Category Archives: Growing up

Worship Wednesday – Even in the Madness, There Is Peace – You Are Writing a Symphony – Switch

Photo Credit: Piqsels

[Two nights ago I was on a Zoom meeting call with Virginia’s Kids Belong representatives and several others from churches and other community organizations. All meeting for the purpose of brain-storming for how we can best support foster kids, birth moms, and foster families. During this season of the Coronavirus and subsequent school closures and limited contact. Then last night Dave and I watched a movie – Instant Family – not meant for everyone, but definitely it moved my heart all the more – in terms of reaching out to these kids.]

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:27

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children–and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.  1 John 3:1

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5

I’d wanted to watch Instant Family since first seeing the trailer. Finally, as one result of “social distancing”, Dave and I watched it last night in our living room. It is NOT a family film. Strong language and adult themes throughout. However, it is one at least some adults should see – it is real (if not perfect – see excellent review below) in its depiction of foster parenting and foster care. Not recommending for everyone to watch the film, but do catch this one scene of the painful failed reunification with the children’s birth mom. So beautiful in the raw work required of adults reaching into the lives of seemingly fatherless children.

Instant Family – What Mark Wahlberg’s New Movie Gets Right and Wrong about Foster Care – Christy Tennant Krispin

Coronavirus Leaves Foster Children With Nowhere to Go – Eli Hager

In aligning with other churches and community agencies to serve this vulnerable population, we do a work that must please the Lord. To the point, even, that it is an act of worship. Right now foster children, and their birth and foster families, are more isolated than ever. The pressure in their hearts and homes must be hard for all involved. When in school, foster children have teachers who watch out for them. Teachers are a safety for these children because they care, they provide structure, and they sound the alarm when the children appear to be at risk for neglect or abuse.

I don’t have answers here, but there are folks in our communities who are working toward answers. Ears wide open.

Who knows how long we will be in this situation of “keeping distance”? However we are not out of hearing or direction from the Lord who loves these children and the adults in their lives. My hope is through listening to God, these agencies closest to the kids at risk, and through our churches, we can extend love, even in these days… in the power of the Lord.

In preparing for this piece today, I went looking for songs that reflect God’s love and provision in such situations, and there are many.

Songs for Foster Parents

One of the songwriters of Symphony, Cassidy Estevez had this to say about the song: “…one of those themes which we landed on for this song, was how everyone has gone through some type of chaos in their lives, whether it is unemployment, family issues, marriage distress, difficulty raising kids, everybody has some type of chaos in their lives. We wanted to write a song that could be a prayer for people to sing in the middle of those circumstances.” She also added, “This song reminds us that even when you can only see a small part right now, God is doing something bigger and He is crafting something beautiful that we can only see when we zoom out.”

Worship with me to Symphony by worship band Switch:

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe
All these thoughts they shout at me
Try to bring me to my knees
And it’s overwhelming

Darkness echoes all around
Feels like everything is crashing down
Still I know where my hope is found
And it’s only you and ooh-ooh

You say you’re working everything for my good and ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Tune my heart to your beat
Let me be your melody
Even when I cannot see
But you orchestrate it

Even when the dark surrounds
You’ll never let me drown
I know that my hope is found
In the name of Jesus

Ooh-ooh
You say you’re working everything for my good
And ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Yo, I wanna truly know
If you compose beautiful
Music, though
From all my unruly notes
Distance is distant, it’s movin’ close

Now I see, erase the scales from my eyes
Then play the scale of my life
Chaos played off with a chord in accord
With a source prevailing through strife and

I’ve tasted suffering
I’ve been embraced by the painful buffering
I’ve been bound by doubts so loud right now
But a melody is made when you play these rusty keys

So we all gotta get pressed
Tuned up like instruments
But I know
All of life’s tempo is set
Whenever we remember this

That even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony*

I’d like to close with this beautiful love letter fashioned for children with the words of our Heavenly Father (God’s Love Letter for adults also here).

