.

Blog - Foster LetterPhoto Credit: Ashleyannphotography.com

3 goals of foster care are:

  1. Reunification with the parents – this can happen when the parents of the foster child comply with whatever stipulations are applied by the Department of Social Services.
  2. Placement of child with someone in the extended family (biological relatives) – Again, this is approved by DSS, when the home/family situation is such that the child would be safely and therapeutically returned to a family member.
  3. Adoption or Permanent Foster Care – adoption of a teen is rare. Teens in foster care actually “age out” at 18y/o or when he or she finishes high school. Younger children can be adopted when it’s clear that a return to their biological parents or family won’t be happening. [See profiles here of children and teens available for adoption right now.]

Blog - Foster Care - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Is this something we could do as empty-nesters? Early in our marriage, we cared for a teenaged girl from our church for several weeks. She was estranged from her parents and both she and her parents needed time to heal. Just those few weeks, her with us, gave them all time to decompress. The problems didn’t vanish but the family was emotionally prepared to try again with each other. I will never forget that experience and realized then how valuable it is for families in crisis to know they are not alone. It was an experience that changed us, too, and created a life-long bond with us, both with the parents and their daughter.

The church has a mandate from God to care for the fatherless.

“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow)…then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.” – Job 31:16-18, 22

Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. – Isaiah 1:17

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.James 1:27

Chris Campbell, a social worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the executive director of an initiative called 111 Tulsa. He and his team are working in the community and with the churches of Tulsa (across denominations) to raise up foster parents across the city – such that every child can have a safe and loving home for as long as he or she needs it. This could be an emergency placement of a few hours, or for a short time, or for long-term (maybe even leading to adoption).

We could do this in our own city.

Where do we start? We pray. Then we call one of these agencies and ask how we can help. Even if it’s just taking the foster parenting classes, so we’ll be prepared such God lead in this way. We can also help with non-funded needs the children might have – a birthday present, baby supplies for that pregnant teen, and even prom expenses. Then we get our churches involved.

There are many ways that we can love these neighbors – these kids in crisis. The most critical need is for foster parents. We could be those parents. I would love to hear your story. Let’s do what we can for these children to have their own story of love and family.

Blog - Foster Care adoptionPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Drew and Nancy McDowell – Blessed with Children – 41 Times

Adoption: a Kaleidoscope Reflecting Light – a Tennessee Family’s Journey Through Infertility and Adoption

ADOPTION: Couple Promotes Adoption in Words & Deed

The Forgotten Initiative

A Turning Point

111 Tulsa – 1 Church, 1 Family, 1 Purpose

Foster Care – Becoming a Foster Parent – Virginia Department of Social Services

Virginia Department of Social Services

First Home Care – Therapeutic Foster Care

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the GOD She Loved So Well

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:3-7

Dear Jeannie. A life well-lived. Finally Home.

We woke this morning to the news that our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff, went to be with the Lord during the night. Such a mix of emotions over that news. So thankful that God kept her from suffering and kept her with her Tom, surrounded by family, until that moment she went Home.

We are also so grateful to God to have known Jeannie. Since January of 1999 when we first heard them speak at a conference. It’s as if we’ve know Jeannie and Tom our whole lives…the impact they had on us, that she had on me.

It’s always been Tom & Jeannie. Jeannie & Tom. Strange to think of her not here now. Yet, she is still in all we learned in the life she lived.

Jeannie was (is) full of joy. Any conversation with her felt like a ticker tape parade as she checked on the one in front of her or spoke of how God was working in the lives of people she loved. She deeply and fiercely cared for all God brought her way. She was just the wife that Tom needed. What a blessing over these nearly 49 years of marriage (since August 20, 1966) she was to him!Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: bpnews.net

She delighted in Tom, and her children, and all the grandchildren. Blog - Jeannie Elliff family portrait

She and Tom had great capacity for love…so much room in their hearts for others…and we knew that love. So grateful for that.

