Tag Archives: writing

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

5 Friday Faves – Writing, Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs, Old Men Grooving, Friends Who Wound, and a Clean House

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Friday again. Nice. This week has been an easy one – lighter work load, early morning walks with neighbors, visits with old friends, and marveling at sweet grand-babies. Life on the side of simple. There was one significant dip in our week when my dad had a bad night, but he has improved remarkably since then. Each day is different. Rejoicing in the good days.

Here are my favorite finds from this week. Please share any of yours in Comments below.

1) Writing – Always an outlet for me. I’ve written journals from childhood (called them diaries in those days). blog-writing-lithubPhoto Credit: LitHub

All my life, people who were privy to some of my writing, have told me, “You should write a book!” I don’t have the discipline, message,…or passion, maybe, to write a book…yet. One day. I started this blog for my children, during a time I was frightened that my memory was fading. So far, it seems to be the forgetfulness of my aging (not diseased) brain. Still, blog writing continues to be a joy…almost a mission. When life keeps me from writing, as in the last couple of weeks, I miss it…and then it’s hard to get back into the habit.  Rebecca Solnit posted recently suggesting 10 Tips on How to Be a Writer. Her article is beautiful writing in itself. Here are two of her most encouraging observations:

“It’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.” – Rebecca Solnit

“It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people.” – Rebecca Solnit

2) Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs – It’s a big year here in the US. In just a few days, we will, together, vote to elect the next Commander and Chief of our country. Usually by this time, lawns and cars are covered with signs and stickers that declare our preferences (or decry the prospect of “the other guy” becoming President). blog-lawn-signs-and-bumper-stickersPhoto Credit: YouTube

Bumper stickers abound broadcasting our various allegiances, in general. [Dave and I are not a bumper sticker people, but various ones make for fascinating distractions while stopped at traffic lights. Quite telling of the mixed bag of cultural values we have.]blog-bumper-stickers-cafepressPhoto Credit: Cafepress

Oddly this year, where we live, political loyalties are less obvious. Only occasional bumper stickers. Even fewer lawn signs. Not that they are relevant to election outcomes. Still, they were interesting predictors of where neighbors, co-workers, and random strangers stood politically on issues and candidates.

I wonder why there are so few this year. Are we less sure or even despairing at our options? Is it fear of displaying our colors? What do you think (without going all political in the comments)?

A postscript to this is the possibility that we now live in an age where “putting it all out there” on our vehicles, or in our yards, is not wisdom. Again, thoughts?

blog-bumper-stickers-pjmediaPhoto Credit: PJMedia

3) Old Men Grooving – On a lighter note, I discovered this British dance group, of 40-60-somethings, who performed on Britain’s Got Talent . They call themselves Old Men Grooving, and you will get a sweet chuckle watching them dance together. Very impressive really. Reminds me of when I took a tap class, for the first time, as an adult. Never too late to dance! Find Old Men Grooving on YouTube.

4) Friends Who Wound – OK, this isn’t for everyone. Greg Morse recently wrote a piece for Desiring God on finding a friend to wound you. What seems counter-intuitive is actually something I welcome…and it’s not because I’m a glutton for punishment.

blog-friendsPhoto Credit: SomeEcards

We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of negative people, walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us. This article talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing. I appreciate people who love me and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):

“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.”   – Greg Morse

There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends.

blog-best-friends-woundsPhoto Credit: Dgreetings

5) A Clean House – Who doesn’t like a clean house? When our first child was born, my mom-in-law and her sister came to help me for a week. They were wonderful! One day, while I was sitting all pampered with Baby Girl in my lap, Aunt Nancy asked me what I used to clean the baseboards. Baseboards? First of all, I wasn’t sure what baseboards were, and secondly, I was positive I didn’t clean them. Years later we lived in North Africa and had house helpers all through our time there- those years of my school-aged children. A time when the kids thought that she was their helper rather than mine?!

