Category Archives: Contentment

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership

Photo Credit: Henri J. M. Nouwen, In Jesus’ Name, QuoteFancy

What can we learn about leadership from a priest? A priest who spent his potentially most influential years as pastor of L’Arche – a community for mentally handicapped persons? What? Plenty!

Henri J. M. Nouwen was a renowned scholar, writer, professor, and a Dutch Catholic priest. He taught for many years at such prestigious universities as Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. His writings were prolific and his personality was winsome.

Whether you are Christian or not, you will profit from the tiny book (81 pages) he wrote on leadership – “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”. I read this book yesterday afternoon and was spellbound by his wisdom. Having read many texts on leadership over the years, both secular and Christian, I was captivated by Nouwen’s take on leadership…and his willingness to confront the pitfalls that can occur along the way. In a clear and succinct way, he exposed the temptations we have in leading others and the way we can extinguish them through applying certain disciplines or habits.

Nouwen points out three temptations leaders are apt to succumb to, and then he offers three disciplines to counter (and gain freedom from) them. Christian readers, you will appreciate his direction. He refers to Scripture for his teaching – two passages in particular: 1) Jesus’ questioning a repentant Peter after he had denied the Lord three times (John 21:15-19), and 2) the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). I will list the temptations below and examples from my own life where they crept in:

  1. To Be Relevant – In recent years this has actually been a longing of mine, before the Lord. After retiring from a full and satisfying ministry life, with all our children grown and on their own, my days got very quiet. I didn’t know what to do with them. The calls to join this team or lead that work just didn’t come in. Somehow I had made relevance an idol. Thankfully God was working away at that temptation in my life. He is still at work, because I still struggle…but not like before. Earlier today, I was sitting in the waiting room while an Afghan grandmother in my care was having dental work done. It’s been my least favorite activity on the refugee resettlement team of our church. The appointments are three hours long (for the dental students’ learning), and even with books, phone, and hallways to do steps, I bristled at times at the servitude of this activity. After reading Nouwen’s book, he pointed the way to resist. Contemplative prayer is the answer. Recognizing that I don’t need to be going here or there because it is I who am needed in those situations. To use the time of seeming irrelevance to participate in a grander work than I could have ever imagined. To simply be, humbled and grateful, with God, and to have a quiet many would love to know. To remember that the work, whatever it is, came from Him to begin with. I don’t own work, or ministry, or service of any kind. It is an opportunity to show up for a greater good, in a quieter state, where I am surrendered, making myself available, to love others more than myself – “in the name of Jesus”.

“I’m telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love…God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”Henri Nouwen

2. To Be Popular (Spectacular even)What a temptation this is. It is stealthy. We sometimes aren’t even aware that we experience it. Until we are. Sigh… Leadership lends itself to singular popularity (even in situations where people love to hate you…it’s still a superlative position of a sort). When we rise through the ranks, through experience mixed with education, it can be a very individualistic journey. “Lonely at the top”. However, there is a head trip attached where we become prone to thinking that we are the ones to call, or to consult, or to give opinion, or have the last decision. This temptation to want to be “the one” is fortunately tempered by doing work/life/church in community. By taking someone along. By sharing decision-making. By including those most affected in the conversation. Making room around the table. Nouwen, in regards to this temptation, calls the reader to Confession and Forgiveness. When is the last time you heard a leader confess a weakness or struggle? When did she or he ask forgiveness for a decision that turned out poorly or for a moral failure exposed? Being willing to remove the cape of the hero, and step off the pedestal, takes a humility that allows for, mutual confession and forgiveness within the larger community.

3. To Be Powerful – What a temptation!! To believe that we could actually have power over other people’s lives. To be in a position of making sweeping decisions with little restraint. To be surrounded by those who (dealing with their own temptations) would go along with the decisions out of their own need for popularity and power. It’s messed-up. In fact, what we think is our leading is really being led (by our own preferences, or the pressures of that vaunted position). What’s the solution? Now, each of these temptations so far has had a spiritual response – prayer, confession and forgiveness. What is the way forward when power has taken the driver’s seat? Theological Reflection. Nouwen is NOT talking about the answers that may be debated in the seminary classroom. It goes far deeper…to actually look for the truth in the background…and seeking to act on what is true…not for the sake of relevance or popularity or to hold onto power.

“Christian leaders have the arduous task of responding to personal struggles, family conflicts, national calamities, and international tensions with an articulate faith in God’s real presence. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of fatalism, defeatism, accidentalism or incidentalism which make people believe that statistics are telling us the truth. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of despair in which human life is seen as a pure matter of good or bad luck. They have to say ‘no’ to sentimental attempts to make people develop a spirit of resignation or stoic indifference in the face of the unavoidability of pain, suffering, and death…Theological reflection is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of every day with the mind of Jesus and thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God’s gentle guidance.” Henri Nouwen

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Henri Nouwen left the lofty academic environment to join in community with those who would not incline to be impressed with his credentials. Yet, in the setting of L’Arche, Nouwen dug deep into how to lead in gentler and more loving ways, with the example of the life of Jesus, and the nearness of God and community.

The beauty of his life laid down has given me pause to look differently at leadership and the possibility of being led…by a God who loves us first, in servant mode, in community with others…in the name of Jesus.

