Category Archives: Food & Drink

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God, and I am grateful.

My understanding of religion then was that it was Christianity only.

Years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I actually thought it would be a survey course on… Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism. Now being older, I understand the difference in religion and faith. – that there are many religions. However, who the Person of God, and who we are as followers, is more about relationship than religion.]

My first experience with Lent was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons about Lent – lessons on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily through Lent – A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read British writer Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, my resolve is to:

  • read A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • refer back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking;
  • reflect on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teaching
  • resist (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues;
  • repent of the sins of neglect and indifference;
  • remember to pray and
  • reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Preparing for Easter – 50 Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish, Moms-in-law, Duets & Collaborations, Hair Love, and Ethnic Foods

The weekend blows by sometimes, doesn’t it?! We have enjoyed more than usual family time over the last two weeks with the visit of Dave’s mom/my sweet mom-in-law. Not much time for thinking deeply about things with all the people time. Tried to stay in the moment. So these Faves are more for your entertainment and encouragement. Enjoy!

1) Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish – She is only 18 years old, but Singer, songwriter Billie Eilish has already won five Grammy awards. She and her brother Finneas O’Connell write and perform their music together. They co-wrote the soulful song No Time to Die which is the film theme for the latest James Bond movie of the same name (coming out March/April 2020). Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) has arranged this beautiful piece for classical guitar and here he is:

2) Moms-in-law – I have never experienced a mother-in-law that would be the brunt of a joke or complaint. My husband’s mom is one of the toughest, loveliest women I know. She grew up on a farm. The Ram Truck TV commercial below is a salute to farmers, and I can see her in this message. Hard working, creative, gentle, grateful, and persevering. She is a blessing to our family…and especially to me. Her servant heart beats strong, and she has taught me a lot about serving my family.

Between my mom-in-law Julia and my own mom, our extended family has a strong foundation for loving God and others.

[If you haven’t seen the video, don’t miss it – it’s the kind of heritage my mom-in-law experienced. You’ll hear the late storyteller Paul Harvey which is reason alone to watch.]

3) Duets & Collaborations – Valentine’s Day was last week, but it is still hanging in the air with all the songs we revisited. So many great love songs…made even better with duets and collaborations. One of my newer favorites is the collaboration between Malinda Kathleen Reese, Andrew Huang, and Nathan Mills – the song? Dodie‘s “Would You Be So Kind”.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Malinda Kathleen Reese

Here are some of my other favorite love song duets and collaborations:

YouTube Video – I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos – Not a duet and probably not a collaboration but it has to go here because this is Dave’s and my song…a classic before us but still special to us.

YouTube Video – Patti LaBelle – On My Own – Ft. Michael McDonald

YouTube Video – Endless Love – Luther Vandross ft. Mariah Carey also the version with Lionel Richie ft. Shania Twain

YouTube Video – Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes (Officer and a Gentleman & Top Gun)

YouTube Video – Fleetwood Mac – Landslide – Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – OK, maybe not a love song…or was it? So beautiful.

What are some of your favorites?

4) Hair Love – The lovely Oscar-winning animated short this year is Hair Love. Matthew A. Cherry, football player turned filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed this film.  The illustrator of this touching story is Vashti Harrison. Hair Love is funny and deeply meaningful showcasing an African-American dad and daughter and her larger-than life natural hair. I came across this short before the 2020 Oscars and was enthralled. Bought the book immediately.

Don’t move onto the fifth Friday Fave until you watch this 7-minute film. So endearing…it’s about hair, but so much more!

YouTube Video – Hair Love Accepts the Oscar for Animated Short – you want to hear the speech.

The CROWN Act – stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” – a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.

YouTube Video – Top 10 Must-Know Facts About Hair Love

[Sidebar on Vashti Harrison – I have fallen in love with her illustrated story-telling. Just bought her boxed set on Little Leaders. She and Matthew A. Cherry are just beginning to bring culture-transforming stories to us…they are now on my watch-list for sure.]

5) Ethnic Foods– Food takes us places… Sometimes it takes us home…other times it takes us to the table of friends, down the street or around the world. Street food. Food truck food. Fancy uptown restaurants serving up an international cuisine. Authentic foods cooked in tiny ethnic restaurants tucked into strip malls. I miss the places we have lived in other seasons of life – North Africa. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods. We have forever friend and food memories from those days. Since coming back to the US, we’ve discovered other delicious ethic offerings – partly thanks to our foodie son, Daniel. Here are just a few food memories. How about you – any ethnic food delights you want to share with us?

[OK, the last picture is a Southern breakfast – ethnic to some; Home for me.]

