Category Archives: Grief and Loss

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

[Adapted from the Archives]

As I write this morning, it is quiet outside. Very quiet. Lonely quiet. This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only One lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible? The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

A dear friend of ours shared with us this message by John Ortberg from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again.

Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!

Today is the waiting day.

We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.

We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.

We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.

We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.

We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.

We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.

In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.

We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.

Because today is the waiting day. Emily P. Freeman

Holy Week – Day 7: Saturday in the Tomb – Mary Fairchild

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Question: What is Holy Saturday?

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 – So good!!! (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things (Triduum Series) – Tea with Tolkien

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

Story Behind the Song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Stuart Townend

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but, for so many, Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus, and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Good Friday – good for us, hard for Jesus. The events of his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary, with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people.

In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the sinless resolve of the Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

It Was My Sin That Held Him There – Greg Morse

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

‘Finished’ – What the Son Cried as He Died – Scott Hubbard – Desiring God

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Good-Friday-from-popgodblog.jpgPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by Rev. S. M. Lockridge*.]

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial – Mary Fairchild

The Way of Jesus #3: Unless a Seed – James Nored

The Way of Jesus #4: Who Do I Say Jesus Is? – James Nored & Phil Ware

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Spotify Playlist for Holy Week – Beth Wayland

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic – powerful.

Photo Credit: We Love the Bible, Pinterest

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You

Photo Credit: Seneca, Facebook, Natural Life

My maternal grandfather was a drunk. When he wasn’t withdrawn, walking trails in the woods, he could be mean to both his wife and his five children. How he and my grandmother, a pampered and passive woman, came to be married, I didn’t think to ask. Nor did I ask them or my mom about their childhoods.

My mom was an elegant woman. Beautiful, generous, selfless. She took the brunt of her father’s rages – standing between him and her mother or him and her two younger brothers. The two older brothers left home as soon as they could lie about their ages to join the military.

How she and my biological father married was less a mystery. He was her way out of a hard life at home. Then it would turn out that although there was not so much violence in our childhood home, there was neglect. He wasn’t a drunk but he never cared to work. When Mom finally divorced him, her heart had become so wounded and weary, it was a matter of just having one less mouth to feed.

Mom would later marry my step-dad who was a sweet daddy to me. He was harder on my brothers…and on his own kids from his first marriage. It made me sad and a little frightened, especially for my older brother. He was old enough to have seen our grandfather drunk; he knew the dismissive behavior of our biological father; he felt the anger of our step-father. My younger brothers and I missed a lot of that.

Divorce and its fallout became something I would determine to avoid…even if it meant not marrying at all.

I did marry, and a wonderful man. We are very different from each other. We have different struggles and different childhood experiences. However, from the beginning, we shared the personal experience of the nurturing love of parents, faithful to God and each other. This has been a strong foundation for us to learn to love well and parent well (hopefully). It is not the whole of it though.

In all of this, there is still the puzzling over what we bring to our marriage from past generations…and what will we transmit to our children?

Looking into our pasts isn’t always inviting. Some prefer to “let sleeping dogs lie”. I’m learning that our past informs our future; in fact, our past can predict or prescribe our future. It seems wisdom then to examine what we can of our past, and that of parents and grandparents.

Not to blame. Not to lay responsibility for some present lack in ourselves. We all make mistakes as parents even when we deeply love our children. The look back is to help us to heal any harm and to guard from bringing past hurts to our children…without thinking… without intending.

When our parents experience trauma in childhood – or endure the consequence of sin from a parent – they carry that into adulthood and potentially will transmit it to their own children. Not all survivors of adverse childhood experiences will follow this cycle, but it’s rare to avoid altogether.

My mom was very intentional in showing us love after experiencing so little in her childhood home. She did bring some of her trauma forward and we experienced it…without her meaning for us to. I remember trying, from an early age, to be as good as I could be for my mom…and failing. She had tried to do the same as well, in her growing up years…but with harsher consequences than I had.

“The child speaks what their parents could not. He or she recognizes how their own experience has been authored, how one has been authorized, if unconsciously, to carry their parent’s injury into the future.”Molly Castelloe, How Trauma Is Carried Across Generations

Photo Credit: Twitter

Have you discovered areas in your own life that if left unattended will transmit to your children’s lives? Fears, self-worth issues, anger, negativity, anxiety, perfectionism, sadness…or sin of all kinds that we have harbored (and maybe witnessed in our childhood). We can change the future, with God’s help, but taking a good long look at our past. Asking questions and considering what consequences are playing out in our current lives and our children’s.

