Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.
Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.
That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list. For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.
For some of the rest of us, not so much.
Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.
I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.
Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.
Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!
So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.
For today, I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.
Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.
Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.
You are rock stars and super heroes.
Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.
A rainy Friday here. Fall has definitely come to our part of the world. The folks who seem to know tell us we won’t be seeing a lot of color, with leaves just turning brown before they fall…oh well. I will capture what I can and share with you.
Here are my Friday Faves:
1) Nicest Place in America – On one of the morning TV shows this week, the winner of a national contest was announced. It was Reader’s Digest Nicest Place in America. Now, if we were asked what we considered “the nicest place in America”, there would probably be a myriad of answers. This year’s winner of the contest was Yassin’s Falafel Housein Knoxville, Tennessee.Photo Credit: Square
Yassin is a Syrian refugee who loves people and loves America. He also has both the gift of Syrian hospitality and Syrian food sense. Next time, I’m in Knoxville, I will be eating there for sure.Photo Credit: Yassin’s Falafel House
This year Richmond, Virginia had its first Egyptian Food Festival. I would love to see a falafel restaurant in Richmond. So…if we don’t have Syrians like Yassin in Richmond, maybe we have some Egyptians with the same knack for good business. I sure hope so.
[What would you say is the nicest place in America? Comment below.]
2) Combating Anxiety – It’s such a crippling experience…anxiety. I’ve written about it before – here and here. Counsel helps – from professionals and as well as those who have figured how to pull themselves out of crippling anxiety. Here is a piece I found helpful.
What have you found to be helpful when anxiety creeps in?
3) Accountability Partners – Accountability can be uncomfortable…too much push. However when you find yourself in accountability partnerships where everyone wants the same thing and are all figuring it out together…that’s the best.
I recently met two women who without their knowing have become strong influences in my life…accountability partners in a way because they inspire me to move out of my comfort zone on to meaningful action.
Two friends have also become accountability partners. Together, we did a 6-week course on justice. Arise – a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Now we’re done, but not really. In a month, we will gather again to see how it is going in applying our new knowledge and greater awareness to some real life situations. Accountability in its most fundamental application is the “ability” to “account” for…filling in the blank for whatever is at stake. I’m grateful for the partnership we have because it takes the passion already present and turns up the heat to move passion to action.
What God does in guiding us to opportunities to “do justice” is something I strongly anticipate…for myself and all of us.
4) Christmas Shopping – It’s still weeks away from Christmas, but some of you are already out there checking off your lists. You are my heroes. As I’ve gotten older and with the changes in our culture, Christmas shopping has become tricky. We all want to give those we love something special for Christmas, but it isn’t easy. Now with our more minimalist younger generation, challenges abound. Fortunately, we are getting help through online lists (like the ones below). Many families want experiences for their children more than toys. We have gone the route of a small toy and then money toward college. These lists help guide conversations and then buying. What would you add?Photo Credit: Lena @WhatMommyDoes
5) Heart-thrilling Music– Our whole family are music enthusiasts. With a son who is a professional classical guitarist, we are beyond blessed with rich beautiful music on a regular basis. I love choral music as well, and although I’ve tried to get Nathan to sing on some of his pieces, it hasn’t happened…yet.
Below you will find two very different choral artists who have given us heart-thrilling performances.
Weekend! Sometimes the end of the week just pours out so quickly it splashes right into the weekend. Friday Faves on a Saturday, y’all.
1) Celebrating Fall – In this part of the world, Fall has arrived. For many years, we lived in countries where seasons were subtle in their changing one into another. The rewards were the lush foliage and flowers of the rainy season and the deep textures in the seeming sameness of the desert. [I miss those places now as our American Fall was missed in those years.]
Fall is just peeking out now around the corner of Summer…even as the sturdiest of bushes push out their last summer blooms.
An East Tennessee friend of ours, Pam Archer, laid out a Fall palette for us at The Colorful Cottage. It’s like turning the pages of a magazine taking in festive and inviting entryways into homes…and into Fall. [Click through all the pictures at the link above.] You can almost smell pumpkin spice and a fire in the fireplace.
