Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:
1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).
Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.
“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” – Meg Marie Wallace
Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.
Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.
4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews
or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.
Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.
The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.
5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.
Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.
Another Friday…they come so fast. Today, I am not in my usual spot but didn’t want to miss sharing this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy…
1) Adoption – I don’t hear the phrase much anymore, but in my child-bearing years, when asked what a couple wanted (boy or girl), the response was often, “I don’t care…just as long as it’s healthy.” A wise older friend told me one time that God gives life and every child is perfect in His eyes. One population we see less of in our country these days is people with Down Syndrome. Photo Credit: Flickr
Of of the genetic tests done during pregnancy, one is to rule out Down Syndrome in the fetus. If the parents have objections to keeping a baby with Down Syndrome, abortion is an option to some…as is adoption. Raising a child with health or developmental issues is challenging. We adopted such a child and thrill to see how he continues to meet his challenges…and to bless all around. We did not adopt a child with Down’s but we have friends who did. The videos below are a beautiful sampling of this population of perfect children and adults.
2) The Last of the Mohicans – To be honest, I have never been able to watch this painful and beautiful film all the way through. Its theme (originally composed by Dougie Maclean and arranged for this film by Trevor Jones) is exquisite. Listen here on YouTube with a composite of scenes from the movie. When Nathan arranged this grand orchestral piece (“Promentory”) for classical guitar, I knew it would have to be extraordinary. See what you think. Listen here:
3) On Being Single – The whole dating scene in my 20s was something I pulled out of long before marrying. It wasn’t pretty. By the time I entered my 30s, life was filled with great friends, strong family relationships, challenging work, and serving in church and community. Loneliness crept in at times, but it still does even after marrying later in life. These days I am privileged to enjoy the friendship of several women (and a few men) who are single. Do some of them want to married? Yes, but not all. When I saw the video below, it resonated – how society can mis-communicate the great value of these women and men…I never want to do the same.
4) Craveability – A few years back, I took myself off of sugar. For over a year, I just refused to eat it (desserts, snacks, etc.). It was a healthy choice for me at the time. I lost a lot of weight and stopped craving sugar. Gradually, as with many lifestyle changes, I went back mostly to my old ways (still not eating chocolate or doughnuts – two trigger foods). I watched an interesting YouTube video this week on crave ability – Michael Pollan on Cooking. In it, Pollan compared the nutritive value of food cooked by corporations vs. that cooked by humans. Now, corporations (restaurants, food processing companies, etc) don’t really “cook”. His premise though was compelling. When we cook, we control how much sugar, salt, and fats we add to food. When we buy food already prepared commercially, the craveability factor is at work. Foods we return to buy again and again have been developed to tap into our cravings.
My husband was on a work trip to California this past week. A much-loved fast-food restaurant was on the list of eateries. In-N-Out Burger. He and his colleague even ate there twice one day. Now, the food must be pretty special, but it speaks to Pollan’s observation about how we eat when driven by cravings. If we were eating at home, we have French fries rarely. Yet, eating out (for lunch each day, for instance), we might have fries more often.Photo Credit: Marco Fischer, Pexels
We in the US have a fair amount of food weirdness in our striving to eat healthy or, on the flip-side, in our indulging of cravings. Considering what is behind our food preferences, even our addictions, might help us make wiser choices in what we eat – especially related to sugar, salt, and fats.
5) Honoring – Respect and honor are two very different actions and experiences. I’ve heard people say, “I just don’t respect him/her.” or “He/she doesn’t deserve my respect.”Therecan be such derision or contempt in those statements, they also seem to communicate “can’t” and “never will”.Honor is defined as “valuing or esteeming highly.”We live in a culture that defaults to valuing self over anyone else…we have to fight against this strong pull to elevate ourselves over even those we say we love the most. In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he writes: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10) Whether someone deserves honoring or not is of no consequence. We choose to honor others.Photo Credit: Pinterest
Do we choose to honor others in our every word and deed? Think about the trash talk we can so easily fall into in relationships. It seems harmless enough but it sets us up to follow suit with dishonoring actions and attitudes. My hope is to be a person you can trust to keep your name safe on my lips.
