Category Archives: Stories

Monday Morning Moment – Prairie Doc Rick Holm – A Life Well-lived

Photo Credit: Prairie Doc, Facebook

Today an old friend has been on my mind…Rick Holm. He died yesterday, March 22, 2020, of pancreatic cancer. He died at a very young 71.

[Yesterday was also the 5th anniversary of the death of Kara Tippetts…also so young when she died…also a life well-lived. Never met her yet she had a huge impact on me, writing about her here.]

The news of Rick’s death hit me hard. With our whole world dealing with the impact of the Coronavirus, we know we may be facing our own contracting of the illness or, worse, the death of people we know and love. That was the overlay of this news for me.

It’s been almost 40 years since Rick and I shared the same space. That’s Rick with the pipe and red suspenders in the image below.

I was the cancer nurse specialist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Rick was a resident in the internal medicine program of Emory Medical School. Then he went on faculty at the same med school. We saw each other almost every day, not only because of working in close proximity, but because we were also across-the-hall neighbors of an old apartment building on the bus line between Emory and Grady. He gave me the great gift of his friendship.

Rick called South Dakota home. He introduced us to a culture new to us in Atlanta, resorting to his quasi-Swedish accent to tweak a conversation that went too serious. He had such a gift for putting people at east. I think it was because he genuinely cared for people. He found them truly interesting and celebrated them. His smile was as warm and generous as his heart.

As “hall-mates”, we would often join forces on parties and suppers together with friends. Those were sweet days of growing in our professions and sorting out all kinds of world dilemmas. The image above was taken after one of our many Saturday mornings spent at breakfast at Horton’s 5 and Dime near Emory University. We would linger, over coffee and the newspaper, doctors and nurses, and talk about work, politics, and relationships. We had great times together.

Once we were both working together on an obesity task force as so many of our patients at Grady were at risk for obesity-related diseases. We were a group of young doctors, nurses, nutritionists and researchers. Rick was our muse – keeping us both on task and, at the same time, entertained. I think we all gained weight, working over pizza and pasta.

After so many years at Emory/Grady, Rick was one of the grand eligible bachelors. Then he met Joanie…and it was all over.Photo Credit: Facebook, May 2019

It was 1981 when Rick and Joanie left Atlanta for South Dakota. Rick felt moved to finally enter practice outside of academia, and he wanted to give back to the state that gave him his start in life and medicine. I would leave Atlanta a few months later for a teaching job in Connecticut. It didn’t seem we would ever see each other again, and sadly, we didn’t.

As Facebook does sometimes, a post about Prairie Doc popped up “randomly” on my home page. There was that familiar smiling face of Dr. Rick Holm. Prairie Doc® Media is a project of the Healing Words Foundation which endeavors to enhance health and diminish suffering by communicating useful information, based on honest science, provided in a respectful and compassionate manner. The Foundation engages a variety of media outlets to provide science-based medical information to the greater South Dakota region.” This mission statement or vision sounded just like its founder.

I messaged Prairie Doc to reach out to Rick, and in a few days, he answered back. Below is an excerpt on his life – “Joanie, South Dakota, happy, pancreatic cancer, chance of a cure and wonderful kids”.

There is tons more to say about this ordinary extraordinary man Rick Holm, but I’m going to leave it now..with his website (for his TV and radio offerings, his blog, and his book).

Photo Credit: Facebook, Prairie Doc, December 2019

His book is like having Rick across the table from you…with a cup of coffee and, seemingly, all the time in the world.

You will be missed, Rick. Thanks for leaving so much behind for us in the wake of your journey.

Life’s Final Season: A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace – Richard Powell Holm

TEDx Brookings – The Danger of Fearing Death – Richard Holm – 12 minutes of video of Rick telling his stories and teaching us how to live well.