Photo Credit: Father’s Love Letter

*Lyrics to Symphony by Switch – Songwriters: Louis Biancaniello, Michael Biancaniello, Cassidy Estevez

Hope Beyond Coronavirus Roger Carswell

Father’s Love Letter

Ministering the Love of the Fathers to the Fatherless – Anna Meade Harris

God Promises to Be a Father to the Fatherless – Barry Adams

5 Ways that Churches Can Stand in the Gap for the Fatherless – Daniel Darling

Chris Tomlin Reveals the Dream God Gave Him 10 Years Ago That Is Now Saving Children Across America

Monday Morning Moment – a Tender Take on Controlling Women

Photo Credit: PickPik

We’re not talking controlling men today or men controlling women, in particular. Today, we are looking at our own leanings toward being controlling women. Ever charting the course toward our own “happy endings” or that of our children.

None of us ever start out taking control because we see it as the best course. We often stumble on controlling. We could even be oblivious to the possibility that we are. If we are awakened to that reality, we can justify it. Figuring we love too much, or we’re loved not enough, or there appears no other recourse but to control our situation.

I married later in life and had the blessing of three children. Being a wife and mom (especially the mom part) did not come naturally to me, even though I myself had an amazing mom. Maybe it was coming into parenthood as a 30-something. It was an intense experience, and I was often riddled with guilt about getting it wrong. The kids all turned out well, I think, but the journey there was broken up by stumbles and starts.

Adult children are a wonderful thing. They take care of themselves (or someone else does, for the most part, right?). They make you proud and sometimes bring you grandchildren. I find myself wanting to draw them in…reel them back home to family dinners or beach vacations or long talks on “life aspirations”.*  Is it because I am needy? Or just miss the people who grew up from tiny tots to independent grownups, in what feels like an unguarded instant.

*[It is NOT controlling when parents and children want these sorts of things but logistics are hard to work out, and you take on that work for a mutually desired end. It IS controlling, when we pressure, manipulate, or guilt our families into something they would rather not do.]

Photo Credit: Piqsels (check out all the moms/children images)

Just this week, I saw this video on adjusting to our children growing up. It is a piece by Australian writer Mia Freedman. It is a gushing, tear-jerking essay, but it sums up how we might, as mums, grasp for control…without meaning to. Sigh…

Here it is (4 minutes. Go ahead and watch it):

“Babies and toddlers and boys…will grow up and grow away and break up with their mothers. Slowly. But surely. Because they need to. And if they do – when they do – it means we got it right. We parented them right. Whether you have sons or daughters, our role as parents is ultimately to make ourselves redundant and while I don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of an adult woman, I know what it’s like to stumble as my son became a man. There are so many bat crazy things about being a parent and one that definitely wasn’t in the brochure is the way you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child.

There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name. They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next.

You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing. Except when Facebook sends you those bloody memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.” – Mia Freedman

She went on to say, in the piece above, how handy and interesting grown children are and how proud we will be of them. How blessed she is to have had those children, acknowledging how not all women have children or don’t get to see them grown. She marveled that she actually “grew one of my best friends in the world, one of the best men I know, in my own body.”

Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

In each story, we revisit familiar stories of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters…and what control issues they struggled with. This week, I read the chapter on Rachel’s life…Rachel, the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph. Jacob’s family would be the foundation for the nation of Israel. If Rachel knew a “happy ending” was coming, she might not have anguished so about her ability to have children. After a season of barrenness, she had Joseph, the man who would save Israel from years of famine. Right after his birth, she longed out loud for more children. She would die in childbirth, delivering her second son, Benjamin. I wonder if the joy of having her firstborn was diminished in the longing for another.

We struggle in our relationships, longing for something more. Something not yet now. Something reminiscent of what we once had. We take the reins of our relationships into our own hands and try to steer them toward the happy ending of our own choosing.

It’s a lot of work. Exhausting for us and those in the harness of our own desires.

