Category Archives: Dad

Sunday Blessing – a Son’s Birthday and a Charge, a Quote, a Poem, and a Prayer

Adapted from the Archives.

This son of ours is 32 today. We won’t be seeing him but we will be celebrating him. Today and every day of his life.

Here’s to you, Nathan.

Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He’s done for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.

So many memories. IMG_0034 (2)

“Let’s go kill buffalo!” was your call at your Native American-themed third birthday party. Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.IMG_8751Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee. IMG_8749

Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Naps whenever and wherever. Basketball.

2007 - June -- Nathan scoresGrumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar. 2006 -- Dec -- Nathan, Jeremiah, Jared

Virginia Commonwealth University. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula.

Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then friend Duy.Blog - Parenting 4

Met and married beautiful Bekkah. Nathan & Bekkah collection

Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown. Nathan & Bekkah - New House

With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. Siblings. Cousins. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces and nephew. 

Then that crazy day the summer of 2016 that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams. [Krue doesn’t exist anymore but it was a springboard for your social media presence as a classical guitarist.]

Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Nathan, Bekkah, & Titus July 2016IMG_8050Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsNathan & Titus lookalikesTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)

And then sweet Emma.

Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Nathan and guitar on stepsPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

As you settle into your early 30s, I leave you with a charge from God’s word to Joshua, Oswald Sanders’ quote to leaders, a poem often quoted by our friend Tom Elliff, and a prayer credited to General Douglas MacArthur.

Happy birthday, Son. I’ll love you forever.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9

“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.
– Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff

Build me a son - Douglas MacArthurPhoto Credit: Pinterest

IMG_8616Nathan & his Dad

Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar

Nathan Mills – Patreon

J. Oswald Sanders’ Spiritual Leadership

Part of Joni Eareckson Tada’s Testimony – Poem Drill a Man

Book Favorite I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch – Before Helicopter Parenting Became a Cultural Issue

Monday Morning Moment – the Story of a Girl and Friendship

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

This delightful girl has a birthday today.

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

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. Well, not being able to easily make friends, adjusting to all the changes imposed on her life by her parents’ 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.

This Christmas  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 year 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 without having read the book. She has commented that making and nurturing friendships as adults has also been a challenge, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. I think she is learning to juggle all this, and me with her.

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]

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering on Memorial Day

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Happy Memorial Day” isn’t a fitting greeting for this day.

Our commemoration of this holiday in America is a bit complex. I get the parades, and the setting flags on tombstones, and the sepia portraits of our military heroes past displayed on Facebook pages. Grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers…and their female counterparts.

The grilling and road races and t-shirt giveaways at baseball games, I don’t get as much. Yet, like our fellow Americans, we will grill and we will celebrate a day off…and through all that we will remember. We will remember the sacrifices of those who died to preserve our freedom.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Normandy Landings

This year’s celebration is even more complex than usual. With the losses of COVID-19 casting their own shadow over this day of remembrance. The socially distanced gatherings will be small, but the grief will be large with us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, The New York Times

Memorial Day 2020: Grieving Another COVID-19 Death Count Milestone – Alan Cross

Writing helps me remember. The many lessons of life, the travels, all the people we’ve known along the way, and the great provisions of God. It has helped me to write them down.

Memorial Day is a somber remembrance. All the soldiers I’ve known personally survived the wars they fought . Still, I have friends who lost loved ones serving in devastating situations. I stand alongside to remember. To remember those of our own who died and to remember those families who also lost their loved ones on the other side of battle. There’s always the other side of war…the family side.

How ever you spend your Memorial Day…whether with a burger or fasting or at work or play, stopping and remembering is the first order of the day. We have much to be grateful for. On this day and every day.Photo Credit: Paul Davis On Crime

[Added from Comment when this blog first posted: That gravestone graphic leaves out the deadliest war in our history for some reason. Civil War – 620,000 dead. What a strange omission. – John]

Vietnam War is the war of my youth. We didn’t understand why we were there. I participated in protests but it didn’t take me long to realize how that wasn’t honoring of those of our country fighting for us. We thought we were communicating to “Bring them home!” but when Vietnam vets did return there really wasn’t a “Welcome home!” So short-sighted of us.

[Letters from pen-pals, soldiers in Vietnam, who shared details of what they experienced there. Sacred writings for me now.]