Video Tribute of Dr. Rick Holm – Prairie Doc Facebook Page

Obituary – Dr. Richard Powell Holm

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

Monday Morning Moment – The Eye of Monet – 5 Books to Extend Your Summer into Fall

Today is the first day of Fall here. After walking this morning, I sat in our garden to cool off. The brilliant summer flowers are on the wane  after days of hot and dry weather. Many have gone to seed, now harvested by the birds (especially the goldfinch). The blooms remaining peek out, through those that peaked earlier and have since finished their season…The garden in early Fall is still a wonder…gloriously fading.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) is my favorite artist. Maybe because he made years of study of two of my favorite flowers – the iris and the water lily. He had an eye for such beauty.Photo Credit: Commons WikimediaPhoto Credit: Commons Wikimedia

“Monet has long been regarded, as Cezanne remarked of him, ‘merely an eye, but what an eye’, translating onto canvas the images before him… Monet’s eye was a painter’s eye, an eye with a creative mind behind it, interpreting apparent reality and putting into the context of the thoughts in the painter’s mind, thus creating a new vision for the spectator.”Edmund Swinglehurst

My favorite quote on reading these days is from author and patron of the arts John Ruskin:

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.”
He could be describing Monet as well.  His paintings of what he saw around him in the natural world bring a beautiful nostalgia with them (similar to that of favorite books and music). Monet painted in a non-pretentious way, not intending to artificially move the emotions. He painted like one who saw the beauty of nature, and, with his own emotions aroused, painted what he saw. That eye of his…
Over the years, I have collected five books on Monet. Each is quite unique. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to each one.
1) Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein – This beautiful biography of Monet’s life and rise of Impressionism. It’s a large book (coffee table size)…full of his artwork with exquisite detail of how Monet came to paint the scene and what was going on during the period in which it was painted. Beautiful book.

Monet

Photo Credit: Amazon

2) The Life and Works of Monet by Edmund Swinglehurst – This thin book (only 78 pages and much of it Monet’s artwork) is a quick study of Monet’s life. It’s a very easy read and yet still detailed enough to capture something of the Master Monet’s life, preferences, and influences.Photo Credit: Amazon

3) Monet’s Table – The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes – For the foodies among us, this book weaves together biography, art, and cooking. Monet's Table

Photo Credit: Amazon

Although Parisian, Monet lived for over 40 years in a cottage in the village Giverny. With Alice, his second wife, and 8 children. Monet’s Table. The “journal” aspect of the book is less about Monet’s diary entries and more about how he and Alice incorporated their love for good food into the lifestyle they enjoyed of late (by the Giverny years, Monet had become quite successful as an artist). His recipes (written for the American cook – so ounces instead of grams) include fresh and dried herbs from his garden, butter and full cream, and the flavors of France. For any of you who favor French cooking, you will love the recipes. I loved the stories Claire Joyes gives us and the pictures of his kitchen, the foods featured in the book, and the cottage and gardens (from which we have the iris and water lily paintings).  An interesting detail about Monet: he was an often moody and very private man. Although he loved having company in his home, it was always for an early lunch or tea. He retired to bed early to allow for early morning painting.Photo Credit: Apartment Therapy

4) Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork & Lena Anderson – This book is for young readers. Short chapters. Lots of Monet’s paintings. Also whimsical illustrations of Linnea and her trip to Paris, the Marmottan-Monet museum (where many of Monet’s paintings are exhibited), and finally to the Giverny cottage. Linnea in Monet's Garden

Photo Credit: Amazon

A wonderful introduction to Monet for children in early school years. Biographical details pepper the story and a helpful timeline of Monet’s life closes out the book.

[Written in 1985, it may seem a bit strange in today’s world that a young girl would be off traveling with an older neighbor gentleman, Mr. Bloom. Times have changed.]

