Category Archives: Decluttering

Monday Morning Moment – Focus – This Won’t Take Long

Photo Credit: Picpedia

Click. Click. Click.

Notifications. Notifications. Notifications.

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings.

We live and work these days in a culture of distraction where focus is a rare commodity.

“The culture of distraction makes your ability to think deeply and creatively constantly threatened. Conceiving ideas and putting them into practice requires time for reflection, and for that you need a personal organization method like GTD: if you are able to create a space where you can think and reflect, you will be able to move forward with more things, with less energy and less time.”Francisco Sáez

Doing research this morning on focus, I came across the Tweet below:

All these devices can make our lives hackable, too. Our deep thinking time…our complex problem-solving capability…vulnerable.

What can we do to recover our focus? To be able to expand our recall and use our memory…our mind to its greatest capacity?

Entrepreneur and teacher/mentor William Treseder, co-founder of BMNT has written a book on this topic:

Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you’re waiting for the book to arrive, Treseder has also written a rapid read on focus where he outlines The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus . Those two killers are screen distractions (smart phones/tablets) and meetings.

He offers 5 easily executable ways out of our mental chaos and into focus. They are listed below but don’t miss his commentary on each here.

  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Organize tasks.
  • Clean up.
  • Shrink meetings.
  • Preserve buffers.

I am personally very easily distracted. To make these few adjustments is worth getting my focus back. Thoughts?

Oh…last thing: Treseder also wrote a thought-provoking piece on How to Develop a Mission Mentality. This takes the issue of focus to a much more “big picture” place. When we have set the “why” and “who” of our daily focus, we are compelled to stay at the task and bring others with us. That is mission mentality.

10 Tips to Stay Focused – Francisco Sáez 

Photo Credit: Paul Clear

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

5 Friday Faves – Truth, Leveling the Playing Field, the Best of Twitter, Spiderman, and Books as Art

Fridays seem to come so fast, that Faves get written late in the weekend…this one did anyway. Here they are finally:

1) Truth “What is truth?” This question was asked centuries ago by a Roman governor standing over an innocent man whom he himself believed was innocent. Pontius Pilate asked the question when pressed by the religious leaders of that day for a guilty verdict on Jesus Christ. Guilty of what? Guilty of whatever would get him executed and out of the way.

The question of what is truth? continues through the ages. Even for those who believe in the sanctity of Scripture, we become functional atheists if we don’t apply it to our understanding of God and to our very lives.

What Is Truth? – excellent read on truth (including philosophical and scientific perspectives)

A friend posted a Gallup poll this week on what Americans believe about the Bible. I don’t take polls seriously usually because they can so often be slanted depending on the polling intent and the sample selected. Still, this one gave pause.Photo Credit: Gallup

Record Few Americans Believe that the Bible Is the Literal Word of God – Lydia Saad, Gallup

The Bible continues to reportedly be the most read book in the world. What do we do with what we read? Most Read Books InfographicJared Fanning

I remain in the diminishing “light green” group from the Gallup poll above. God is certainly capable of protecting His recorded word through the ages. If I did begin to take parts as fable, moral precept alone or not literally… which parts? Keep the parts that treat me favorably? Willing to risk that God means for us to take it all to heart…and trust His goodness, fairness, and love for the mysteries.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Why We Need the Truth More Than Ever – Matt Brown

2) Leveling the Playing Field– When an individual or organization acts to truly give opportunity to marginalized people, it is noteworthy. Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School (AJCES) is one of those organizations. Named after a woman born into slavery, AJCES affords private education to over 100 middle schoolers.

PrivateSchools_AnnaJuliaCooperSchool1_COURTESY_rp0819.jpg

Photo Credit: Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School

The parents pay a small annual admission fee and must commit to be involved in their children’s education (including parent/teacher conferences). The students are gifted scholarships for the tuition and fees throughout their middle school years.

Anna Julia Cooper received a scholarship herself to go to such a school. She would pursue graduate education and earned a doctorate during a time such degrees were never awarded to black women.

AJCES is a small school but hopes to double in size in next few years becoming a K-8 facility. A capital campaign is under way.

In the meantime, this school is a beacon of hope in a neighborhood that could use it. Read more about it in the article Leveling the Playing Field by Julinda Lewis.

Please give your own shout-out to a person or organization who is leveling the playing field for others (in Comments below).