Don’t miss the PBS Memorial Day Presentation. So powerful! Stories of those who gave their lives in battle, honoring the different branches of service, and glorious music. Here is Christopher Jackson in last year’s performance of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”:

If someone you love died in one of these recent wars or in any service to our nation or community, please comment below with their names and any details you choose to include. I would be pleased to help honor them in this small way.

In closing, I’d like to add this clip from the 2002 film The Four Feathers – the brief and beautiful speech of a returning soldier who described why they fight:

Independence Day in the USA – Remembering that Freedom Is Not Free – Deb Mills Writer

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2 – Deb Mills Writer

E. John Mills, US Navy – Dave’s DadGeorge T. McAdams (in center), US Army – my Dad

Thank you for your service.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tim Wink

5 Friday Faves – DreamWorks on Classical Guitar, Your Future Self, Wisdom of Great Leaders, Father’s Day, and Southern Baptists

5 favorite finds this week – here goes:

1) DreamWorks on Classical GuitarNathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar) latest classical guitar video is a medley of movie themes by DreamWorks Animation. So beautiful.

All are arranged and performed by classical guitarist Nathan Mills (Beyond The Guitar). Enjoy!

2) Your Future Self – Productivity guru Darius Foroux writes about how we become our future selves. It’s not magic, nor is it rocket science. Our future selves are born out of what we are about today. Photo Credit: Flickr, Mitch Huang

“All I have to do now is look at my actions. I ask myself, “So you want to be independent, huh? What does that take?”

  • Are you creating things that people need?
  • Are you improving your skills?
  • Are adding value to other people’s lives?
  • Are you saving at least 10% of your income?
  • Are you investing your money?
  • Are you exercising enough?
  • Are you reading enough books?
  • Are you investing in yourself?

I can go on for a while. But you get the point. I’m questioning my habits here. It’s not about what you want — it’s about what you do.

And not in the future. Today.”Darius Foroux

Foroux hands his readers a mirror and asks these pointed questions and others – regarding habits. Our junk food diet, our propensity for complaining, our couch-potato screen habits, our spending beyond what we make. Pretty much in-your-face. However, he also provides free helps to get us off the couch or office chair and on to the kinds of habits that move us to that future self we hope to be. His free ebook How to Get From Procrastinate Hero to Procrastinate Zero is valuable, worth hopping onto his email list for me.

Couch Potatoes vs. Creators – Oliver Burkeman

Don’t Fall Prey to Couch Potato Syndrome – Susan Mahoney

3) Wisdom of Great Leaders – Mark Crowley, leadership sage himself, posted a piece recently entitled 10 of the World’s Great Sages Share Their Most Important Leadership Advice. He’s taken these quotes from his own interviews with these leaders on his insightful Lead From the Heart podcast. Below are four of my favorite quotes from Crowley’s article. Check out the interviews in full – great stuff!
“When a human being feels as though they are being cared for and nurtured, their physiology works at its best…Leaders who affect the hearts in people get the best results, and your companies will become far more successful once you embrace this.” – Dr. James Doty

A ‘multiplier’ leader is someone who uses their own intelligence, capabilities, and talents in a way that amplifies the talents and intelligence of others. They’re leaders who we’re best around.”Liz Wiseman

“There’s a pathological disconnect between the attributes that seduce us when hiring managers and those that are actually needed to be an effective leader. We can see the effects of hyper-masculine leadership; what we need today are managers who are more self-effacing, empathetic and altruistic – other-focused people who are good coaches and mentors.”Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

“It’s not the big decisions that differentiate high-performing CEOs, it’s the volume and speed of their decisions. It’s about the speed rather than the precision on the hundreds of decisions they need to make.”Kim Powell

The Oscar Wilde satirical quote below is NOT among Crowley’s #LeadFromtheHeart counsel above. It does speak to the problem of our leaders being knowers and non-learners. Learners are the best kind of knowers. Excellent leaders never stop learning.

Image result for wisdom of great leadersPhoto Credit: Flickr, Smita Nair Jain

4) Father’s Day – Celebrating Father’s Day this weekend!

We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you dads. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and loving, empowering male friends and colleagues. Most of these good fathers in my life were spiritual fathers…but fathers nonetheless.