YouTube Video – Remembering Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

In the Name of Jesus – Summary – Chuck Olson

Monday Morning Moment – Complaining Rewires Your Brain – How to Curb (Maybe Not Stop) Complaining

Photo Credit: Stream

What’s the last thing (or person) that caused you to complain? You felt totally justified, right? When we think of the negative aspects of complaining, others come to mind as being “those people”. The complainers, the contrarians, the grumpy people, or the ones you just can never please.

For much of my early life, people who knew me well would describe me as a Pollyanna, someone who looks for the silver lining, the good in people, “the cup half full [or fuller], the possibilities. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” The Pollyanna turns into an accidental contrarian.

Monday Morning Moment – Spend a Minute with Pollyanna and the Contrarian – There’s a Place for Each of Us – Deb Mills

Maybe life itself changes us – dealing with hard situations, losses, failures, etc. We harden a little. We analyze, scrutinize, and make ourselves the tweakers of people and things (always looking for those little improvements that, we think, need to be made).

Once we begin to complain, we find others willing to join in. Commiserating is born. It’s not a happy community. Complaining becomes a habit and even a lifestyle, if we’re not careful.

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

On Sunday, we listened to Cliff Jordan‘s sermon entitled “Complaining in the Wilderness”, pondering the strangeness of a delivered and protected people’s complaints against God.

Cliff talked about how complaining actually rewires the brain – how we see others, ourselves, our circumstances, and even God. I’m not going to address the science of this, but do an online search and you’ll see how this happens and the negative outcomes of chronic complaining.

The source of complaining, Cliff noted, relates to our memory. Do we focus on the irritants to the detriment of remembering the good in our jobs, the people we work with, the many graces of life, and the kindness of God? Complaining has a stubbornness to it. It wants satisfaction and has very little patience for others. As we practice more positive thinking, we are poised, not to minimize the situation but to maximize the potential outcome…including safeguarding our relationships.

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

Andrew Kirby, a successful Youtuber and entrepreneur, actually posted a super helpful video on how complaining rewires the brain.

Kirby also acknowledged that not all complaining IS negative. When we complain about something, it’s an indicator of a change that might need to be made.

Photo Credit: Andrew Kirby, YouTube

The key is to not stay in the complaining mode but to act in a way that brings positive change. Too much complaining can drive a person to make unwise changes, based on advice given to them by sympathetic hearers of their complaints. Better to be judicious in what change needs to be made and take wise steps toward that change.

The prescription for rewiring our brain away from complaining is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the temptation to complain before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral downward, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – “Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry [complaint] won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively (refraining from chronic complaining) until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

“What you practice, you get very good at.”

As that relates to complaining, do we really want to get good at that? No. In fact, practice doesn’t always make us good at something. We can practice unhelpful, unhealthy habits and they can become ingrained….even permanent…unless we intentionally do the work to reverse them.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

When we know something needs to change, make the complaint count by refusing to think ill of others involved and taking your concern to the right people. Make yourself part of the solution. Whenever possible, remember all the good you can. It will keep you humble and grateful.

How and Why You Should Stop Complaining – Elizabeth Scott Ph.D.

The Three Types of Complaining – Robert Biswas-Diener

How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity – Travis Bradberry

How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity and Literally Kills You – Janey Davies

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

How to Stop Complaining: 7 Ways to Change Your Attitude – Amber Murphy

Photo Credit: Amazing Facts

Worship Wednesday – Centering Prayer – The Potter’s Gate

“I want to be where my feet are.”

This curious little lyric comes from the album Sanctuary Songs. The song is Centering Prayer featuring Andrew Peterson & Leslie Jordan, a collaboration of The Potter’s Gate.

Centering Prayer calls us away from all our distractions, our plans, our worries, our over-thinking, our busyness…and calls us into a time of rest and focus on God whose presence we are never without.

Last week, I was checking out of our local free clinic with my Afghan grandmother friend. It’s always a stretching experience with trying to understand (even with an interpreter) what her health complaints are. Finally, we were finished with the doctor. As I stepped up to the counter to receive the forms for her bloodwork, specialist referral, and next appointment, I saw the sign (in the image above).

God is always with us. Period. Full-stop. That verse is one that brings to rest everything whirring around in our minds, remembering that God’s got this. Being present with a ever-present God transforms everything.

Another passage that reminds us to be still and stop fighting battles He means to fight Himself…for us…is Psalm 46. Below is the entire psalm. It is so worthy your stopping and reading along (or hear it read for you).

46 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

“Be still and know that I AM God.”Psalm 46

Psalm 46 is a glorious and victorious psalm to encourage and embolden a people beleaguered by hardship (we don’t have details but given the context it was war, or some sort of calamity or terror). The psalmist was reminding the people that God is with them (with us) and will pierce through the noise of battle, with His powerful and persevering presence. He is here today just as much as He was with His people in the psalmist’s day.

Our part, like theirs, is to turn our ears, and our hearts, our bodies to Him.

Psalm 46 begins, not with a lament or cry for help, but an anthem of praise. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear”. Then he goes on to talk about super fearful things…yet from a place of awe and certainty. Even as the psalmist speaks with great confidence about God’s presence and provision in times of catastrophe, the Lord Himself enters the psalm with the command “Be still!”

Not just “Be quiet” but “Be still”. Stop!

Stop. Come away (from the battle). Quieten yourself. Cease striving.

God calls both His people and our enemies to essentially “put down your weapons!”

Especially to His own people, He urges them (and us today) to ‘snap out of it,’ ‘wake up,’ ‘stop fearing’—acknowledge who God is—be in awe! For us to take His “Be still” and treat it as “be quiet” is not incorrect, it’s just not enough to describe what God is truly saying.

