Tag Archives: Spring

5 Friday Faves – So Taken by the Beauty Around Us – in Music, Nature, Technology, Words, and Community

Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.

1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist.  That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know

the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.

For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.

The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.

[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]

Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.

YouTube Video – Downton Abbey Theme – “The Suite” – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Bioshock Infinite: Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.

Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.

What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.

3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.

Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).

I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.

…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.

4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr

Check out his commencement speech on putting God first. As well as another on Falling Forward.

Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift  and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.

Quotes About Words

5) Community – Oh the wonder of real community! Of people coming together for something larger than ourselves. To give aid or to just enjoy one another. I have been graced with grand community.

This week, the beauty of people who serve well really resonated. Also, along with that, the intentional care or stewardship of such folks. I came across this stellar article by non-profit leader Joanne Fritz. She posted on Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?

Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.

Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):

G. Personal growth and well-being

I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.

V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.

E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.

R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.

S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Making Time – Getting to Givers – Join In UK

Then Fritz prompts 10 observations that can guide us in how to show true care for a community of volunteers:

Volunteers:

  • Want you to be prepared for them.
  • Want to feel welcomed.
  • Want good training.
  • Want to do interesting work.
  • Want to know up front how much time the job will take.
  • Want to be appreciated.
  • Want you to communicate with them well and often.
  • Want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • Want to be socially connected.
  • Want to learn something new.     Joanne Fritz

Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?Joanne Fritz

Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.

When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.

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That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.

Bonuses:

Like a Child: the Virtue of Children’s Books – Samuel Loncar

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Generous Child at Any Age – Rachael Boyer

The iPad Is a Far Bigger Threat To Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Do You Choose Convenience Over Principles? – Frank Sonnenberg

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t you wonder where the recycling goes? One day I’m doing a field trip, but for today, these were helpful:

Photo Credit: Brené Brown

Quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.Thoreau

Photo Credit: Facebook page Humor Is Contagious

Photo Credit: Writing About Writing, Facebook page

5 Friday Faves – Perspective, Academy Awards, Malcolm Gladwell & Success, Relationships, and Changes in the Weather

31 years ago yesterday, I woke well before dawn and knew right away why. It wasn’t the wild wind of Spring, bringing in the month of March “like a lion”. What woke me was the beginning of labor that would last all day. As we drove to the hospital, the wind gusts pushed against our little pickup truck and added to the deep memories of that morning. Many hours later, our firstborn arrived.

This morning was very much like that morning long ago. I was, however, wakened this time by those March winds, blowing hard outside. No going back to sleep, I settled in front of the fireplace with coffee and reading…reflecting on all the good of this week.

Here are my five favorite finds:

1) Perspective – Two authors this week caused me to think deeply about how we make decisions and choose directions. Writer pastor Scott Sauls (author of a favorite book Befriend) wrote a series of “What ifs” in his blog this week. Here are a few:

What if, in the spirit of Paul intelligently and winsomely engaging Greek academics with the truth of the gospel, Christians became known for engaging in thoughtful, enriching, challenging, and honoring discourse about God, humanity, and life (Acts 17:22-34; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)?

What if, in the spirit of how care was given to vulnerable children and women in the early church, women experiencing the trauma and fear of an unplanned pregnancy began to think first of local churches, not local clinics, as a comprehensively life-giving place of comfort, counsel, and care (James 1:27)?

What if, in the spirit of Scripture’s vision for the integration of faith and work, Christians became known as the bosses everyone wants to work for, the colleagues everyone wants to work alongside, and the employees everyone wants to hire (Ephesians 6:5-9)?

[Read the rest here.]

Photo Credit: Flickr

Also innovator Steven King wrote of making a decision NOT to become a professor in North Korea. Unlike professor Tony Kim and others who now languish imprisoned there without benefit of a trial or any contact with family or other representative. Remember the #USA3.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Could I Have Been the Professor Being Held in North Korea? – Steven King

2) The Academy Awards – The 2018 Oscars ceremony is coming up this weekend. Among the nominees is The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”, the original song by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song celebrates the beautiful humanity in all of us, no matter our differences or peculiarities.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you have not heard this song yet, I have links below. They are in a particular order, and you definitely should take your lunch or coffee break to watch all of them.