3) The Best of Twitter – Twitter has its own downside like much of social media. I am really glad for what I have learned from others through their Tweets and my Twitter feed, in general. It’s worth enough that it crowds out the political hatred, mudslinging, and trash talk…so prominent on social media platforms (especially during election years) I’m staying for the best of Twitter, not the worst.

Two of my favorite Tweets of the week follow (this time both featuring the same person):

4) Spiderman – Finally watched Spiderman Homecoming on Amazon Prime. So good. I really like Tom Holland as Spiderman. The action and special effects were sensational, and the dialogue was fun and often funny. Now, however, the news is out that Spiderman films may be no more. Here’s what’s happening according to Chris Gates:

“Sources at Deadline claim that the partnership between Sony Pictures, which owns the film rights to Spider-Man and all associated characters, and Marvel Studios, which controls the rest of the MCU, has been terminated, effectively ending Peter Parker’s time as a member of both the Avengers and Marvel’s shared cinematic superhero universe.

The culprit, as always, is money. Disney was rumored to be pushing for a new deal that would have given the company a co-financing stake in future Spider-Man films. Sony refused to agree to the terms, effectively ending the deal that allowed Spider-Man to join Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and other heroes on the silver screen.”

Photo Credit: Amazon

However, it may not be over yet, again from the above article:

“However things shake out, this isn’t the end of the current iteration of Spider-Man. Sony still has two Spider-Man films in development with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home director John Watts, both of which are expected to star current Spider-Man actor Tom Holland. In addition, Sony is pushing ahead with Spider-Man spinoffs, including Venom sequel, Jared Leto’s Morbius, and a bunch of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse-related projects.” – Chris Gates

Check out Beyond the Guitar‘s Marvel vs. DC Mashup. It includes Michael Giacchino‘s Spiderman: Homecoming theme (3:10 minutes in).

And this…from the hilarious Jeff Goldblum:

5) Books as Art – Finally a kindred spirit find related to decluttering. I have sometimes felt compelled to get rid of books, and I have. Still, there are some bookcases in our house that hold treasures.  Like the ones below. Dave has a collection of books on President Lincoln. We have books on the cultures where our family lived overseas. Various biographies, books on spiritual disciplines, homeschool classics, and children’s books. [You can see below that the children’s books come and go from their respective places as our oldest granddaughter pulls them out for our reading together.]

Books in our house say something about who we are and what (also who) we love. They’re organized loosely by category, for when I need a particular reference or re-read on a topic. They are on the ready to comfort or encourage or gently shake me out of a doldrum. Books, at least our books, are friendly and kind. No preaching or bearing down. Just a journey back to a familiar place…worth the keeping.

What got me thinking on this was the piece below where the author interviewed several authors about their book collections. Fun and fascinating read for those of us who love books, and for those who see them as clutter – a different side to that discussion. These are my people! Sweet read…don’t miss it.

Going Against the Decluttering Craze: the Book Hoarders Who Defy Marie KondoAmanda Long

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Bonuses:

PPFA (Planned Parenthood) Forfeits Family Planning Funds for Abortion – Tom Strode

End of summer cooling down enough for a fire pit – wish you could hear the crickets and frogs, smell the woody smoke, taste the roasted marshmallows, and see the stars in the night sky. Goodnight.

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Wisdom of Charlie Daniels, Political Incorrectness, Housing for Homeless, and Vintage T-Shirts

5 of my favorite finds of the week. Thanks for stopping by!

1) First Responders – I’ve written about first responders previously – here and here. This week, pulling into my neighborhood, I immediately saw the flashing lights of the trucks of crews from Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. They were answering a call at a neighbor’s house. All ended up well. Seeing those men and women rush to serve someone in need reminded me of my own personal experience with first responders 3 years ago. What a blessing they are! Glad to see they are recognized by others as well (see link below)

Award-winning Lakeside rescue squad runs on volunteer power

2) Wisdom of Charlie Daniels– This week I came across a radio interview with Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. This incredible musician and entertainer has been around a long time. In his 80s and married to Hazel for over 50 years now, he has shown a sturdy faithfulness to his relationships and to his craft. His song The Devil Went Down to Georgia shows off his musical ability and crowd appeal. Daniels cares about the music and clearly cares about people as well.Photo Credit: YouTube

His book Never Look at the Empty Seats is a memoir. I’ve only read excerpts but am waiting for it to come in the mail. It’s been described as a book about his journey, in life and music. He said the chapter on his faith was the most challenging for him to write. Can’t wait to read it. Here are just a few quotes full of wisdom from Charlie Daniels:

“When you develop an attitude of “I’m going to accomplish what I want even if I have to work twice as hard as anybody else,” you’re going to get there.”