In our current political climate and knee-jerk one-upmanship in social and work circles…what if? What if we tried to “outdo one another in showing honor”? How would that change our homes, workplaces, world? How do we teach that sort of valuing to our children? How do we re-awaken our hearts to it as adults? I would love to hear your thoughts (in Comments below).
Well, those were my favorite finds this week. How about yours? Please share any of those in the Comments. Have a safe and refreshing weekend.
Quote about Prayer:
“The greatest thing we can do for one another is to pray. Prayer is striking the winning blow at the concealed enemy; our service is gathering up the results.” Corrie ten Boom, Not Good If Detached
In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”. He writes:
Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.
Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.
He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teamswhich gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:
“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”
When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders
I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.
2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses. Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!
3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.
Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.
But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.
We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.
So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico
4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.
Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.
5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.
Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.
Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church. [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…
Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).
Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.
the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)
Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).
[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. – Colossians 3:15-20
How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by. The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.
First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.
Two friends – walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love.
A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.
Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.
That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.
Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…
Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.
From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.
Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.
So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.
These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.
Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.
Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.
I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie][Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]
I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others.
Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship. Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.
I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.
When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.
Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.
“At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.” – Alain de Botton
“Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.“ – Alain de Botton
We can make it hard on those we love the most.
In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:
““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.” – Martin Heidegger
It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.
Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them. – Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?
Happy Friday! It’s another gorgeous day in the Commonwealth… before the wilting heat of summer presses in. Here are five of my favorite finds this week. Please share some of yours in Comments at the end. What a wonder to learn new information that empowers, or to discover a thought leader who resonates with our own sensibilities, or to be filled with the delight of joyful sights, sounds, and sweet or savory treats.
She continues to research in this field and her website includes story after story of survivors who live cancer-free, in remission despite the dismal statistics of their disease.
Thankfully my cancer was caught early, but recurrence is still an issue, so I am thinking through a survivorship plan for myself. If you know me well, I am not the healthiest eater and taking supplements isn’t something I’ve done well with in the past…but all that just might change. Just so you know, I’m not ever planning to be a drum-beating health crazy…just want to be wiser with this life God has restored to me.
2) Words in a Marriage – Words in any relationship are either life-giving or life-damaging. Allie Casazza writes about how our words can create a husband we can’t stand. We all have sick memories of things we’ve said to our husbands that we wish we could take back (husbands, you may have similar memories of how you’ve talked to your wives). It doesn’t have to be this way. My husband is a “words of affirmation” kind of guy. After so many years of marriage, I understand how words can either cause him to draw back from me or stay close. What a great wisdom, to learn this early in marriage.Photo Credit: To Love Honor and Vacuum
3) Broadway Musicals – This coming Sunday is the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony, saluting the great shows currently on Broadway. The musicals are my favorites. Many years ago, I had several opportunities to visit New York City. When there, Broadway plays were on the agenda. Three shows on my list in those days were A Raisin in the Sun, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, and Chicago. My absolute favorite musical, which I didn’t see in New York but in another city, was Les Miserables. Maybe, I will make it to a Broadway or off-Broadway show again some day. The video here captures the joy of these musicals for me – belting out favorite lyrics with friends…with all the gusto of an ensemble performing on stage. Photo Credit: Zimbio
4) Gentleman Traditions I tried to raise our boys to grow up with gentleman traditions – opening doors for others, greeting all in the room respectfully, good manners at table, giving up a seat for another. Having grown up myself as a daughter of the feminist movement (with the subsequent Equal Rights Amendment in play), I was not sure myself what traditions should be upheld and which were no longer relevant. Kris Wolfe writes a sweet piece on 21 Lost Gentleman Traditions That Still Apply Today. As I read these traditions, I thought some of them may actually feel very awkward in today’s culture. What do you think? When I was a young girl first observing these traditions in the dads and young men in my life, I remember how winsome they were. Which ones do you especially value? Which ones are you teaching your boys and young men?Photo Credit: Refe99
5) A Poet for the Present – This week’s news marked a media outcry regarding the sexual assault on a young woman and the very lenient judgment and sentence given the perpetrator. If you search for the phrase “20 minutes of action”, you will see article after article about the young man’s father’s defense of the actions of his son. Very poor choice of words for what this man did that night. I would like to point you to two blogs in particular, and a poem. John Pavlovitz’s blog To Brock Turner’s Father – From Another Father is one you should read. Also Ann Voskamp’s piece About Those “20 Minutes of Action”: 20 Things we Better Tell Our Sons Right Now About Being Real Men. The poem is by Tymm Hoffman who works with Compassion International, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He and I don’t know each other, but I found him on Facebook when a friend shared another poem he wrote. Tymm is my poet for the present day culture we live in.