“God wired us to long for meaningful, lasting family relationships. It’s why we care so deeply and tug so insistently on the people we love. But when our tug becomes a yank, and our request becomes a demand, rather than drawing everyone in, we drive them away.” Shannon Popkin

What do we do with controlling in our own lives or that we experience from other women? I have a few ideas (borne out of my own experience, God’s Word, the wise counsel of other women, including the author Shannon Popkin):

  • Refuse to think ill of that controlling woman. The control may very well be borne out of a heart of love…just taken too far. If you’re the controlling woman, then give yourself grace, as you pull in and examine your own heart and motives.
  • Stop self-referencing – thinking it’s about you. If you are beginning to see that controlling can rip relationships apart, then lay down your own agenda. Walk in your spouse’s/adult children’s shoes a bit. We may think that what we want is what’s best for everyone, and it could be, on the surface…but it won’t matter if the “making it happen” drives a wedge between us all.
  • Don’t get caught in the web of comparing your own marriage or family with someone else’s. There are always going to be other spouses and parents who are more gifted, cooler, maybe even more loving, and more capable. That’s a good thing, when we stop comparing. We want the best for our children. We can be thankful they have all sorts of great people in their lives. Let it go. Maybe we can serve them in ways that speak to how they feel loved…without our own agenda coming into play…or wondering if it’s good enough. Nope, not going there. Nope, not doing it.
  • Release the fear of what could happen if our adult children make their own path to a happy ending. This is a place for prayer and for trusting that they are in good hands, as are we. We raised them. It’s done. Celebrate that, loving them with wide open, unselfish hearts…praying for them, releasing them (and our fears) to God.
  • Tuck our story into the larger one. Shannon Popkin talks about how we author our lives like a “chunky board book”. We (and our spouses/children) are the characters. We, the wives/moms, could even be the heroine. The book has bright and engaging illustrations, and it ends just right, with all the “happy” possible in those sturdy pages. What if we trusted our lives, and that of our family’s, into the hands of a greater Author. One who is writing a story across the ages…and ours is tucked into it. When I’m in my right mind, and not trying to configure a scenario where my family is all mine, then I can see the glory of that greater story. And live the life God has given me today.

Letting the lesser story go…today. This could be what I give up for Lent…the whole control thing. Maybe it will stick. I sure hope so.

YouTube Video – Otherhood – Official Trailer  (Netflix, Rated R – haven’t seen the movie. The trailer points to a film which speaks to this topic from a secular point of view – Rated R)

YouTube Video – War Room – Official Trailer – Rated PG – I have seen this film and loved it.

5 Friday Faves – Mental Errors in Decision-making, Country Forever, Peggy Noonan, Love Letters, and Boomers

Another week; another weekend. Flew by. Here are my Friday Faves on a Sunday. Go.

1) Mental Errors and Decision-making – I really like the writer/speaker James Clear. He is the author of the best-seller Atomic Habits. He writes authoritatively about habits and decision-making, both topics that I find fascinating and life- and work-enriching. He also cares about the problem of malaria and its impact on the most vulnerable. [He donates a percentage of his book sales, etc. to the Against Malaria Foundation.] How is it that we haven’t come up with a cure for malaria?!Photo Credit: James Clear

This week, I discovered his article 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway Your Decision Making. Errors in our thinking can negatively affect our decision making, and we won’t necessarily see it happening. Clear’s 5 are listed below but click on the link for his fascinating and informative commentary on each:

  1. Survivor Bias – we point to those who are successful and forget that there are many more who tried doing the same thing without success.
  2. Loss Aversion – we err on the side of conservative when we hold onto what we already have rather than risking the gain of something even better.
  3. The Availability Heuristic – James Clear’s definition: We overvalue and overestimate the impact of things that we can remember and we undervalue and underestimate the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about. [Global violence/global peace. Examples in your life?]
  4. Anchoring – The tendency of “anchoring” your mind on the first information you obtain, and then jumping on the next bits of information as improved from the first (ex. regular price and then sale price).
  5. Confirmation Bias – We are more included to look for information that supports our beliefs rather than consider what goes against our beliefs.