God is about His business in fighting for us and those we love. Fighting also those who would see to do us harm. We don’t know how it will go in the moments ahead of us (whether this battle will “seem” lost or won to us) but we do know His promises that hold us fast, even in battle, for now and forever.

It’s for us to “be where our feet are”. To quieten our hearts and slow our steps. To put down the phone. To find His beauty to focus our eyes on. To “breathe the life around me” and “listen as my heart beats. Right. On. Time.”

What Does “Be Still and Know That I Am God” Really Mean? – Liz Auld

Psalm 46 – Enduring Word Bible Commentary

Centering prayer prompts us to lay down our burden and determine to stop worrying. Not just as a mindfulness exercise but with the God who loves us in full view. To see the anxiety for what it is – a tool used against us to take our peace away. To recognize that the depression we experience can be lightened if we open ourselves to Him and to His people praying with and for us. To remember that all the things that distract us dull our senses to the most real relationship we have in this life and the next.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness – One Song at a Time – Kathy Powell

“Centering Prayer,” written by Brian Eichelberger, Nicholas Chambers and Kate Bluett — and featuring Andrew Peterson and Leslie Jordan — invites the listener to a sense of groundedness with its calm melody. The lyrics give language to a clinically recommended practice of grounding that invites practitioners to reconnect with themselves in the present. The song, with lyrics asking for God’s help to “be where my feet are,” is itself a tool for calming anxieties and opening a more accessible prayer experience.Kathy Powell

Photo Credit: Corrie Ten Boom Quotes – Facebook

Worship with me…by just listening to this song, preparing to pray, or singing it with lyrics below:

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna breathe the life around me

I wanna listen as my heart beats, right on time

I wanna be where my feet are

I chase my worries

I flee my sorrows

But what You give me

Is now

So take my burdens

And my tomorrows

I wanna be where my feet are, mmm, mmm

Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna breathe the life around me

I wanna listen as my heart beats, right on time

I wanna be where my feet are

I run to capture

The next horizon

But what You give me

Is here

I get no farther

And still I find You

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna be where my feet are (on repeat)

The ground below me

Is how you Hold me

I wanna be where my feet are

The ground below me

Is how You hold me

I wanna be where my feet are

The ground below me

Is how You hold me

I wanna be where my feet are (on repeat)*

*Lyrics to Centering Prayer – Songwriters: Brian Eichelberger, Nicholas Chambers and Kate Bluett

The Porter’s Gate Hopes to Bridge Gap Between Mental Health and Faith With New Album – Kathryn Post

A Saturday Too Quiet…Then Clarity: Room For God…Be Still My Soul – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Corrie Ten Boom Quotes, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Grandma’s House

A few nights ago, we had a houseful of company. I was nervous about it. Not because of the children coming; for sure, they would love being here. It was the parents. These folks are some of the loveliest people we know, but our houses were very different. These were all young people who somehow knew intuitively how to decorate homes that looked straight out of magazines.

Do trips to Ikea help?

Anyway, I was nervous that our home, our “style”, would seem tired to them. As they piled in that evening, with hugs and laughter, kids heading straight to our own grandchildren’s playroom, my fretting abated. These precious ones were all the ages of our children; we loved them, and they loved us.

Then, it happened. One of the girls, who is style personified, commented out loud, “This is a grandma’s house.” I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment, but it stirred a little chagrin in me… It’s true. No way around it. This IS a grandma’s house. Vintage. Family pictures everywhere. Memorabilia. A china cabinet full of antique glassware from my mama…my children’s grandma.

Home Decor that Screams “Granny Chic”

Then in a moment, my troubled thoughts cleared as fast as they had come.

I am a grandma and this is my house. It is comfortable and all are welcome. Countless long talks have been had on that old sofa and chair set. Tears shed and joys reclaimed. Family reminiscing at the dining room table. Stories. Stories. Stories. Children doing their best to out-silly each other, for their own and their grownups’ entertainment. Good food. Good times. Good memories made.

Our kids, all in their 30s now, have sweet memories of their grandparents’ homes. They still have one living, and MomMom’s home is definitely and beautifully a “grandma’s house” – a place that pulls us in with a big hug of welcome. With a bounty of baked goods, candy dishes full to overflowing, and the promise of coffee, iced tea, hot chocolate, or mulled cider – depending on the season. Picture albums that go back decades and decor that changes through the year, celebrating every holiday. A feast for the senses.

That recent evening with my young family friends marked a change in my sensibilities. I hope to embrace the fact that our parents felt the sting of the Great Depression and, because of that, it had a huge impact on my life as well. Our parents taught us to spend money carefully, hold onto things (“you might need it later”), fix what gets broken, and treasure keepsakes of past generations. And so it goes.

Maybe we’ll paint the oak cabinets, and maybe we won’t. Maybe, we will update our furniture, and maybe we won’t. Hard to say…but I’m not going to feel bad about it. That’s just foolish really.

Unlike our children and probably grandchildren coming up, I’m more a maximalist than minimalist, more vintage than modern, more cluttered than orderly (sigh), and preferential toward brighter colors than earth tones [Joanne Friedrich]. Our married children, like our young friends, have beautiful easy-on-the-eye homes…different than mine. We are different generations, and that’s completely okay.