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

Budweiser’s Father’s Day Ad Is Bringing People to Tears  – Lyn Mettler

Blog - Father's Day - B. C. comic
Photo Credit: B. C. Comics

5) Southern Baptists – My family didn’t start out in church or Christian. Mom was a believer but through a difficult marriage and trying to feed and clothe four children, she left church before I was born. After her divorce, neighbors invited us to church and it was a huge discovery for us…people who loved us even though we came with a lot of baggage as a family…and a God who loved us just as we were. It was a small Southern Baptist church in Georgia, and I’ve been Southern Baptist ever since.

In June every year church representatives of this large denomination meet somewhere in the US to worship together, reflect on the past year and plan for the future, and invariably, deal with some issue that could divide them.

After the fun of catching up with old friends and colleagues from years past, two of the highlights of this convention for me were:

  • the Scripture translation project (we could buy verses of the New Testament for $5 each – for a New Testament to be translated for a people group who don’t have it in their language). By the end of the convention, it was funded!

  • and the ministry panels.

Baptist Global Response panel on mercy ministries was one:

This year two of the dividing issues were the continuing need for racial reconciliation and responding with care to those victimized by clergy in the Southern Baptist Convention. We aren’t where we need to be eventually, but we made progress, thankfully.Image result for SBC panel on racial reconciliationPhoto Credit: Religion News

On racial reconciliation, I loved hearing Dhati Lewis, Missie Branch, and George Yancey.

“Before we can diversify our churches or organizations, we must diversify our dinner tables.”Dhati Lewis

Diversity at the Dinner Table – Trillia Newbell

“When someone says, ‘I don’t see race’, what I hear is ‘You don’t see me.’” George Yancey

Notes from the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention – George Yancey

Southern Baptists Give Greater Attention to Diversity But Acknowledge More Needed – Adelle M. Banks

The piece below is where I am after listening to the panel above:

Slowly and surely I began to realize that my problem was not that I was a person of privilege. Jesus was the most privileged being to ever walk this earth. My problem was what I did with my privilege. Would I use it (consciously or unconsciously) for my own gain, or could I let go of my grasp and use it to serve others. Jesus showed me how, “Who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing”.

How Jesus lived and died would serve as an example for me, and would ultimately allow me to live and die like him. He has taken my shame so that I no longer have to respond defensively about my privilege. I can embrace it, now no longer for myself, but for those for whom Christ died and rose again. Not in a white savior way, He’s the Messiah, I am not. But in an incarnational, self-emptying, for-the-sake-of-others way.

The gospel for the privileged is that Christ took our state of mis-being so that we can live for others. Hallelujah. – Missioeric

Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused – Video Course – Brad Hambrick

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it. How about you? Share your favorite finds in Comments below. Have a blessed weekend.

Bonuses:

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” – Lisa McCrohan

How to Help a Depressed Friend Through Their Illness and Recovery – Natalie Morris

Dear Church, Let’s Talk About Mental Health

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Enneagrams and Enneagram Cupcakes (YouTube Videos on various types)

A Woman of Influence

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark

Worship Wednesday – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: YouTube

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”Revelation 5:11-12

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – Jesus – John 16:33

Chris Tomlin is a songwriter and worship leader. He writes for worshipers…and has since he was 14.  My own worship life with God has been strongly influenced by Tomlin and his collaborators.

The song, I Will Rise, is a lyric that personalizes the experience of a Christ-follower laying this life down for the next. When our dad died recently, we were comforted by the truth of this song as we thought of what Dad must be experiencing entering Heaven. No more sorrow. No more pain.

Just as Chris Tomlin’s song I Will Rise gives us a sweet glimpse of Heaven, Ann Voskamp’s books point us to the beauty of life here…even when broken. Author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, she has written another very different book. Raw in its honesty and transparency, this book The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life delves deep into brokenness. Uncomfortably deep. Yet, that is where we find healing.Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp

At the age of 16, Ann was broken…grieving the little sister who died suddenly, missing her mother in her own world of mental illness, and her father, though near physically but far into his own dark thoughts. To even feel anything, Ann….this exquisitely beautiful girl with the brightest of futures on her horizon….sank into harming herself, through cutting. The Broken Way reveals all this brokenness and more…yet with the loveliness of God’s provision in brokenness…His own good brokenness.