Read Clear’s book, subscribe to his weekly newsletter, and follow James Clear on Twitter. He will help you become an excellent decision-maker.

The Decision Making Guide: How to Make Smart Decisions and Avoid Making Bad Ones – James Clear

YouTube Video – Atomic Habits: How to Get 1% Better Every Day – James Clear

2) Country Forever – If you don’t like country music, this might not be your thing. Still the production of this medley of country songs made me smile. Just to think back on all these great songs. Marking the seasons of life sweetened by this music. Click on the link and you’ll see what I’m talking about. So glad to have these memories.

3) Peggy Noonan – I’m so thankful we were invited by friends to share in a subscription to The Richmond Forum. This past week, we sat enthralled listening to the latest speaker, writer Peggy Noonan. Her take on the last six presidents of the United States and what they could have learned from their predecessors was brilliant. Insightful, and both funny and sobering. I took notes in the dark as she spoke.

Peggy Noonan was speech writer to President Reagan, and she continues to use her words to help our nation understand where we are and how we might think on our situation. She is courageous, fair, hopeful. I’m still processing her talk on our Presidents, but she was one of this week’s Faves for me. Below are some of my favorite quotes of hers from other places and times:

We must try again to be alive to what the people of our country really long for in our national life: forgiveness and grace, maturity and wisdom.

You don’t have to be old in America to say of a world you lived in: That world is gone.

You don’t tell people who disagree with you they’d be better off somewhere else. And you don’t reduce them to stereotypes; you address them as fully formed people worthy of respect. You try to persuade them.

I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.

Presidents have a right to certain prerogatives, including the expectation of a certain deference. He’s the president; this is history. But we seem to have come a long way since Ronald Reagan was regularly barked at by Sam Donaldson, almost literally, and the president shrugged it off.

Democracy involves that old-fashioned thing called working it out.

I ought to pray as much as God’s on my mind, because then I’d pray a lot. All I can tell you is God is real, and so that infuses everything.

[All the above Peggy Noonan quotes are taken from Brainy Quote, except the first was on The Richmond Forum page.]

4) Love Letters – Dave and I discovered we were in love at the first part of summer in 1983. We parted company for that summer as I returned to Georgia and he stayed in Connecticut. He wrote me every day…every single day…until I returned again. I’m pretty sure it ruined him for letter writing from then on.

An early and powerful influence in my life was the writing of Jim Elliot. The quote below had a strong impact in my 20-something life.Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Jim Elliot

Years ago, I read a collection of his journal published by his wife:

Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot – Elisabeth Elliot

Now their one daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard, just 10 months old when her father was killed, has published a collection of love letters.

Devotedly, the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

The love letters between Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

I’ve just started reading the book, and it is one of the most intimate experiences I’ve had in reading. Elisabeth Elliot, through the years, also became a distant mentor to me. Her writing and teaching. I would never meet her or hear her speak in person, but it didn’t matter. She, like her late husband, Jim, taught me much about fiercely and resolutely loving God with all one’s heart.

The letters span their friendship, lengthy courtship, and engagement. They wrestled with their love for each other, because both loved God first…supremely. They finally found a way to walk together with God, and their letters are so beautiful, so full of love for Him and for each other.

[Video preview]

5) Boomers – I still watch the TV show This Is Us. It is so emotional and full of flash-backs and flash-forwards that Dave stopped watching it with me. Season 4/Episode 15 “Clouds” was the one I watched this week. In the episode, the expression “OK Boomer” was used by son, Kevin, when he watched his mom, Rebecca, at a record store, reminisce over the Joni Mitchell song “Our House” (actually written by Graham Nash). Mom Rebekah said, “I miss the crackle on the record right before the music starts.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about…that sound. “OK Boomer!” Anyway, that scene (not on YouTube or I would share it) did take me back…to my own younger Boomer days when singer/songwriters Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young made up some of the  soundtracks of our lives.

Photo Credit: Neil Young News

Graham Nash “Our House” – Lydia Hutchinson

OK Boomers, any memories of your own you’d be willing to share in Comments below?