What a blessing to have the so-daily dust of the Sahara Desert washed away by someone…else! Now back in the US, I am faced with the dust of Richmond, Virginia…Alas. There are endless numbers of articles out there on how to clean house, and I’ve read several. Reading does not necessarily lead to cleaning unfortunately.blog-messy-mom-clean-housePhoto Credit: Quadcity

The article by Valerie Fraser Luesse entitled Do You Clean Like Mama? is my most recent helpful, funny, and non-judgmental read on this subject. It gives me hope again that if I keep at it, one day the house might be clean…for a glorious moment or two, at least.

Those are my faves…although I could also go on and on about the goodness of God, babies, and the sweet arrival of Fall…but those we’ll leave to another day. Have a restful and restorative weekend out there.

5 Friday Faves – Survivorship Plan, Words in a Marriage, Broadway Musicals, Gentleman Traditions, a Poet for the Present, Plus a Bonus

Blog - Friday Faves

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.

1) Survivorship Plan – In my third week post-surgery, and getting better each day. My friend, Kathy, asked me this week if I had considered a survivorship plan. That was new terminology to me. Kathy also shared with me about Kelly A. Turner’s Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds. Turner is a researcher and lecturer in integrative oncology and her focus is on cancer survivors who are out-living their prognoses. In her book, she talks about the nine key factors that she discovered in the study of hundreds of patients. Blog - Cancer Survivorship Plan - Radical RemissionPhoto Credit: Radical Remission by Kelly A. Turner PhD

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.Blog - Cancer Survivorship Plan - Turmeric

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.Blog - Nagging - Words - tolovehonorandvacuumPhoto 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. Blog - Broadway Musicals - Tony Awards - zimbioPhoto 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?Blog - Gentlemen - refe99Photo 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.Blog - BLueberries (2)Blog - Fruit in Season - Strawberries - EgyptBlog - Summer Lunch - Fresh Fruit, Blueberries, Salad, Hot Chicken Salad - BeckyRecipe for Hot Baked Chicken Salad - Mrs. DaisysPhoto Credit: Food.com

Happy Weekend, Loves!

Just Breathe – Writing as Solace and More

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Too much to do, and no time to write. Not a fan of these kinds of days. Still…it is what it is, and my time in front of a screen or blank page is limited by necessity today. And the next few days.

Just breathe.

As Maugham puts it, “Writing is the supreme solace.” I wouldn’t go that far, because prayer and community take writing down the list to #3. I do miss it when it can’t fit into the day.

Writing brings order to my thoughts. As an extrovert leaning toward introversion as I get older, the thoughts pinging around in my brain don’t seem always to make sense until they’re out in conversation or writing. Even in conversation, I’m not sure if it does justice to those thoughts.

So I write.

Today there is no time. The “real world” presses in and I welcome it…with its women and children, and errands, and laundry. If I don’t see my neighbor’s backyard azaleas today, they will be gone. My friend whose son is having surgery may need me later, so I must keep space in the day for her.

Small and large things keep me from writing today…even from thinking deeply…so I leave you now. Life, instead of writing about life, is the order of the day. Thank you for spending these moments with me, Reader Friend. You must understand about words.Blog - Spring Flowers Flowering Trees

Hope and Solace: Advice for Writers

Quotes on Solace – GoodReads

Why I Write – Jessica Morrell

YouTube Video – Breathe by Johnny Diaz with Lyrics

5 Friday Faves – Video Games, NFL Man of the Year, Hospitality, Writing, and Animal Courage

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s that glorious Friday again. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Video Games – What is the appeal of video games for our boys and men? It is a mystery to me. I do understand the gaming camaraderie between players – some friends, some strangers who become friends, kinda sorta. The cutting-edge graphics designed mostly for the eyes of our guys are clearly appealing. And levels…oh, the levels keep our boys and men coming back for the challenge – the competition on an even playing field – without judging from outsiders. Well, except for the occasional run-ins with wife or mother. Lastly, it’s the welcome mindlessness, I’m thinking. The momentary escape from organic chemistry, or frustrating job, or Master’s thesis, or [fill in the blank].