…and before long, the full glory of Fall will be briefly and wondrously upon us.Photo Credit: Deb Mills
2) On Being Forgiven – This week I offended someone. It could be that offending people happens many times over, without me knowing, but this time…I knew. He made it very clear…and he didn’t forgive me.
This was a stranger…a business person we were contacting to do a service…After several messages left on the company voicemail, the last one got a quick call-back. He didn’t like my choice of words nor my tone…and essentially told me I could look somewhere else for service.
Gulp… I tried to explain again and said I was sorry several times over. He refused to understand my side of the situation. We don’t slam down phones anymore…but. That conversation and hang-up kept me up for hours. I felt terrible and then mad and then terrible again.
A two-minute conversation full of accusation and misunderstanding was rough on me and rough on him, too, maybe. We secured another company to do what we needed, and the gentleman above may remember me as a demanding and unyielding woman for a few days. Our conversation may make it harder on the next person who calls, and for that, I am also sorry.
The marvel is what a wonder in life it is to be forgiven. When people apply grace. When margin is extended for failure or unintentional misspeak. When we are given the benefit of the doubt. When a choice is made not to be offended. When a cheek is turned. When a harsh response is withheld. Even when we feel completely justified to do otherwise.
Forgiveness – that incredible experience of not getting what we might have deserved; that generous letting go of an opportunity to have the upper hand; that treating another person just as if they hadn’t wronged you. This is not doormat behavior…this is giving grace.
Kelly Delp‘s piece this week On Becoming an Outsider reminded me of times when we lived overseas. Day after day, person after person dealt gently with our offenses… We were foreigners; we didn’t know; we were forgiven.
It wouldn’t hurt, maybe, if we treated each other a bit more like foreigners… in a good way, of course.
3) Old Trees – Tall trees that have stood sentinel for decades upon decades deserve our gratitude and respect. In our backyard, we have had two giant oaks shade us in summer and drop leaves and acorns all Fall. Now, one has died. Some sort of blight. Just seeing it without green leaves in summer seems so wrong alongside the healthy sister tree.
So…it must be taken down…sadly.
Honestly, it was just such an excellent tree service company…and the way they took down that tree carried a measure of respect as well…I could have been imagining, but I don’t think so.
“Dust to dust” came to mind as that massive tree was chipped (branches) or hauled off (trunk) and the stump ground to mulch.
Grateful for that tree…and for the one still standing in the center of the yard.
4) Signage – Signage is a form of communication, either in words, symbols, or images. As new drivers, we all learned the importance of attending to signs to keep ourselves and others from harm. We read labels and note landmarks. Signage can communicate much more than the literal messages. Take the signage below as a for instance. It’s in a local church building. What does it say to you?
Everywhere you looked in and around this building, signs pointed to community – how folks could serve God and serve one another and with one another. This isn’t my church (I was there for a meeting), but the signage was so engaging and empowering.
Another sign that finally moved me to action was the sign below. Several of these have been placed around our city because of the daily presence of people begging at intersections. It seemed a hopeful “No worries. Your city is watching out for the homeless.”
This week, I called the number on the sign. It was our county’s social services division. The voicemail instructions were helpful and as promised I received a call back later in the same day. That was when I discovered this phone number was meant to start the process for homeless to get “in the system”. The person answering my question was honest and forth-coming. If someone was homeless (or would be in 3 days), if they called this number, it would start a process whereby he/she could get housing…as to when? Days, weeks…
This sign, its agency, and the church community above (and others like it) have the skills and desire to make good happen. Then there might be a place to sleep for that one begging …sooner.
5) a Pile of Books – Truth be told, I didn’t get nearly far enough on my summer reading list. We always plan an annual get-away to the beach for a few days, once the high season is over. A few of these books will be coming along.