  1. The Greatest Showman – This Is Me [Official Lyric Video]

2. The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” with Keala Settle (The Making Of)

3. Beyond the Guitar’s arrangement of a Greatest Showman medley (including This Is Me)

4. This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman Soundtrack) – Official Fan Video – Nathan of Beyond the Guitar is included at minute 1:26 and 2:05

[Sidebar – There are 4 other original songs in the Best Song category of this year’s Academy Awards. One of them is Remember Me from the film Coco. Here is the Beyond the Guitar‘s arrangement of this lovely lullaby.]

3) Malcolm Gladwell & Success – Author Malcolm Gladwell is a tireless student of human nature and culture. My husband brought my attention to him through his books The Tipping Point and Outliers.

Gladwell is scheduled this year to teach writing in the online Master Class. In the promo (below), he tells a story about the Goliath’s in our lives.Photo Credit: Guillaime Courtois, Wikimedia Commons

“Why do giants lose? Because they can’t see….they’re so big and strong and powerful they lose the ability to kind of properly appreciate the world around them. It’s not just a story about David’s courage and greatness…it’s a story about Goliath’s blindness.”

In a video montage (archived on YouTube), Gladwell gives clarity to how we can be successful in life (even with Goliath’s):

Gladwell’s 10 Rules for Success

  1. Have the courage to pursue your idea.
  2. Try a new approach.
  3. #Believe in meaningful work.
  4. Constantly revise your conclusions.
  5. Distinguish yourself from others.
  6. Practice.
  7. Explore.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Understand the rules of business.
  10. Outwork others.

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Unheard Story of David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

4) Relationships – They are the heart of life. Relationships. Friendships. As we get older, too often we allow friendships and family relationships to go untended, unnurtured. To our own peril.Photo Credit: Flickr

Writer Anna Goldfarb gives wise counsel in her piece How to Maintain Friendships. In brief here’s what she advises:

  • Communicate expectations.
  • Nix “I’m too busy”.
  • …Then examine your busyness.
  • Personal, small gestures are the way to go.
  • Cultivate routines.
  • Come through when it counts.
  • Acknowledge efforts made.

Read her whole article for detail and context. Wisdom.

How to Maintain FriendshipsAnna Goldfarb

This week, I also discovered this young and dynamic pastor, Michael Todd. His sermon series on relationships is like having coffee with a trusted friend who knows stuff and is funny to boot. The first sermon is Before the Person: Relationship Goals. [You can start 20 minutes in.]

He presents how God provided for Adam in the Garden with Eve, but not before He set other things in place first.

Before the Person:

(Genesis 2:15-18)

  1. Place
  2. Purpose
  3. Provision
  4. Identity
  5. Parameters

Good teaching, for sure.

5) Changes in the Weather – I love this changeable weather. This week was such a mix – short sleeves one day, cap and jacket the next. As I say earlier, this morning was so windy, it woke me up before 4:00am. It’s still blowing hard hours later. Our wind chimes are ringing like church bells on a wedding day. Crazy wonderful weather.

[My garden flag flew away and I grabbed my jacket and I walked, still in pjs and slippers, until I found it.]

The beauty of this time of year in Virginia also changes with each passing day…more and more blooms heralding the coming of Spring.

So there you have it. What were some of your favorite finds this week? Please comment below. Also, take care out there in this weather. Enjoy the sun when it comes, and take the rain as a gift to wind down a bit from your week. With much love.