Years later, a long way down the road from her own childhood, Ann writes about a dark day as a mom. Her farmer husband drew her close to him and responded in this way:

“You know – everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right?…The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory…Never be afraid of being a broken thing.” [p. 25, The Broken Way]

Photo Credit: Melanie S. Pickett

We all have some measure of brokenness…as I turn the pages of Ann’s book, I realize we can’t compare our broken with another’s. God meets us in the darkest places…I know that from my own experience and seeing it, over and over, in the lives of others. Like Ann Voskamp. Reaching up our hand, we find God reaching down.

Watching Dad in the last year of his life…his Alzheimer’s taking more and more of his memory, and his cancer roaring out of remission…God was there. To experience the grace in those days…with Dad…and to watch family members and friends rally around him…was seeing God move in close to him…and to us.

In the brokenness of Dad’s life in those last days, we saw God’s glory shine through the cracks and imperfections of age and illness. In our brokenness, serving Dad in our weakness, God gave us more love, more grace, more strength…than we ever had before.

Back around to Tomlin’s song, I Will Rise. In death…and in life, we have this anthem.  What confidence, joy, and peace are ours in Him. Hallelujah!Photo Credit: The Gingham Apron

Worship with me.

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
[x2]

[Chorus:]
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise*

*Lyrics and Chords to I Will Rise – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, and Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin Talks About I Will Rise

YouTube Video – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin (Live)

YouTube Video – Laura Story – Open Hands (Lyric Video) ft. Mac Powell

YouTube Video – The Broken Way – A Daring Path into the Abundant Life – Take the Dare

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – DebMillsWriter

New Year’s Day – Rewind – Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry

Blog - Mom's funeral“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

It’s New Year’s Day – the first day of 2017. Yet, this Christmas was altered with the death of our father. All the observances of family gathering and celebrating his life sidelined some of Christmas for us. There just wasn’t room in our hearts for both. This leaves me, on New Year’s Day, not quite ready to close Christmas for 2016…including savoring the memories, not just of Dad, but of Mom as well.

[Following adapted from a previous blog]

It’s been 14 Christmases since Mom died. With all the joy that’s wrapped up in the great gift of being her daughter, there is that mix of sadness, especially at Christmas. I miss her still. After 14 years.

This Christmas, we have two wee grandchildren. What a gift again are these little ones. I knew it would be so from all around me with grandchildren…and I knew it first because of the deep joy her grandchildren brought to Mom.

When we boarded a plane, over 20 years ago, taking 3 of those grandchildren overseas, there were tears all around. We would miss so many Christmases together. Joy and sadness are a strange mixture but a deeply human, common experience. Common to us all.

As we celebrate the wonder of Christmas – the birth of the Messiah, the Savior – we know penetrating joy, infusing and informing all else in our lives. Entangled in that joy are the sorrows – the family we won’t have with us this year, the disappointments we never imagined, the loves in our life fighting to live to another Christmas.

So many stories we bring to the table with us. So many longings are unwrapped along with the gifts under the tree. There is an unspeakable silence in the Silent Night of Christmas… Both the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ and the ache of dealing with what is not yet.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other in the sorrow and the joy… We are all together in this very human in-between.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? …But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all. But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness.” – Mary Carver

Blog - When Christmas is Hard - Holley Gerth - 90.5 PERPhoto Credit: Positive Hits PER

Singer/songwriters Mandisa and Matthew West collaborated on the song Christmas Makes Me Cry. It’s not a worship song but more a narrative on our lives. Still, it takes us to the God of all comfort.

Worship with me as we pause a moment in this celebration of Christmas and reflect on the side of it that brings tears, either on the inside…or out…tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

I think of loved ones who’ve passed away
And I pray they’re resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder why it’s them instead of me
But for my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family, I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
‘Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that’s why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness and tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me
Oh, sometimes Christmas makes me
Christmas makes me cry
Christmas makes me cry *

YouTube Video – Christmas Makes Me Cry – With Lyrics

*Lyrics to Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Jason & ChristmasMundane Faithfulness Podcast with Blythe Hunt as Jason talks about  community-building, grief, processing loss with children, and his first Christmas without Kara.

Just Drop the Blanket by Jason Soroski

Saturday Short – One Year Ending, Another Beginning – and Those We Love

We close out this year – 2016 – with one missing. Dad, and Papa, died on Christmas Day. I have written about him many times…today I write about what he leaves behind.

Death is strange – even for those of us who have lives transformed by God and who trust His Word that we will be with Him forever in Heaven. Death feels final…and solitary… Dad is not with us, yet we gather because of him. We grieve together…we will miss him together.