We all have indulgent time-wasters, and I battled with my boys over video games more than I should have. My regret over that transformed into joy this week, as the guitarist son of mine actually turned a video game theme into a lovely work on classical guitar. Who would have thought it? To see Nathan smile (at minute 1:40 in video) makes me wonder at the sweet memory he has of that game’s music. Hello again, Legend of Zelda. Don’t remember you like this.

2) NFL Man of the Year – I’m not a big football fan, but when we came across the NFL Honors program the night before the Superbowl I was intrigued. Football seems all about leaving it on the field. This was a salute to a band of brothers and the stand-outs among them, both on the field and off. There were three nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for 2015 – Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Benjamin Watson. Each man’s character and philanthropic work were highlighted in video vignettes. With all the tabloid coverage of the antics of some of our professional athletes, it was inspiring to see how others spend their off-season time. Anquan Boldin, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, received this year’s award from the Payton family. Read more about Anquan’s work in the global community here.Blog - NFL Man of the Year 2016 - Anquan Boldin (2)Photo Credit: Mercury News

Another highlight of the Man of the Year NFL Honors focus was a welcome reminder of Benjamin Watson and his redemptive statement on Facebook (regarding the 2014 Ferguson Decision). In this profession of moneyed celebrity, it was refreshing to see upclose the caliber of such men as Boldin, Manning, and Watson.

3) Hospitality – Hospitality is defined at Google as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” We live in a culture today of “come as you are; just hanging out with friends; bring your own food/beverage”. I love the comfortable sound and easy experience of that. However, I hope we don’t lose the great global habit of extending generous hospitality – where nothing is expected but the welcome presence of the guest. We lived for many years in North Africa where they expect hospitality of themselves and they lavish it on their guests. Even in the poorest of homes, the cookies and fruit are beautifully presented, and the tea is poured with great ceremony. I learned so much from my Arab and Berber friends and neighbors…and don’t want to forget ever to extend hospitality. There is a difference between service and hospitality – described in TED Talks and distinctive in industry. [I wrote about this here.]

“Hospitality is about looking out instead of looking in…I can look outward and help someone else.”Bobby Stuckey.  The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and encouragements toward it. We are to extend blessing even as far as to our enemies. Benjamin Corey writes eloquently about this Biblical hospitality. Finally, Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert says this: “Hospitality means bringing the stranger in…you have to meet and respect people where they are…I believe strongly that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God.” Blog - Hospitality - The Secret THoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria ButterfieldPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

It’s good to remember that we can extend hospitality in a less-than-perfect house, where toys are still scattered and books a bit piled. It’s more the attitude of the heart in celebrating the other. Also, by definition, hospitality doesn’t have to be based in the home. I will never forget spotting a friend, whose husband was also in graduate school, walking up my driveway, with a pot of coffee and favorite mugs. It turned my morning of home-schooling littles in something altogether other. Extending hospitality…mobile and on-the-fly.Blog - Hospitality

4) Writing – I am always grateful for help in this skill of writing. Finding Chris Bailey’s blog (A Life of Productivity) and book (The Productivity Project) was a great boon to organizing my life and writing (my notes here). Daniel Darling’s blog this past week was another huge encouragement. He writes on how to be a prolific writer.

Darling gives 6 helps in writing: 1) I don’t wait for inspiration, for a cabin next to a mountain stream, or a light bulb. I just write; 2) I write from my passions on topics that interest me; 3) Always be cultivating and chronicling ideas; 4) I try to be curious and always learning; 5) I write in short bursts, in the margins of life; and 6) I try not to be a jerk. Don’t miss how he fills out the story on these points on his blog.Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

5) Animal Courage – When our kids were small and we were living overseas, we took with us this wildlife video entitled The Bear. Like other children’s videos (a lot from Disney), there were story bits that needed processing with a loving adult (like how often the mom dies in these stories…sigh). The Bear was filmed with an intentionality of demonstrating the real life struggle of life in the wild for these animals. Also depicted was the almost-human qualities of care and courage in these animals. I have used one scene of this movie in talks over the years on how gracious it is to have an advocate. One stronger or more influential than we are who stands with us, sometimes out of sight, against an adversary. The plot story involves a bear cub, orphaned when his mother dies (again?!) and an older adult male, beleaguered himself by hunters and the sheer strain of survival sometimes, who becomes the cub’s protector. Here’s the scene (fast-forward to minute 2:30 for time’s sake if needed).