Bonuses:

Rising Tide Startups – Podcast with Glenn Hirchfield, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Did you catch the ice skating gala performance on NBC the night before the 2018 Winter Olympics closed? The finale was amazing, as all the medalists performed to the Oscar nominee song “This Is Me” (yes…again). I thought it would be easy to find the professional videotape of this event but all I could find were fan videos. Still, they are fun to watch…especially capturing the joy of Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Enjoy:

The rehearsal:

The final performance:

Quote:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Dementia Awareness Every Day

5 Friday Faves – The Speech of a Great Leader, Free USA3, More Than an App, Valentine Sweetness, and Bonuses Make 5

Here is a lightning fast rundown of my favorite finds this week:

1)  The Speech of a Great Leader – I wanted to quickly point you to Rams coach Sean McVay’s speech accepting the NFL award of 2017 Coach of the Year.  He never made it about himself. He expressed gratitude for man after man in his organization (and also his mom and girlfriend). Great leaders make it about everybody else.

Photo Credit: NFL

Also…just wanted to share this video of the Philadelphia Eagles:

2) Free USA3 – The Winter Olympic Games has its Opening Ceremony today. How beautiful to watch this display of international cooperation! To see all the athletes representing their nations is quite a sight. This year, as well as a few other times, North and South Korean athletes have walked together in the parade of nations. We will want to applaud.

Photo credit: Opening Ceremony, NBC

Then we remember the threats of nuclear attack.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of another sober reason not to celebrate. Three Americans are still being detained in North Korea. Businessmen. Educators. Americans. Held without reason. Sentenced without a trial to hard labor. Months ago…

Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, posted a video on Youtube about the plight of these three Americans.

Photo Credit: CNN

Please do what you can if you are at the Olympics or on social media talking about the Olympics. Use #USA3 as a hashtag. Raise 3 fingers if you are present at the Games, when you cheer for our US athletes.

     And pray.

Free USA3 Facebook page

3) More Than an AppKrueTV is shutting down.

This app is going away after today. It was a livestreaming platform for artists – new ones and seasoned ones alike. It was a springboard for many, including Beyond the Guitar.

I’m sad – watching many artists doing their “last stream” on Krue today. They will go to other platforms and we will find them. What I will miss is this community. It was extraordinary.

4) Valentine Sweetness – Gather a bunch of great women friends around February 14, and you get a feast of Valentine sweetness. Here is just a sampling:

5) Bonuses – This week was about 5 minutes long. I will close it out with what was going to be the bonuses. These will suffice for my fifth find:

A Film:  Isle of Dogs

A Quote: “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” – James Baldwin

A Newly Discovered Product: Probably over 10 years ago, at Christmas time, in Cairo, Egypt, I attempted to make caramel. A Brazilian friend of mine told me how. Take unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk and cover them with water and heat on the stovetop for 3 hours. Really simple. Unless you fall back asleep after putting the turkey in the oven in the pre-dawn of a Christmas morning. At some point later, I awoke to a loud pop! On my way to the kitchen, another pop happened. When I arrived the white walls of our kitchen looked like the side of a Guernsey cow. The water had boiled out, and the cans had exploded. Golden brown caramel was splattered over every surface of the kitchen…on Christmas morning. I never made caramel again.

This was a lovely find this week:

and…Spring is coming:

Have a weekend of making memories with those you love. See you soon.

5 Friday Faves – Favorite Book of 2018, the Courage of Rachael Denhollander, Good News, Love Across a Lifetime, and a Hint of Spring

It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.

1) Favorite Book of 2018 – It’s only January, but this 2016 book has already become my strong favorite for the year. It is Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch.

Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”.  In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!

Photo Credit: Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

The Best Quotes from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – Barnabas Piper

Strong and Weak Quotes – GoodReads

[Playing God by Crouch is also on my short list for starting out 2018 reading. Then, too, his The Tech-Wise Family. Has anyone else read any of his books? Please comment and let us know. Thanks!]

The Tech-Wise Family: Every Day Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family – The Matt Lewis Show – Interview with Andy Crouch

2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.