5) A Picnic with Monet by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober – this is a small boardbook for tiny people. A poem talking through some of Monet’s paintings as if taking off for a picnic makes for easy reading. The paintings are easy to sort out for a preschooler. Sweet book.Photo Credit: Amazon

So…these are my books on Monet. One last detail covered in his biographies as well: Monet developed bilateral cataracts in his 60s. He refused corrective surgery for some time. Finally, he got to the place where he was willing to take the risk, so bothered by the impact of the cataracts on his vision and painting. Enough of a success, he actually returned to some of his painting to touch them up. He also did not finish his Grandes Décorations’ of Waterlilies, on display in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie, until after his vision had been restored. Called the Father of Impressionism, the changes in his painting over the years may have been less about a progression of his art and more the reality of cataracts and vision impairment.

The Effect of Cataracts and Cataract Surgery on Claude Monet – Anna Gruener

Who is your favorite artist? How do you share him/her with your visitors or family members? I have a print of one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings over my writing table.

Dave and I went to Paris for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a trip of a lifetime for us – especially because we set it aside to pursue the feast to the senses that is Paris. On my list was to see Monet’s paintings.

The Best Places to See Monet’s Art in Paris – Lena Blos

We saw some of his paintings, but regrettably a few of my favorites were away on exhibition. Oh well…may have to make it back to Paris one day…and do a day-trip to Giverny.

[Irises from our garden…water lily at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden here in Richmond.]

Monday Morning Moment – a Wave of Nostalgia and 3 Lessons Taken

This weekend, we had some family time with our children and the grands. In picking up some stray items last night, I discovered one of the littles must have been playing with a globe from a basket in our hallway. As I put it back in its place, I realized that to have reached the globe, (s)he would have had to reach over the picture of my older brother…who left us at the age of 61, 12 years ago.

At that moment, I was overcome by this wave of nostalgia…of gladness and ache, reminded of a dear person and a sweet time – in the past. To our little grandchildren, the picture was of someone they didn’t know. My older brother has been a huge part of my whole life – either in real time or through memories and processing life since he died. It wasn’t always pretty either, but I learned so much through loving him and trying to understand him during hard stretches.

One day, when they are older, I will tell them about their great-uncle Robert. They would have given him so much joy…and he, them. He was always great with children…even when we had our share of struggles as adults. Knowing him was worth that struggle.

That moment set in motion a whirlwind of thought – stirred by three other junctures in the last 24 hours that prompted three lessons learned in nostalgia.

1) Nostalgia is deeply personal. It wraps itself around a particular experience, idea, or person(s). Two people experiencing the exact same thing can have very different emotions about it in the moment and as time passes. What is important for us as we reckon with our own memories and that of others is to be gentle with and respectful of the experience and its meaning to us and to others.

Classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar recently posted his arrangement of a medley of themes – by composer Jason Hayes – from the classic video-game World of Warcraft. I personally know very little about this game, except the music (thanks to his arrangement).

My stirred emotions, in listening to this music, have everything to do with Nathan’s performance. However, there are thousands out there who listen to this piece (and those below) with strong nostalgia. The comments on his videos and Patreon Discord channel reveal the sweet memories of all those young people now grown who loved playing that game – waxing nostalgic through the music attached to that experience.

Why Do We Feel Nostalgia? – VSauce – YouTube Video

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft: Legion – Anduin Theme Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – World of Warcraft – Warbringers: Jaina – Daughter of the Sea – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nostalgia reminds us of the past and who we were in the past. Some writers on nostalgia talk about how our memories are glowing, more positive than what was real at the time. I don’t overthink that. When we are reminded of something or someone from our past, and a sweet nostalgia follows, we should just enjoy the moment and its association. Whatever it was in the past, if our memory of it does us good, then that’s enough.

Today, two old friends of mine have birthdays. Now, we rarely talk these days (unfortunately for me) but our seasons together were glorious. At least how I remember it. Working on projects together, praying with each other, laughing at the craziness of life, and talking deeply on things that mattered. These are my memories. Just seeing a birthday reminder refreshes an incredible connection with them. I loved those seasons when we were closer.

You know those times when we meet up with someone and it’s like the time melts away? We are ourselves together…as whenever we were last? That’s the gift of nostalgia…untested. Just a delightful reopening of a vault of treasured memories…of those kinds of friends.