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week. Hope you are well and able to have a bit more rest before the weekend closes down. Monday awaits.

Bonuses:

‘When I have to search a student’s cell phone, I’m sick to my stomach at what I find. It gets worse every year.’: Assistant principal’s plea for parents to monitor cell phone use, ‘The internet is the most dangerous place behind closed doors’

Just How Contagious is COVID-19? This Chart Puts It in Perspective – Matthew R. Francis

Death Index: Top 59 Ways Americans Die – some surprises and some not.

Worship Wednesday – Way Maker – Mandisa

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Just days into walking out the lesson on going a different way through anger, I’m experiencing the strength of God…in choosing His ways over mine. Days will come when my resolve will weaken and my flesh will rise up in wanting to react against some injustice or wrong needing righting. God still has a way through that…His ways are not ours, until we make it so through obedience and love. Love for Him and love for others. Where and how He leads me to make things right, for instance, He will give me the wisdom and grace to put myself in the equation. In situations larger, harder, or beyond my reach, they are not so with Him. I want to and aspire to remembering that…and find His way through it.

He is able.

Years ago, songwriter Don Moens gave us a shoulder-squaring little worship song by the title of God Will Make a Way (he also brought us Give Thanks but that’s for another day). When we look at Scripture, we see on every page the mighty hand of God. No wonder we sing about it. We are emboldened by the great promises of God working out His purposes…His ways…in our frail-hearted, shaking-knees situations.

Singer worshiper Mandisa knows God in the heartaches of life – when she prayed and prayed, and it didn’t go the way she wanted. Yet God was there, all the time…and her faith was galvanized like never before. She sings a  great little song on this theme. Way Maker.Photo Credit: Mandisa, Music Row

Worship with me:

You are here,
Moving in our midst
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Working in this place
I worship You,
I worship You
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are here, touching every heart
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Healing every life
I worship You,
I worship You, oh-oh
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
Oh-oh-oh,
That is…*

Worship Wednesday – Love Notes – How Mom Encouraged Her Faraway Family

IMAG2718 (2)

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 18 of them now passed since she died. This blog adapted from the Archives. Using #WorshipWednesday today to showcase how we can share the love of Jesus with those He places in our lives.]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. It was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.

The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.

Life – Bible Study Tools [short article; worth the read]

America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.

Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.

Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.

As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.

Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.

They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.

I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, Just Mercy, Productivity Hacks, Birthdays, and the Impact of Our Lifestyles on Our Brains

What a week! A gun rights rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Roe v. Wade anniversary commemorated by a March for Life and name change (Sanctity of Human Life Day). An impeachment trial. All of this matters. All of it. We have to stop the hatred, the contempt, the division and start listening to each other…and apply ourselves to real and lasting solutions to our nation’s struggles.

1) Storytelling – We all love a good story, right? In our throw-away culture, stories take up very little room and hold incredible information and insight for us to consider.

Thanks to the Richmond Forum, we were able to hear great stories through three story-telling platforms and their pioneering founders. Dave Isay of StoryCorps. Catherine Burns of The Moth. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. Just amazing to hear the stories…

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

Here are some samples of the stories found on each platform:

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

The Moth – Anthony Griffith – The best of times; the worst of times. [Be prepared – this story will break your heart.]

Humans of New York – Brandon Stanton’s platform is pictures/videos and interviews of random people on the streets of New York (and now other places in the world). Below is one:

2) Just Mercy – On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dave and I went to see the film Just Mercy, from the book of the same title.

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

The author of the book, attorney Bryan Stevenson, is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative. He has worked for over 30 years on behalf of wrongfully accused, minors with harsh sentences, and those incarcerated with disabilities/mental illness.

Don’t miss this film, this book, or this man. I feel so fortunate that we will be hearing him speak at The Richmond Forum next month.

TED Talk – “We Need to Talk About Injustice” – Bryan Stevenson

3) Productivity Hacks – Redeeming the precious commodity of time and adding value are two things we all want to do at work and in life. There’s tons written on productivity including in my own blog.