We can break the cycle of generational trauma or sin, but it requires relentless intentionality on the parents’ part. Both for our own healing and for our children’s health. I didn’t want my children to be afraid or unsure of how valued they were. I wanted them to always know the experience of being safe, seen, soothed, and secure. Was I successful…not always…in fact, I was unaware of how generational sin clung to me. I didn’t have words for it like now.

The Adam Young Counseling podcast has been a tremendous help to me in looking at childhood trauma and generational sin. He gives practical and reasoned helps in how to heal from our own trauma as well as how to curtail the repeat of generational sin in our children’s lives.

What are your thoughts? Please add to Comments. May God help us all to be blessings (and not cursings) to our children and to theirs.

What Is Generational Trauma and Is It in the Bible? – Ashley Hooker

The Sins of the Fathers Visited Upon the Children – S. Conway

What Are “Sins of the Father”? Understanding Generational Consequences – Michael A. Milton

YouTube Video – Generational Sin + Trauma – Gospel Care Class

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-Man Theme Mashup, Engaging a Person Who’s Harmed You, True Community, Going Through Closets, and Spring Flowers

Friday Faves – super fast!

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Spider-man Theme Mashup on Classical GuitarNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranged and performed the three big themes of the three Spider-Man franchises of the last 20 years. So much to love in these movies, in particular the ones starring Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire. You’ll welcome the nostalgia and the heart-filling beauty of what Nathan does with the classical guitar.

Which did you love the most? Share in Comments.

2) Engaging a Person Who Has Harmed You – Who is this person? A parent…a spouse…a child…an employer…a supposed friend? We have a way forward toward healing.

Engaging With Someone Who Has Harmed You – Part 1

I discovered Adam Young Counseling a few weeks back and have dived in to many of his podcasts. His 5-part series above on engaging with someone who’s harmed you was like sitting in a therapist’s office…a GREAT therapist’s office. We have all been harmed by someone, and we ourselves have harmed others, often without knowing or without intending. Still, to have counsel on how to take positive steps toward healing in such a scary situation is amazing. Adam Young has experienced trauma himself, and he has redeemed that trauma in so many ways, in particular his love and help for others.

In these podcasts, Adam Young distinguishes between the garden variety sinner, a wicked person*, and an evil person. I appreciated that he said we do well not to judge people as permanently in those states because God can move to transform any of us. He did however encourage those of us who have been harmed to determine if we are dealing with a wicked or evil person…and act accordingly. His helps are empowering and transformative if we have the courage to walk through them.Photo Credit: Alistair Begg, Truth For Life

*Dr. Young spends much counsel on engaging a wicked person who has harmed us. It helped me to be reminded that a person who is behaving wickedly can, on the whole, be a decent person. What causes a person to act despicably toward us could be generational sin – not to discount that person’s responsibility in harming us, but to strive for understanding and grace (which multiplies toward us, not just to the one who harmed us). Thoughts?

When we have been harmed by someone, we need safe people to counsel with in order to be wise in our engaging others with whom we don’t feel safe. Walling ourselves off from them, trying to just put the harm behind us, or claiming forgiveness when we haven’t – none of these things get us to healing. If you have been harmed by someone, spend some time in these podcasts. Seriously. It will make a difference.

Photo Credit: Adam Young Counseling, Instagram

3) True Community – We desperately need real or true community. Whatever the problem loneliness and isolation were for us before COVID has been severely compounded. We need one anther…not in a surfacy, thin-veneered way, but in a deep well of fellowship with each other. Jennie Allen has written a hopeful and provocative book about this in Find Your People.

The need for true community is neither new nor specific to our culture. It’s been written about, researched, and explored for decades. Two great thinkers and authors Jerry Bridges and M. Scott Peck (both now deceased) are quoted below.