“You have to recognize opportunity, no matter how subtle the knock. Everything doesn’t happen at once. One thing leads to another as the building blocks of your life start to take form.”

“Competition is good, and the only way to win is to try a little harder than everybody else in the game. The sooner young people find that out, the better off they’ll be.”

“I’ve always ascribed to the theory that if you can’t get what you want, take what you can get and make what you want out of it, and we tried to make the best situation we could out of whatever we were presented with. If there were only twenty people in the place, you played for those twenty people. If what you do pleases them, they’ll be back and probably bring somebody else with them. And it snowballs. That’s how you build a following. Bring your “A” game every night, and never look at the empty seats.”*

*Never Look at the Empty Seats – Charlie Daniels Quotes – Goodreads

[Can’t wait for that musician son of ours to read Daniels’ book. He is also faithful to play his heart out for those who show up.]

3) Political Incorrectness – First, here’s one definition of political correctness: “the avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against”.

Even in the definition above, some self-proclaimed jury of a sort must act to determine who the persons are who are “socially disadvantages or discriminated against” and if, indeed, they are being “excluded or marginalized” by said expressions or actions of the insulting party.

Exhausting.

If I wanted to be successful in politics – i.e. 1) able to hold onto my constituency’s vote and 2) focus on being effective in the work/interests I’ve promised to uphold – political correctness would seem to include the following:

  • Choosing my arguments wisely and well, especially in dealing with adversaries inside and outside my party (level of government). Especially if I didn’t like them or their platforms.
  • Committing to work collaboratively with those in power, even when it is anathema for me to do so. Even if I feel it would compromise my own platforms. For the greater good of ALL my constituents. Being politically correct would not be about me.
  • Refusing to stoop to insults, finger-pointing, manipulating statistics, or rallying around half-truths.
  • Using resources entrusted to me by my constituents for their good and not for my own biases or perceived political gain.

Given what we see on any news report…no matter the network… what we find is more political incorrectness. A cavalier and relentless approach in accusing “the other side”, whatever it is, of wrong-doing and near-sightedness.

Photo Credit: eBay, C. Devane

It is as if we, the voters, the constituents of those elected officials in our government, are just sheep…who will follow the loudest voice, no matter what it is saying. God, help us.

OK…there’s my bit of a rant this week. We have real problems in our country that need to be addressed by people who care more about the work of finding solutions to the problems (cooperating across the aisle)…than winning the next election.

That would be paramount to political incorrectness in our current national environment.

I love what Mike Rosmann has to say about what could take us forward:

“We need logically and scientifically verified facts, fair appraisals of information, and consideration of a broad range of information to form reasonable determinations about almost everything. Politically incorrect insults inflame anger and avoidance rather than cooperation and reasonable solution-finding. Furthermore, replying with insults after receiving insults does little to resolve differences in opinions. Asking what others think gets us further toward reaching an understanding and agreement than proclaiming personal opinions and hurling insults.”

He had a whole lot more to say in how political incorrectness is used in today’s politics in the link below:

Political Incorrectness Can Be Problematic or Useful – Mike Rosmann

While you’re reading, also consider executive coach Ron Carucci‘s piece on hope – it is a much better place to land than the bitterness that tempts us.

Hope Hurts But It’s Our Best Option – Ron Carucci

Why listening matters. Even if you think the other side is wrong.

4) Housing the HomelessThe journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better.*  [*From an earlier blog] .

It’s been a joy to see that more positive and long-term effort in housing the homeless is happening today. Just this week, I discovered The Williamsburg House of Mercy in Williamsburg, Va. Also the Virginia Supportive Housing organization.Photo Credit: Virginia Supportive Housing

Do you have shout-out-worthy organizations in your area? Please comment.