I only got to sit under her teaching once. Her love for the Lord and wonder at the goodness and faithfulness of His Word lit up her face as she taught. Even in the last days of her life, she soaked up God’s Word with Tom. It was a habit of her life – early in the Word and in prayer, every day.Jeannie & Tom Elliff at Christmas

Her prayers were her greatest gift to all of us. She prayed with an earnestness borne out of a deep personal faith in God. She knew Him and knew what He could do in our lives. He called her to prayer and she met Him there…for all of us.

I will miss her laughter. Her stories. Her loving playful jabs at Tom. Her wonder…at the love and mercy of God. The amazing way she never drew attention to herself, but always pointed us to God and toward each other.

Our last visit was short but wonderful. Her face, so beautiful and so full of His peace…and her readiness always to encourage another was still with her, even days before she would leave this life for the glorious Next. Jeannie…we will miss this about you so much.Blog - Grace 13Blog - Jeannie 7

She fought a good fight, she finished her course, she kept the faith.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.

Please pray with us for Tom…and the family…for all the sweet memories of Jeannie to wash over them in these days ahead…for God to be so near to them, as we know He will be.

Blog - Jeannie Elliff 3

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

YouTube Video – Come to Jesus (Untitled Hymn) – Chris Rice

YouTube Video – Give Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

How to Become a Follower of Christ

Jeannie Elliff Honored by Ministers’ Wives

My Blog on Tom & Jeannie – Need You Now

My Blog on Tom’s Dad’s HomeGoing – and the Hope for Us of Finishing Strong

Tom Elliff

Photo Credits: Jeannie Elliff & Family, and mine from our last visit

Cancer, Hospice…and All Those Beautiful Moments

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsA good writer does more than draw you into her story. A good writer can illuminate parts of your own story, as you resonate with hers. Kara Tippetts is a young woman I only know through her writing, but, because of her writing, my understanding of God and life and love has become even richer. It’s improbable that we will meet this side of Heaven, but I know her as if she were a good neighbor…or even a close friend. She is that transparent…and more. Kara is luminous; she is full of light and shines that light into a dark place.

For you see, Kara has a breast cancer that will not let go of her. Still she will also not let go of God. She was diagnosed not long ago, just in 2012, but not two years later, and all the treatments have been exhausted. Barring a miraculous touch from God, she will die of this disease. Yet, Kara is one of the most alive women I have ever encountered. Read more of her story for yourself.

Where I resonate with her story, at this moment of my life, relates to her experience with hospice. When you think of someone needing hospice, you might not think of a young mom, deeply in love with her husband and four children who is still writing and squeezing every bit of good out of life. However, this is where Kara is…needing hospice.

My mom, only in the last 3 days of her life, had hospice support at home, and we were so thankful. Even after many years as a cancer nurse, it meant everything having those good and kind people around us. We leaned on them, especially I leaned on them. No matter what competency I had in care-giving…it was my mama this time, and my mind was numb. Now, years later, my dad has his turn with hospice. His cancer, diagnosed 10 years ago, has returned, and no more tests or treatments are planned for our dear 92 years young dad. Hospice is again our (and his) strong support.

Back to Kara, I want to leave you with her beautiful insight about having no more treatment options and fully supported by hospice:

It felt like a huge blow when my oncologist said it was time for me to enter hospice care. It felt like quitting. I felt like my body had failed and I was being pulled from the team and being benched. Benched in an awful permanent way…I was wrong. Hospice care has been truly amazing…It’s just an adjustment. A hard adjustment to go from treatment, tests, and fighting to not knowing and comfort…Now my fight is a passive one, now I’m fighting for good moments. My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important – these moments.