I love this scene. It actually reminds me of us sometimes…and God. We stand as tall as we can and roar (like a wee cub) against the wrongs of this world – wrongs against us sometimes. We are not always aware, but the LORD (I believe from experience and His Word) issues a God-sized roar against those same wrongs. Our adversaries will be reckoned with.

YouTube Video – Scene from the film The Bear, 1988 (Cub & Cougar at 2:30 into scene)

Film The Bear

Top Ten Most Courageous Animals

Happy Friday! Have a weekend full of extending and receiving hospitality, quiet times of refreshment, and reflection on the God who watches over us. Also, hug those video-gaming men of yours…when they take a break (don’t want them to lose a level in the midst of wrestling them down to the floor), right? Right.

Any favorites you want to share? Or memories…or words of wisdom. Would love to hear them (Comment below).

Birthday Week – 2016 – Making Memories and Treasuring Them – and the Winter Storm Jonas

 Blog - Birthday Week - Dad on phone (2)

My dad and I share a birthday week each year. His birthday comes the day before mine. After all, I tell him, he will always be older than me. That joke doesn’t register anymore for him, because he doesn’t remember now that it was funny to us…before. Before Alzheimer’s.

For most of my years, even with living either overseas or out of state, we’ve celebrated our birthdays together. This year we traveled to Georgia for his birthday but would travel back home on mine. That was one of the many differences of this birthday week.

When I captured this image (above) as he talked to one of his grandchildren on the phone, it reminded me of an older picture of him, from many years ago.IMG_0004 (5)Dad was often on the phone, answering calls from people who needed his handiness for one reason or another. He was always happy to serve others and he was quite good at it. I wonder, as his strength and memory have faltered in the last couple of years, if he misses those days. So many phone calls…so much purpose in his life. It’s different now, for Dad. He often doesn’t remember even who called a few minutes earlier. For us, though, his life still has purpose.

We have this season to show him love like he showed us for so many years. We are grateful for him…and for what we’ve learned from him. For the joy of just knowing him…and being in his life.Blog - Birthday Week - Dad, Steph, BarbaraBlog - Birthday Week - Dad, Dave, Debbie

Every time I visit, we go through his picture books to help him remember. We also make new memories together. I’m not sure how many he remembers, but I believe that he remembers that we love him.Blog - Birthday Week - DadBlog - Birthday Week - Dad and Pastor DavePhoto: Dad & his pastor, David Lyle, who visits him regularly.

Dad and I didn’t have my birthday together this year. Dave and I needed to get back home. This would be the start of a very different birthday for me. My computer crashed while we were away, so I wasn’t able to write for days. Then winter storm Jonas would wreak beautiful havoc on our city over the weekend. Family dinner with our kids was cancelled, as was the game night with friends I was looking forward to. No date night with Dave.

The pity party for one was just getting started…and then I came back to my senses.

Before the massive snowfall, on the evening we arrived back home from Georgia, we had our regular weekly gathering of our community group from church. It was all the more special this week because they surprised me by remembering the day – being with these sweet friends lifted my heart so much.IMG_3105

No matter how old we get, we have certain expectations about birthdays. Some may not like to be celebrated…and I’m not much for being the center of attention myself. Still, to be remembered by friends and family with gifts of words, kindnesses, time…it is really quite extraordinary…and it encourages me to want to be more like those friends and those family members.