David Marine, a marketing officer for a large real estate company, wrote the sweetest piece on “grandma’s house”:

“As a kid, it was a magical place with cabinets full of treats and a freezer that was apparently stocked year round with ice cream. Food tends to be a central theme when it comes to Grandma’s house. I remember my grandma would make me whatever I wanted for dinner, and she would always have a special treat that involved some kind of mixture of confectionery delights.

It’s a place full of love. It’s where getting spoiled rotten is a way of life. It’s where you look at those photos on the wall or on top of that coffee table that seem to cover the course of the better part of a century.

My kids love Grandma’s house. It has special toys and snacks that they don’t get a home. There are juice boxes and candies that are rare in other parts of the planet they have seen but seem to be plentiful in this small corner of the galaxy. On top of that my boys have the rare opportunity to also go to great-grandma’s house, the same place I visited at their age.

So what makes Grandma’s house so special? It’s simple. That’s where Grandma lives.” David Marine

And with this house…you also get a sweet Papa in the bargain.

What Makes Grandma’s House So Special? – David Marine

11 Things That Instantly Remind You of Grandma’s House – Southern Living

How Each Generation Shops in 2023 [New Data from Our State of Consumer Trends Report] – Maxwell Iskiev

[This sweet book was chosen by our sweet daughter to read at her birthday lunch with me and all the grands. It is lovely and quite poignant for me because I, like Mama Seeton, had a whistle to summon the kids. My whistle also had just two notes, like in the story above, but used as in a bobwhite call. For the many years we lived in large, noisy cities, it came in handy. My adult kids will still look up to find me when I whistle softly at big family gatherings. Love this about them…and that they’ve passed this story onto our grands.]
From Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli, art by LeUyen Pham

Monday Morning Moment – Birthdays and Seasons – the Punctuation of Life

Photo Credit: ArborMaxTree

Hello, Dear Ones. As I write, Keith Jarrett‘s Shenandoah is playing in the background. Have a little sit with me, and let’s talk about birthdays and seasons. My birthday has just passed, and it was truly fine. Full of reflection of past years and wonder at the possibility of another calendar year added to my life.

Grateful.

Oh…there was a momentary pity party. A singular evening-long regret that I have not always stewarded friendships very well. Not sure that will be changing (sigh…) which then took me again to gratitude for the friends who have stuck with me through all these years. What treasures you are!

This birthday has unfolded…with cake, cards, family, and some of those faithful friends showing up anyway.

Life is such an amazing thing. In every season. As we get older, so many things change but our hearts don’t really age. We still long for closeness with those we love; we seek out purpose in our days; we pray to finish well. All the things.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

A few hours ago, I had birthday lunch with a dear friend who is coming up on her 80th birthday. We both lamented that if birthdays punctuate life, then those celebrations ahead could barely count into double digits. Those times with family. Those opportunities of looking back and ahead. This beautiful woman with a heart full of love wondered aloud if she was/is doing what she was supposed to do with her life. I am so glad she trusted me with that, because it was my joy to remind her of the huge ripple effect she has across so many lives. All the good quietly overflowing from this servant of a woman. Continually.

My heart is just encouraged thinking about her…and inspired by the possibility of living life well at 80.

Another friend gave me a beautiful photo calendar. Every page has a picture of this tall, proud maple tree in our yard. She had taken a picture of the tree through all the months of this year – in all its glory, in every season. If that maple tree could talk, it would not lament one season over another one, I don’t believe. Oh, it may remember most gladly the leafy summers or its deep red Fall foliage, but each season has its own sweetness, its own beauty.

As happens, I find, one experience flows into another, deepening the lessons we’re meant to learn. Facebook Memories today took me to a blog I read 10 years ago written by Amanda Hill. She wrote about “glory days” and reflected on seasons, using the example of the towering oak eventually ending up in bundles of firewood. Here are the last few paragraphs – so worth your read:

I am not good at letting go.  I hold onto old pictures and handprint wreaths and have all kinds of problems letting friends slip away through the years.  I want to hold onto them like warm blankets, safe and folded, loved and cared for, put away in a cedar chest.  I want to hold onto a better time or a better place when secrets were yet unearthed and I was an oak who protected.  I want to go back to a time when I didn’t believe anyone could really chop me down.

And yet sometimes we have to be stripped down to be built up again.  Ripped into bundles and packaged differently and oftentimes devalued in the world’s eyes to realize what our true worth is.  A piece of wood cannot again become a tree, but it can light a glorious blaze of sacrifice…

Photo Credit: PxHere

This is a worthy calling as great as a tree standing tall, for “we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Don’t look backward. Let the past slip through your fingers like fine sifted sand, knowing that God will reshape, and reuse, and redirect into something magical. Your glory days are ahead.  Brilliant blazing bursts of light that will dance and spit and pop with fire.

Burn bright. It’s what you were born to do. Amanda Hill

I’ve embraced this birthday with peace and even joy. Thankful for the life that’s been given to me. All of it.

Every birthday. Every season. With still many adventures ahead.

Our kids grew up with “Calvin and Hobbes” (1985-1995) created by Bill Watterson. Last week, on the Facebook page Everything Calvin and Hobbes, an essay was posted detailing Calvin, as an old dying man having his last visit with his friend Hobbes. It reminded me once again of all the seasons, before children and after, and relationships that weave together to make this wonderful life in all its hard and good. Thank You, God.

Thanks also to any of you still reading this ramble. Wish you could come by to share the last piece of my birthday cake.