The Renovated Homeless Shelter Gives Everything It Can to Make Those in Need ‘Feel Human’ – Benjamin West

Virginia Supportive Housing

5) Vintage T-Shirts – So this week we have another wave of nostalgia as we went through boxes long stored in the attic. Favorite t-shirts from years ago until now (note all the ones from Kingsport Tennessee’s Fun Fest – every summer since 1980 – so much fun!).

Along with all the t-shirts, we found old cassette tapes from our kids’ childhood (including homemade ones where our parents read stories to the kids to shorten the distance between them when we moved overseas). This is for another blog, but the plan is to make electronic files of all these for another sweet generation of kids.

Bonuses:

Summer Garden – Thanks, Dave!

Tour de France 2019 – Every single day; every stage – mesmerizing. NBC Sports has highlights videos for each stage on YouTube.

In the Final Moments of His Life, Calvin Has One Last Talk with Hobbes – Kashish

The article below is politically charged (not my desire) but it is also insightful of how some in our country might vote and what those in each party need to at least consider to win in the 2020 election:

The 2020 Democrats Lack Hindsight

Actor Cameron Boyce died this week at 20 years old, as a result of his epilepsy. His grandmother, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, was one of the Clinton 12. Below is a short and beautiful tribute of Mrs. Boyce, with Cameron narrating:

Why We Breathe Film Teaser & Crowd-Sourcing

The hardest truth for you to accept, based on your Myers-Briggs personality type

Girls’ Night In

Blessed are the Skeptics, and Those Who Don’t Know Where Else to Go

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Brené Brown, Facebook

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

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

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

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

What Being Sober Has Meant to MeBrené Brown

Mary Karr Names Names – Nina Puro

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising Tide Startups

Rising Tide Startups – YouTube Channel

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

Photo Credit: National Cancer Survivors Day, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, too.

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Front Royal Church of Christ

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

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

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

Bonuses:

Indicators of Human Trafficking

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

Why Simplifying May Protect Our Children’s Mental Health

A View From the Other Side

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

Photo Credit: Marc Merlin, Facebook

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

5 Friday Faves – For the People, Nurse & Teacher Appreciation, Fluoroquinolones Toxicity Awareness, Eddie van der Meer & Nathan Mills Collab, and a Legacy in Cancer Support

Either I’m slowing down or the weeks are speeding up. Fridays come fast, and my posting on Friday’s is challenging. Thanks for hanging in there with me, Friends. Here are this week’s favorite finds:

1) For the People – If you like TV law shows, For the People is one of the best out there. An ensemble cast with incredible chemistry and older counterparts to learn from and act with…Photo Credit: International Business News

The writers are clearly well-researched on the law and the judicial system (at least in New York City where the show is based). The dialog is riveting…the subject matter penetrating. Impossible to come away from this show unaffected. Even if it is just a TV show.

2) Nurse & Teacher Appreciation – This coming week is both Nurse and Teacher Appreciation Week here in the US. May 6-12 this year. Across our lives, we owe a great deal of gratitude to both teachers and nurses…in our own lives and that of our children’s.Photo Credit: Vanguard Promotions

A few days ago, a state senator (who will remain nameless) balked at supporting a bill that would require uninterrupted meals and breaks for nurses. She stated that nurses probably played cards much of the day. Wrong! We don’t always get the attention we would like from nurses (because of the needs of other patients), but it isn’t because they are lolling away their shift.

Photo Credit: GBTPS

In high school, I was trying to choose between nursing and teaching as a career. Nursing won… My daughter is a teacher. Two very demanding careers and amazing people within those professions.

Shout-out!

3) Fluoroquinolones Toxicity Awareness – A couple of years ago, I experienced a medical emergency. It was terrifying and I would have taken any treatment to recover as fast as possible. While waiting on blood culture results, the doctor, thinking I probably had pneumonia, prescribed Levaquin (Levofloxacin). In the first days of taking the drug, I became weaker and weaker. An odd weakness. Like I could not lift my arms or legs normally. As if they had just lost all strength. The cultures were inconclusive for pneumonia, but he told me just to finish the course of antibiotics. Confused about my symptoms, I started reading about the adverse toxicities of Levaquin. Muscle weakness was a more rare reaction, but not so rare that it had become alarming to the Food & Drug Administration. It has required the drug manufacturers to publish alerts, to both prescriber and patient, of the possible dangers of these drugs.