One in particular will definitely make the cut. In this season of life, I seem always to be culling one thing or another from our stash of wonderfulness. Thinning out some of our books, I found Calvin Miller‘s Walking with Saints – Through the Best and Worst Times of Our Lives. Flipping through the pages of this old book of Dave’s I realized it was one that needed to be read sooner than later. It was a Christmas present, bought in Cairo, by a little boy who loved his daddy and loved to draw. That gift inscription alone means it will stay in our stash of stuff for the next forever.
Do you have some books on your must-read list? Please tell us about them in Comments below. Also, do you have books that have made it to be a sentimental favorite? Those stories are meant to be shared as well.
That’s the 5 this week. Hope your week was full of new and old favorites. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall…either for real, or through the images and stories of those of us who have the sweet experience of this season. Blessings.
Quote: Why does “Mid-Century Modern” sound so cool when describing architecture or furniture? It was made in the 1950’s. I was made in the 1950’s. Next time someone asks me my age, I’m gonna say, “Mid-Century Modern.” – Jody Ohlsen Collins
Quote: One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. –Paulo Coelho
We are living in the early aftermath of many days of rain and the threat of flooding. For some it was worse than for us. It was nothing compared to the flooding we’ve seen in other parts of the country.Photo Credit: WikimediaPhoto Credit: 403rd Wing
Still, for us, it was a quick study on what it must be for others who experience such a crisis and its aftermath. In small measure, but same lessons.
Our basement is both a storage space and living area. We, in fact, do a lot of life there…with friends and grandkids. The storage consists of 1) boxes of our memorabilia from our years of travel and our children’s growing up, and 2) boxes of stuff from my Mom’s estate, given to us but as yet unboxed…until now.
When we discovered water coming into our basement from an over-saturated yard, on Friday night, we had to act fast or we don’t know how high it would have risen. Dave, our youngest son, and I began the work of dealing with a relentless flow of water into spaces it wasn’t welcome. Our son-in-law and older son came and we worked for hours attempting various diagnostics and maneuvers to stop the water and hold it back. It was exhausting work. Finally, sometime in the middle of the night, the water stopped coming in.
[My husband was supposed to have been at a work conference far from home, but other circumstances kept him here. You can imagine how thankful I am that he was home for all of this.]
When the rain stopped, we began the drying out process…and the cleanup. The work of making our basement into the friendly, happy space it was is almost disorienting. Hard to know where to start.
It will all happen. We are so fortunate. Now, more than before, we have an inkling of understanding of what others have gone through suffering tremendous crisis…like losing their furnishings and more in a flood.
In a quiet moment since Friday night, when we were taking a break, we marveled at what happens in human response to crisis. I’ve participated in crisis management throughout my career, and in our microcosm experience this weekend, we saw those practices at work…without even thinking about it.
Who Is Involved in a Crisis Response?
1) Crisis manager – the person in charge; the one running the crisis response; the one who knows what’s happening where and has all that in his head
2) Secondary managers – the persons who could be in charge but are working themselves on a piece of the operation
3) Frontliners – those with or without crisis manager skills but who have a piece of the response; the ones counted on to persevere in their tasks until they’re told to do something else.
4) Supply Line – the ones who by the nature of their skillset (or lack thereof) or physical ability who support all the above – the “go-fers”, the bringers of food, water, tools, encouragement. These, like the crisis manager, have the purview of the whole crisis and how each person is responding. They also, because they don’t have the stress of leadership, may see more clearly the toll on the individuals. They influence by alleviating stress through the supply line or by stating need to the manager (for rest or relief for frontliners, for instance).
5) Lastly, the Persons in crisis – they may very well be a part of the above, as was our situation. They carry the brunt of the crisis and its longer term impact. They also may not have capacity to respond to the needs of those around them, also in crisis [this was hard for me personally, knowing others we loved also having water issues.]
Crises show what we are made of, but they also show us our capacity and our potential. We’ve all responded to crises. What did we discover about ourselves? Sometimes we hesitate to respond to crises because of past negative or difficult experiences. Yet, we see those, who become our heroes, run (not away from danger but) into danger for someone’s sake. Every single time. Photo Credit: GeauxGuard
How do we become more like them in responding to danger (or crisis)?