The Incredible Testimony as a Former Gymnast Confronts Her Sexual Abuser in Court (Justin Taylor)

Photo Credit: Neil Blake, MLive.com

How the Indy Star and Rachael Denhollander Took Down Larry Nassar – Eric Levenson

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – Juliet Macur

*7 Lessons Learned From Larry Nassar Sentencing – Dwight Adams

  1. Believe children when they report abuse.
  2. Anyone can be an abuser.
  3. Reporting of child abuse must be improved.
  4. Child molesters strive to win victims’ trust.
  5. Children must speak up about abuse.
  6. Police must take on tough cases.
  7. Investigative journalism is crucial.*

3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here.   The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine wrote about good news in the midst of a horrific situation. She gave me permission to post this. I hope you will read some of her story below…it’s our story, in one way or another.

YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.

So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.

On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.

While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?

I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.

Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is.
God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)

You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy

Good News Network – a secular website with the goal of posting good news every day

Gospel – Explore God – several articles on various topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What is the Gospel? – Norman Herbst – Explore God

4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.

These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!

How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.

5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!

Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!

P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).

Bonuses:

Amish Sayings

Disabled by Design – My Abundant Life Without Arms – Daniel Ritchie

Cracker Barrel – Lunch with one of my kiddos, Valentine’s Cards, and Rocking Chairs

5 Friday Faves – No-Pressure Valentine’s Day, Travel Hacks, Prayer Habits, First Signs of Spring, and Wordplay Smiles

Friday! You made it. Joy! Here are five of my favorite finds for you…

1) No-Pressure Valentine’s Day – Seriously no pressure! Valentine’s Day is one of those super emotionally-laden days (maybe more for women, but I’m sure it’s not easy for guys either). I’ve always celebrated it, whether a man was involved or not, because of all the lovely stuff attached to it (cards, candy, dinner out, flowers, etc.). Never minded paying for those for myself or others. The best part is just being with people you love…whoever they are.

This week I came across a super-silly video by the Merrell Twins. They are these two YouTube stars and are pretty cute. The video is about Valentine’s Day with boyfriend or without boyfriend. The best part actually is their #TwinTalk at the end of the video…wait for it.

YouTube Video – It’s Valentine’s Day Song – Merrell Twins

I’ve previously written about Valentine’s Day (here and here). In fact, please read those pieces…for a no-pressure day. Seriously.

2) Travel Hacks – We who have the money and means to travel either love it or hate it. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s been too long since my last international trip…so I’ve been drawn to travel stories and articles. Tim Ferriss hosted Ryan Holiday on a blog about his 21 Travel Rules. Having lived in several countries and traveled through many more, I agree with many of his rules. Check them all out. Some you may already know like packing light, eating healthy, and don’t over-schedule your trip. Other bits of advice from Holiday were quite new for me – like not reclining your seat on a plane (THANK YOU!). Also don’t depend on guidebooks – talk to people where you’re going about things to do and see. Another idea: Note places or experiences described in books you’ve read and enjoy them again on your trip. One last favorite hack: don’t talk and talk about your upcoming trip or plan and plan – just go! Read the rest here:

Photo Credit: We Are Travel Girls

How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

How to Travel – Some Contrarian Advice (shorter version of above article)

…and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” goes global!

3) Prayer Habits – Prayer is probably the most impactful thing we can do in life – for ourselves and those we love. Developing a habit of prayer can start today. I’m not talking about some sort of rote activity or just saying words out into the room. Prayer is not delivering a wish list to some benevolent father figure. It is a conversation with the God of the universe who calls us to Himself. He infuses all our lives with his love and purpose. He also actually taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Cliff Jordan of Movement Church spoke recently on how God Himself guides us to pray – listen here.

I learned the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when I was a child. It has been a comfort and primer for me ever since. Consider teaching your children to pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then guide them to grow up in a lifestyle of prayer…following your lead.Photo Credit: Faith Hope Love at Home; Courageous the Movie

Nick Aufenkamp writes about Martin Luther’s prayer patterns and offers a simple and sound approach to daily prayer:

  • Seek first God’s rule and reign and righteousness in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
  • Discipline our wandering minds.
  • Build a fence so our prayers can run wild inside (through the structure of the Lord’s Prayer).

