Category Archives: Books

Monday Morning Moment – Empowered People – Reckoning with a Victim Identity

Photo Credit: The Minds Journal

We hold the doors open for each other.

In recent days, I’ve marveled at common spaces we share in the world.

Out early in the morning, we pull into Wawa for coffee,  and gas if we need it (maybe where you are the gas station/convenience store has another name). On the way to our jobs or appointments. We wait on each other topping off our coffee per personal preferences. We share spaces. We check out together.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In the line at UPS, we wait. We are there to mail packages, return items, or maybe get a passport picture. We wait together. Young and old. Latino, Asian, Black, White. We wait and we hold the door open for each other.

Sitting or standing in the crowded reception area of the local free clinic, we wait to be seen. Again, a wide mix of people. All of whom, except for me, were not born in the US. [I was there with an Afghani refugee lady, helping her get medical services.] All of us there having successfully jumped through the hoops of obtaining that first appointment. We have this in common. We share this comradery.

We hold the doors open for each other.

In all these situations…and others…we are people with stories not necessarily known and yet with common threads. We have our stories. Both victim and victor stories. We do not have to choose to be defined by them…especially not the victim stories.

By definition, a victim is someone who has been injured, harmed, has suffered as a result of circumstances or what we consider to be disrespectful behavior from others. Linda and Charlie Bloom

The Victim Identity: Signs and How to Recover – Linda and Charlie Bloom [Quick read in 3 parts. Excellent resource.]

Maybe it’s different where you are in the world, but in our current socio-political system and culture, we are grappling with critical theory – the push to believe that all of humanity is either in the oppressor camp or the oppressed camp.

Deconstructing Critical Theory: Oppressed and Oppressor – Kevin Watson

Are there oppressors in the world? Absolutely. Are there those who are or have been oppressed? Unfortunately, also yes.

However, we, as peoples, are neither only oppressed or oppressor, in our fullest identities. We can rise up; not pointing fingers at each other, but in a larger understanding of one another. Not being subservient to either worldview.

Overcomers…

For those of us who have capacity and capability to help others, we help most effectively and comprehensively by influencing a pathway forward for those who have identified themselves as victims.

Or maybe the victim mindset was thrust upon some. A very wise person said to me just this morning, “If you want to ‘control’ people, convince them they are victims”.

Think about it…that is definitely oppressor behavior…and yet sometimes it is communicated by those in positions of power or influence who seem the most benevolent.

  Photo Credit: Courtney Wadley

As for doors? Most doors are closed; that’s their nature. That is their purpose. No added meaning. Sometimes, oppressors lock doors and control who goes through. Those who primarily think of themselves as victims may feel intimidated or persecuted at the prospect of prying open the door. If we look at doors as both giving access and protecting from evil (whatever that is), we use them accordingly. Most people, thankfully, hold the doors open for each other…and will continue to do so no matter how culture changes.

How we self-identify matters, in terms of a way forward. When we see ourselves as victims, our sense of agency or self-empowerment is diminished by our own mindset. Then there are the myriad of messages calling us to align ourselves with victimhood. These messages come from both well-meaning people and those who would seek to pigeon-hole us in ways we can be exploited.

All the scenarios mentioned at the start of this piece have stories attached to them. I don’t know those stories, but I do know many others. We all do. Telling and living our stories truly make for real legacy, for ourselves and our children.

Bad things have happened to us (some more than others). We can learn from each other if we are willing.

A victim mindset imprisons both the one who was harmed and the one who did the harming…as well as those in between who want to help but may not know how…yet. What a difference if we can empower rather than impoverish. Embrace CommunitiesWendy McCaig trains people to understand and operate with this worldview. Away from identifying victims and just doing “for” people as if they can’t possibly do for themselves. She lives and teaches to do “with” people, together discovering giftings and orchestrating opportunities to express those giftings (along the way, strengthening their families and communities).

In this way, we hold the doors open for each other.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How I Stopped Being a ‘Victim’ and Restarted My Life – Arman Abrahimzadeh

How to Know if Your Victimhood Has Become Your Identity – Rick Thomas

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Sunday Reflection – Am I My Brother’s Keeper? On Neglect – Part 1  and Part 2 – Deb Mills

5 Friday Faves – Catwoman on Classical Guitar, The Ethical Skeptic & Lying, Notes to Self, Celebrating, and American Idol Highlights

Here we go! My faves of the week that flew by! What were some of yours? Post them in Comments so we can learn from you.