Already a father of five, our dad took on four more children when he married our mom. For decades now, nine children grew up and through adulthood under his influence. We and our children are linked because of this man…some loosely, some tightly.

Rend Collective’s album Campfire Christmas – Volume 1 was a gift this year, and the last song is a re-do of Auld Lang Syne. The song For All That You Have Done For Us  is both a perfect benediction for this year…and for what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. In our earthly father in part…and wholly in our Heavenly Father.

Listen (and sing along if you choose) to this prayer and battle-cry.

Verse 1:
Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my soul’s forever song
My story and my light
Verse 2:
From mountaintop to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years
Chorus:
For all that You have done, for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that You have done
Verse 3:
In all our failures and regrets
You’ve always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm
Verse 4:
In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand
Into the great unknown*
…..As we said goodbye (for now) to our father, grandfather, uncle, and friend…we were sobered by the reality of that generation gone from our lives. All the old ones on my side of the family have died…
What’s left?…our faith, our friends, and our family. What comfort…and what joy! I am so thankful to God that He doesn’t leave us alone…ever.
 As you count down to the end of this year and look with hope to the next…may you find yourself surrounded by those who will love you, no matter what…and may you grow closer to a God who transcends suffering and death. In this week of parting…He has come close to us.

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad At His Passing – Grateful to God

Papa on 90th

In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. – Proverbs 14:26

Our dad, George Thomas McAdams, died on Christmas Day. Less than a month before his 94th birthday. He’d been persevering through both cancer and Alzheimer’s for a long time. He died at home with my brother and sister-in-law. When Dad’s condition had deteriorated such that he couldn’t stay in this beautiful assisted living situation he had, these two brought him home with them. They would care for him during “the long goodbye” of both diseases he had.

The hospice team said 3 weeks…it would be three months. I will always be grateful to my family for caring for Dad so well. My multiple trips coming in to assist probably helped me more than them…but those trips are done.

Now we gather and he’s gone.

We are just beginning to grieve fully. In recent years, we grieved by degrees as he lost parts of his memory and and his independence – both of which served him well for most of his long life.

I’ve written about Dad other times. The following glimpse of his life is adapted from a previous blog. [I left the “present tense” verbs…he was…and he is…and we will see him again in Heaven.]

Born in 1923, Dad was six years old at the start of the Great Depression. He would have to drop out of school in the 6th grade to help his father with their farm. He worked alongside his little sister and marveled how she seemed to always pick more cotton than he did in a day. A mischief was born in my dad in those days that continues today. When he and his sister talk about these lean years growing up, they both have such a joy in them remembering those days. This sweet aunt also has Alzheimer’s, and although her memory, like Dad’s, has worsened, her personality continues to be untouched, again like Dad’s. It’s such a joy for me to see her face light up when Dad remembers a story that she also remembers. Blog - Dad & Aunt Rosie[Dad with his beloved little sister Rosie – both with Alzheimer’s in their last years, both dying within months of each other]

Dad only finished 6th grade, but he schooled himself in life, learning farming from his dad, and then in the years since, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work. To me, he could always do anything.

As a teen, he went with the Civilian Conservation Corps and  worked on various road and park projects with other young men. Then he joined the Army during World War II. He fought in the Hedgerow (or Hedge Grove) Battles of Normandy with the 315th Infantry. He was a machine gunner and worked with a rocket launcher team. When we were younger, Dad wouldn’t talk about the war, but in his elder years, and until Alzheimer’s dulled his memory of details, he would tell us about those days. He even once had a brief conversation with General George Patton. His stories sent me searching for details about those battles. Amazing stories.Dad in Military - BLog

He married very young and has 5 children from his first marriage. [They have their own stories and memories which make Dad’s passing hard as well.] Some years later, when he married my mom, he took on her four children.  He’s the only dad I’ve ever known. I’m so grateful for his love, and work ethic, and determination in life. He and mom made a good team. The years of growing up with them married were the years that I learned about Jesus and became a Christ-follower.Blog - Debbie, Mom, & Dad (2)

Dad always had a servant heart. If he wasn’t out on a service truck somewhere helping someone, he was on the phone, talking someone through how to fix something. Like I said, he loved to work, and never minded calls from family, friends, neighbors who needed him.Dad - Blog