Levaquin is one of the antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone family. These antibiotics are highly effective but potentially highly toxic as well, with adverse reactions which can be irreversible. Another commonly prescribed antibiotic in this drug family is Cipro.

Photo Credit: Slideplayer

As I write this, just hours ago a 37y/o woman, Rachel Held Evans, died of complications of a bizarre allergic reaction to antibiotics given to her for a urinary tract infection and flu. What drugs were they? No information there. Just can’t get the possibilities out of my mind…

I’m a strong believer in the medical model and have experienced excellent care through the years. Still…these drugs scare me. I now have them on my “Allergic to” lists on my medical record.

When Antibiotics Turn Toxic – Jo Marchant

Could Taking that Antibiotic Have Serious Long-Term Consequences? – Michael O. Schroeder

4) Eddie van der Meer & Nathan Mills Collab – Eddie van der Meer is a free-style guitarist from the Netherlands who covers a wide variety of music and has made a place for himself in the YouTube musician community. This week, he posted a collaboration between him and Beyond the Guitar’s Nathan Mills. Have a sweet listen:

5) A Legacy in Cancer Support – In my adventure in downsizing or decluttering, I came across a box previously stored in Dave’s parents’ attic. It had been there since we went overseas in 1995.

It contained memorabilia of my season in nursing focused on supporting cancer patients and their families (in Kingsport, Tennessee). Professional journals (I was once a contributor and also on the editorial board of Cancer Nursing). Books on cancer survival. Cancer nurse retreat folders. Support group pictures. Cassette tapes of soft music and comedian routines. Notes from lectures/talks I’d given in the old days (transparencies instead of powerpoints!!). Those were different days.

I passed a baton in those days…when my life turned a corner, leaving behind a career I loved…for another I would love as well.

That baton is still being carried by another nurse…my partner in those days – still clinically sharp, innovative, caring, and able. When I think of the nurses that should be celebrated next week, Kathryn Visneski is at the top of the list. Appreciate you, Friend.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for spending this bit of your weekend with me.

Bonuses:

The Autism Checklist – Meeting Dr. Temple Grandin – Jill Arseneau

In These Divisive Times, Program Pairs Students With Refugees Around the World – Emily Tate

5 Friday Faves – Marvel vs. DC Comics, Answering Your Email, Healing After Divorce, Recognizing Domestic Violence, and a Life Well-lived

Friday has come and gone this week…and as you read, you will see how it might have taken longer to wrap my mind around these.  Hope you’re doing well and taking each day as the colossal gift it is.

1) Marvel vs. DC Comics – This week, classical guitarist Nathan Mills arranged and performed a mashup/medley of movie themes from the Marvel  and DC Comics  franchises. The melodies are beautiful and powerfully reminiscent of the superheroes they bring to mind.

Beyond the Guitar

2) Answering Your Email –My favorite organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, wrote an excellent piece on timely response to email: “No You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

Email can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but not answering it communicates a lack of care for the person on the other end…and could also reveal something about one’s character overall.

“When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)” – Adam Grant

“Email is not household clutter and you’re not Marie Kondo. Ping!” – Adam Grant

3) Healing after Divorce – I’ve known Sarah since she was just a little girl. She was in a class I taught at church when she was 9. That little dreamy sparkling girl was always a delight. When she was still a teen, we moved away. She finished school and got married.

Two sweet children later, her Facebook page revealed the sad news of divorce. I was shocked. How could anyone walk away from this one? [Even after all these years, and too many divorces of people I love, it was still unbelievable to me.]

Sarah has always been one of these guileless, gloriously goofy girls who just lays life out there…and she did on Facebook. The goofy faded a bit…with the single mom reality of her life. Still I was glad to have news of her, even just on Facebook.

The deep hurt of betrayal and divorce no longer defines at least her public face. She is beautiful and joyful. I’m sure there is still hard but it seems outweighed by what’s good in her life now. Wonderful to see for those of us who love her.

With her permission, the following Facebook post tells a poignant and tender and hopeful part of her journey. Yay, Sarah!