1) Catwoman on Classical GuitarThe Batman is the latest film in the franchise. Catwoman is one of Batman’s crime-fighting partners. I didn’t see the film and probably won’t. Too dark for me, but the music…wow! Composer Michael Giacchino worked his magic again in laying down the emotional themes for this movie. Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills does his own magic covering the Catwoman theme. Enjoy!

2) The Ethical Skeptic & Lying – I like Twitter. It has an underbelly for sure but I have found all sorts of knowledgeable influencers there that news/social media would never highlight. One such person is @EthicalSkeptic. He doesn’t name himself for professional reasons, but he helped me with some of my own misgivings about our mitigation of COVID.  Just looking at the problem globally, we seemed not to have done as well as we should given our technology and wealth.

The Ethical Skeptic is, by his Twitter bio and his writing, as he calls himself, skeptical. His focus on ethics is compelling. I actually never read his blog until just now. His latest piece, The Antiwisdom of Crowds, was fascinating. He draws on the research on lying done by the Paul Ekman Group (link below) and takes it farther in regards to crowd thinking and behavior.

Why Do People Lie? – 9 Motives for Telling Lies – Paul Ekman

Lie to Me – award-winning TV series inspired by Dr. Ekman

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

The Ethical Skeptic writes:

Specifically, people lie in order to

  • attain or preserve something precious,
  • win or preserve the admiration of others, or
  • exercise power over others by controlling the information their target can access.

When a group in authority, seeks to exercise or preserve that authority, all these ubiquitous human factors not only come into play, but moreover become part of the re-enforced culture of the club itself. It’s alright to lie a little. After all, it’s for the club, it’s for science, it’s for virtue, and besides everyone in the club is also doing it.

…over time a syndicate or collective party will therefore be more likely to also be inhabited by a number of accrued false paradigms. Tangled webs which themselves must also be protected by means of more lies. This is what makes the silence of embargo a much more sustainable tactic than mere lying. Individuals then are innoculated by this collective antiwisdom…

This is just a taste of The Ethical Skeptic’s thinking. I don’t agree nor understand all of what he is saying in his substantive body of work BUT I resonate with much of it. If you want a good sense of how deep your vocabulary is, read his blog (rather, essays). He actually often gives definitions because honestly, it is stretching (or at least for me) to grasp all of what he is saying.

Lying has become a common and horrifying problem in our culture. Is it possible people don’t believe each other anymore? Or don’t trust what we’re saying when all we want is to be faithful to what is true? Or is it possible that people {the “crowd”] believe too easily what someone is saying? I would love to hear your take on this.

[Sidebar: the link below, including the comments that followed, shows something of an ethical experience he had involving the church, as well as some of his thinking about God and the Scriptures. It is hard to say how I feel about the whole of it…but his thinking is intriguing…so as not to confuse my readers, the God of the Scriptures and the Book itself have never led me down a bad path. Ever.]

The Riddle of Sin – The Ethical Skeptic

3) Notes to Self – So there’s this sock company called Notes to Self. Laura Schmidt is the owner/creator of this brilliant venture – “What you say to yourself matters!” I LOVE the idea of notes to self because it’s actually a daily habit of my own. Wearing socks that give affirmation for the day is a very sweet idea. Now they aren’t cheap ($15/pair, but like many companies, the price you pay helps others who can’t). Full disclosure: I got my socks by way of a charity thrift situation. They are wonderful socks! High quality! Comfy and encouraging! May reconsider the price tag as Christmas comes closer. Great socks and, again, a super sweet idea.

 

4) Celebrating – This weekend we’ll be celebrating moms (dates vary depending on country, of course). It’s a true phenomenon because 1) we all have a mom, and 2) many of us are moms or act in some mommish role. AND it mostly gets celebrated.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarah DeJarnette

Just the commercialism of this day greases the tracks for celebrating. I wish we celebrated more…not just moms, but dads, aunts and uncles (either real or stand-ins), children (born and not yet born), as well as great work teams, volunteers, and neighbors.