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Four Ways to Lead Our Children Toward Bravery – Jill Waggoner

4) First Signs of Spring – It’s happening! Spring is showing up again. No matter how many cold and snowy days this winter still produces before it gives in to Spring, we can see it coming!

5) Wordplay Giggles – So I didn’t know the word for it until this week, but some people have a knack for turning the meaning of a sentence to something hilarious. Winston Churchill was gifted at the use of something you’ve probably never heard defined but you’ve enjoyed the humor within it.  A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Photo Credit: Frustrated Boomers

  1. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  2. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  3. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  4. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  5. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  6. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  7. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  8. Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you will be a mile away and he won’t have any shoes.
  9. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  10. “She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — Groucho Marx
  11. Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  12. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one now.
  13. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away. – Monty Pelerin

Paraprosdokian Fun

Steven Wright Quotes – Good Reads

Have a sweet weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved!

5 Friday Faves – Customer Service, a Documentary, a Rainy Spring Day, Taking Your Kids to Hard Places, and Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them)

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Here are my five favorites from this week…like you, I also have ongoing favorites (like time with my granddaughter, and the rest of the family, and deep talks with friends, and moments of revelation and inspiration – some hard and some gentle) that don’t get shared always…not sure why I wanted to share that even…but here are these! Have a safe and soaring day…and weekend.

1) Customer Service – Taking care of our customers and clients is important. Horst Schulze, renowned hotel executive and speaker, defines customer service as a three-part process: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. I was facilitating a meeting recently, and one of the participants raved about our restrooms. He says to commend our housekeeping staff, because that level of service takes genuine pride and caring. He also asked me if I had ever heard of these super-gas stations in Texas named Buc-ee’s. Apparently they are amazing. When you travel a lot by car there is pretty much nothing as winsome as a nice restroom. My story on customer service this week relates to the outpatient registration and imaging department at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

You know those occasions when you go in to register for service and you hardly see the person’s eyes (either fixed on a computer screen or at paperwork or just walking ahead of you or working the equipment attached to you). My experience this week with these personnel and volunteers was very different. Warm, engaging, refreshingly funny, full of life, making me comfortable, working quickly, and then getting me back out the same door I came in (much appreciated after going down a myriad of hallways)…consummate customer service complete with a snack. 🙂Blog - Customer Service

2) DocumentaryBono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms This week, a 20-minute film debuted highlighting the friendship of Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (Bible scholar and author). Their relationship centers on how The Psalms have impacted both their lives. I got to see a prescreening of the film and reviewed the it here and posted my takeaways from the Q & A with the filmmaker Nathan Clarke. The film is honest, loving, and thought-provoking. Watch it below or here.

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atU2Blog

3) A Rainy Spring Day – After a really hot day this week,  our flowers drooped and the greens looked frail…then the cool rain came. Joy! 2016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0212016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0422016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0382016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0262016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0192016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0122016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 002

4) Taking Your Kids to Hard Places – We don’t usually think of intentionally working hard experiences into our kids’ lives, but think about it. Our children haven’t been to really hard places in the world but they have had to wrestle with how to respond to beggars in North Africa…and here. Our boys have tended to a very ill grandfather. They haven’t been to many funerals, or visited many hospital rooms, or served in a shelter or soup kitchen. I would have done more of that with them, now that I see things differently.  Jamie Dew writes about this in 6 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Hard Places. He observes that, “Seeing poverty and brokenness has the ability to transform the most selfish child into a selfless child. Letting them see the broken world creates the same burdens in their hearts [as it does in ours] and gives them a true sense of dependence on God.” Any stories you have about this? Please comment below.Blog - Taking Kids to Hard Places - thestarPhoto Credit: The Star

5) Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them) – Moms of all ages and stages have challenging lives – whether they work both inside and outside the home or more inside the home. I was in both camps of moms at various times during our children’s growing up years. Some moms aren’t able to financially do without a job, and others dearly love their work, and the moms who work hard to stay home all have two things in common: 1) they all have children and the responsibilities that go with those darlings, and 2) they need our nurturing, not our judging. Jen Wilkin wote a provocative article on both stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and working-outside-the-home-moms (WOHMs). It’s worth your time (women AND men). [Dads, you, too, benefit from nurturing as well.]  I’m always glad for the opportunity to see something differently than I might otherwise – it helps me to love better. This was one of those reads.Blog - Stay at home moms - nurturing moms larksnotesthis