With time comes reflection, with reflection comes growth. Today I am reminded of a time in my life that I honestly do not like to talk to many people about. A time I was my most broken. A time I never thought I would survive. When I was first divorced I felt so empty and hopeless. Trivial thoughts would run through my mind that would cripple me with depression. One specific thought that crippled me was, “I will never receive flowers ever again.” Looking back I laugh at such a trivial thing being so important to me at the time, but for some unknown reason this broke my heart. I remember the self-loathing and the self-hate talk I poured out onto myself as I told myself how much I was truly alone.
At this time I was allowing a single mom and kids use my bathroom, shower, and laundry when I was at work or whenever, because they had no bathroom that worked in their home.
Nightly, I would come home and fall on my face at the front door and lay there crying and mourning a lost relationship. I was so tired of the daily dance of faking being the upbeat Sarah that was o.k. (which I honestly sucked at). Many a night I remember lying there at the front door with snot, tears, and hiccups, wiping my eyes, feeling sorry for myself about flowers. One night I remember looking up and noticing a dozen roses in a gorgeous vase sitting on my kitchen table. I then began to hysterically laugh at the irony of the situation.Photo Credit: Flickr
In my most brokenness God chose to show me in a funny way that He was real and present and the only constant in my life. No one had known I had these thoughts of never receiving flowers, and I did not know the single mom I allowed to use my bathroom was a florist.
Looking back now a few years later I see how God had me in His hands all along. I would not trade these experiences in my life with anyone because stories like this one and many others are what makes me who I am.Sarah Morgan LaDuke

4) Recognizing Domestic Violence – This has been a tough week. On Wednesday, we lost Dave’s father (after a massive stroke following years with Parkinson’s). Also on Wednesday, a woman, very dear to many in a community we still call home, died…killed at her workplace by her estranged husband.

I have known both Kelly and her husband for around 30 years. Now, most of those years, we lived overseas. Still, thanks to social media, occasional visits, and keeping up through mutual friends…we thought we knew them…as happily married with a beautiful family and adorable grandchildren being added.

The “happily married” is hard to know for any of us…but to come to the place that one spouse would kill the other…devastating all those children…those grands…a whole community of people…how does that happen?

Unseen.Photo Credit: Kelly Sterling, Facebook

My early childhood years were marked by a neglectful father, but not an abusive one. As an adult there were times that I suspected abuse in the lives of people I loved. It’s very risky to get to the heart of such a situation. You can lose a friend. You could possibly escalate the situation. You could be wrong. Or terribly, horribly right.

I have no answers here for myself or others. Just sadness over Kelly and all who love her. Sadness also for those in-laws who are living this nightmare too…for the friends and coworkers tormented by “Could we have done more?”

That question is never satisfied… The one thing we can do for sure is be a safe place for that person…After that, we can keep learning about domestic violence, keep listening to those in our lives, and lean in wherever we can…wherever we are allowed.

Kelly, you are so loved and we will do what we can to help your family heal and to learn from your life.

Domestic Violence Against Women; Recognizing Patterns, Seek Help – Mayo Clinic

Support a Friend or Family Member Experiencing Domestic Abuse

5) A Life Well-Lived – John Mills is my husband’s dad. For the last several years, he has battled with Parkinson’s. Julia, his wife of over 60 years, was his wingman and first mate. Over quite some time, she and he have lived faithfully “in sickness and in health”.

This week, as I mentioned above, John died. Not of Parkinson’s as we had feared he would…but of a massive stroke. He lived one week after the stroke. Julia brought him home and we all cared for him with her. Just for those days, after she had done the caring for much longer. It was hard seeing him so helpless after knowing him strong for all the years before Parkinson’s.

We all hope to finish strong…to live a life worthy of the years we’re given. John lived well. He didn’t require a lot. He worked hard for his family because it was what men are to do. He was a quiet man; an elegant man; a gentle man. He cared deeply about things. God. His family. His country. He had no ambition for center stage or the head of the table. His integrity, dependability, and goodness placed him in leadership, but he never strove to be a leader. He would be just as happy out in the woods with his rabbit dogs, or fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, or picking summer vegetables or flowers for Julia.

Marrying into the family, I learned something of these simple pleasures from John…as well as how to love long over a lifetime, and how to wait patiently for what comes next…To be honest, I’m still learning. He, however, has finished…well.

How can some of these be my faves for the week? Well…they are here because I wanted to mark them…those hard passings shaped this week more than anything else…and will for some time to come. They are where my head and heart are today. Hope your weekend was a sweet one…lean in whenever you can.