Celebrating is tremendously humanizing and the time it takes is so little compared to the outcomes. If the celebration is genuine and much-deserved. It’s one of those efforts that, like the tide, “raises all boats”.

Here’s to the two closest moms in my life – my own and the one I got when I married. So grateful for them.

Here’s to the moms I also get in marriage (my two married kids’ moms-in-law). Again, so grateful for them.

Finally here’s to the kids who made me a mom. So grateful for them!

5) American Idol Highlights –This is the 20th season of reality TV show American Idol. The young contestants are vying for a record contract and, even for those who don’t win, national exposure of their amazing musicianship. The music is really good, and we learn about genres we wouldn’t normally listen to. Below find a couple of highlights from a recent show, as well as one of the videos from a previous American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. I need to listen to more country music.

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. Much love!

Bonuses:Photo Credit: Picture Quotes

For the Joy!! – Kattie Normand, Facebook

8 of the Best Cognitive Therapy Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind – Eva Lewis

Being Known Podcast – Season 4, Episode 10: Healing Trauma: the Power of Presence – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

YouTube Video – Introduction to 8 Keys to Safe Trauma RecoveryBabette Rothschild

8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery – Babette Rothschild – Review by Ruby Usman

Why Make Your Life So Complicated? [25 Ways to Simplify Your Life] – Frank Sonnenberg

40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Monday Morning Moment – Who Needs Sharpening?

We lose our edge sometimes.

Once a month I volunteer to teach in the children’s program at church. Second through fifth graders. They happily burn through a lot of activities in a short amount of time, for sure. When I opened the supply cabinet to retrieve colored pencils for them, the image above is what I discovered. Now, to be sure, we still had enough colored pencils, but it struck me with the thought of how life itself renders us in need of sharpening.

We lose our edge sometimes with the press and pressures of daily responsibilities and relationships. We get dull, and we don’t even see it in ourselves. What a blessing to have people in our lives who not only know and love us enough to speak truth to us, but who also lean in and help us out of the ditches or ruts in our lives…before we decide just to stay camped there.

Counselor, writer Barry Pearman posted a practical and easy read: Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health. He tackles this topic of sharpening and offers a 5-point solution:

  1. Recognize our need for help. This may come from another’s assessment or our own awareness of a growing fatigue and disengagement.
  2. Lean in to sharpening with someone you trust. Once our quality of life or relationships gives notice that we have gotten ourselves into a rut, ditch, or dull place, we may be able to turn it around without help. However, having a partner in “sharpening” our lives speeds and enhances the whole process.
  3. Beware of how the past shapes our responses (and dulls our edge – these can be past inclinations, besetting sins, defaults – the ruts and ditches we’re prone to fall into). Pearman asks what is our true north and where are we on that thinking compass.
  4. Develop habits of sharpening. What practices each day can be a refresh for us? [This is what Stephen Covey prescribed in his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The article by The 10-minute Leader gives quick helps for habit formation in this area of sharpening.
  5. Keep accountable within community. Seek out a small group of like-minded and like-focused individuals who practice iron sharpening iron with each other. “Sharpening the saw”, as Covey calls it, will make sparks fly. We need people who are committed to each other in such a way they just don’t leave the room.

If you got a bit tired reading these 5 points, you may need sharpening. Not to improve productivity necessarily (that’s not what we’re talking about here), but to improve your well-being. Your joy in life. Your relationships. No judging here, by the way. We all need sharpening as part of life. We can’t always see it ourselves…but once recognized, we can act on restoring beauty and balance in our lives.

Photo Credit: FranklinCovey, Stephen Covey, Kim Kerrigan

Would you consider it? Talk to someone you trust. As for the problem of pencils above? I actually think some of them were still usable. For the others? I ordered a best-of-the-best electric pencil sharpener…we’ll see how long it lasts. [Comment below if you want to recommend one…for the next time our sharpener dies. Fortunately for us, when we need sharpening…no purchase is necessary.