We see the possible outcome as greater than the cost.
We build capacity by continuing to stay open to the smaller daily crises of each day (this helps me).
We learn from our heroes – not just about courage but about skillsets and thinking and even community-building.
We lean on each other, and (if you will) on God in crisis. All we can do ourselves is not always enough. Being in community and keeping our faith in a living God help us endure crisis and manage it, helping others.
It is much easier for me to write these thoughts than to do the next round of clean-up. All the wet cardboard went out this morning with our recycling. Now it’s what do I keep and where do I put it…Stuff. There is our treasure and there is stuff meant to be someone else’s treasure…none of it should stay forever in cardboard boxes.
The real crisis is over. The fatigue and “let-down”* will pass. The best part of it all was the human part. To work into the night with family who love each other willing to drop what they were doing and come. Working together, even though we are all people of strong opinions; dropping that for the sake of the work and each other. This was, for us, the greatest impact and power of this crisis. We are grateful.
It’s Friday, and the first day of Advent this year of our Lord 2017. My plan is to stretch and savor every single day of this December. I won’t write about every one of those days, but hope to be present in each. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. No sad memories, regrets, wishing something to be that probably won’t be will sully this bright beautiful series of days. So there’s my hope. Care to share yours?
Following are my 5 favorite finds of this week, culled from so many. Hope you enjoy and please share yours in Comments…for our delight.
1) Advent Readings – I love the daily moments of reflection on Advent (“coming” of Christ) and wrote about it here. If I can be so bold, it’s worth a read today. Resource choices abound for reading and listening on these 25 (oops….24) days to Christmas.
As well as other readings (see that previous blog) in these days I’m determined to seize and savor.
Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?
You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance! For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems
3) Preventing Type 2 Diabetes – If there is a way to prevent Type 2 diabetes, I want to try. I’ve watched this disease chip away at the health of too many. Sugar is the culprit, I believe. We all love its intoxicant qualities…the anticipation of eating a sugar-laden food and the memory of the experience which cycles back to anticipation of the next experience (I’m that way with my morning cup of coffee as well). Dealing with our sugar dependence isn’t easy nor simple.Photo Credit: Flickr
However, it is doable…if we want to prevent pre-diabetes…and we want to live longer than diabetes will allow us.
4) Family Hospitality – Holiday seasons lend themselves to company of various configurations, coming and going, all space to land and food. I love gathering folks together. When our children were growing up and we were overseas, it wasn’t always their preference the enormous numbers of people who came and went from our home. Still they dealt with their parents with grace, most of the time, and we learned gradually to respect their own need for space, for quiet, and for our undivided attention. It was a family process and we all grew through it. I highly recommend exercising hospitality as a family…with everyone involved in some capacity and tempered by the stage and age of family members.
Lisa Chan has written a beautiful defense of hospitality in family. It’s entitled “Would You Let a Stranger Live with You? Laying Aside the Fear of Hospitality”. Not all of us would live as Lisa and Francis Chan live – but there is much to learn from them on loving outside our comfort zone.
5) Christmas Outings – Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an international potluck supper. My car was packed with a dear Sudanese family who I’ve grown to know and love in the process of helping the mom with her English in trying to find a job. We had so much fun eating foods from various cultures, meeting new friends, and watching the kids play games together. We drove by some of the Christmas light displays on the way back to their apartment. This is the kind of experience that truly starts the clock for Christmas. The images that follow depict some of the not-to-miss experiences for us in our part of Virginia: Lewis Ginter GardenFest, Maymont Victorian Holidays, VCU Holiday Gala, Henrico Christmas Mother, Busch Gardens Christmas Town, and the Tacky Light Tour – complete with family, neighbors, and friends (old and new).
That’s it for this week. Would love for you to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already, and would love to have you share your favorite finds from this week (Comments below). In the meantime, as you take in all the brilliance and wonder of this season…be safe and gentle with yourself and each other.