Bonuses [Because I missed last week’s Friday Faves because of travel, you will find bonuses also on the NFL and on abortion from previous weeks]:

Photo Credit: Gregg Swanson, Facebook

Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain – Srinivas Rao

Dr. Ross Greene, Educating Kids Who Haven Been Traumatized – Cissy White

Patrick Mahomes’ MVP Highlights the NFL Honors Awards – James Brady

Black History Month

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tymm Hoffman

Article in Harvard Law Journal concludes: The preborn child is a constitutional person

 

 

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hill Schueler, GSBC Women [Phone Lockscreen]

5 (No 4) Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Unmasking Evil, and the First Signs of Spring

Friday Faves – let’s get after it!

1) Beyond the Guitar – Pretty much every week, you’ll find something in my Faves that showcases the music of Nathan Mills, or Beyond the Guitar. His most recent classical guitar arrangement of a beloved song is John Denver‘s Take Me Home, Country Roads. So lovely!

Besides his own beautiful arrangements, Nathan is also posting guitar arranging content at Beyond the Guitar. Folks can enjoy arranging favorite songs like he does. Let the music abound!

You know I’m proud of this guy’s music but also the work he is putting in on top of that to teach others how to do what he does. His 4 Tips to Accomplish Your Guitar Goals is 12 minutes of great counsel for any of us (whether we play guitar or not). Check it out! Subscribe – enjoy the freebies and sign up for some serious helps from this guy.

2) Parenting Hacks – Parenting didn’t come naturally to me…however I had great help. Having a wise and loving mom and mother-in-law, strong mentors as friends, lots of good reading, and praying often – got us through those early years. Below I’ve listed some helpful hacks on various aspects of parenting found just this week.

Boundaries, Routines, and Early Bedtimes – 13 Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids – Lauren Tamm

Create a Morning Checklist for Your Older Kid, Then Get Out of Their Way Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Photo Credit: Facebook

Photo Credit: Facebook, Decluttering School

We Cannot Continue to Overlook ‘High-Functioning’ Depression – Amanda Leventhal

Little Z’s Sleep – Becca Campbell (Sleep Consultant)

3) Unmasking Evil – We are stuck in the muck and mire of societal outrage…in this case, either pro-life or pro-abortion/choice.

Words mean things, but we allow the politically correct vocabulary of others deceive and silence us. This week, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the Reproductive Health Act. Our social media platforms are full of chatter on this issue this week with deep lines of divide.

When you hear the phrase reproductive health act, you would think it related to a government’s recommendations and support of women’s health – contraceptive availability, access to medical care, early prenatal care, prevention and/or early treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. etc. etc.

Nope…it is all about abortion. The biggest point of which being that women can abort right up to the point of live birth of the baby…should the mother’s health be at risk. Photo Credit: PicServer

Which seems more reasonable, an emergency c-section or the lengthy process of cervical dilation to remove the baby (already made dead at that point)?…and then treat the woman. I’m not a doctor, but… I am a woman…and was once the fetus of a woman who, given her very difficult life situation, might have chosen abortion if it was as easy as made possible by this Reproductive Health Act.

She didn’t thankfully.

In a piece by Jessica Mouser, Governor Cuomo was quoted in his praise of the bill: “With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”

In my teen years, our parents had very strong counsel about how to control my body when it came to preventing sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Both me and my brothers.

I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh…or naive. I don’t just care about the baby, but also the woman carrying the baby and the man who participated in its conception. We often hear and read from those who are condescendingly pro-choice that we “pro-lifers” aren’t really pro-life unless we show we care for all who are challenged by life (poor, disabled, elderly…and the women who conceived).

This logic trick is an attempt to silence us…as if we aren’t allowed to protest the killing of babies unless we simultaneously protest the wrongs perpetrated on all vulnerable or marginalized people.

Relentlessly Call Abortion What It Really Is – Jon Bloom

“New York has an abortion rate of 23.1 per 1,000 women, twice the national average of 11.8 per 1,000 women. 25 to 27 percent of pregnancies in New York State end in abortion. In New York City, 78 percent of abortions are on African American babies. More black babies being killed through abortion than being born in the city. Cuomo’s new abortion law will likely increase those numbers.” – Live Action

Photo Credit: Pxhere

[I welcome dialog on this complex topic. Women close to me have had abortions…and regretted them. One friend, in particular, would only conceive once in her life and was persuaded by her boyfriend to abort that child. The pain of that loss has never left her. Abortion is an assault not just on the child but on the woman. Every fiber in my once-feminist worldview has been re-awakened, with the evil of abortion unmasked as the attack on women it clearly is.]