Thank you for making this birthday, overshadowed by much travel and an enormous snow storm, one that I will treasure. It taught me the lesson all over again to take nothing for granted and all things as gifts from a loving God who lavishes good on us through all sorts of people and experiences.IMG_3173

Winter storm Jonas shut down the rest of this birthday week. So beautiful and at the same time paralyzing.Blog - Birthday Week - SnowBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - BerriesBlog - Birthday Week - Snow - Birds

I was reminded of a devotional from Streams in the Desert:

“There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it.” In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by “rests,” and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the “rest”? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives…If we sadly say to ourselves, “There is no music in a ‘rest,’” let us not forget “there is the making of music in it.” The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson!” —Ruskin

This lament of a “forced rest” may seem strange to those of you who love to sled or play otherwise in the snow… I love the snow also. My heart struggle came with the snow. It kept me from being with others whom I wanted to be with and had all sorts of expectations in that wishing…because it was my birthday. Right? Sigh….

The snowstorm affected us all differently. For me, it was that forced rest…a time to consider God’s goodness, in the quiet reflections of a snowy winter weekend. A time to reflect and a time to repent…of expectations misspent.

I am so blessed…so blessed. Thinking of my dad, at the winding down of his life…dealing with memory lost, with strength waning…and yet he takes joy in the smallest of graces. That is a prescription for contentment for all of us.Blog - Snow - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook.com

We share a birthday week…and my dad, and this storm Jonas, reminded me of all the good woven into every situation of life…if we quiet our minds and look for it…it can be found.

IMG_3220 (3)[Dave’s card to me…on this very different and blessed birthday.]

As the sun sets on the winter storm Jonas, what did you take away from these days of a different sort? I would love to hear about it…IMG_3254 (2)

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Music, Geese in Flight, Restaurant Salad, a Bookstore, Procrastination in Writing

Blog - Friday Faves

At a conference and am running late so this will be a super quick run-through of five of my favorites of this week. Happy Friday!

  1. Christmas Music – We start listening to Christmas music in October. There are so many songs that take us right to the throne-room of God Himself. This one by the King’s College Choir is so exquisitely beautiful. Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium (“O Great Mystery”). Enjoy –

2) Geese in Flight – In the Fall, seeing Canadian geese (and sometimes even snow geese) flying in formation gives me so much joy. My husband’s family lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware, and the migratory return of geese northward is a common and extraordinary sight.  Greg Richardson wrote a piece this week on spiritual life and geese in flight. He reminded me of a long-favorite short essay – 7 Lessons from Geese.

Blog - Geese - Leadershiponpurpose.orgPhoto Credit: leadershiponpurpose.org

3) Restaurant SaladO’Charley’s – where kids eat free – or at least they did when our kids were little. My absolute favorite salad is their Southern Pecan Chicken Salad (so much crunch and chew with fried chicken, dried cranberries, pecans, and Mandarin oranges. Also just the best Balsamic vinaigrette. Dave prefers O’Charley’s California Grilled Chicken Salad – similar array of textures and sweet and sours, but healthier. Not distracting me from my favorite. [Our friend didn’t even order the salad; the Fish & Chips is also yummy!]Blog - OCharleysBlog - OCharleys - foodspotting.comPhoto Credit: Foodspotting.com

4) Bookstore – I’ve actually never been to this bookstore but the video below captured my book-lover heart. It’s a part of the Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. I saw the video as part of watching the livestream of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation conference last week. If you love books and best practices, watch the video. Your heart will sing.

4) Procrastination in Writing – I knew I had this conference this week and could have already written the pieces for this week beforehand – even Friday Faves could have been of a different week’s “faves”. But, no! Procrastination is a struggle for me. So many choices, so many other things easier to be distracted by than focusing on writing. Jerry Bridges, a successful and prolific author, writes sympathetically and encouragingly about procrastination – something he has also struggled with. Such a helpful article. If I hadn’t procrastinated, I would list out some of his helps…but instead I leave you with a graphic from an altogether different article. Sigh…

Photo Credit: Tom Gauld, Gointothestory.blcklst.com

What are some of your faves of this week? Hope your weekend is full of making more.