Friday again. Whew…this week flew…for me, anyway. I have some great finds for you…as usual, if I might be so bold. Friday Faves celebrate the hard work and achievements of others that encourage me and I hope encourage you. So here goes:
1) Snow Days – For some of you snow comes in months not just days. For us, it’s a few glorious days of this…and I love it!
I have no need for heavy snow recreation…just the quiet, the beauty, the slowing down of life, and the camaraderie of those snowed-in or out with you (family, neighbors, colleagues). More books, more coffee, more hours in pj’s, and more meditation on the Creator who orchestrated such beauty for our pleasure.
2) Organizing Your Life – Leadership coach Paul Sohn has posted the most fascinating infographic on organizing your life – not just your home space, but your work and social media spaces. Really helpful!!
3) Riveting Short Film – It is so easy to allow our attention to drift away from important issues. The news stream is so full and fast-moving. About a year ago, National Geographic showcased a short film by Lior Sperandeo entitled People of Nowhere. It puts the film-watcher on the seashore as boat after boat of Syrian refugees arrive, some barely alive…leaving everything and desperately risking all they have left – each other and life itself. Compelling and transforming…and still happening.Photo Credit: Vimeo
4) Dayman Cover – One of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Out of this edgy sometimes dark comedy came a song that is known and loved by the show’s fandom – that song being Dayman. Here is the clip from the show and below is the cover arranged for classical guitar by Nathan at Beyond the Guitar. [The Green Man is a frequent character on the show.]
The social media buzz over this video was fun to watch as well.
5) The Possibility of Unity – Political conversations post-election in the US continue to simmer and sometimes boil over. There is no hope for unity unless we do the work to forging a path. Therein lies the possibility. Two thought-provoking posts came out this week of the topic – one from a business leadership writer, Jarrod Shappell, and the other from a Christian thinker and author, Philip Yancey.
“In The Anatomy of Peace, a fantastic book about attempted reconciliation between leaders of Israel and Palestine, the authors say, ‘In the way we regard our children, our spouses, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers, we choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don’t. In the former case we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace toward them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.’ If we continue to believe that we are on the superior side of the argument, we will only objectivity, vilify, and perpetuate conflict.
Finding healthy unity that embraces difference is no easy hunt. We prefer to retreat into our tribal groups among people who think and act like us. We say we value different points of view but rarely seek them out. We feign listening but are really just forming our next rebuttal. All of that is unity’s most insidious counterfeit – uniformity. We are seduced by the enjoyment of confusing sameness with unity.
We fear that adapting our viewpoints is compromising our values (spoiler alert: it’s not). But true unity is hard, gritty, messy work. It takes guts to let go of the need to be right. It takes the deepest of principles to understand your “enemy’s” views rather than vilify them. And only the greatest of organizations, communities, and leaders will take the leap of faith away from their staunchly held ideals in the belief, hope, and determination that there is room for both theirs, and others, ideals.” – Jarrod Shappell, Navalent
Then, from Philip Yancey:
“Francis Schaeffer added, ‘Love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.…It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians, we must show the mark.’ I see that as the biggest challenge facing committed Christians in the new year.
As the dust settles from the storm of 2016, I pray that those of us who follow Jesus remember that mark above all. The apostle Paul used these words to describe the characteristics of a true Christian: humility, charity, joy, peace, gentleness, forbearance, patience, goodness, self-control—words in short supply last election year. Republicans will busy themselves with the difficult task of governing a factious nation in a perilous world. Democrats will huddle to devise a new playbook. May Christians of all persuasions remember that our ultimate allegiance and our ultimate hope belong to neither party. As resident aliens in a divided nation, may we too form pioneer settlements to show the world the Jesus way.” – Philip Yancey, Election Reflections: Bridging the Gap
Bonus:Kris Kristofferson – Story behind his song Why Me, Lord? and the latest on this man’s amazing life:
Friday again. Nice. This week has been an easy one – lighter work load, early morning walks with neighbors, visits with old friends, and marveling at sweet grand-babies. Life on the side of simple. There was one significant dip in our week when my dad had a bad night, but he has improved remarkably since then. Each day is different. Rejoicing in the good days.