It just so happens that one of these friends is in town this week, and we made plans to visit. The other lives farther away, and it’s been years since our last visit. Still, I’m hoping to move that nostalgia into real time and get her on the phone.

The Incredible Powers of Nostalgia – Jeanette Leardi

3) Nostalgia brings to the present what we learned in the past – to consider again.

Something brings my mom to mind every single day. Along with that comes all the lessons she taught her children. Her wisdom far surpasses mine, but the nostalgia of memories of her gives me hope to be more wise. She taught us so well. Working outside the home all our lives, she somehow redeemed the time. When she enters my thoughts, the emotions that follow are empowering and full of love.

One day, we olders will be part of what sparks nostalgia for our children and grandchildren. I hope we will have made memories together that will remind them of who they are and who they can be…to God, to us…to all around us.

Last night, on a twilight walk in the neighborhood, I enjoyed a flock of geese flying over. Their honking and precision of flight have always stopped me in my tracks…just to watch. Memories wash over me of times with Dave’s family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Geese seem often in flight there over the Chesapeake Bay. Maybe these geese last night were migrating south as we move into Fall. Whatever the occasion, I’m always reminded of Lessons from Geese – what we can learn from geese to get where we need to go…together.Photo Credit: iTS Leadership

[If you don’t know that short piece Lessons From Geese – take a look, either in the link above on teaming or this pdf. Or the video below.]

All this is part of the nostalgia that makes me this person today, having lived in that past…with the memories that surprise me in the present…and could help to forge a better future.

Thoughts? Please comment below. Thanks.

The Psychological Benefits – and Trappings – of Nostalgia – Krystine Batcho

Why Nostalgia Is Good for You – Matthew Hutson

There Are Two Different Types of Nostalgia – Ashley Hamer

Worship Wednesday – Singing in the Dark – Hymns, Psalms, and Worship Songs

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Years ago, we would play outside until dark. Especially in summer. I remember those evenings fondly…until the moment we started being called inside. My house was farthest away. Walking that dark street home alone was sometimes scary for this youngster. It was then that I would quote verses of Scripture or sing some hymn chorus or two. That practice would remind me of the nearness and protection of God… even in the dark.

Fast forward to today, and this came across my Twitter feed:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Matt Smethurst

[When you click on the link in the photo credit, you will find numerous comments answering the question. Some humorous, some serious. So many songs listed, old and newer. Some you may not only recognize but that will gladden your own heart.]

There’s probably not a person reading this who hasn’t been comforted by the singing of a hymn or worship song. Alone in the dark. At the dying of a loved one. Or during an unsettling time of another sort.

When my mom was dying, a friend of ours came and sang  Above All just for her. She loved that song and the young man who sang it to her.

So back to that tweet above…We all have cell phones now, and, if need be, can look up any song (if we can remember its title or searchable lyric)…to sing in the dark…To sing over someone we love…or to comfort our own hearts.

How wonderful, though, to have songs tucked away in our hearts and minds. Songs we can recall – to remind us of truth; to recall the Lord of Light; the Lord of our salvation (Psalm 27:1).

A church acquaintance of ours is teaching her children some of the great hymns of old. I heard them (5 y/o and younger) sing recently. The song was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Solid Rock) written by British pastor Edward Mote in 1834. Loved it!

This is one of those songs that would come to mind when I was a child, singing in the dark, on my way home.

This same song actually also stirs many more memories. One, in particular, was hearing it sung by Filipino teens from a shanty town church group in Surigao City, Philippines. A team of us from the States would spend our summer there with the goal of helping that small congregation have its own church building. The pastor and family would make their home in the loft of the building. It was a long journey for us to get there. Flying into Manila, and then boarding a ship to the island of Mindanao. When we arrived in Surigao, we were transported on a bus to the building site. It was a tiny lot with more tidal pool than land showing. Seeing the seemingly insurmountable task before us, we were encouraged by their singing in English. A song familiar to all of us. Especially as they sang out the chorus: “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.”

At summer’s end, a church building was standing on that site.