Photo Credit: Jerry Bridges, Quote Fancy

“If we are to master the scriptural principles of true biblical community, we must master this one: True greatness in the kingdom of heaven involves serving one another. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26)…Fellowship is much, much more than food and fun and even more than reading and studying the Scriptures with another believer. Fellowship at times may involve blood, sweat, and tears as we stand side by side with our persecuted brothers and sisters…It implies a responsibility to fulfill our function in the body. We usually don’t think of fellowship in terms of fulfilling a responsibility, but that is because we have lost sight of the biblical meaning of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a social privilege to enjoy; it is more basically a responsibility to assume...But this is what servant-hood within the fellowship of believers is all about: being alert to the little things that need to be done and then doing them.” – Jerry Bridges

True Community: the Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges

“In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other. Sometimes consensus in community is reached with miraculous rapidity. But at other times it is arrived at only after lengthy struggle. Just because it is a safe place does not mean community is a place without conflict. It is, however, a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”~ M. Scott Peck

Photo Credit: One Community Global

The Four Stages to Building True Community

Do you experienced true community – where you are willing to serve sacrificially and receive that kind of care as well? We need to go after it for ourselves and one another.

4) Cleaning Closets- I’m not a spring cleaning kind of person, although, these days, we are so often called on to declutter, let go, and be free in the area of stuff management. Still we have two closets (among others) where things just get randomly tossed up onto the shelf. I decided to clear them out to know exactly what is stored there. One closet now contains my journals of the last 30 years!! Whew!

Haven’t re-read any of them but lined them up by date and found this little note from my sweet mama in the front of one of them (from many years ago). A treasure…

5) Spring Flowers – The month of March is bringing Spring along here in the US. With temperatures warming, trips to the park are becoming more regular. The glory of Spring is not lost on the kiddos.

I just want to share a few flower pics of recent days. Hope Spring is coming your way (of course, I get that’s only for the Northern Hemisphere…for you Southern Hem. folks, Happy Fall! 

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Thanks for a quick stop-by. It means a lot to me. Hope you’re surrounded by and creating beauty wherever you are…we sure need it in this world today…really every day.

Monday Morning Moment – Reflecting on the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

[From the Archives]

This delightful girl has a birthday tomorrow.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have known her best.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl…most probably related to adjusting to all the changes imposed on her by her parents’ many work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend -in the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

Two Christmases ago she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last years as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above. She has commented that making (and nurturing) friendships as an adult has had its own challenges, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. However, I rejoice with her that she has settled into a life fairly full of friends with littles and some without (including me).

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Latest, Parenting Pearls, Aging Well, Words, and War

Quick take on favorites of mine over the last couple of weeks:

1) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest – Enjoy!

2) Parenting Pearls – So thankful for wisdom of others…especially in parenting and raising children to be mentally healthy and resilient. How other cultures parent is also intriguing. Below are some of both.

Mom blogger Becky Mansfield wrote a great piece on things we don’t want our kiddos to forget.  Please share in the Comments what you hope your children don’t forget.

What Really Matters: Things I Never Want Our Kids to Forget – Becky Mansfield

Photo Credit: Facebook, Becky Mansfield, Your Modern Family

First, You Decide that Kids Belong in School – Carrie McKean – a writer friend of mine in Texas; everyone won’t agree with her, but she writes well and with reason for us as parents during our time with COVID.

A Top Researcher Says It’s Time to Rethink Our Entire Approach to Preschool – Anya Kementz

It’s Easy to Judge Until It’s Your Kid; Let’s Try Compassion – MaryBeth Bock

The Secret of Arctic ‘Survival Parenting’

3) Aging Well – Start young. Start young to age well. If you have to catch up (like me), there is still time.

The Seven Habits That Lead to Happiness in Old Age – Arthur C. Brooks

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. – Rachel Feltman

Forgiving People Is Good for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It – Rachel Feltman

Photo Credit: John & Julie Gottman, Yes! Magazine

4) Words – As much as I love words this quote from Jesus’ teaching gives pause: “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”  – Matthew 12:36-37
Words matter. Words mean things. We should be generous with life-giving words and sparing with words that destroy.  Silence and restraint have their place.
What If– A poem by Malcolm Guite
What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?
What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?
What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?
What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?
Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.
Then, on a lighter note:  there’s this sweet game that is all the rage right now. Wordle created by Josh Wardle (launched in October 2021). I love it because it is not time-consuming. You get one word puzzle a day that is challenging but doable. So fun.