Photo Credit: Facebook

What You Need to Know About New York’s New Late-Term Abortion Act – Jessica Mouser

Petition: Outrage: Gov. Cuomo Celebrates Abortion-Til-Birth By Lighting the World Trade Center Pink

Governor of New York Nixes Almost All Protections for Pre-Born Babies

Abortion Expansion in New York – Emily Belz – [read: codifying Roe v. Wade]

I’ll stop here…words mean things. Now more than ever in recent years, we must examine change in our culture, with critical thinking… and not allow ourselves to be swept blindly along by partisan and biased speak. God forbid, when the masks come off, we are caught unaware…and somehow complicit because we did not speak or act.

Photo Credit: Global Digital Citizen Foundation

Doctors Induce 25 Percent of Dutch Deaths – Wesley J. Smith

…I’ll stop at 4 this week.

4) The First Signs of Spring – This week the daytime temperatures have bounced from the teens to the 60s. Although winter will be with us another 3 months, we already see the signs of the coming Spring. Any signs of Spring where you are? Please comment below.

I hope your weekend is refreshing. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Bonuses:

News Reporter Mark Holmberg on Retiring:

“I retired as early as possible to escape.
To escape the once-honored institution of journalism that has become a caricature of itself, rife with agenda-based reporting and alternate facts as national news outlets pander to their readers’ and viewers’ (and their reporters’) political and social issue views, which are now held with religious-like fervor.
And to escape the intolerance and hatred from the masses fired at anyone they disagree with.
Increasingly rare are the souls willing to listen and consider other opinions; to realize someone may be wrong but not be a despicable person; to appreciate good things being done by people with opposing agendas.
I remember well how horrible the anti-Obama crew was during his eight years.
But they were rank amateurs compared with the viciousness, intolerance and conclusion bungee-jumping of the never-Trumpers.
In my escape I have largely stepped back from social media in general and political comments in particular to avoid the bitterness, but I would like to say this to those who have lost their minds:
Stop allowing yourself to be pushed off the Emotional Cliff of Outrage over things that may not even be accurate, fair or in perspective. Enjoy your day and the people in it.
Stop hating and seething. Look around. We’re not marching into the Fourth Reich. The tides will continue to turn.
And please, check your chest and find your heart again.”Mark Holmberg

Instant Pot Elderberry Syrup – Family. Life. Organized – Bekkah Mills

6 Surprises Every Premarital Counselor Should Cover – Dave Harvey

Photo Credit: Sharon Wink, Facebook

The People You Have in Your Corner Matter – Lolly Daskal

No Sweethearts This Valentine’s Day as Candy Company Closes – Micah Walker

Photo Credit: Delish

The Food That Helps Battle Depression – Elizabeth Bernstein

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

5 Friday Faves – Nicest Place in America, Combating Anxiety, Accountability Partners, Christmas Shopping, and Heart-thrilling Music

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 House in Knoxville, Tennessee.Photo Credit: Square

Tennessee Falafel Shop Named Readers Digest Nicest Place – Good Morning America

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.

Eleven scriptures to combat anxiety

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.

Shelby Brown with Mission From the Heart and Wendy McCaig with Embrace Richmond, author of From the Sanctuary to the Streets, are those two women. I am thankful for their lives and their example.

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.

5 Steps to an Effective Accountability  Partnership, and 2 Things to Never Do – Marissa Levin

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

50 Non-Toy Gifts For Every Age – Becky Mansfield

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.

Pink (with her tiny daughter) and Ken Medema.

Enjoy!

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Have a sweet weekend. Be gentle to those around you…and to yourself. Good memories are to be made…right in front of you.

Bonuses:

Pastor John Piper’s Favorite Bible VersePhoto Credit: ScriptureMe

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir – Roz Chast (a hilarious and poignant book with incredible illustrations on the subject of aging)

Love Chast’s illustration below – one of many from her book (my kids all the time tell me, “Mom, don’t run!”)

30-Day Declutter Challenge – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Light FM

Artist: Jan Priddy