Here are my favorite finds from this week. Please share any of yours in Comments below.
1) Writing – Always an outlet for me. I’ve written journals from childhood (called them diaries in those days). Photo Credit: LitHub
All my life, people who were privy to some of my writing, have told me, “You should write a book!” I don’t have the discipline, message,…or passion, maybe, to write a book…yet. One day. I started this blog for my children, during a time I was frightened that my memory was fading. So far, it seems to be the forgetfulness of my aging (not diseased) brain. Still, blog writing continues to be a joy…almost a mission. When life keeps me from writing, as in the last couple of weeks, I miss it…and then it’s hard to get back into the habit. Rebecca Solnit posted recently suggesting 10 Tips on How to Be a Writer. Her article is beautiful writing in itself. Here are two of her most encouraging observations:
“It’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.” – Rebecca Solnit
“It starts with passion even before it starts with words. You want to read people who are wise, deep, wild, kind, committed, insightful, attentive; you want to be those people.” – Rebecca Solnit
2) Bumper Stickers & Lawn Signs – It’s a big year here in the US. In just a few days, we will, together, vote to elect the next Commander and Chief of our country. Usually by this time, lawns and cars are covered with signs and stickers that declare our preferences (or decry the prospect of “the other guy” becoming President). Photo Credit: YouTube
Bumper stickers abound broadcasting our various allegiances, in general. [Dave and I are not a bumper sticker people, but various ones make for fascinating distractions while stopped at traffic lights. Quite telling of the mixed bag of cultural values we have.]Photo Credit: Cafepress
Oddly this year, where we live, political loyalties are less obvious. Only occasional bumper stickers. Even fewer lawn signs. Not that they are relevant to election outcomes. Still, they were interesting predictors of where neighbors, co-workers, and random strangers stood politically on issues and candidates.
I wonder why there are so few this year. Are we less sure or even despairing at our options? Is it fear of displaying our colors? What do you think (without going all political in the comments)?
A postscript to this is the possibility that we now live in an age where “putting it all out there” on our vehicles, or in our yards, is not wisdom. Again, thoughts?
3) Old Men Grooving – On a lighter note, I discovered this British dance group, of 40-60-somethings, who performed on Britain’s Got Talent . They call themselves Old Men Grooving, and you will get a sweet chuckle watching them dance together. Very impressive really. Reminds me of when I took a tap class, for the first time, as an adult. Never too late to dance! Find Old Men Grooving on YouTube.
We see on social media, and say ourselves sometimes, that it’s right to just get rid of negative people, walk away from punishers or diminishers, and hang with people who only affirm us. This article talks about friends who love us enough to say the hard thing. I appreciate people who love me and take the risk to point out the huge potholes in my path or who reach into my life and help hoist me out of a ditch of my own poor choices. Here’s a quote from Morse’s article (he’s speaking to Christ-followers):
“The world cares nothing for our eternal good. Ungodly friends cheer us on toward destruction. They bequeath the kiss of flattery — the Dementor’s kiss. They coddle our egos, telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Even the most genuine and moral among them sets sail away from God. Thus we need a crew of Christian companions — a body — to keep us from shipwreck. Finishing the race is not an individual endeavor, and eternity is at stake.
Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” …Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends.” – Greg Morse
There is a delicate balance here…and relationship matters. We’ve too often been put off balance by words unfitly spoken. What is your experience of friends who wound in a good way? For me, the best experiences I’ve had with this have turned into crossroads in life…isolated incidents where a friend helped me step back from a habit, a person, a life choice that could have destroyed me…and step toward a better way. Very thankful for the courage and love of such friends.