Photo Credit: Calvin and Hobbs, Facebook, Everything Calvin and Hobbs, Lizzie Friden

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving – Revisited

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

In Part 1, we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this. [I’m coming at this as a Christian, but this, by no means, lessens the import for those who don’t believe. The wisdom of raising adults to serve stands.]

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a ‘shining model’ of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we were intentional in creating a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just “easier to do it myself”, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. There were moments, however, bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to come alongside our grown-up children to model and teach serving to the grands. In fact, it is already a reality – seeing our kids, as adults, discovering the deep joy of serving others, pushing through the awkward strain to pull back or be less present, putting others ahead of themselves.

[Nathan helping dear Mrs. Marge…many years ago.]
Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Monday Morning Moment – When You’re Expecting to Have a Bad Day

Photo Credit: Strategy Lab

Early this morning, the idea gathered like a storm cloud – the idea of “having a bad day” today. Here’s how it started and then here’s how it went.

As a postscript to Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday, I read today’s post-Lent reading: The Lent Project: I Have Seen the Lord – by Carmen Joy Imes. Biola University posts beautiful Lent devotionals every year (incorporating music, art, poetry, and short reading). Today’s topic was on Mary Magdalene’s lingering at the empty tomb after Jesus arose from the dead.

Mary stood outside the tomb, crying…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus. “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it that you’re seeking?”

Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Turning around, she said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.”John 20:11-18

Exhausted from grief and bleary-eyed from crying, she was expecting to have a bad day. When she found the tomb empty, and not remembering what Jesus had said before (about his own resurrection that would come)…she grew even more inconsolable.

At first, still consumed by her “bad day”, she hadn’t recognized him. This One who had restored her mind and redeemed her life. This One who knew her perfectly and loved her completely. She thought him a gardener.

He spoke to her but she turned away, in grief, thoughts clouded, blinding her awareness.

Until…He called her by name.

Then, she knew! She came back to her senses. The expectation of a bad day vanished as she refocused on the living Lord rather than the dead one.

We all struggle when a day looms full of dark possibilities, dread, or even deepening disappointment. Some of us have a bent toward being pessimistic, contrarian, or a diminisher. These bring a realism that has its own usefulness at times (well, not the diminisher…no, not ever useful in any positive way), but we don’t have to set up camp there.

Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Day? – Jen Kim

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Having a Bad Day? Here are 21 Things You Can Do to Turn It Around – Henrik Edberg

A dear friend reminded me of Fred Rogers having said, in dealing with hard situations, to “look for the helpers”. Here’s a brief video of him describing this.

If a day is beginning with a downward spiral (even if it’s only in our minds), we can (as my husband sometimes reminds me) “pull up”. Our perspective, our focus, is totally within our control. The same friend above also told a story about recently taking back her Saturday, so to speak. A bad storm had passed through and left trees leaning and branches littering her woodland yard. As she sat on her deck, looking at all the devastation, she was troubled at what it would take to restore order. It wasn’t going to happen that morning and no amount of thinking about it was going to make it better. So what did she do? She turned her chair…such that a different, more lovely view was in front of her.

[Thanks, Kathy, for that good word.]

Sometimes, we have to turn our chair…or as Mary Magdalene did, turn back around to the one speaking to her. What we think should be but may not be could just be in our perspective…how we’re looking at things. It also could be remembering that we are never truly alone in the prospect of a bad day. Look for helpers…it’s good advice.

That bad day we were anticipating may just turn out to be a bad few minutes in an otherwise good day. We can make it happen…by tuning into a familiar voice or turning our chair…for a clearing the head moment.

Photo Credit: Pinterest, TobyMac, SpeakLife

Worship Wednesday – The Goodness – TobyMac & Blessing Offor

Photo Credit: Instagram, TobyMac

“I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27:13-14

Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!
You who are his holy ones, fear the Lord, for those who fear him lack nothing. Young lions lack food and go hungry, but those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.
Psalm 34:8-10

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”Psalm 46:10

“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving devotion. The LORD is good to all; His compassion rests on all He has made. All You have made will give You thanks, O LORD, and Your saints will bless You.” Psalm 145:8-10

Today has been the quietest of days. This may be unrelatable to most and the envy of some. I love a full day myself usually…but today was a gift. A gift of quiet.

Within that quiet I was reminded of the many Psalms that speak to the goodness of God. How He loves and moves with both mercy and justice in this world. When we are bombarded by news, much of it bad, and the challenges and distractions of life, the temptation is to take matters into our own hands. To make ourselves the actors in this narrative. What a blessing to have a block of time to quiet the mind and remember the reality of a sovereign God. It takes stillness to listen to the Spirit of God and our own hearts as we gather our thoughts around the beauty of His character. I had that kind of day.

It doesn’t take a day though, right? A moment will do. Even in the midst of busy little ones or weary old ones, as well as demanding work or co-workers, we can turn our hearts in wonder at the goodness of God.

Christian artists TobyMac and Blessing Offor sing together about The Goodness of God. Both of these men have known terrible loss, and yet they will tell you that God’s goodness meets them at every turn.

Quiet days leave me quiet, but I want to share this song and my own gratefulness to God for His great goodness.

Worship with me.