10 Ways to Sharpen the Spiritual Saw – Jean Wise

The 7 Habits: Sharpening the Saw – Brett & Kate McKay

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Does Batman, the Hard-won Wisdom of Erik Weihenmayer, Without Grumbling, Parenting & Grandparenting, and Urban Farming

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond the Guitar Does Batman – Nathan‘s latest. Enjoy the music below and all his other sweet pieces at Beyond the Guitar‘s YouTube channel.

…and this one.

2) The Hard-won Wisdom of Erik Weihenmayer – We had the great joy of hearing Erik Weihenmayer speak at The Richmond Forum this past week. He is a climber, kayaker, and biker, among other sports, AND he is blind. That distinctive is huge, but even so he doesn’t talk about his adventuring life as executing one impossible stunt after another. He speaks from a deeper place that we can all understand. He talks about the meaning of struggle and the advantage of adversity (even has a book with that title). His persuasive take on how one uses struggle to grow and reach beyond where we are at the moment is both inspiring and emboldening.

Below please note just a few of his wise words, and then find and watch the films, and read his books, where he discovers and fleshes out this wisdom.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

There is a very blurry line between the things we can’t do and the things that we can.

You don’t just deal with adversity. You use it to propel you forward.

I found climbing to be a very tactile sport. There’s no ball that is zipping through the air ready to crack you in the head. It is just you and the rock base.

I have a variety of friends I climb with. But the common thing is I trust all of them. They’re solid climbers, the sort of people I trust to know what they’re doing.

You can’t always get out on the mountain, so I’ll put rubber on the end of my ice tools and climb the tread wall, a rotating rock wall I have in my backyard.

I’ve been lucky to have lots and lots of mentors. I think that is incredibly important in anyone’s life to encourage and inspire them, let them understand that their own potential is a reality that they can strive for.

What a thrill to be able to say that you had a contribution in the life of someone – a young person, perhaps, who is trying to take a look at the possibility of their own lives and find out what they are good at and you can help steer their career.

The key is to really have tremendously high expectations and to teach kids how to be self sufficient and confident and give them the skills that they need to succeed.Erik Weihenmayer

3) Without Grumbling – Which comes first – anger or grumbling? Or is it a more subtle but growing discontent? When does occasional complaining settle into a set habit of grumbling? What does grumbling communicate to our own minds and to others within hearing?

I’ve written plenty on complaining, grumbling, and negative thinking, in general (see links below). It can absolutely change the wiring in our brains. In my younger years, I always looking for the good and the beautiful in a person/situation…and I found it. Now, as an older person, my temptation is more toward darker thinking. This is NOT where I want to stay.Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Below is a beautiful bit of writer Trevin Wax‘s post on grumbling and joy (it is geared toward Christians but there is wisdom for all of life here).

In Philippians 2:6–11, Paul commands the church to adopt the same mind of our risen Lord.  And his first command is, “Don’t grumble.”
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14–15)
Why start with grumbling? We might expect an exhortation to spiritual disciplines, or strategies for thriving as pure and faultless people in a sinful world. And yes, Paul does speak about blamelessness and purity and holding firm to the word of life (Philippians 2:16). But this purity in action is somehow connected to the first command to do everything without grumbling. Somehow, grumbling will keep us from faithfulness.
Why start here? Because Paul knows the story of Israel.
Remember the children of Israel? They chose grumbling over gratitude. Grumbling stalled their journey and led to actions that were anything but “blameless and innocent.”
Whether we are given suffering, chains, imprisonment, or worse (Hebrews 11:36–38), or whether we conquer kingdoms, stop the mouths of lions, escape the sword, and put armies to flight (Hebrews 11:33–34), we must know that only joy in and gratitude to Jesus will win the war for our culture…Yes, we may face obstacles, setbacks, and tough days ahead. But in it all, and under it all, we are also joyful. And this cheerful courage comes not from ignoring darkness or looking only for the bright side, but from believing that the Light will overcome the dark.
Do you want to shine like stars? Then do everything without grumbling.

Trevin Wax, Facebook, March 27, 2022

Monday Morning Moment – Life & Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Them and Us, How Can That Be? Could Them and Us Become a We? – Deb Mills

How Changing This One Bad Habit Changed Our Home for Good – Complaining

Blog - Work Culture - delta7Photo Credit: Delta 7

4) Parenting & Grandparenting – Who are the adults in your home? Usually we think of them as parents, but maybe they are grandparents, aunts/uncles, older siblings, or some other configuration of guardian. When our daughter taught elementary school, she never presumed her students’ parents would be the ones showing up at the parent-teacher conference. The most important issue is that there is one or more adult in the home who is doing the parenting.