20 MINUTES In twenty minutes, I can probably shower and shave, I can run a 5k or waste 1.4% of a day;
I can almost bake a cake, grill a medium sirloin steak,
And let’s be honest – If I smoked – I could take a smoke break;
I could watch a sitcom from the beginning to the end, And write about 4 emails – spellcheck and then hit send;
I could listen to 5 songs, if they’re short, maybe six, Or I could share some funny memes from this season of politics;
I could cut my front yard and probably most of the back, While streaming about half of the “Purple Rain” soundtrack;
I could wash a load of clothes and get them started drying, I could crack some funny jokes – we’d be laughing til we’re crying;
I could give the kids a bath, help them with their math, Then chase them round the house like a crazy psychopath;
I could snag a little siesta, ya know, a quick lil’ power nap, Or write a battle rap while strapped with a shower cap;
There’s a whole lot of things I could do with my twenty minutes, A whole lot of positive things with lots of happiness in it;
Or I could drink until I’m gone sir, and turn into a monster, Steal her dignity and honor as I force myself upon her;
Take 1/3 of an hour to strip her of all her power, Cast a permanent dark shadow over a bright and shining flower;
Let my daddy stand up for me while I take no responsibility, Claim absolutely no liability, and blame drunken fragility;
And watch the life of a stranger get broken as a reaction, And realize who’s really paying the price for your “20 minutes of action.” – Tymm Hoffman, with permission.
Bonus: Fruit in Season & a Yummy Recipe – Yesterday I had one of those perfect summer lunches with a friend. Fruit in season is like nothing else. Blueberries can be blue and still tart. I don’t often trust them. These blueberries, every single one, were just right in their sweetness. The strawberries, the same. So luscious. My friend’s hot baked chicken salad was so satisfying. Even with my altered appetite post-surgery, I could have eaten the whole thing as the day passed…but didn’t, of course. The recipe follows below.Photo Credit: Food.com
John & Julia – on their wedding day and their 50th anniversary
This week we celebrate Dave’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. 60 years! How thankful I am to have been part of their lives for a bit over 30 years thus far. Living in the embrace of their love for God, us and each other has been a journey of constancy and intentionality.
Julia and John have been another set of parents to me. My own mom raised us four children pretty much alone, finally leaving my biological father, without looking back. She later came close to God again and wondered if she’d stayed what might have happened. After a couple of visits, right after their divorce, that dad never came again…and we grew up knowing he didn’t love us.
[I’m very, very thankful for a step-dad, who I write about, who loved us as his own. So I do know the love of both a devoted mom and dad.]
With my own mom with the Lord, and my dad dealing with Alzheimer’s, I am grateful for all the years with my mom and the years still with Dad, wherever his mind will wander.