Photo Credit: LarksNotesThis

Bonus: Nathan Mills @beyondtheguitar posted a new arrangement of one of the Zelda melodies on YouTube. A friend of mine who works with PTSD survivors in Japan commended the soothing nature of his Zelda arrangements. Enjoy.

 

Worship Wednesday – Celebrating the God of Autumn & Every Season – with Nichole Nordeman

2014 October Erica & Justin's wedding & Trip to Georgia 434

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, And day and night shall not cease.”Genesis 8:22

“Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun. You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.”Psalm 74:16-17

Today I’m rejoicing in the cool morning air as we enter the Fall season. The trees here are still leafy green, but last week in another city, I saw the first frosting of yellow and orange on trees. Fall is my favorite season of the year.

For Worship Wednesday, I went looking for some of the old hymns on God’s creation and harvest time. Then, this song, Every Season, by Nichole Nordeman, popped up in my search. I’d never heard it before.

In a piece on American Songwriter, she talked about this song and its meaning:

“It speaks to the consistency of how present God is in our lives despite the seasons we go through. It’s a reminder that God is the God of all seasons and that we can depend on that, regardless of the climate of our lives. Many years ago I was a church pianist and played for a lot of weddings. I played at a friend’s wedding and, a few years later, was asked to play at the same friend’s memorial service after she died of cancer. God is a God of weddings and funerals. We can’t let circumstances indicate how present God is in our lives.”

It is so easy for us to marvel at God’s creation and forget He is IN His creation. To focus on our circumstances and forget that He is also IN our circumstances.

As I revel in the beginning of Autumn where we are, I will worship the God of this season, and of all seasons.Blog - Worship Wednesday - Every SeasonPhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Worship with me:

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and was to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice You
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Songs with Harvest Theme

Thanksgiving & Thankfulness – Hymns and Gospel Songs from the Cyber Hymnal

YouTube Video – Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Story Behind the Song – Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Lyrics to Every Season by Nichole Nordeman

Nichole Nordeman Website

No Small Kindness – Flowers from Her Yard – a Gift from a Stranger

Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt 2

For a year, we rented a small house in a tidy neighborhood. It was easy to walk the neighborhood and I knew the yards well. When April came, this one yard in particular became my favorite.  The owner had the most beautiful garden of bearded, purple-blue irises. They are my favorite flower, because they remind me of my Mom. She had so many in our yard from the time I was a child. Just seeing those irises made my heart glad – from the days of closed bud, through the glory of full bloom, and even past their splendor. I loved those days of walks past that house.

Then I met the owner. Her name is Liz. She turned into her driveway one day when my daughter and I had been walking but were presently lingering in front of her house. I must have taken a hundred pictures of those irises during that growing season. Liz told me the story of how her dad was a botanist and he planted the irises years before. He and my mom would have liked each other, I’m sure.

Liz and I would only meet that one day. I told her we were preparing to move. We had bought a house (our house now) and we would be moving within a couple of weeks. I thanked her for the pure pleasure her garden of irises had brought me during that April and early May.

Then she did a quite remarkable thing. She said, “I’m planning to thin the beds alongside my house, so if you want them, they’re yours.” Of course, I wanted them! We exchanged phone numbers, and when the irises were past their season, she would call me, and I could come get them.Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt

She didn’t forget me.

One Sunday, after we had moved, she called me and said they were ready for me. She had them dug up, separated from each other and gathered in garbage bags. I picked them up from the curb because she would be napping, she said on the phone.

My husband planted them in our yard, in a sunny spot. It’s been many years since we’ve had a garden, and we had little experience with irises. We weren’t sure what would happen come the next April…but we hoped they would thrive in our yard as they did in Liz’s.