What to Read About Wordle While Everybody’s Still Talking About It – Alex Dalenberg

Twitter, Karen Swallow Prior (Click to read the full thread)

Wordle App (different game, different creator)

5) War – We have all read and watched about the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. How to respond? Who to respond? I won’t pose an opinion here because we have so many, and they don’t help really. Praying is the most important thing we can do. Below are some links I found interesting this week (well, links that weren’t behind a paywall). Praying…

Photo Credit: Facebook

War in Ukraine: Essential Reading

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky: the Comedian President Who Is Rising to the Moment – Stephen Mulvey

Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age – Dorothy Wickenden [Lengthy biographical piece on Berry’s advice – also includes an audio file which you can listen to instead of reading the story.]

Here are a few quotes from the piece above:

“Think Little. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet.” Berry went on to say that he was “ashamed and deeply distressed that American government should have become the chief cause of disillusionment with American principles.”

In a Jefferson Lecture in 2012, he quoted Stegner’s description of Americans as one of two basic types, “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers are “those who pillage and run,” who “make a killing and end up on Easy Street.” Stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.” They are “placed people,” in Berry’s term—forever attached to the look of the sky, the smell of native plants, and the vernacular of home.

He told the crowd that, as a member of the human race, he was “in the worst possible company: communists, fascists and totalitarians of all sorts, militarists and tyrants, exploiters, vandals, gluttons, ignoramuses, murderers.” But, he insisted, he was given hope by people “who through all the sad destructive centuries of our history have kept alive the vision of peace and kindness and generosity and humility and freedom.”

“A properly educated conservative, who has neither approved of abortion nor supported a tax or a regulation, can destroy a mountain or poison a river and sleep like a baby,” he writes. “A well-instructed liberal, who has behaved with the prescribed delicacy toward women and people of color, can consent to the plunder of the land and people of rural America and sleep like a conservative.”

“If two neighbors know that they may seriously disagree, but that either of them, given even a small change of circumstances, may desperately need the other, should they not keep between them a sort of pre-paid forgiveness? They ought to keep it ready to hand, like a fire extinguisher.”

“Jesus said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ which I take to mean that if we do the right things today, we’ll have done all we really can for tomorrow. OK. So I hope to do the right things today.”

Wendell Berry – Americans Who Tell the Truth Website

___________________________________________________________________________

Any favorite finds you’d be willing to share? Post them in the Comments and thanks so much for stopping by.

Bonuses:

Setting a Valentine’s lunch for our grandchildren:

The Real-Life Diet of Kenny G, Who Learned to Cook to Set an Example for His Son – Mick Rouse

YouTube Video – Jesus’ Heart – Eric Gilmour and Dane Ortlund

Three Encouraging Quotes

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

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

Mom pictures for website 012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

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

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – Joy – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

Here’s a bit of this beautiful rabbit trail of exploring “joy” as my word of the year 2022. One turn building on another.

Last week, I read the small and endearing volume C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Children. That led to watching two of the The Chronicles of Narnia films. From there Dave began re-reading the book series, and I searched out the film The Most Reluctant Convert: the Untold Story of C. S. Lewis.

We watched that film (which I highly recommend), at home, during which I wrote pages of notes from the rich and thought-provoking dialog. The film featured a biopic of both a young C. S. Lewis and his older self. Beautifully filmed and intriguing as it unfolded Lewis’ childhood, his academic life as an atheist, and then his wrestling with the idea of God…and then the reality of Him. Lewis was literally “surprised by joy“.

Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life – C. S. Lewis (his autobiography)

What is joy? It’s way more than happiness. In fact, this feeling of joy can even be experienced in a hard place, in suffering, even despair.

“The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope–and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend up on it) disappoint us.Walter Wangerin Jr.

Joy is not something that we can produce nor can we hold onto it. It is a glimpse of Heaven. It points to something larger, something beyond the moment. It is not to be made an idol of (a good word for someone holding it close as her word for the year). It is a glorious gift – it sharpens our experience of beauty and love. It assures and sustains us. It gives pause. It fills all the space we give it.

You know that magical moment when a sunrise reaches its full beauty and then fades fast into day. We want the moment to last longer, but we still have the experience of it, the memory of it, and the hope of it coming again. Joy is a snapshot of the goodness of God…of God Himself, the Joy-giver.

As the sunrise faded this morning, I pulled out a selection of books from our large C. S. Lewis collection to revisit on his take on joy. Do you have a favorite of his books?

Just a little of how Lewis describes joy:

“In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else…it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy…a technical term and must be sharply distinguished from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy has one characteristic…in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…It might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want.