5) A Clean House – Who doesn’t like a clean house? When our first child was born, my mom-in-law and her sister came to help me for a week. They were wonderful! One day, while I was sitting all pampered with Baby Girl in my lap, Aunt Nancy asked me what I used to clean the baseboards. Baseboards? First of all, I wasn’t sure what baseboards were, and secondly, I was positive I didn’t clean them. Years later we lived in North Africa and had house helpers all through our time there- those years of my school-aged children. A time when the kids thought that she was their helper rather than mine?!
What a blessing to have the so-daily dust of the Sahara Desert washed away by someone…else! Now back in the US, I am faced with the dust of Richmond, Virginia…Alas. There are endless numbers of articles out there on how to clean house, and I’ve read several. Reading does not necessarily lead to cleaning unfortunately.Photo Credit: Quadcity
The article by Valerie Fraser Luesse entitled Do You Clean Like Mama? is my most recent helpful, funny, and non-judgmental read on this subject. It gives me hope again that if I keep at it, one day the house might be clean…for a glorious moment or two, at least.
Those are my faves…although I could also go on and on about the goodness of God, babies, and the sweet arrival of Fall…but those we’ll leave to another day. Have a restful and restorative weekend out there.
Happy New Year! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Here are 5 plus 1 faves of this week. Hope you find them helpful and/or refreshing for your first day of 2016.
1) New Year Storms – Leslie Leyland Fields wrote a fascinating piece for us as we face the New Year. She reflects on the Apostle Peter’s experience of a stormy sea and applies that to our personal storms. The One who calms storms is the same today as then. We all hope for a fair weather year, but staying storm-ready is wisdom.Photo Credit: NaturePhotoBlog.com – Theo Bosboom
Our son Daniel in Scotland
2) Fruit in Season – When we first moved to Egypt, I was happily surprised at the long growing season of this desert nation. With irrigation from the Nile River, and the hot sunny days, we had yummy fruit for many months. Fruit that, in the US, we would have too briefly. Large luscious strawberries in December were a special treat in Egypt.Photo Credit: Fresh Plaza
Mandarin season in Morocco is also very special. Ripe from the tree. Sweet and perfectly juicy. It’s mandarin season now. Happy New Year!Photo Credit: Sarah Storm
3) Shepherding People – Think of those for whom you steward leadership. Shepherding does not just apply to pastors and churches, but to parents and children, and to those in our charge in the workplace. Abraham Kuyperwrites of our example of the shepherds watching their sheep on the night of Jesus’ birthday. “If the shepherds in Ephrata’s fields had not been faithfully involved in keeping watch over their flock, they would have seen nothing of that night’s brilliance, witnessed nothing of the Lord’s glory shining around them, heard no angel song, and would never have paid homage to God’s Holy Child. Doesn’t the same apply to you? The heavens still sometimes open.” It is often in the ordinary faithfulnesses of the day that we see the most extraordinary…if we keep watch.Photo Credit: BPNews.net
4) Decluttering & Favorite Thrift Shops – If December doesn’t drive us to look at our household clutter, January sure will. I struggle with this. Holding on to beloved books and sentimental bits of this or that. Or those precious piles of “things I may need later”. The article 200 Things to Throw Away Today was very helpful for me this week. She gives a tremendous array of things I can work with, and there is no judging. Whew! You also don’t have to “throw away” all these items because there are various avenues through which you can recycle, repurpose, or reuse (including local agencies that help house the homeless, for instance). Two of my favorite small business thrift shops in our neighborhood are 2BInspired and Nomadic Attic.
5) Self-Awareness – Matt Monge of The Mojo Company published a great pre-New Year article on 13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness. Our default with people is to scrutinize those around us as to how they are doing life, work, relationships. Self-awareness seemed a negative thing because anything with “self” in front of the word must not be good. Right? Wrong! The questions Matt presents are so insightful. Two of my favorites were: Did I demonstrate vulnerability today? If not, why not? What is the root cause of my reluctance to do so? and Was my leadership today reflective of someone who views his role as one of a steward rather than one who views the team and organization as something to be used for my benefit?