That being said, what a joy to also have Julia and John, my “in-loves” still together, hanging in there with each other and with us. Growing older is not an easy thing. All the vows we make in our weddings become all the more vital in the days when mind and body wear down. To see the kindnesses between these two, and their enduring love, patience, and regard for each other is such a witness to what marriage is meant to be…
They teach us and our children so much through how they have both celebrated and weathered life together – the weddings, the divorces of loved ones, the births, the deaths, the distances between us, and the seasons of all our lives. All the stamps in their passports to be with us overseas…so grateful for that. They have spent long days apart because of work in the early years, and long days together in a different work in the latter years. The interruptions of illnesses and accidents. The great grace they’ve known and lavished on us. Their faith in a God who never left them; never forsook them…ever.
Pictures will tell you more than my words…let them speak for me:
4 GenerationsJulia & John w/ her sister, Nancy & husband Bob – four close friends
The Mills Family, 2015
60 years…of faithfulness, and honoring, and loving through sweet times and hard times. So glad to be part of this journey with them…to be family with them.Happy 60th Anniversary, Dear Ones. You show us what love is and how it’s done across a lifetime.
Hello, Friday. I don’t know about you but this has been a week of highs and lows in this world of mine. Hard news in some situations washed over by exquisite answers to prayer in other situations. As happens often with God, in the quiet of this morning, a favorite, heart-lifting passage in the Bible came up in my reading.
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” – Isaiah 26:3-4
Even the Bible verses atop my facing journal pages this morning were like an anthem from God that all will be well. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.” – John 14:27 and “My times are in Your hands, Lord.” – Psalm 31:15
With that intro to welcoming Friday this week, here are five of my favorite finds – all from the internet this week, although I did have a lot of sweetness in the real, as well.
1) Studying Your Spouse – Michael Hyatt welcomed Jackie Bledsoe as guest blogger on his website this week. Bledsoe writes very winsomely about how he learned to study his wife. He talks about how we, too often, think we know enough (relating to any field of study and work, ministry, marriage and family). Regarding his marriage, he observed: “We were both growing, just not together. My interests were changing and my wife, Stephana, didn’t always notice. Stephana’s needs were changing, but I was oblivious to them. Finally, we reached a point where we felt we didn’t really know each other. That was a scary discovery, one that you may be able to relate to. You may know the ins and outs of your business or ministry like nobody else. But maybe you don’t know the ins and outs of your spouse like nobody else. It may be time for you to enroll in the continuing education about your spouse.” Bledsoe lists 3 ways to get an advanced degree in your spouse: 1) Do new things together; 2) Take notes: and 3) Use your calendar. Read more here.Photo Credit: Daddy’s Hangout
2) Aging – a Video – I came across a video this week that really got me thinking about how I view aging. It is entitled The Wall. It is the work of Aroha Philanthropies, an organization “devoted to the transformative power of the arts and creativity, inspiring vitality in those over 55, joy in children and youth, and humanity in adults with mental illness”. Photo Credit: IoAging.org
The video begins with two elderly persons looking at the imposing face of a wall filled with the words that terrify most of us about getting older. Then as the video progresses, the images change to more engaging and lovely words that depict what can be part of our experience moving from youth to mid-life to older life. Through creativity and the arts from childhood throughout our years, we might see a very different future, with growing older being our “encore years”. Something to think about for all of us…and especially for our young creatives – to see these “old ones” as valuable peers…just a bit farther down the same road.
3) Taking Criticism – Dan Cumberland, writer and photographer in Seattle, Washington, writes about responding to a scathing comment he received once on one of his blogs. Complete with foul offensive language. In his article This Guy Really Hates Me (How to Take Criticism). In his post, he lists 5 guidelines of how to handle criticism:
1) Is there truth in it?; 2) Is it affirmed by others?;3) Is the source credible?; 4) What are the source’s motives?; and 5) What can I learn here? Then Dan talked about how he dealt with his critic.