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

This week, Rockwood’s piece sparked my interest as did Andrea Lane’s on the same topic. See links below.

What’s Your Productivity Style? How 4 Personalities Can Get More Done – Kate Rockwood

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

They talked about 4 personality styles bring different strengths to the work table, and how to optimize the strengths of these folks.

  1. The “Prioritizer” – analytical and competitive
  2. The “Planner” – detail-oriented and deadline-motivated
  3. The “Arranger” – facilitating and communicative
  4. The “Visualizer” – risk-taking and big-picture thinking

These cryptic descriptions may be all you need to find yourself identified, but read these authors’ hacks on how to best work your magic and help others on your team to do/be their best as well.

I am kind of a blend of an arranger and visualizer. Thankful for you prioritizers and planners in my work life that help us keep on task in bringing ideas and plans to execution.

Postscript: Business consultant Cameron Herold has written a book on how incompetent we are at running meetings – Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business Into One of the Most Valuable. He coaches on how to successfully manage meetings. He also advises on how to maximize the effort and experience of each of the personalities in attendance – those different productivity types. [Note: read this piece on how he defines the personalities – somewhat differently from the authors above.]

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

4) Birthdays – It was my birthday week along with a lot of yours. There’s more and more of a push to make birthdays count for something. In my community, children have fewer parties with scores of friends and presents. The trend is toward experiences over presents which is also cool. For adults, often we are given the opportunity to donate to a cause dear to our birthday friends’ hearts. For me, the best celebration is just being with those I love – family and friends – and to stretch the birthday train as far as I can get away with. This year it was a birthday week… Next year with the turn of a big decade, I might take it to a month. Be prepared. [Thanks for the flowers and sweet cards from those too far to get together. You know how much I love words.] How are you with birthdays these days? Yay or not so much? Well, happy birthday, to you, too…out there, whenever it is.

5) The Impact of Our Lifestyles on our Brains – OK, so you just saw some of the birthday sweets we enjoyed… A sugar detox is always a good idea – for a month, a season, or a lifetime.

Below you will find two articles that were super compelling to me this week. One on the ill effect of unrestrained sugar intake – especially on our brain and mental health.

A neuroscientist explains the shocking impact too much sugar has on the brain

The second article describes 7 habits or lifestyles most damaging to the brain. Definitely something to consider before the longterm impact takes hold.

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

  • Inflammation – multiple factors cause inflammation – here’s a source for intervention – especially with diet.
  • Overfeeding
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Toxic exposure – a list of brain toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical stagnation – Exercise may be the single most important intervention on our brain and mental health.
  • Sleep loss

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

Thanks for reading. This, my Friday Faves, on a Monday. Some weeks are challenging to post on time. Have a great week!

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Star Wars, Christmas Music, Adult Children, Christmas Happenings, and the Perks of Walking

Happy Weekend! Well, I should ask how was your weekend as Friday Faves posts on the Monday after. These Fridays come so fast! Anyway, if you have a minute, there’s a lot of Friday joy here for your Monday.

1) Star Wars Classical Guitar – We are Star Wars geeks around here. This movie franchise is part of our Christmas tradition through the years, going together to see the latest film coming out. Those of you who, like me, are fans of Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar, may remember his holiday mashup A Star Wars Christmas.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Of course, if you are Star Wars fans, you have probably already listened to Beyond the Guitar’s library of various themes. So much sweet nostalgia.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Thanks to Disney+, we have a Star Wars space western that we can stream between the big screen escapades. The Mandalorian. If you love Star Wars, you will love it. Here is Nathan’s rendition of the main theme:

2) Christmas Music – It’s been our jam since October, and still need more time to savor it all. From the ridiculous to the rapturous. Love most all of it. How about you? Do you have favorites to share? In Comments, please.

December is full of way too many music events to take them all in. Community sing-alongs of The Messiah, King College styled Lessons and Carols performances, spontaneous Christmas pageants, just to name a few. One of our family’s annual traditions is the VCU Holiday Gala. This Friday night, one of our littles also joined us. A next generation joy.