I want to go into 2016 having done my homework such that, at least, I have looked at my own heart, thinking, and motivations…first! Don’t miss this gem of a piece before heading back to work on Monday.Photo Credit: The Mojo Company
6) A Playlist – What a delight when someone else does the work of putting together a playlist. I still have some audiocassettes, from our days in Egypt, that local friends put together with our pop music favorites of that time. Mary Carver (co-author with Sarah Frankl of the new book Choose Joy) put together a playlist to take us into the New Year. Every one will make you smile, dance around, or just have a mind break to reset toward job. Enjoy!
The video below is a bonus bonus. It’s been viewed a lot, but I only saw it yesterday. It reminded me of a book I read years ago by television producer Bob Briner. In Roaring Lambs,he challenged us to use whatever profession we are in to be “culture-altering” for good. These hair stylists are sure an example of that. Lovely.
Would love you to share one of your week’s favorites. Please use the comments section. Have an amazing start to your New Year! Step by step.
Fridays come so fast. So here we are again. My top finds this week (and there were so many great reads and experiences this week, it was hard to narrow down to 5). Hope yours is a lovely day and a stretched-out weekend.
2. Keeping House – I struggle with keeping order in my house, even though now it is only Dave and me. No one else to make the mess but us. Ann Voskamp, farm wife, mother of 6, and best-selling author, wrote about keeping house this week – 6 Ways to Speed Clean to a Clean Enough House. Her photographs of life are so gorgeous that it’s hard to imagine things out of place or not camera-ready. Yet, even Ann had to come up with a system of order which she shares in this blog. My two favorite suggestions from her list of 6 follow:
Make your bed every morning. I love this one because it’s so easily done. It gives its own cheer of “Hurrah! You’re off to getting lots more done.” My husband and I have very different “sides of the bed” – he’s a bit neater; I’m a piler. Projects, bits of paper, “things to read later”…sigh…but, the bed is made. Score!
30 Minute Love SHAKs – “Do Surprising Home Acts of Kindness — Love SHAKs — 30 minutes of random cleaning [right after dinner], just 30 minutes of every single person who lives here seeing something that needs to be cleaned —- and everybody cleaning as quickly as they can. The point of everybody working together at the same time to surprise everybody? Everybody models the kindness of cleaning for each other, nobody gets to say what they’ve got going is too important to get in on loving each other, real progress is made because everybody is working fast and together, spurring each other on — and we all get to say we are on the same team.” I love this! Might start with 15 minutes with the love of my life. What do you think, Dave?
3. Mentors – Jon Acuff rarely has guest bloggers, but this week he shared his spot with Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness. Howes writes about his personal experience of connecting with top mentors. Having been a professional football player, he might have been tempted to just ask them out for coffee. No, he did something altogether different. He offered to serve them in any capacity they would find helpful. Don’t miss his wise counsel on this.
“Don’t ask for anything. Just offer to be of meaningful service, in any capacity that will help the mentor in achieving what is important to them. Offer to work for free. Say yes to anything. Hustle hard. Show them you are grateful and willing to learn. Keep your word.” – Lewis Howes
4. Wonderful Defects – This week, I discovered Paul Phillips and his blog He’s Taken Leave. He tells a beautiful story of an old beautifully marred violin and bridges that to our own propensity to comparing ourselves to others.
“As with the old violin, the comparisons with others prove nothing. Each person who walks through my door is a masterpiece of unique design. Every one, a treasure. Every single one. Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). I can almost hear the music again.”
5. Phenomenal Guitarist – This guy. Nathan Mills – related? Yes. I get to be Mom to this amazing young man… Because we are related and it’s not always comfortable for him how effusive I am about his music…I restrain myself. Once in awhile, it feels down-right wrong not to share with you something about him. Right now, he’s fairly new to that larger world of music, but he’s playing, teaching, arranging, and composing. One day, you will know him…and be able to enjoy his music beyond YouTube,social media, or local performance. Mark it down.Photo Credit: Duy Nguyen
What are your favorites from this week? Would love to hear about them. Share in comments, please.