Hope your week coming up is beautiful and blessed. It can be no matter the shape of the world. The beauty is there…thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

How to Fight Back Against Self-Doubt Ron Carucci

A “Million Word Gap” for Children Who Aren’t Read To at Home – Jeff Grabmeier

The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment – Trevin Wax

Bread Mold Science Project – Anna Lee Skates – Twitter – Pic

Photo Credit: Facebook, 2 Chron 714 network

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

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

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

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

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

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

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

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

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

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

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

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

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

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

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

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

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

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

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

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Resolutions and Habit Formation…Resolved

Photo Credit: David Lose

[Adapted from the Archives]

What do we have? 1 more day in 2019 of reckless eating, not enough sleep, routines all turned topsy-turvy. Then…resolved. Right?

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Whether sugar detox or a decluttering project, New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility.They can be excellent devices to help us get off to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!

They are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. With a resolution like that, it meant abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 3 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, the mere presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to becoming more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just going off sugar for a few weeks. These same habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

A couple of years back, our pastor Cliff challenged us at Movement Church to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here].  I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… I still have them in view…two years out. Still relevant to now. For 2020, on it again.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

New Year’s Day – Resolved – Deb Mills Writer

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change – Paul Jun

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Ten Questions for a New Year – Don Whitney – Desiring God

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14

This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.

I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.

Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.

My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.

Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.

What is Christmas?

Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.

Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown:

Worship with me to the song This Is Christmas by the band Kutless:

Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?

There’d be no
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*

I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.

[Video above featured Samaritan’s Purse which is a great organization. We personally support the smaller Baptist Global Response. Both give us opportunities to give to world’s neediest.]

*Lyrics to This Is Christmas – Songwriters: Jon Micah Sumrall, David  M. Lubben

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort and Joy – Deb Mills

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

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

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

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

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

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

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

3) Adult Children – If we have grandchildren, then we have adult children. Loving them both in ways they understand is a crucial part of our life journey. This week I came across 3 very different but thought-provoking articles that were meaningful to me and you may also find them to be so for you (the adult children or you parents of same).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

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

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

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

The Problem with “Hey Guys” – Joe Pinsker

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

5 Friday Faves for Thanksgiving – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and All the Emotions

[Adapted from the Archives]

In the US, our Thanksgiving Day celebrations are renowned across the country. Traditions abound. We’re always sorry when people have to work…which happens more now that Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US., has pushed in on Thanksgiving Day.

For this week’s Friday Faves, our Thanksgiving Day regulars are posted below. Paramount over all the day’s festivities is thanksgiving itself – reflecting on and reviewing all we’re thankful for over this past year and always. God is good…present with us at every turn.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Singing News Radio

Holidays can be tough. Family doesn’t always cooperate, nor do our work schedules, or our health situations. Still we can redeem even the hardest days. I really appreciate the hacks in the link below.

Ten Pre-Thanksgiving Hacks (2019 Edition) – Shane L. Bishop

1) The Gathering – Our celebration of American Thanksgiving always involves some sort of gathering. When children grow up and start their own families, sharing them with their greater extended families on various holidays. I’m very thankful for the inlaws/in-loves inherited through marrying Dave, and we’re also thankful for our children’s inlaws. Whatever configuration you have, either for Thanksgiving or another occasion, here’s hoping for sweet times.

VCU International Thanksgiving Dinner – a few years back

2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? Every year finds family recipes honored through the generations. Uncle Mark’s oyster stew, MomMom’s strawberry salad, my mom’s cornbread dressing, and sweet wet cornbread (Aunt Stacie’s and Bekkah’s recipe neither of which I have).

Thanksgiving Dinner at Mom & Dad’s years ago – Feast on the bar

The dilemma is when the recipe is a bit sketchy…as in this video below (so reminded me of how my mom cooked – a little bit of this and a little bit of that…to perfection).

Do you have any favorite family recipes you’d be willing to share? Even if it’s just the story? Please! In Comments below.

3) Table Talk – With so many around the table, the conversation is never dull. There’s always some variation of the theme of “what are you thankful for” – and then we turn to topics as varied as the feast spread before us. We hear about new boyfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category – politics, technology, and the world. There’s always reminiscing on past Thanksgivings, when more dear ones were still with us. This time, what will it be?

4) Living Room Sprawls – After we leave the dinner table, and the dishes are washed and food put away, it’s find a place to sprawl in the living room. Either for a football game or a nap.

What favorite activity do you have besides those I listed? A walk outside? Playing football instead of watching? Table games? Talking family history with the old ones? Loving on the babies?

A Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt or a Gratefulness scavenger hunt:

Blog – Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt – the housewife modern Photo Credit: Facebook, Maude Metzger Meyers, One Thousand Gifts Study Group

One activity I would love to add to Thanksgiving is singing around the piano. We do that at Christmas time, but the video below, by People and Songs, below got me excited about pulling folks together to sing at other times of the year as well.