Writer Vikki Claflin contrasts parents and grandparents this way:

“Parenting is hard. It’s basically 18 years of schooling an often-recalcitrant young human into how to be a socially acceptable, productive member of the community.

Grandparenting, however, is less goal-oriented. We are not actually raising the future of our country…Simply put, we are not responsible for the way they turn out. That’s the parents’ job, and we’ve already done it. Now it’s just fun.”

14 Contrasts Between Parenting and Grandparenting – Vikki Claflin

Imagine how your children (or you, as a child) didn’t have those adults who took the responsibility for the way we/our children turned out. Claflin lists 14 lessons that might be missed without parenting. Check those out and think about the many others that could be missed…including resolving conflict and a reasonable bedtime.

I love being a grandparent, making fun memories and lavishing love on our grands. However, I’m thankful that they have parents holding the hard line on the things they especially need from their mom and dad. For you grandparents acting in the role of parents, you are doing a huge work. Whatever circumstance foisted this work on you, you will never regret fully embracing it. Kids need raisin’. By someone.

Do you have families in your lives where although adults are in the home, they struggle to stay on top of the growing up of their children? Leaning in as loving mentors of both the adults and children (if you’re allowed) can make a huge difference.

Monday Morning Moment – Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life – Deb Mills

Parenting – the Way We Did It and the Way the French Do It – Bringing Up Bébé – Deb Mills

Routines, Rituals, & Rhythms of Life – 10 Disciplines that Can Help Us Reclaim Our Life for Good – Deb Mills

5) Urban Farming – In our years in Casablanca, Morocco, we were able to participate in an urban gardening venture. The weather and seasons were perfect for growing vegetables and herbs in containers on apartment balconies.  We lived in a house and had a compost bin in our backyard in support of this food venture.

[A funny story attached to this: Months into composting, I was concerned that rats were devouring the vegetable and fruit peelings tossed into the bin every night. The next morning, those peelings were gone. Then one night, I was late putting the last of the day’s vegetable leavings into the bin. Coming close, I heard sounds coming from atop the compost. Going back into the house, I brought out a flashlight. The top of the bin was shiny black with what must have been hundreds of African beetles. At the light, they scurried, burying themselves below the surface. I couldn’t deal…so we dismantled the compost bin the next day. Sigh…]Photo Credit: Bug Spray

However, we have an excellent compost bin now and use its rich product in our garden every year.

Urban agriculturist and farm manager Allison Hurst showcases the work of Church Hill Activities & Tutoring (C.H.A.T.) and Legacy Farm in the video below. The efforts of these two organizations is changing the culture of what has been a food desert in our city. Exciting and enlightening.

Front Porch RVA

___________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot. Also any of your own faves, share in Comments.

Bonuses:

Singing the Blues with Kevin Gullage:

Fighting with My Family – fun film about wrestling

Monday Morning Moment – Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer Talks the Struggle of Life and the Advantage of Adversity

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

There was something about his eyes. Knowing already that adventurer Erik Weihenmayer is blind, I still couldn’t get over his eyes – there is searching and wonder in his whole face…which could describe the life he has carved out for himself.

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

Erik became blind in his early teen’s. Yet even then, he refused to let go of whatever it was he could do, even blind. He wrestled on his high school team and welcomed the sport of rock climbing. He discovered his hands and feet could become his eyes on rock walls…and later ice cliffs.

Dave and I had the great good of hearing Erik speak this weekend at The Richmond Forum. We were fully prepared to spend the evening listening to him regale on his incredible adventurer’s life. What it has been like to be blind and yet to accomplish such feats as climb to the summit of Mt. Everest or kayak the river rapids through the Grand Canyon.