He and my mom would do a lot of serving together. They were very active in their church and also had a special heart for widows and the elderly. Their home was always open to people who needed a good meal or an encouraging word. Mom and Dad cared for her older brother and wife, as well as an elderly friend. Two grandchildren also lived with them for awhile, along with their dad (my oldest brother) during a difficult time of his own.Mom pictures for website 014aMom and Dad traveled overseas together to see other grandchildren (that would be our children) while we were living in Egypt and then in Tunisia. Then Mom was diagnosed with cancer and for the three years she endured that disease, Dad was right there for her. We were home the last year, and as hard as it was for all of us having to say goodbye to Mom, we were so touched by the sweet love they had through all of it. Dad would come twice more to see us, while we lived in Morocco, before he put his passport away.Dad - 2009 - Blog - Checkers

Dad has always been a character. Until his health started flagging (having had two cancers and severe cardiac issues), he was remarkably strong for his age. He says it’s from all the hard work he did all his life, and I believe him. He loves the Atlanta Braves (especially the years of Chipper Jones) and Southern Gospel music (the Gaither’s, in particular). I have never beat him in checkers. In fact, the only one who I knew could beat him was Mom. We don’t play checkers any more because when his memory started dimming, I didn’t want to take the chance that I might win. It would be so wrong.Dad & some of the grands on his 90th bday - Blog

He LOVES his grandchildren and great-grands. Full stop.  Blog - Dad & grandchildren - Jaden

Before his eyesight worsened, he read the Bible most days (studying his Sunday School lesson) and he read the newspaper every day. He loved to go out to  eat – fried fish, okra, chicken livers (emphasis on fried) and hot dogs at The Varsity. He had coffee every morning and loved whatever anyone set before him (his favorite being a sausage egg biscuit from Martin’s). The servers all knew him at his favorite local restaurants, and it was fun just sitting across from him, as they came around to wait our table and just to talk. He preferred Ford pickup trucks and always wanted a red one (his last truck would be a red pickup but this time a Dodge Ram). He had a poster of a red Ford truck on his bedroom wall for as long as I can remember. Blog - Dad or Papa - red Ford pickup truck (2)

At 92, Dad entered assisted living. Dad, Steph, & I with Mr. Wally at assisted living - Blog

All the family, his pastor, and friends would make it a good transition for him. He will make a place for himself there, and we will all come see him and tell the stories back to him that he’s told us all these long years.

2013 January Papa's 90th Birthday - Dad sleeping - BLog (2)

 I have a little of Dad’s mischief in me because one of the things I do that annoys my family is to take pictures of them when they’re napping. Just like we love to watch children sweetly sleeping, that’s what moves me to capture these images. There in the middle of all his loud family gathered happily for his 90th birthday, Dad nods off. Maybe because of all the cake he put away (did I mention his sweet tooth?)…but more so, I think he sleeps safe in the sweet company of those who love him.

Finally, I love his hands. He used to have rough, work-worn hands. Strong and capable. Now, they are soft…and not so strong. That doesn’t matter. They are still beautiful…and now we hold his hands, like he once held ours. How thankful we all are that he’s still with us…in this different season of life.Dad's hands edited - Blog

With the ravages of cancer, his age maybe, and Alzheimer’s Disease, Dad became very small before he died. Still amazingly strong, but small. Never mind that. We celebrate this man across the long years God gave him.  He’s had a very large life.

Understanding Alzheimer’s in 3 Minutes (video)

Alzheimer’s Disease – Caregiver Advice by Marie Marley, Author of Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy

5 Tips for Talking with a Person who has Alzheimer’s

Website for The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care by Virginia Bell & David Troxell

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy Mace & Peter Rabins

Poem – I Am Standing Upon the Seashore – Henry Van Dyke

Photo Credit: Pinterest

5 Friday Faves – Spoken Word, Final Fantasy Guitar Arrangement, Kindness, Becoming a Super Achiever, and Acts of Service

Friday Faves is a highlight of my week. Just like my reading and life experiences are enriched by other writers’ weekly favorite finds, I take pleasure in thinking mine also encourage and even delight you as well sometimes. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks, I’ve run out of steam by week’s end. Travel is part of the drag on my writing, and some grieving over a very ill dad. Not many words to float my faves. Thanks to you who continue to stop by. It means the world to me. Following are five of my favorites for this week…enjoy…