Worship with me, to this great old hymn as true today as then:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
And I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

His oath
His oath, his covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Yeah

When he shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!
Faultless to stand before the throne!

Yeah, You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
You are rock
You are our rock
Yeah, You are our rock
Jesus
Yeah, Jesus

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand*

Do you have a playlist for those “singing in the dark” times? What Psalms help? Other Scripture verses that have become your own heart songs? What hymns or worship songs? Please comment below.

*Lyrics to On Christ, the Solid Rock, I Stand – Written by Edward Mote, as sung by Charlie Hall

10 Songs to Play on Repeat to Get Through Fear & Worry

Monday Morning Moment – Leveraging Our Limitations – in Real Time

Photo Credit: Grace Covenant

This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact.  Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).

Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.

Last Fall, (to give context), I took a course through the non-profit  Embrace Richmond. Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace, taught the course entitled Mission Shift: Assets-Based Community Development (ABCDs). Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

“ABCD builds on the gifts, talents and passions of neighborhood residents and strengthens communities from the inside out.” – Embrace Richmond

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.

Student-Led Listening: Strengthening Our Schools in Partnership With CIS Chesterfield – Wendy McCaig

It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.

I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.

The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.

This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.

For me it was extraordinary.

Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.

Part of his message today:

“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?

Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.

These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.

How many limitations am I not leaning into?

How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?

When we lean in to our limitations, we create work that is for someone, not everyone...When those few see it, they instantly know it is for them. –  Jeff Goins 

You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.

  • Being an outsider.
  • Having little influence myself.
  • Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
  • Nor the culture.
  • Nor having the experience of an immigrant.
  • Only a beginner’s understanding of ABCD.

Jeff Goins’ piece pushed me to read more and Angela Lee Duckworth‘s quote on grit popped up.

Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally

Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.

Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.

So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.

Leveraging Your Limitations – Steve Brown

Leveraging Your Limitations – Thriving Intentionally – Erin

5 Friday Faves – On Being Sober, A State in Mourning, Favorite Podcast, National Cancer Survivors Day, and a Call to Prayer

Happy Weekend! Here are my favorite finds for this week:

1) On Being Sober – Writer storyteller Brené Brown posted this incredible piece this week entitled: What Being Sober Has Meant to Me. I didn’t know she had had a drinking problem. Her story resonates with my own. Here’s a bit of her take on it:

“At first I struggled to feel ‘drunk enough’ to belong at AA. The DUI-divorce-got-fired stories made me wonder if I was in the wrong place. As a rule-follower, I found a sponsor and asked her if I was in the right meetings. She diagnosed me with “a Pupu platter of addictions”— not too much of any one thing, but enough of each one to be concerned. Her advice was to quit drinking, quit smoking, quit emotional eating, and quit trying to control and manage my family’s crises. Awesome. On it.” –  Brené Brown

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

My mom never drank alcohol. She grew up impoverished with a dad who was drunk more than not. She saw the destructive nature of addiction and steered clear. I had a short season of social drinking in my 20s. It ended at a party when, after finishing the one glass of wine I had intended to drink, my best friend’s husband appeared immediately with another. He was all smiles, and said, “And here I thought you were a goodie two-shoes about drinking.” A very old expression but his remark burned into my soul. My whole character seemed defined by my stance on alcohol!!

Recently I was having dinner with a friend in her 20s who had decided to stop drinking. Her reason was she found that when she drank she pretty quickly moved into this personality and looseness (for lack of a better word) that were not who she was normally. She decided she much preferred to just be herself, and not drinking was the solution for her. I resonated with her on that (everyone has to determine if this is something to consider for themselves ).