You made the rain
So when it falls on me
Should I complain?
Or feel You callin’ me?
It’s all on me to stay
And really catch what You’re showin’
It’s my roots that You’re growin’
‘Cause life is more than this moment

You are the Light
So when the darkness falls
The greatest heights
They never seem so tall
No, not at all
You’re right
It’s my roots that You’re growin’
Don’t want to miss what You’re showin’

Ain’t no doubt about You
Everywhere that I go
You keep showin’ up
Lord, You make me wanna shout it, oh
You’re the goodness in my life
And I’ma tell you my truth
They may come, they may go
You keep showin’ up, sure do
Ain’t no doubt about it
You are, You are the goodness in my life

You are the joy (Joy)
You’re the smile on the face of Your boy (Boy)
You’re the flowers at that park in Detroit
Still the words on the back of our coins
Let’s make some noise

You cover me
My Defender when You’re rollin’ up Your sleeves

You’re the truth that’s gonna set the captive free
The only King that’s ever chose to bleed (Chose to bleed)
Is what I believe (What I believe)

But they keep tryin’ to make Your glory fade (Fade)
But I ain’t really sweatin’ what they say (Say)

Ain’t no doubt about You
Everywhere that I go
You keep showin’ up
Lord, You make me wanna shout it, oh
You’re the goodness in my life
And I’ma tell you my truth
They may come, they may go
You keep showin’ up, sure do
Ain’t no doubt about it
You are, You are the goodness in my life

Through the good and the bad and the ugly
I can still see the sunshine above me
Lord, I love all the ways that You love me
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness
Through the good and the bad and the ugly (Woo)
I can still feel see the sunshine above me (Tell ’em, Blessing)
Lord, I love all the ways that You love me (Yeah)
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness

You’re the good (You are)
You’re the good (You are)
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness (You’re the goodness)
You’re the good (You are)
You’re the good (You are)
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness

Ain’t no doubt about You (Ain’t no doubt about You)
Everywhere that I go
You keep showin’ up (You keep showin’ up)
Lord, You make me wanna shout it, oh (Ah)
You’re the goodness in my life
And I’ma tell you my truth (Yeah)
They may come, they may go (They may come, they may go)
You keep showin’ up, sure do
Ain’t no doubt about it (Ain’t no doubt about it, woo)
You are, You are the goodness in my life (The goodness in my life)

You’re the good (You are good)
You’re the good (You are good)
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness in my life (You’re the goodness in my life)
You’re the good (You are good)
You’re the good (You are good) (In my life)
You’re the good, You’re the good (Yes, You are)
You’re the goodness in my life (Yeah, ooh)
You’re the good (You are good) (Thank You)
You’re the good (You are good) (Yes, You are)
You’re the good, You’re the good
You’re the goodness in my life

You are, You are still the goodness in my life.*

*Lyrics to The Goodness – Songwriters: TobyMac, Kyle Williams, Gabe Real, & Bryan Fowler

Worship Wednesday – Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Greg Sloop

Worship Wednesday – Goodness of God – CeCe Winans – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: YouTube

YouTube Video – Goodness of God – CeCe Winans (Live)

YouTube Video – Goodness of God – Bethel Music – Brian & Jenn Johnson

5 Friday Faves – A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar, the Art of Neighboring, the Beauty of Fall, Ethnic Foods, and Telling Our Stories

Friday Faves. Here we go!

1) A Lullaby by Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills has been on hiatus from his public YouTube channel as he worked through the summer creating course content for his other channels. Big news: he’s back!!

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Talking through and then performing his treatment of the Game of Thrones theme (his previous arrangements of this can be found here). He takes Ramin Djawadi‘s epic piece and makes it into an ethereal lullaby. Just plain gorgeous.

2) The Art of Neighboring – Several years ago, my husband and I landed in an incredible neighborhood. With great neighbors. As happens, our neighborhood has changed significantly with elderly neighbors downsizing and moving away and new families coming in. The tight-knit feeling we had toward each other has changed…not lost but changed.

This Fall, our community group at church is studying “The Art of Neighboring”. This aligns closely with my deep dive, over the last several months, into our need for being known.

Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson MD

Photo Credit: Art of Neighboring

There is neighboring where we might know someone by sight or even name, but little else. Then there is neighboring which leans in, where we know each other in ways that honors, enjoys, and serves.

It’s an art and it adds to our quality of lives and that of each other in immeasurable ways.Photo Credit: Grace Fellowship, The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring – Website, Book, Resources – Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

3) The Beauty of Fall – Just a quick salute to the end of summer and beginning of Fall. Cooler weather prompting pulling out our hoodies and cozying up to fire pits. The harvest continues. The flowers, many going to seed, still have a glory that moves artists to paint. And pumpkins!

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner, Facebook

4) Ethnic Foods – Our family has had the rich experience of living in several countries and enjoying the yummy “home cooking” of local friends. Some of that food is also sold by street vendors or in tiny restaurants for such a cheap price you wonder how they can afford to sell it, except for the volume of customers.

We search out those authentic food opportunities here, and various food festivals help fill the bill. Recently, we attended Armenian and Egyptian food festivals. So good! Visiting friends took us on the hunt of discovering new restaurants serving up foods so good they could have been cooked in mama’s homes.

In America, ethnic foods are not cheap. Part of that, I’m sure, is the cost of ingredients and labor. I couldn’t imagine paying the equivalent of $12 for a falafel sandwich when we lived overseas. Here, I’m just glad for the opportunity.

What Is ‘Ethnic’ Food? – Aaron Hutcherson

In the Hutcherson piece linked above, the phrase “ethnic food” may even be offensive in today’s cancel culture. Of me, it’s the best of home cooking served outside the home. America is such a cultural “melting pot” that we may come to the place where international foods become a part of the American food culture. Blended in. Beautifully.