He did not disappoint on that, but deeper still was how he reflected on struggle in life, on the advantage of adversity, on the critical nature of having mentors, and the beauty of a ropes team (those holding the ropes for each other, no one just holding for him/herself alone).Photo Credit: Flickr, Didrik Johnck

Here are just some of my takeaways from his insight into life (for all of us not just those aspiring to climb tall mountains):

  • On what’s possible: He has found a way to see what’s possible while others see what’s only in the way. “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in the way.”
  • On struggle: He focused on the struggle in life and how to build mental maps to “navigate forward”. In wrestling with the struggle, in the hours of preparation and practice, you discover what barriers are more easily overcome and what still remain to be conquered. [Learn more about his organization No Barriers here.]
  • On quitters, campers, & climbers: He talked about three types of people in the world: quitters, campers, and climbers. [This is also covered in his book with Paul StoltzAdversity Advantage.] Erik believes we all start out as climbers but how we deal with the barriers in life separate us out over time. Quitters essentially just give up on the ascent (whatever that means for them). Campers work hard toward a certain level. Then they make the decision that it’s enough and put up their tent right there. Climbers are the few who keep learning, and growing, and pressing forward…committed not just to the summit but to fulfilling their life purpose. Climbers are those who can say, “I gave it my all”. He challenged the audience to ask themselves who they are and who they want to be.
  • On choosing our response: Growing up, Erik dealt with his fear of being left behind or put in a corner (because he was blind). He quoted Victor Frankl about how we deal with what we’re given in life: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
  • On reach: There is a reach common to all of us. What we do with it determines our outcomes. We are tempted to stop reaching when we fear failure or falling short.
  • On adversity: When we keep climbing, keep reaching, adversity follows. Rather than fall to hopelessness, we must attack the adversities – the small ones and on to the most complex ones.
  • On teams: “Ropes teams” are invaluable. No one gets to the summit alone. Erik extolled the essential ingredient of trust in a good team. Do you trust your team? Are you linked together behind one vision? Everyone doing what each needs to do for the sake of the team? In climbing, if one hiker starts falling, the climbers on each end do what is necessary to stop them one from falling, for his sake, for theirs and for the whole team, Such a good word for any of us.
  • On fear: Try to do something a little courageous. Small acts of courage lead to big ones. He struggles with fear. What he’s learned in life is that over time, as you prepare yourself for whatever is ahead, fear moves to the periphery, and you have room for awareness, focus, gratitude.
  • On parenting: His counsel to parents was brilliant. “Help your kids develop executive leadership skills. Go explore but be responsible…Don’t let love become a prison…Get kids out there doing something bigger than them. Get them socialized to real life…There are consequences to mouthing off to an older brother”.

I could have listened for hours still. Capture for yourself what Erik has learned about struggle, adversity, and the importance of purpose and people in our lives. You can find some YouTube videos, but his books, documentaries, and podcast give you a deeper dive.

I’ll close with two last quotes from him, and one by writer Ryan Holiday.

“There’s a very blurry line between the things we can’t do and the things we can.” – Erik Weihenmayer
“Adversity alone has the unique power to inspire exceptional clarity, purge any vestiges of lethargy, refocus your priorities, hone your character, and unleash your most potent forces.” – Erik Weihenmayer, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness

“It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic. Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good. Because it can be done. In fact, it has and is being done. Every day.” – Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

5 Friday Faves – Beyond Grumpiness, the Coming of Spring, Shame as Our Personal Assistant, Vulnerability, and Great Marriage Advice

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond Grumpiness –A friend of mine pointed this blog to me today and it bumped its way to the top of my Faves. English professor Alan Jacobs mused about the grumpiness of old people. I don’t know when it happens and why exactly it happens, but it is something that has happened to me of late…and I don’t think I’m old enough yet for it to happen.

Photo Credit: Stream

Here’s a bit of what Dr. Jacobs says about grumpiness, but you should read his whole piece, especially if you’re finding yourself becoming grumpy (whatever age you are).