Read Brown’s article – it is NOT shaming but rather encouraging and empowering. One last quote from her for today:

“Over the past two decades, food and work have emerged as my real drugs of choice. Like most addiction, they’re fueled by shame and the “not enough” gremlins. They’re also tricky addictions because I’m good at abstaining but not so good at moderation. Food and work don’t lend themselves to abstinence…If I stay in fit spiritual condition — boundaries, vulnerability, honesty, authenticity, connection to God, healthy food, exercise, and sleep — I won’t be running toward or away from cold beer or warm carbs.” – Brené Brown

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

Everybody Knows: 10 Lessons from 10 Years of Sobriety Without AA – Mishka Shubaly

2) A State in Mourning– [This demanded a moment of recognition even though it certainly isn’t a usual favorite find for me. it is for us to grieve.] Flags are at half-mast around our state this week because of three separate incidents where a total of 17 people died, including a 9 y/o girl. Our local newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave the details of a random shooting, a workplace shooting and a church van accident. A sad week as we, in Virginia, mourned their loss.

3) Favorite Podcast – On a lighter note, my friend and podcaster Kevin Prewett, delivers every single week. Not just entertainment but great counsel on work and life through his Rising Tide Startups podcast.

Kevin’s focus is to help those of us who are dreaming of or actually launching a startup of some sort. His guests come from a wide range of disciplines, from musicians to project managers to business coaches. Through the podcast, each tells her story and gives insight to those on a similar path. Kevin also brings mini-courses to his listeners. His guests present specialized content in a 5-minute segment, like we would have to pay for in another setting.

I have gained so much from his various guests, and starting up a business isn’t on my radar. Just learning volumes from these folks’ life and business experience.

An example of one of his guests is website builder Chris Parker, founder of What Is My IP Address? Here is the podcast and transcript of his interview. So fascinating.

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

4) National Cancer Survivors Day – The first Sunday of June each year is National Cancer Survivors Day. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who survive their cancer experience (diagnosis, treatment, and recovery).

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

This week marks 3 years since my diagnosis with Stage 1 lung cancer. That was a shocker! I’m so thankful to have been diagnosed so early in the course of the disease…and to be well today.

We all have loved ones we lost to cancer and we want to honor them always. This commemoration of cancer survivors is also a right thing to do.

National Cancer Survivors Day also calls for celebrating all those who helped us come out the other side of cancer. Our family and friends, colleagues, and the medical personnel involved with our care.

A friend and fellow writer, Ann Lovell, has survived cancer twice. Her dad, Bob Anderson, wrote a beautiful poem about these “angels of mercy”:

Angels of mercy
Their faces aglow
May visit among us
We can’t really know

But we know divine purpose
And power unfold
With struggle reflected
Through luminous souls.

Ann posted: “I am grateful that we never walk alone — that God’s Spirit always carries us, sustains us, and protects us; that God places people in our lives to be the hands and feet of Jesus just when we need Him most….Thank you to the many “angels of mercy” who walked alongside us then and now. I am grateful.” – Ann Lovell

Me, too.

5) A Call to Prayer – Finally, I am struck by the many calls to prayer we hear in life. A sick little boy, a friend in a troubled marriage, the grief of losing a beloved grandmother, the need for a new job, etc. etc.

Many of the world’s religions have a call to prayer as part of their religious practices.

Jesus counseled his disciples to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41)

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

I am so thankful that God calls us to prayer. Not because He doesn’t know already what we desperately need, but because He wants us to bring our needs to Him…He hears, He sees, and He will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:14-16

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That’s it for me this week. How about you? Any favorite finds? Please share in the Comments. Hope you get to rest…and be blessed.

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

On The Time We Have Left With The People Who Matter Most to Us

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

C. S. Lewis Still Has Much to Offer Us – Daniel Peterson

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is featured this month in the East Carolina University alumni magazine.

Monday Morning Moment – the Hobbit Life – a 30-Day Journey

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday mornings can start so well and then sort of spiral. This was that sort of Monday around here. So much stress – with tough news, tight deadlines, and too much time in my own head…

Then a lovely idea…sparked by Tea with Tolkien (a Twitter account I follow)…lifted my spirit and cleared my mind. 30 Days to a Hobbit Heart. The focus of these 30 days is “slowing down, choosing simple joys, and forming new hobbity habits together”.