Pray with us all for Kara and her family. She even signed a contract recently to write another book (or two). I so want to read that book. Also I want to express gratitude for all you who care for patients and families “in the midst of life’s hard“*. For many years, it was my joy to work alongside you. You extend the hands of God to those who need His loving touch.Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

Photo Credits – Kara Tippetts’ Blog & Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups Facebook page

Kara’s Breast Cancer Story

*Kara Tippetts’ Book The Hardest Peace – Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups – a life-affirming cancer support system in Kingsport, Tn. Many, many years ago, I helped lead a support group called Take Time…to Help, to Heal.  Really, those patients, families, nurses, and friends taught me so much more than I did them. The Survive and Thrive groups came out of that earlier group, under the continuing leadership of Kathryn Whitt Visneski.

Blog - Blessings & Hospice

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.  – James 1:17

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football. In those days of living overseas, watching football on T.V. on Thanksgiving Day was a bit challenging, but these days, it seems, all things are possible.

Now, back in the States, the old traditions are changing. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter back home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. After so many years being away, we find ourselves needing to re-work our own traditions as well.

Last night, we participated in a community Thanksgiving dinner for international students. This is our fourth year, So I’m thinking it’s a new tradition for us. As we visited with new friends from Iran and Colombia, we marveled at how small the world has become. Enjoying Thanksgiving yummies together with them took us fondly back to our years in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Blog -  International Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

Thanksgiving is, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in my life. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a tableful of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in that season of life young people pass through of searching out what I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching Godspell, of all things, was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

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Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen

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Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends

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Family – Time together…savoring every minute.

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Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a blessing…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

 

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home

2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys

 He traveled again today…half the world away. How many times have I watched him smile and then turn to go? I watch his back as he walks through the sliding glass doors of another airport. This time he will fly for work, connecting with another flight, and another, and another, taking him eventually 12 timezones from home.

My husband is a traveling man. It is not the life he would naturally choose. He likes being home. Yet it has been part of his life…part of our life…for nearly 20 years. Sometimes, we’ve traveled with him – for two weeks or two years at a time. Our lives have been altered both by our travel and by his.

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Our children have grown up across four countries. There were more hellos and goodbyes than we would have preferred – but looking back, we wouldn’t have given up any one of those places. Those places represent people. Those people remain forever in our hearts.

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Blog - Dave & Friends #2

We are settled in the US for now and our children are  grown (and amazingly live in the same city as we do). One of us still boards planes and crosses time zones, and it’s not me. I am the one who would love to be the traveler, but it’s not meant to be me at this time of our lives. This traveling man at our house is the one who endures missing connections, jet lag and tummy issues. This downside of traveling is a small price to pay for the great blessing of reconnecting with friends and colleagues scattered all around the world.

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So many, these days, travel for adventure and there is much to be had around this glorious globe. This man has adventure thrust upon him sometimes, but he travels for only two reasons – the people and the purpose (work, support, training). In a way, these are our people – people who understand us and whom we understand…people who received us into their lives with the smallest possibility of benefit. We will always be grateful for such friendships…across worlds and cultures.

The many moves we’ve made as a family have caused us to be a bit irregular, it seems. We don’t have all the history and cultural savvy of those who have planted their lives in one place, with one people. I envy that sometimes – folks with  life-long friends and extended family nearby. It must be challenging to be deeply in the lives these same friends and family and to also draw a circle that takes in such nomads as us. I am forever grateful again for friends like you.

There are days, because of all our relocations, that it seems our friends are far away. Then, there are other days when my pity party-of-one pitches the idea that I have no friends. [Seriously…still contending with this as a full-fledged adult]. This is not one of those days. My best friend in the world is somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He will visit with people we love half a world away. I will visit people we love here. Thankful to God that traveling is a very good thing…it moves us toward people (not just away from people).

This man and I have a parting ritual. He runs through the “in case something happens” list [let me know if you want particulars of that – it is helpful to know]. Then, we do sort of a “Thanks for marrying me” farewell…and finally that wonderful, “If I don’t see you here, I’ll see you THERE.”

Hope that wasn’t too morbid for you…it actually always leaves me comforted, as those sliding doors close around him on his way.

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*Edwin Markham quote