We all receive criticism and also, if we’re honest, dole it out ourselves. Hear Dan’s counsel: “When you receive criticism and negative feedback there’s a needed balance. Don’t write it off, but also be careful not to let it bring you down too much. Work to find the truth. When you don’t understand, ask for clarification.”
When we are offered criticism, take it – as a gift. Do with it what is helpful. Don’t fall into the trap of returning harm for what you perceived as harmful. You want to be better than that.Photo Credit: Quotesgram
4) Daily Routines Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, wrote a fascinating post on Mozart’s Daily Routine – How a day is composed in the hours between sleep o’clock and symphony o’clock. Routines are a great help for me to organize life and truly accomplish what I hope to accomplish. I’ve written on routines, habit change, and productivity previously. Popova’s article (and others she linked in her post) offers a glimpse into the daily life of greatness. It was inspiring and refreshing. Early in Mozart’s life, he went without employment but maintained deep discipline in his composing of music. Later, as his popularity rose, he compromised his sleep in order to continue writing. Mozart’s life was legend for unhealthy choices, and he struggled at times with deep depression. The lesson for us is in a daily routine that helped him, whether poor or privileged, to produce magnificent music that continues timeless in its beauty.
5) Black History Month – Phillip Holmes wrote a great piece, on Black History Month, for Desiring God. It is entitled More Tough Skin and Tender Hearts – How to Prepare for Conversations on Ethnic Harmony. He talks in a frank and loving manner about evangelicalism and ethnic harmony. Holmes urges us to have real conversations across races and ideologies, rather than white-with-white (or black-with-black) discussion with those already in agreement with us. If we wrestle with the struggle, across racial, religious, and political lines, we might actually come to a place of true reconciliation.
I want to have the kinds of conversations he encourages: “As we engage in complicated conversations about racism, be sober-minded rather than drunk with hatred, frustration, and annoyance. Embrace humility and love those you disagree with. But continue to pursue truth and justice as these two are defined in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible must remain the basis for why we believe what we believe and a careful study of it reveals that it has much to say about ethnicity and injustice…These conversations are complex but necessary and we need men and women who can sit down and have hard conversations considering the other more significant.”
Read his full post. I do want to quote one more vital point Holmes covered beautifully: “As a church, whether we as individuals are white, black, brown, red, or yellow, Christians have to constantly remind ourselves of our primary allegiance. If you are a child of the king, adopted into the household of faith, you are Christian first. I am one million times more Christian than I am black. My brown skin may be what you first notice about me, but by God’s grace, my Christian faith is what you will remember… I count it a privilege to be physically dressed by my creator in such a beautiful skin tone…but I will forever check others and myself when I notice our ethnicity is taking precedent over our heavenly citizenship.”
“May Yahweh answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary & sustain you from Zion. May He remember all your offerings & accept your burnt offering. May He give you what your heart desires & fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory & lift the banner in the name of our God. May Yahweh fulfill all your requests.” – Psalm 20:1-4
Have you ever laid awake at night fretting or even despairing over a loved one’s situation or life choices? Have you felt the choking hopelessness not thinking you can do anything to help? God forbid, we deal with a request for prayer as new fodder for gossip, or we just click “Like” on Facebook and never really pray. Never really pray as if all the powers of Heaven might come to bear on a situation if we did. Pray.
A new film by the Kendrick Brothers opened in theaters in the US on August 28, 2015. It’s called War Room with the subtitle Prayer Is a Powerful Weapon. I had the opportunity to see a pre-release screening and it so lifted my heart. It’s a compelling story about a married couple, Tony and Elizabeth Jordan (T. C. Stallings and Priscilla Shirer) whose relationship is crumbling by degrees. Ambition, pursuit of pleasure, entitlement, and unforgiveness have dealt mortal wounds to their marriage. Only a miracle would save their marriage.