At the top of my movie list are The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) and The Hobbit – both from the pen of British author J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s stories are of great adventures, loyal friendships, and battles for good against evil. The music from these films does justice to the stories. [Sidebar: Two songs from above film series inspired Nathan at Beyond the Guitar to arrange and perform them – here and here.]

I signed up for the 30-day journey. Let me know if you do, and we’ll do it together. The guide for the 30 days is actually a simple checklist of how to order your day in a hobbity way. [I want to say that word at least a few more times.] Suggestions include less screen time (of course), more time outside, more time with friends, simple suppers, second breakfasts, and time for walks, reading, and writing.[Just a bit of my husband’s garden which he makes hobbity time for]

Where do we find the time for these habits of life? If there is room for all that Marie Kondo requires in minimizing our stuff, then there is room for Tolkien’s ideas of reshaping how we spend our time…and with whom.

One of the suggestions is actually reading some of Tolkien’s letters. I’ve already begun today. It was thrilling to read in one letter (#47) how he was nearly finished with the sequel to The Hobbit. He mentioned how it would be a much longer story (The Lord of the Rings) but that the reader would not be disappointed.

Author Cam Clark describes how being familiar with The Hobbit Life actually made him a better person. He talks about how hobbits value the simpler things of life – friends, food, and stories. He also points to two characteristics that distinguish them from folks of our era. They are 1) not beleaguered by status anxiety (fearing have a lower status than others), and 2) they are more technophobic (whereas the villains of Tolkien’s LOTR were advanced in their weaponry). Hobbity people today would not be so bothered by pursuing status, and they would incline toward being less attached to their devices.

So there you have it…this little distraction brightened my day and altered my perspective. Looking forward to the 30-day journey to  wherever this hobbit life idea takes me.

By the way, the tough news and tight deadlines are still there…I’m just differently engaged…hopefully in a better way.

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person – Cam Clark

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits – Alex Knapp

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit – Alice

My Own Shire- Living a Hobbit Life in the Modern World – Arwen

Tea With Tolkien

Tolkien the Film

Worship Wednesday – Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Don Moen

Photo Credit: Bible Screen, Pinterest

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!  “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. – Deuteronomy 32:3-4

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

This is going to be a little random and ranging…but throughout this day, over and over, I was reminded of the faithfulness of God.

This morning, first thing, I routinely get up, quick stop in the bathroom, and make the bed. While making the bed, that amazing old hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness wafted through my thoughts… out of nowhere.

Soon, it’s out the door to pick up one of my grandsons for Play ‘n Pray at church where we gather, kids in tow, and pray while they play.

Do you ever have those times in the car that God seems to speak through something on the radio? That happened briefly this morning across two great songs on my favorite Christian radio station.

First, David Crowder‘s song Red Letters came on. Red Letters refers to the words recorded in Scripture that Jesus spoke. Crowder tells the story of how the Lord gives us freedom though we deserve death because of our sin. Then right after, Lincoln Brewster‘s jumping version of Everlasting God… If a car could rock with praise, mine was rocking! You know how you see some people at traffic lights with their arms raised, or drumming their steering wheel, or heads bobbing…that sort of car-rocking praise.

By the time, my grandson and I arrived at Play ‘n Pray, my heart was so full of the faithfulness of God.

While the kids played on the playground, we moms and grams sat, watching, talking, and finally praying. Between gummy bear snacks, sorting out rows between the kids, and rounding up the scattering crawlers. We prayed. God is faithful to draw near to us in all the chaos of mothering small ones.

I had to leave after our scheduled time was over, but one of the young moms lingered to continue talking to moms from the neighborhood who had joined us on the playground. It was the very thing we hope happens each week…connections, bridges, neighborly links to the very love of God.