“American food is the mixture of all food brought by our immigrants. Perhaps the recipes have been tweaked a little here, but they originate from past cultures, from identities new and old, and from our ethnic nation. Ethnic food is American food.”

This encouraging American ideal explains why Americans long to assimilate almost every food culture into their diets. It is socially encouraged to be more and more inclusive. The main way people try to find common ground is through food.

Ethnic food can best be described as a classification for types of food favored by cultural groups of people. This is different from authentic, which is a word used to describe food as something genuine or real. American cuisine may be classified as being only ethnic food because of the rich cultural diversity of its population. – DevTome

Still…I think we foodies will still look for the dining experiences that take us back to our mom’s table…or that table of friends in far-away places. Sweet memories.

Here in Virginia, we have an ethnic equivalent of food that’s hard to find anywhere but here and it’s Ukrop’s – a family-owned bakery, deli, and grocery business that’s been around since 1937. Their baked goods are very American. I say this because we have been told, by our international friends, that American sweets are “too sweet” for them. Maybe this is one American food that is uniquely American. I don’t know…but it’s good! No one does buttercream frosting like Ukrop’s. 

4) Telling Our Stories – Storytelling is in our very DNA. We appreciate the stories that draw us in – whether through books or film – or in the telling of our own lives.

Memory tends to embellish. A detail is added or emphasized beyond what really happened.

“Well, all good stories deserve embellishment.”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

The Link Between Memory and Stories – Shawn Callahan

Embellishment entertains but what if our memory of an event or conversation stays the same even as we have grown into a person who has changed.

I think of childhood trauma or an incident that changed the course of our relationship with a person or organization. Sometimes all it takes is one circumstance.

Something may come to mind right now.

Is that a something that you want to affect your story forever?

Many of you may never have seen the 1981 British sports film Chariots of Fire. If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It gives an account of the Olympic Games of 1924. In particular, two runners, who compete against each other, are the focus. Two runners with very different stories.

Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.

These two athletes had two very different stories…very different motivations and goals for life. In the film, some of their story may be fictionalized, but there are lessons for us here. Check out the film clips linked below.

“10 lonely seconds [will] justify my whole existence.” – Abrahams

“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

[An extra: In the film, Eric was pushed off the track during an Olympic race, falling to the ground. He got back on his feet and got back on the track. In the crowd, a man was asked if Eric could do (recover the time lost), and he said, “his head’s not back yet”. Eric would put his head back as he felt the pleasure of God on him. And where did the power come from? Another clip.]

YouTube Video – He Who Honors God – Chariots of Fire – don’t miss this scene.

What is your story? Whether you know it or not, you’re telling a story? Is it the one you want to be remembered for? Or is there a healing, a reconciliation, a resolve you want to leave behind as part of your legacy?

Something to consider.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a delightful weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

8 Rules to Do Everything Better – Brad Stulberg

What To Do When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit in at Work – Lisa Evans

How to Say the Unsayable – 10 Ways to Approach a Sensitive Daunting Conversation – Kathryn Mannix

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marjolein Bastin

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia, Parents & Adult Children, Welcome to Holland, Food Fit for Memory-Making, and Boundaries that Define Us

This week’s Friday Faves – GO!

1) Beyond the Guitar Nostalgia – How about all the feels from musical themes of favorite old movies? That’s what happens for us when Nathan arranges and performs themes from films we love.

While he takes a brief hiatus from his usual YouTube channel to focus on other work, only we Patreon subscribers get to hear the latest (subscribe). He is creating some new instructional content which makes me want to learn classical guitar. In this bit of time in the interim, I decided to highlight some of his arrangements already appreciated by 500k-plus YouTube subscribers. Enjoy. Oh, and comment below a favorite song of yours that he arranges/performs.

YouTube Video – The Last of the Mohicans: Promentory – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – How to Train Your Dragon – Romantic Flight (Classical Guitar Cover)

YouTube Video – Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka) – Classical Guitar Cover

YouTube Video – The Lion King Main Theme (“This Land”) on Guitar

YouTube Video – Amazing Grace Meets Classical Guitar (Epic Version) – this one Nathan did as a request from his mom and dad. So beautiful. Thanks again, Nae.

2) Parents & Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 excellent and empowering articles by author, counselor Dennis Rainey. If you want to parent adult children well, these articles have wise and applicable counsel for you. You adult children might enjoy them as well. The articles are linked below along with a couple of others that are also treasures.  https://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2012-December-family-snapshot-014.jpg

Sometimes, we can be hard on our adult children. Too many demands or expectations.  I’m sure I’m not alone with bringing my own vision into the present of what our family would look like, all grown-up with little ones. To be honest, they can also be hard on us (without even realizing it). However, what’s more important? The people in these relationships! Full-stop. Our kids have their own sharp learning curves of life without pressure from mom and dad to bend in our direction. It’s enough to see them when we can and cheer them on in their own new life configurations. If they make choices we would not make…it doesn’t change the love. Remember they also deal with the choices we make.

Read the articles. You’ll be glad you did.

“Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.”John Stott

3) Welcome to Holland – This goes out to you who are parents, siblings, extended family or friends of children/adults with special needs or medical complexities. A friend introduced me this week to   “Welcome to Holland”, a beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley. My friend has a medically complex child, and so did I.

“Did” only because he is grown now. When he was little, he had major struggles and still has some of the aftermath of those struggles and always will.