1) Spoken Word – A poetry form, spoken word is defined as “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play, intonation, and voice inflection – includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, and traditional poetry readings”.  Glen Scrivener is poet and performer of spoken word. He’s Australian now living in the UK, so he’s got the accent and all.  He also has to be a very cool minister, given his gift with words that grab the heart. I just discovered him this week as one of his videos crossed my Facebook news-feed. It is entitled Santa Vs. Jesus and follows:

He Came Down and Christmas in Dark Places are two others that will minister to your heart…especially if life isn’t going as you thought it would. You can read more about Glen here and here.Photo Credit: Mackellars

2) Final Fantasy Guitar ArrangementNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has added another haunting arrangement to his guitar repertoire. His inspiration this time was the main theme (“Somnus”) of the video-game Final Fantasy XV. Nathan is an accomplished classical guitarist who has also applied his craft to arranging themes from movies, TV shows, and video games – music he’s loved over the years. I am still astounded at the beauty of these pieces when they are rendered through his skill, heart, and classical guitar. So lovely.

3) Kindness – When you are distracted by the stresses of life, and you’re just not yourself…every kindness is a great mercy. I’ve certainly experienced many over the last year during the illness of my dad. This week was not an exception. Traveling to Georgia to help care for dad, I was struck again at all the kindnesses extended to him by other family members, hospice staff, and friends. His pastor has become a pastor to me even. It got me thinking again of how we teach kindness to our children… I have the book Each Kindness by  Jacquelin Woodson and E. B. Lewis about a young girl, new to a school, who didn’t quite fit in. Although she was kind herself, she was shunned by other children. That tension and the story’s resolution captured so much about the transforming nature of kindness.

Modeling kindness is foundational as children see and then do. Reading about kindness can also strengthen that message. Joanna Goddard and her commenters have listed a treasure trove of books on kindness lessons for children.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead is a sweet story about a man caring uniquely for various animals in the zoo. Also The Empty Pot by Demi speaks of both kindness and truthfulness. Lastly, Mo Willems’ My Friend Is Sad speaks to a tenderness found between true friends. 

What books or experiences do you recommend to help young ones learn to be kind? Please comment below.

4) Becoming a Super Achiever – Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield have authored a book on how any of us might become a “super achiever” – The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Swell. I have not read this book yet (nowhere near a superachiever in this skin…yet). However, thanks to Forbes writer Tanya Prive, we have a great intro to the subject in a quick list of 10.

Photo Credit: Amazon

Sweeney and Gosfield interviewed several highly successful individuals across many fields and discovered ten practices common to “super achievers”. They are:

  • Good Storytelling
  • Dedication to a Vision
  • Listening and Remaining Open
  • Pursuing Happiness
  • Intelligent Persistence
  • Testing Ideas in the Market
  • Fostering a Community
  • Constantly Evolving
  • Managing Emotions
  • Practicing Patience

Read more on each of these from Prive’s article, or better yet, check out the book. From the reviews so far on Amazon, it’s less a “how-to” for us and more a “how they did it” – as a myriad of super achievers tell their stories to the authors…worth the read for me to hear those stories.

5) Acts of Service – Years ago, I read this book 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He talks about how we express and receive love in five major ways – time, touch, gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. My husband, Dave, and I both experience love most deeply through words of affirmation and acts of service. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Christmas is a huge gift-giving holiday in our culture. I’m not the best at that, BUT I understand it, especially for those who experience love most happily through receiving gifts (our youngest son, for example). For me…acts of service and words of affirmation. Now…that can come through gift making or buying. [I need socks, etc., like everyone else.] Or, it can come through the raw work of serving. Dave has taken on a much harder job of giving me a requested act of service for Christmas, and the time he’s putting into it is already like receiving this gift every day, even before Christmas arrives. I won’t go into details, but we are both “pilers“. It’s just hard for us to expediently go through and get rid of stuff we’re no longer using. Order is a lovely thing, and as we get older, it is even more calming to a stressed and tired mind. He is giving the gift of “order” to me this Christmas…and hasn’t even asked the same from me. What love!!Photo Credit: DawsonandDawsonInc

So….there you have it…another Five Friday Faves…and on a Saturday. That’s just the kind of week it’s been. Enjoy the rest of your weekend…and receive every kindness as the gift it’s meant to be.