This glimmer of hope arrives through the friendship of Elizabeth with an elderly woman, known only as Miss Clara. (Karen Abercrombie). This tiny old woman is a serious force of nature…wielding supernatural weapons, in her faith in God. She wages battle daily for those God places in her path. Unbeknownst to them at first, Elizabeth and Tony would soon see the very God of the universe draw near to them in response to His daughter’s cries for help. If you see this film, Miss Clara may remind you of your praying grandmother. So much love. So much power.
The film opens on a war room with military officers pouring over maps and coordinates as they planned strategy for battle. When Miss Clara enters the story, a very different war room is introduced. She prays all the time, out loud and confidently. Yet there are times during each day, she enters her war room – a tiny closet, with a chair and Bible, and notes taped up all over the wall. Those notes were prayer requests and Scripture promises. Complete focus on God and on the ones she was praying hard for…no distractions.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. –Matthew 6:6
Some situations need excruciatingly intimate business done with God. Prayer requests in a meeting or through social media make a difference also. However, we don’t see answers to prayer sometimes because we think the problem is too great or the situation too far gone. Miss Clara kept her faith…whatever the outcome, this should be our heart toward God. He is able.
When we battle in prayer for those we love, this moves the heart of God. What are you praying your heart out for right now?
“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.” – Gary Thomas*
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.” – Gary Thomas*
The Story of Us (1999), a film, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, details a marriage gone flat. I wanted to see the film at the time but the R rating (for language and brief sexuality) deterred me. Just yesterday, I caught the last half-hour of it, and loved that bit. Not recommending the whole film necessarily (it got terrible reviews) but Michelle Pfeiffer’s monolog at the end is amazing.
To set the scene (if you didn’t see the movie either), Willis and Pfeiffer (actors I love) are Ben and Kate in a 15-year marriage. It has unwoven terribly over time. While their two children are away at summer camp, they decide to separate. Toward the end of the film, they are both rethinking their decision. As they pick up their children together, the emotional tension of that reunion is so touching. The monolog, in that last scene, is a great declaration of why not to destroy “the story of us”.
Before you watch (or read**) that scene, let me just say this about marriage and divorce…
My family history is riddled with divorce, and I was afraid of marriage because of all my biological family issues. Divorce happens, and honestly, there are situations when we can’t see any other way out, or through. Still, marriage, as we all at least say if not always believe, is worth the fight.
There are so many reasons to work through the dry and difficult seasons of marriage. Gary L. Thomas is a great teacher on this subject and I recommend all of his books on marriage. They are practical and empathetic and full of hope.
One thing I value is history in relationships. When we went through our hard seasons in marriage, I held on to three things: 1) wanting to honor God in my marriage; 2) never wanting the consequences of divorce (had experienced those as a child growing up in divorce); and 3) not wanting to lose our life together (“the story of us”).
We, my husband and I, are in a different place now, and I can say to any in fragile relationships right now, “Wait for it!” “Work for it!” Of course, it takes two. Pfeiffer’s monolog would have had a whole other feel if Willis didn’t respond, in the film, the way he did. In married life, it does take two, but God, in His mercy and love, adds great power and grace to the one willing. Hold on to that.
So here’s just a part of Pfeiffer’s monolog (women, especially, might enjoy reading this out loud, if you’re in a private place – so full of earnestness and vulnerability – just sayin’):
“We’re an “us”. There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there were cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want to build another city. I like this city…That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up. And it’s not for the sake of the children, but they’re great kids aren’t they? And we made them – I mean think about that – there were no people there and then there were people – two of them. And they grew… Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits? I’m no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so at least I can find the beach, but that’s not a criticism of you, it’s just a strength of mine. And you’re a good friend and good friends are hard to find… I mean I guess what I’m trying to say is – I love you.”**
[I know this is just a movie and maybe not a great one – it just reminded me – the bit I saw, and the monolog – of possibilities and hope. For you who have been terribly hurt in marriages you saw no way to save, God knows…and wants to heal that place in your heart.]