Joy must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing…All Joy reminds [“Look! Look! What do I remind you of?”]. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still “about to be”.

Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” – C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

I will share one brief story where, in a moment of terrible loss, I was “surprised by joy”. Many years ago, our Chad, a cherished young nephew of ours died, at 23 y/o, in a car accident. It was horrific for everyone in the family because he was so dear to all of us. There came that moment, with the family gathered, that we were able to see him at the funeral home. I remember vividly saying silently to God that the test of His promise of grace sufficient was before us. To walk into the room and face the reality of Chad’s being with us no more was terrifying. Yet…God showed up. It was awful but in a surreal way. None of us tried to comfort each other; there just weren’t words. Yet, it was like we were all being held up, held together, held close. Leaning in, surrounding that casket…loving that boy. Longing to see him alive again…and assured, truly comforted, we would, one day, see him again.

Maybe no one else had the experience I had…but I believe it was common to all of us…they wouldn’t label it joy, I don’t think, but it was a joy that burst in…at a time of shock and sadness. A joy that helped us keep breathing and hold together rather than push away.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, AZ Quotes

So…I’m on a journey to discover joy in its many forms…and watch for whom it points. A signpost. A marker. Joy.

7 Thoughts on Joy From C. S. Lewis – Dawn Klinge

How Do You Define Joy? – John Piper – Desiring God

The Quotable Lewis – Edited by Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Worship Wednesday – Overcoming Regret – Mercy – Elevation Worship & Maverick City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9

If You, O LORD, kept track of iniquities, then who, O Lord, could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be feared.  I wait for the LORD; my soul does wait, and in His word I put my hope. – Psalm 130:3-5

For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I have not been justified by this; but the One judging me is the Lord.1 Corinthians 4:4

Let’s spend a few minutes looking back. Thinking about regret. We aren’t going to stay there, because God saved us for this present moment, and, beyond this, our glorious future. However, looking back (with righteous intention) can empower us for our lives in the present. Looking back can also grow gratitude for the God who has graciously forgiven us.

Maybe regret isn’t something that plagues you. That is a grace, Dear One. Pastor John Piper says: “A life without regrets is built on a mirage. We have all sinned.” I have never thought much about regret until recent years. Getting older seems to grease the tracks for that.

I have regrets…and it turns out, so do we all. In pondering it this week, I’ve asked several in my life about their regrets. Surprisingly, these conversations revealed things I didn’t know about people I know well…regret exposed tender memories and heartbreak.

Some things we can’t change…but the things we can, then… hallelujah!

Let’s pull our regret out of the dark recesses of our memory, put it on the table, and examine it with the help of the Holy Spirit…and a trusted friend. If we don’t deal with our regret, it is still affecting the freedom we have in Christ and our sense of ourselves and each other.

Let’s do what we need to do with that regret…and get truly free.

Researcher and clinical psychologist Dr. J. Kim Penberthy posted a fascinating and empowering piece on overcoming regret.

Regret is a very real reaction to a disappointing event in your life, a choice you made that can’t be changed, something you said that you can’t take back. It’s one of those feelings you can’t seem to shake, a heavy and intrusive negative emotion that can last for minutes, days, years or even a lifetime.”

Regret mentally references something we did or that we didn’t do (in the spiritual realm: sins of commission and sins of omission).

Penberthy offers a cognitive model for overcoming regret. It involves the acronym “REACH“:

  • Recall the hurt (face it)
  • Empathize (be kind and compassionate)
  • Altruistically offer forgiveness (to oneself)
  • Commit publicly (share it) and
  • Hold on to that forgiveness and stay true to the decision.

Regret Can Be All-Consuming – a Neurobehavioral Scientist Explains How to Overcome It

The Psychology of Regret – Melanie Greenberg

Our tendency is to either bury our regret or burrow into our regret. Either way robs us of 1) what we can learn from it, 2) what we can do to correct or overcome it, and 3) what freedom we can experience, living fully in the present (beyond the conscious/unconscious burden of regret).

Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson writes about overcoming regret:

“The process of repair requires us to confront the reality of the wound that has taken place. This includes naming the offense (what someone did or failed to do), acknowledging that it has caused pain to the one offended, and pledging to work to never repeat the behavior. In the language of faith we describe this maneuver of repair as confession and repentance – the act of turning around and going in the opposite direction, not merely feeling regret for having done something wrong.”Curt Thompson, The Anatomy of the Soul

John Piper answers the question “How Should I Handle My Regrets?” in a 10 minute podcast. He reminds us of the Savior we have and the salvation we’ve received…recalling the thief on the cross, being executed because of a regrettable life, and yet, in a moment, repenting and receiving assurance of Paradise with the Lord. Wow!