When Dan came home to us through adoption, we knew he would have his challenges, but you’re never prepared for the twists and turns of that through childhood and into adulthood. With all the trips to doctors and therapists, meetings with teachers, and one-on-one times with him as the topic, there was still his joy that kept us marveling at this wonder.

He was an incredibly exuberant kid and seemed far less bothered by his struggles than we were.

A friend, years ago, asked us, regarding Dan, “What’s it like to have a ticker tape parade thrown for you, every time he sees you?”

It was something very special.

So…welcome to Holland.

Welcome To Holland

by Emily Perl Kingsley

Copyright©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. 

All rights reserved. 

Reprinted by permission of the author.

 

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It’s like this……

 

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans.  The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It’s all very exciting.

 

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

 

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I’m supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

 

But there’s been a change in the flight plan.  They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

 

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It’s just a different place.

 

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

 

It’s just a different place.  It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

Pin on WindmillsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”  

 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

 

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

__________________________________________________________________________

Love you, Dan.

4) Food Fit for Memory-Making – Writing for the last two weeks has been on the back burner. We’ve been traveling, seeing friends, and enjoying great food as part of those experiences. Now that we’re back home, eating to live more than living to eat will have to be restored to the daily.

However, can I just celebrate great food for a moment. The images below take us back, just the last two weeks, to food shared with friends in beautiful spaces. An anniversary was celebrated and Dave got his Butterfinger Blizzard – a twice-a-year indulgence which never disappoints.

My mom’s cooking has settled deep in my memories since she’s been in Heaven for 20 years now. Nothing like her biscuits and gravy, Thanksgiving dinners, and vegetable soup and cornbread. Sweet memories of her and the food she prepared. Memories imprinted by food shared together.

The memories we’ve made recently, accompanied by food, will suffice for now. Bon appétit .

Shyndigz – a local desserterie. Their fresh fruit cake has always been my favorite UNTIL they’ve recently introduced a Tres Leches cake. Once a month it will tempt me for sure…so amazingly good!

5) Boundaries that Define Us – All my adult life, I have struggled with (and been known by) being fuzzy-boundaried. Easy-going, fairly amicable, not very demanding. Then recently, on more than one occasion, friends have asked me about my preferences and desires in life. What do you like to do? What do you want to accomplish these days? How do you fill your day? What are your goals? Hopes? Dreams?

I stuttered…trying to answer. It seems much of my life has been spent bending toward helping, serving, pleasing others…That is NOT a bad thing, but to not be able to come up with answers to the above questions really got me puzzling about my own self-awareness.

Henry Cloud Quote: "That is why success and fruitfulness depend as much ...Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, Dr. Henry Cloud

Presently I’m reading a book that may very well help me get to those answers. It is Dr. Henry Cloud‘s Changes That Heal. His chapter on Boundaries has me stopped in my tracks.

“Boundaries, in a broad sense, are lines or things that mark a limit, or border. In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others. This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity. It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want. Boundaries, in short, define us.”

Being a fuzzy-boundaried sort, I’m not really sure about some of these things, but now I’m on a mission of determining who I am and who I’m not. This may seem a strange venture for someone as old as I am. Hear me out.

Dr. Cloud talks about the various boundaries that make up our identity: physical appearance/body; attitudes; feelings; behavior; thoughts; abilities; desires; choices; limits; and, lastly, negative assertions (who/what we are NOT).

If we don’t know these things about ourselves, then we are bound to bump into, step over, or be drawn into the boundaries of others.

Here’s an example of this: I AM a reconciler, and I AM NOT a grudge-holder. So when my extended family is struggling with a family rift, it’s somewhat confusing for me, and really hard personally. How boundaries come to play in this is that I can’t make this rift go away…my own limits, attitudes, feelings, and desires (among other things) keep me from crossing others’ boundaries…This leaves me feeling hopeless, and sometimes helpless. My alternatives (and they are good ones) are to love my family, encourage those also reeling from this, and praying for all of us.

I can NOT fix it. If my fuzzy-boundaried self insisted on somehow making things better, it would leave me worse for the wear…and the rift still unchanged. We all have boundaries at play in our relationships.

In fact, some boundaries we set up voluntarily by our attitudes and thoughts. When we feel harmed by someone, we impose boundaries to prevent getting hurt again. Are these actual or imagined? It seems the pain continues in the trauma of unforgiveness. I just don’t know. One thing I do know is that this sort of boundary is something I AM NOT willing to do…especially with family. Where does that leave us who disagree on this?

So…forgive all verbal processing on this. Just trying to figure some of this out, and I’m only beginning. Unless you know yourself well, Dr. Cloud’s lesson on boundaries might be an excellent one to consider. One very beautiful extra thought on this: although we are made in God’s image, this is one place we differ from Him. He is infinite, and we are finite. As we get to know ourselves better, we can appreciate Him all the more and depend on Him even more readily for what we need both inside and outside our boundaries.

[This same Dr. Cloud also wrote Necessary Endings and Boundaries.]

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That’s all for this week. Any comments or thoughts you have, please share below. Blessings on you and thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Road to Wholeness Podcast – Redeeming Heartache

How Do You Move Through Past Trauma? – Interview with Jerry Sittser – Podcast – Adam Young Counseling

Photo Credit: Laugh It’s Free Facebook page

Books on my Summer Reading List

Your Home Affects Your Longevity – Here’s How the Longest-Living People Outfit Their Spaces – Erica Sloan