As Spring lengthened this year, those irises woke from their winter sleep, in this very new place. The foliage was beautiful alone yet we weren’t sure blooms would develop. A few have, actually and I was waiting for the debut of those sentimental flowers. Yesterday evening, I was visiting a friend, and my phone signaled a text message.  Dave sent me this photo: Blog - Iris in my yard 3

The first of those irises bloomed in our yard! Almost a year had passed from the day I met Liz. Still, I called her to tell her the good news. She remembered me. I thanked her again for that generous gift she shared with me. Flowers from her yard. This stranger and friend. Today she was suffering from the allergies so common here in spring with the yellow pine pollen that settles everywhere. One day, we agreed, we will meet again.

What she did for me that day about a year ago was no small kindness. This stranger shared a bit of her life with me, and now that bit flourishes in my life…in my yard, and in my heart. The kindness of a stranger – so unexpected and so captivating. It’s one of the many kindnesses of strangers I’ve known in life across continents. It’s no small thing.

“If I look back at my life, the sweet small kindnesses of strangers are pivotal and really combine to help shape my world view – and they probably have no idea.” – Debra Smith

“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.”  – Mary Anne Radmacher

Blog - Irises in Steph's yardSome of Mom’s irises transplanted in my niece Stephanie’s yard

Resting Your Eyes and Lifting Your Soul – the Glorious Banner of Love that is Spring

Blog - Spring Trees - Flame Tree - bestphotosite.net

“He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love.” – Song of Solomon 2:4

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Living in Egypt for many years gave us a deep appreciation for the change of seasons. Although it seemed in Cairo that there were only two seasons – one being hot and the other hotter – the trees knew when to bloom. We loved the deep red flame trees (above), the towering purple jacarandas (above), and the crimson-flowered poinsettia trees. The deep colors of these trees were striking on the canvas of this colossal sand-colored city, built atop the Sahara Desert.

Then in our years in Tunisia and Morocco, the seasons changed more like the four we were used to in the U.S. The rainy seasons there (October to March) ushered in spring vegetation. The flowering almond, apple, and cherry trees brought the promise of the first fruits of summer.Flowering Almond TreeApple Tree

Now settled back in the States, we are re-discovering this amazing season of Spring. At first, early signs of winter’s earth coming out of its hard freeze are very subtle. The yellow crocuses push through the gray soil almost overnight. Then wild violets peak purple through fallen leaves. As more and more flowers bud and bloom, our eyes are drawn up from the ground to see spring wonder all around us. Then the trees awake –  with the warming sun, the lengthening days, and whatever else signals the time of flowering. This is my favorite time of Spring. When the flowers open on the trees, and the leaves follow. We tune our eyes upward to the incredible glory. These magnificent trees are a grand display of exquisite beauty – a praise offering to Creator God. What a gift He gives us in these trees. They are truly like a banner of His love over us.

In our neighborhood, there are so many different kinds of flowering trees – some of which we remember fondly from other places and some which we’re just learning. Even the maple trees, for so long bare, have seed clusters adorning them as if they were flowers.Blog - Spring Trees 3Blog - Spring Trees #10Blog - Spring TreesBlog - Spring Trees #13Blog - Spring Trees #7Blog - Spring Trees #11

Just like with food, fragrance, and music, these flowering trees trigger memories of places, people, and graces of God. Flowering pear trees, for instance, remind me of my nephew, Chad, who died at 23 in a car accident. Our shock and devastation at losing him so suddenly was cushioned, in surprising ways, by the grace of God. One of those being the funeral procession in Georgia, during the month of March. As we slowly made our way to the cemetery, this long line of cars full of people who loved Chad, we traveled roads lined with dazzlingly white pear trees. It was as if they stood at attention, against the blue sky, like a military color guard, there to honor this darling young man.