On my way to the next thing, with a content little guy in his car-seat behind, an odd memory surfaced. Both sad and lovely. Something I hadn’t thought of in years…

It was a memory that goes back over 20 years to a church for internationals in Cairo, Egypt. Heliopolis Community Church. Living in Cairo in those days, we loved being in the English-speaking congregation of HCC. It was an oasis of sorts where we didn’t have to think or speak in Arabic and we all had in common that we were, most of us, foreigners and we loved Jesus.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Heliopolis Community Church, Cairo, Egypt

Rotating teams of laypeople led the worship part of the service each week. A young man from South Asia led our worship from time to time. Although I do not remember his name, but I’ve never forgotten him…or his story. He was originally of a different faith and had come to receive Jesus as his Savior gradually. First through dreams, then in chance meetings with Christians, in minority where he lived. Finally, he received a Bible and devoured it…especially the red lettered words of Jesus.

He told us that his conversion to Christianity was very hurtful for his parents. He was their only child. His father rejected him and would die still estranged from him. His mother also became fatally ill at some point. In her faith, if her son did not return to the faith of the family, it could create too great an impediment for her to be able to enter Heaven. I didn’t understand how that worked, but for his mother it was a terrible, horrifying belief. She begged him to give up his faith in Jesus…but he could not. She died with that bitter plea on her lips…and that painful dagger in his heart.

He closed out his story by giving witness to the great faithfulness of God in his life…to seek him out, to save him, to love him even when his parents could no longer.

We were all mesmerized by his story and his own faith in God.

He then led us in singing Don Moen‘s chorus Ascribe Greatness. It is a simple song, lyrics repeated (as the praise songs often were in those days – 1990) – taken from Deuteronomy 32:3-4.

Worship with me and consider the faithfulness of God to each of us – His children.

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just
Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock
His work is perfect
And all His ways are just

A God of faithfulness without injustice
Good and upright is He*

As I write, it’s the end of the day. Housework, cooking, community group and the hours passed by. My heart continues full…reflecting on the happenings of today…and the memories of others whose stories we know…stories of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God even in the most difficult of situations.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

*Lyrics to Ascribe Greatness to Our God the Rock – Songwriter: Don Moen

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

Monday Morning Moment – 5 Years Writing – Inspired by Mom

[Adapted from the Archives]

Tomorrow, May 7, marks 5 years of writing this blog. May 7, 2014.

Writing has always been a part of how I processed life. As a little girl, I had the little pink lock-and-key diary. Certainly better that it is not to be found. Then journaling in high school and after. Teaching in a university required research and writing. When the children were little, my writing had to downsize to quick notes in their baby books and daily entries on a big wall calendar.

After moving overseas, so much new happened each day and insisted on being documented. I would send long “journals” home to Mom, Mom-in-law Julia, and those others closest to us.

In 2014, it seemed that my memory was not as good as before. It was a scary season and one pooh-poohed by my doctor. He reassured me that my memory had its normal (for my age) robustness and not to worry. Still, I thought about the kids and decided maybe some things should be written down.

My Mom died in 2002, and it wasn’t even 5 minutes until we had questions that only she could answer.  It’s over 15 years now since she died, and I still miss her every day.  What I also miss is all the knowing she had…all the history, the memories, the funny and sad stories.  She lived an incredible life, triumphant through extreme poverty, resilient after failure and loss, tenacious in making a home for us all.  She was a lioness with cubs.

Sometimes we come too late to the realization that the generations before had great insight.  I learned so much from my Mom, but could have learned more.  Now, my memories of her, and the stories she told, and the wisdom she imparted are a precious treasure to me.  You will hear her voice in mine.

Mom and me

Mom was born during the Great Depression.  She was excruciatingly poor growing up.  Yet, she pushed through her circumstances.  I want to write about her.  And I want to write about so many things…God, people, culture, beauty, family, lessons learned and lessons still to be learned.

All my adult life, people have told me “You should write a book.”  Maybe because of our travels, or maybe because of something else…I’m not really quite sure.  It’s my Mom who should have written, but she would never.  She wouldn’t think she had anything to say that should be memorialized in print.  I am of a different generation.  I am writing…because of her…and for me…and hopefully for another generation.  We’ll see.