Memory – Whatever it is that I Don’t Have I Want to Keep

Blog - Memory - BegoniasBlog - Memory - Chocolate Mint

My husband is a master gardener.

We have a beautiful backyard with a garden nurtured by a previous owner, Holly, and now made our own by Dave. Just beyond the patio are two pots. One is a pot of begonias; they have thrived all summer and keep blooming into Fall. There’s a matching pot of chocolate mint that is more scraggly. Dave told me next summer he wanted to do begonias in both pots. I asked him what he would do with the mint and he said he’d just throw it away.

No…I don’t want it thrown away. It has memories for me. What memories, he asked. It was here when we came (Holly was also a master gardener and left all kinds of sweet treasures in this yard of ours).

Then Dave said, “No, it wasn’t.” “It was a gift from our neighbor where we used to live.” To which I responded:

“Whatever the memory is that I don’t have I want to keep it.”

That nonsensical sentence is actually quite revealing. Once upon a time, I had an amazing memory. I could multi-task like crazy, keeping up with all sorts  of details. Now, I make lists tucked on my keyboard each day to remember what I might otherwise forget.

My doctor, who is my same age, tested my memory at my request. He said it was normal and he struggles with the same age-related forgetfulness.

“Whatever the memory is that I don’t have I want to keep it.”

So…I write to keep that memory…of family visits, far-away places we’ve traveled and called home, lessons learned, and all the times God showed Himself faithful and kind in our lives together.

I write for my children…and for me. It would be a huge joy for me if my meanderings add to your day in a positive way.

I write to keep remembering…such times as these. Grateful. By the way…that pot of chocolate mint? It may hold begonias next year, but my dear husband will plant the mint somewhere so I can enjoy the memory…of that sweet young man next door who shared it with us…now that I remember again. Joy.IMG_0113 IMG_0117 IMG_0007

Forgetfulness – Seven Types of Normal Memory Problems

Age-related Memory Loss

When Memory is Normal & When it is Not-So-Normal

A Grateful Heart Day – Thankful for Those Who Just Show Up – and for a God Who Never Leaves

Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

I’ve been writing all my life. Keeping a journal has been a source of joy and sanity for many of those years. Once when we were overseas, I was encouraged to keep a Joy List – a list of the simple things that just gave me joy. It’s still a joy to add to that list as I experience more of God’s kindnesses in His creation – people and places, stuff and such.

This is going to be quick. In a few minutes, I head to the airport to visit my Dad. He is such a delight to me…even with Alzheimer’s, he’s funny and thus far still loves life and family and food. He still prays which is a blessing to him, I’m sure, and to all of us.Papa on 90th

Anyway, I want to come back to this topic another day. For now, for you who show up for each other, what a joy you are! How grateful I am for you – in my life and in the lives of those I love. You may think it a small thing, a usual thing, but it’s not.

Marilyn Gardner wrote on this topic in her blog, and I found it this morning while researching the phrase “just showing up”. She expressed it so well.

The world is not changed through one momentous event, it is changed through the often boring, simple acts of obedience that I am daily called to. it is changed by showing up.” – Marilyn Gardner

I also want to recommend a book by Kara Tippetts entitled Just Show Up (see link below). She wrote this with a friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, who, with others, “showed up” as Kara was living with cancer. She is with the Lord now but has left such a beautiful legacy in her life and writing.

Blog - Just Show Up

“Today I want to show up. I want to be fully present. It’s in showing up that I learn more of the faithfulness of the God who shows up. ” – Marilyn Gardner

It’s About Showing Up – Communicating Across Boundaries – Marilyn Gardner

Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn & Other Books by Kara

10 Biblical Proofs that God Will Never Leave You or Forsake You

Just Show Up – James Altucher

“Inspiration Is for Amateurs – The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”