YouTube Video – People & Songs – Revelation – FB Live Living Room

5) All the Emotions – Because of the family nature of Thanksgiving, it’s as full of emotions as it is the annual carb load. This year our beloved PopPop (Dave’s dad) is gone from the table, nor will we be seeing Aunt Nancy on Black Friday. They both died this year and their loss is significant for us.

Then the emotions of all that’s going on in the lives of those we love – kids home from college, our littles in their various developmental milestones (and all they bring, as small as they are), marriages weathering the storms of life, friendships enduring distance, and the experience of peace…

Thankful.

[It is not always…these happier times and emotions, and for that we are there for each other. It is what family is meant for…]

Bonuses:

Christmas Playlist for the Roadtrip by Beth Wayland

Raising Memories: The Ultimate List of 100 Non-Toy Gift Ideas – Heather Lynne

Raising Memories: 100 Kid-Approved Stocking Stuffer Ideas – Heather Lynne

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monet

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

Photo Credit: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Minecraft Guitar Cover, Culture Care, Marriage Advice, Women & Alcohol, and First Responders

Friday Faves – lightning-fast – go!

1) Minecraft Guitar Cover – Since 2011, Minecraft is a video game that’s been played by millions. It is considered one of the most successful games ever designed. The players can build and create pretty much anything they want in the sand-box type game. The ambient theme music was brilliantly composed by Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418). It is beautiful, as you’ll discover in listening to Nathan‘s arrangement and performance on classical guitar. Check it out:

2) Culture Care– Instead of culture wars, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura focuses on culture care. He is an arts advocate and is known internationally as a culture influencer. He defines culture care as “a philosophy that offers the creation and conservation of beauty as antidote to cultural brokenness…The thesis of Culture Care affirms that beauty is vital to ‘soul care’, offering a vision of the power of artistic generosity to inspire, edify, and heal the church and culture…Culture Care is a thesis for thoughtful stewardship of culture.”

Photo Credit: Makoto Fujimura, Joseph Sunde

Writer Andy Crouch further describes culture care as a worldview of abundance: “that decision to choose abundance, to assume that grace is indeed infinite—that we can still choose to speak against our fears despite the world of scarcity we experience every day… The world we live in—and, even more critically for us, our church culture—seem driven by fear: to choose to fight culture wars instead of caring for and loving our culture. As a result, we display the face of fear instead of love; project hatred instead of joy; reveal anxiousness instead of peace; exhibit judgmentalism instead of forbearance; build walls with jealous exclusion instead of kindness; invite bitterness instead of goodness; celebrate celebrity instead of faithfulness; invoke rage instead of self-control. Can there be an alternative?”

I am intrigued by the idea of culture care. It embodies the call to “love God and love others as ourselves” (Matthew 22:34-40). There is so much beauty in that.

Makoto Fujimura on Cultivating the Imagination – Joseph Sunde [gives steps to moving toward culture care]

YouTube Video – A Conversation with Makoto Fujimura

3) Marriage Advice – In the car for long stretches this week allowed for listening to TED Talks and the like. Couples counselor Susan L. Adler gives a funny, practical, empowering talk entitled “Secrets of a Couples Counselor: 3 Steps to Happier Relationships”. She lays out 3 tools in how to work through a conflict; steps that can actually move the relationship into a more positive, stronger place. These steps are:

  • Anything but anger– “When you find yourself feeling angry, sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself what an I really feeling under all this anger?’ Expressing just about anything other than frustration or anger can bring you closer.” She goes on… good stuff.
  • Raising the bar– challenge yourself to be better. “Whatever is happening, you take the high road. You can make a different choice…Challenge yourself to be helpful, patient, caring, and kind.” Again, she continues. Watch the TED talk.
  • Use “I would love it if…” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing one another. Rather than “You never wash the dishes!” Say “I would really love it if you could wash the dishes next round.” Keep these statements “positive and future-focused”.

4) Women & Alcohol – [No judging here. My own struggle with using food as self-medicating makes me hugely sympathetic.] Another in-car TED talk listen was Ann Dowsett Johnston‘s “Drinking and How It Changed My Life”. She is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. In the TED Talk, she tells a riveting story of growing up with an alcoholic mom and becoming a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

Her story is one of caution. She talks as much about the growing incidence of drinking in women, in general, as she does about her own issues. The “pinking” of alcohol is a concern for her as she sees alcohol being marketed specifically to women, including to teen-aged girls. As has been done with cigarette smoking and illicit drug use, she presses for us to use our collective power to confront alcohol manufacturing and marketing companies.

Drinking in and of itself is not a problem necessarily…it becomes a problem when we drink to excess and that can be different, one woman to the next.

Photo Credit: NIAAA

[Added in regards to above image: Today, the beer is often a pint (16oz) at 6-8% alcohol.]

Becoming alcohol-free may be the choice of some. It has been for me. Does it affect relationships? It can…but the healthiest relationships will remain.