Redbuds in bloom always remind us of Spring in East Tennessee where we lived when the children were small. The deep pink-purple flowering clusters were our signal that winter was finally over. Even though they are blooming now, here in Virginia, I am always reminded of Tennessee.Blog - Spring Trees #15Blog - Spring Trees #2

Dogwoods and crepe myrtle trees remind me of my mom’s yard. No matter where I see them, my mind goes back to our home growing up. The same goes for tulip magnolias and Dave’s mom. They bloomed so bright and full on the trees beside his parents’ white clapboard house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When I see them, it’s that place that comes to mind…even though they have long-since moved to another house, one without tulip magnolias.

Blog - Spring Trees #8Tulip magnolia

The flowering trees are my favorite part of Spring’s majesty. There are shrubs and bushes that rival the trees in beauty. Each with their own grand entrances. First the forsythia, then the azaleas. Then as Spring moves toward Summer, the wisteria, rhododendron, hydrangeas, and others.

Again memories are attached – the year our daughter was born in March and a surprise late snowfall hung on our forsythia bushes. Brilliant white on bright yellow.Blog - Spring Trees #9

Lastly, looking back to those years, again, in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco….with hedges of bougainvillea, rows of hibiscus trees, and arbors wound with jasmine. Those glimpses of glory rested our eyes and lifted our souls. We were always reminded that nature gives witness to a good and gracious God who reveals Himself in so many ways. These breathtaking flowering trees of Spring are as a banner of His love unfurled over our heads. All we have to do is look up.

“I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, that they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it. – Isaiah 41:19-20

Blog - Spring Flowers Flowering TreesPhoto above by my friend Katrina Otto, Kansas City, Missouri

200 Tree Pictures – Best Free Tree Photos with Tree Names

YouTube Video – Amazing Tree Tunnels from Around the World

Photo Credit: Images of flowering almond tree, jacaranda tree, and apple tree; flame tree; all others are mine.

Finally, Spring

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 027“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”Hosea 6:3

Our first March in this house, and we are surrounded by the gray, brown, and dark green of winter. After the cold dreariness of winter, you wonder if Spring will ever come. Then, the miracle of life unseen, nurtured somehow under the topsoil, unfolds itself pushing through to the sun. With the melting of our last winter snow, came the first flowers…as if by magic. 2015 March Downton American Idol  Trip to Georgia  Papa 099 (2)

This time of year is such a mystery and a marvel to me. For months, the ground is gray-brown, seemingly barren. Dead. Dormant. Then the first signs of life, and each day more pop up, heralding another Spring. A picture in nature of the faithfulness of God – “as certain as the dawn”.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0012015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0022015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 011Most of the green shoots appearing right now we didn’t plant. The last homeowner left us a beautiful garden that we now tend and make our own. Dave, the resident gardener who is my husband, has an idea of what all these plants are. For me, it’s enough that they are growing, inches a day, with the promise of flowers soon. It’s part of the wonder of Spring: what all must happen underground to yield all the green we see now, and the amazing colors we will soon see.

Dave did plant irises for us last June – they were a gift from our neighbor, Liz, who has a yard full of purple-blue, bearded irises. These remind me of my mom’s yard. She loved irises and I love them because of her. 2014 May Flowers 004These iris shoots are coming up, and whether they bloom this year or not…just seeing them has given me that springtime hopefulness.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 028

When we lived all those years in Morocco, Spring came early. By March, the temperate winter weather and soaking rains had already produced fields of flowers. We had pots of flowers on our apartment balcony all year round. I miss Morocco…and the glory of those early Springs.2006 March -- Boys at full size

Here, we plant in our gray-brown garden beds in March, trusting that just like with crocuses, daffodils, irises, and daisies of Springs before, we will watch seeds and bulbs do what they are created to do…grow and grow and grow.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 033

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 015

We moved into this house the end of May last year. After living for decades in city apartments and rented houses, this was our first summer to enjoy a yard of our own. It was so beautiful, and we look forward to the return of all those flowers from last year. We will not wish one day away from Spring, though. Finally, it has arrived.2014 May Flowers 0212014 May Flowers 0432014 May Flowers 0372014 June - Visits with Friends 013 (2)