Piper warns us that our memories are faulty causing us to be either too hard on ourselves…or too easy. Then he calls us both to remember and to forget:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.Ephesians 2:12-13

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

“Wherever remembering our failures will help us fly to Christ, love Christ, rest in Christ, cherish grace, sing of mercy, serve with zeal, then let’s get on with remembering and regretting…

but…

Wherever remembering begins to paralyze us with the weight of failure and remorse so that we don’t love Christ more or cherish grace more or serve with greater energy, then let us forget and press on by the power of grace for the little time we have left…Press on in faith for the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.”John Piper, Desiring God

Let’s close out as Pastor John calls us to “sing of mercy” with the song below: Mercy.

REACH Forgiveness – Everett Worthington – wonderful resources!

5 Friday Faves – New Year’s Resolutions, Habit Planner, Year-End Review, Word for the Year, and the Last Days of 2021

2021 is rapidly winding down. Whew! Here are my Friday Faves to get us ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!

1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2021…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this tumultuous year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…

Photo Credit: David Lose

Monday Morning Moment  – 2021 Come On! – New Year’s Resolutions

Are We Doing New Year’s Resolutions After a Year as Lousy as 2020? There’s One I think We Need More Than Ever – Heidi Stevens

How to Make Healthy, Attainable New Year’s Resolutions During COVID-19 – Ashley Welch, Healthline

Are You Making a New Year’s Resolution This Year? Readers Weigh In – Sarah Fielding

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, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.

New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways 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.

Without knowing it, I have actually used 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. 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

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 become 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 – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

New Year’s Resolutions and Reality Checks – Wally Bock

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These 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.

Consider these questions as you think on resolutions for 2022:

  1. What do I want to keep from the changes I made to cope with the pandemic?
  2. What do I want to reclaim from the pre-pandemic time?
  3. How would I “build back better” if I were in charge of the world or my neighborhood?Katherine Arbuthnott

Four years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us 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…four years out. Still relevant to now. For 2022, on it again…plus prayer for wisdom how to be creative and intentional, given COVID’s continued intrusion. And also added this year: writing my life’s story (capturing the memories and maybe restoring/refining some as I write).

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.

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. Even in the face of a continuing pandemic...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.

We’ve already enough of that…coming up on two years.

I am resolved…

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

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

Habit Change is a Team Project – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

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

2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.”Justin Whitmel Earley

Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.”Justin Whitmel Earley

His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.

Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):

Photo Credit: Justin Whitmel Earley, Screenshots

Habits of the Household – Habit Planner – pdf – Justin Whitmel Earley

Make Habits, Not Resolutions – Justin Whitmel Earley

Unlock the Power of Family Habits in 2022 – Justin Whitmel Earley

3) Year-End Review – Business writer Stephen Jones shares author Tim Ferriss’ practice of doing a quick past year review. Ferriss prefers this over new year’s resolutions, and Jones gives a quick snapshot of his 5 steps.

Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).

A creative friend of ours put his “year-end review” into a cool video:

Photo (Video) Credit: Todd AO, Facebook

4) Word for the Year –A year ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.

At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As this year ends, I’ve become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!

It dawned on me that I haven’t been “counting it all joy”. Or remembering that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. Now my heart is resolved to be set on joy in 2022…no matter what.

Lord, help us to be people of joy,

to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,

to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,

to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,

to laugh heartily with childlike glee,

to feel true joy in your presence.     Amen.

Photo Credit: Prayer @inthecoracle, Instagram

5) The Last Days of 2021 – As may have been many of your experiences, we had people we know and love dealing with COVID in this last week of 2021. Still managed a sweet end-of-year. Hope yours was as well.

 

Now on to 2022!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Vimeo Video by Rodrigo Souza – Heart – with Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar

How to Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year – Ann Voskamp (great piece on procrastination and perfectionism – both keeping us from presenting the gifts God’s given us)

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, @Bentlily, Instagram (w/ permission)

52 Week Bible Reading Plan – Michael Coley

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and Tips for Building One

Photo Credit: Facebook