Jolene Park‘s TED Talk can help you identify whether alcohol is a problem for you or not. Her talk is both scientific and fascinating.

YouTube Video – TEDx Talk – Gray Area Drinking – Jolene Park

Women and Alcohol – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Brochures and Fact Sheets

Alcohol Consumption Among Women Is on the Rise – Jennifer Clopton

The Reason Why Women Are Drinking More Than They Ever Have – Ginny Graves

5) First Responders – With the devastation to the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian last week, and the commemoration of the 9/11 bombings this week, we are grateful for first responders. Those who move into danger instead of away from it. Risking their lives for the sake of others. In the dreadful wake of this storm Dorian. men and women specially prepared for disaster response left their daily lives and traveled down to Florida. Even getting over to the Bahamas has been complicated with all the destruction on the islands, but first responders are doing what they can, partnering with local churches and agencies, to reach out to the many who have lost loved ones and homes.Photo Credit: Go BGR

Photo Credit: BP News

Bonuses:

Come From Away: Tiny Desk Concert – Commemorating 9/11 and 9/12

2 Ways Your Phone Is Reducing Your Brain Power

25 Ways to Screw Up Your Kids

Photo Credit: Facebook, Enneagram & Coffee

Photo Credit: Facebook, Marianne Wink

Monday Morning Moment – A Store Opens and a Business Thrives – Thanks to a Decades-Old Business Philosophy Still Relevant Today

In all the years I’ve known Dave’s Uncle Bob, he made grocery shopping and restaurant meals more like field trips. He was a grocer for many years and then owned and operated restaurants later in life. Never meeting a stranger and one of the most kindly and engaged men I’ve ever known, he would talk to anyone who was willing. About the store/restaurant design, why the particular products or menu items, taking everything in through his experienced and cultivated senses. Then we would talk about it. “Do you see how they….?” “You know what she said about….?” I learned so much from him about customer service, product presentation, and business practices. He had a terrific understanding about what makes for excellence.

I think Uncle Bob and Mr. George could have had great talks.

George W. Jenkins, Jr. was the founder of Publix Supermarkets. He opened his first Publix food store in 1930, during the Great Depression. He and his store associates managed to make it through that trying time when so many businesses suffered or closed.

Last week, I attended the family night before the Grand Opening of another Publix Supermarket in Richmond, Va. We now have them all over the city, but they only arrived here in 2017. Richmond has several grocery store chains, and I wasn’t sure how Publix would do…but…it has prospered.

I learned much about the store at that pre-grand opening family night (store employees are called associates and the family night was for families of this latest store’s associates). The store was ready to go. Groceries, produce, prepared foods, meat and dairy were all in place in gleaming cases. For the families, snack stations were set up all over the store. It was yummy! Then we were gathered for the welcomes and introductions of different department leads. There was a prayer which I thought unusual but special. Then Mr. George’s name was often spoken as different individuals talked about how special Publix was to them through the years. The company seems not to have experienced mission drift in all these 89 years since the first store opening.

Todd Jones, the CEO of Publix Supermarkets, was present as well as several other regional executives. There was much applause as he asked for a show of hands of those who had worked for Publix from less than a year on up. Two persons had worked for 45 years at Publix. One of them had started as a bag boy, like Todd Jones himself. Whenever possible, Publix promotes from within. It was neat to see how employees could very naturally rise to the top as they took opportunity for training and leading over years of work.

I picked up a little booklet at the welcome table. It was entitled Lessons From Our Founder – Publix’s Founder George W. Jenkins. Here they are listed below:

  • Invest in others. – Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the US. Every employee (even parttimers after 1000 hrs. can buy stock. Ownership brings its own desire for excellence.
  • Give back. – Mr. George was a philanthropist throughout his life as a successful businessman. Once asked, “Mr. George, how much do you think you’d be worth today if you hadn’t give so much away?” His immediate response was: “Probably nothing.”
  • Prepare for opportunity. – Publix employees, or associates, have opportunities from the beginning to apply themselves toward excellence and future job advancement.
  • Be there. – Mr. George knew the importance of being present in his stores. CEO Todd Jones follows his example in attending store openings and celebrating associates’ advancement. Being there, at all levels, matters.
  • Respect the dignity of the individual. – Mr. George also always had an open door policy. He welcomed ideas. He allowed for mistakes. He cared about the associates. Each person brought something special to the work.
  • Treat customers like royalty. – This, for all of us customers, is the best part. No matter how beautiful the stores are or how good the food is…how we are treated is why we come back.

Do the right thing. – That was Mr. George’s summary on his business philosophy.

What company out there would not profit from such a corporate philosophy?

Finally, in case you don’t have a Publix in your city but run across one in your travels: the best cakes and fried chicken in our town now!

In the Words of Mr. George – Jennifer B.