On a larger scale, the Christmas band for King & Country performs an amazing Little Drummer Boy. A drumming feast for the senses!

3) 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 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

  • Alison Wright‘s The Death of the Family Gathering – We’re in a season when extended family gatherings only happen over a funeral or wedding. My birth family never did reunions but they always looked so fun. We would, from time to time, gather at grandparents at the same time, but it was never planned. Wright’s article touched my heart. Then a great-niece wrote a beautiful Facebook post about the same article… We work to make family dinners happen once a month and a family vacation each year. Worth the battle with busy schedules.
  • Deb Wolf‘s How to Love Your Adult Children Really Well is pure wisdom and worth your read. https://countingmyblessings.com/love-your-adult-children/
  • Daniel Kurt‘s Long-term Care Insurance – Is It the Right Move for My Aging Parents? This may seem an odd post for a Friday Fave, but for ever how much time long-term care insurance is still around, it is definitely a consideration for us to give ourselves and our adult children…or invest in a family compound of some sort where everyone cares for everyone else. Either way, it’s a chunk of change, but worth it.

4) Christmas Happenings – Beyond the Christmas music events, so much goes on in the month of December around here. Henrico Christmas Mother is a charitable venture that helps needy families, the elderly and the disabled of our county. I only minimally volunteer for this, but it is an incredible experience to see how people and organizations come together to help those less advantaged have a happy Christmas.

In Richmond, we have the Tacky Light Tour which makes driving around the city at night a shimmering, and sometimes silly, wonder.

Gatherings with friends and family or nights at home when overwhelmed or just needing a quiet place…all part of Christmas.

Then…then there are the platters, boxes, small bags full of Christmas cookies – made with love, shared.Photo Credit (last pic): Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

5) The Perks of Walking – So after all the Christmas cookies, I’ll close with this helpful piece on the perks of walking. We all know the perks actually, but we’ll be doing more walking come the New Year, for sure.

6 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Walk Every Day

Have a great week! I have to tell you that sometime during the night I woke with the wonderful realization that we are still over 2 weeks away from Christmas. I went to bed thinking it was just 10 days away. When trying to squeeze all the glorious goodness of this special time of year, the days fairly fly. It was a pre-dawn gift to know that…there is still time.

Bonuses:

Team of Retired Navy Seals Are Saving Teenagers From Human Trafficking – Mark Pygas

Zipper Mergers Are a Target for Road Rage, but They’re the Ones Doing It Right, VDOT Says – Joann Kimberlin

Do You Take Hours to Make Simple Decisions? You May Have FOBO (Fear of Better Options)

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

What Makes You “Multicultural” Stacey Fitzsimmons, Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Salma Raheem, Andre Pekerti, C. Lakshman

Monday Morning Moment – Advent Begins and Christmas Memories Follow

[Adapted from the Archives]

In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).

This time each year I clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish.

Driving to the thrift store with the bags of what will become someone else’s treasures, my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In those bags, among the bits of stuff, were several sets of Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.

I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.

Still in the driver’s seat, with the car running, a song I’d never heard on the radio came on. It was Michael W. Smith’s Somewhere In My Memory (from his 2014 album The Spirit of Christmas.

In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. The musical score was composed by John Williams.

Have a listen:

Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home
here with me*

What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.

So Happy start of Advent, kind readers. Whether we get the gifts right or not this year, Christmas still comes for us. What your loved ones want most for Christmas…might just be you.

We have good advice, on choosing love, in this image of a holiday bucket list:

I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift… Solitude instead of having every minute of our December weekends filled with parties or other seasonal events. One such grace for me was seeing the plaque below, at a local Chick-Fil-A. Surprised by the joy of it.

A Better Way Ministries -a place of refuge for men struggling with life controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addictions

Anyway….there you have my Monday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2019.

One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them.

Until then?

“All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me”.

*Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube Video – Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Feat. Audrey Smith