“I think the explanation for such widespread grumpiness is fairly simple…It’s not the big foul acts or horribly cruel words that do you in, it’s the slow drip drip drip of little annoyances that become over time a vast sea of frustration. Surely you’ve been there? You become exasperated by someone’s passing comment and when they are genuinely puzzled by your anger over so trivial a matter, you try to explain (apologetically, penitently, I hope) that it wouldn’t be a problem if this thing had happened once but it has happened a thousand times. It’s the repetition that kills you.” [Dr. Jacobs goes on to talk about the divisions on which we’ve taken sides give the sense of being new and revolutionary…and yet they are old divisions revisited.] “You can’t learn from the past if you don’t know what happened in it. So yeah, I’m gradually turning into a grumpy old man. Because nobody learns anything…” [About these things that divide us: We seem to care too much, or too little, or just plain not at all. Dr. Jacobs challenges us to that only truly loving people gives us the right to voice an opinion, and definitely not a shaming one.] “It’s a hard path to walk, this Way of avoiding both indifference and ‘the conscious impotence of rage / At human folly.’ But the hard path is the only real Way. (All the others circle back on themselves.) So I try every day to follow it. I don’t think I could manage even that if I did not have an Advocate to accompany me, to encourage me, and to guide me.” – Alan Jacobs, Beyond Grumpiness

Against Stupidity – Alan Jacobs

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

2) The Coming of Spring –March weather – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. Of course, we’re only mid-way through March, but we have no more predictions of snow. Daffodils bloomed in snow last week, but the winds of March have blown all the rough weather away for now. I’m not rushing Spring, but it is such a beautiful and refreshing time of the year. Here are some pics of our March so far.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski (East Tennessee; we had this same snow but no captures of red cardinals in it.)

3) Shame as our Personal Assistant – In Dr. Curt Thompson‘s excellent book The Soul of Shame: Retelling Stories We Believe About Ourselves, we find the intriguing term shame assistant.

Imagine having a personal assistant who means us only evil. Whispers in our ear of how we’re not prepared enough, not attractive enough, not smart enough…just not enough.

It’s hard not to believe what seems to be coming out of our own reasoned thinking. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not enough.

To defend ourselves, without consciously being aware, we armor up against those thoughts…protecting ourselves from being too exposed to others. Isolating ourselves. This hiding keeps us from community which we need the most in dealing with shame.

At times, we strike out against the shame. Either by punishing ourselves or by blaming someone else for the pain we feel. Again, this further isolates us from others…leaving us alone with the shame attendant of our lives.

There’s good news, though, Friend. See #4.

Shame: Your Inner Attendant – Katelyn Entz

Toxic Shame Has Its Own Neurobiology. The Gospel Offers a Cure – Werner Mischke

4) Vulnerability – Curt Thompson spends a chapter in his book on the remedy for shame. It is vulnerability. How do we convince ourselves, all armored up against being exposed that the path to healing is dropping the armor? Here’s the thing: armor or no, we are vulnerable. Period. Full stop. We can’t keep shame at a distance. It crouches at our mind’s door, ready at a moment’s notice, to destroy our peace…and diminish our relationships.

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson MD, Instagram

“To be vulnerable is not first something we choose. It is something we are.”* We are vulnerable. It is our state of being. We spend an enormous amount of energy protecting it. We can be free of this.

*Being Known Podcast – Vulnerability – Season 1, Episode 3

You know how we teach little ones to say, “Please” and “Thank you”? These aren’t just practices of good manners. They are actually acknowledgements of our vulnerability from an early age. Little ones have to ask for what they can’t get on their own, and then they express gratitude that their need was seen and responded to.

Our willingness to be openly vulnerable within community moves us toward intimacy. “Vulnerability creates opportunity for connection.” When we don’t avail ourselves to these opportunities, we just stay in our protective armor. Opening up to a trusted friend or small group emboldens us to tell our stories and recognize that the stinging words of shame don’t belong to us. We matter. We are enough. Being able to share such things with people who will NOT leave the room gives us the courage to then be more vulnerable with others – like our boss, or professor, or estranged family member.

Dr. Thompson also talks about the other side of being vulnerable – when we are the ones others are being vulnerable with. We may want to move away from the awkwardness of that kind of disclosure. Or we may want to try to fix it which early on is more to help ourselves dealing with the discomfort than the one sharing. “What they most need from us is our empathic presence…” To lean in, to demonstrate that they are being seen, and to connect with them, and validate what they are feeling, to see them in whatever the hard is for them in being vulnerable. In the end, we may ask how we can be helpful but we don’t go right there in the immediate of their telling their story.

This is vulnerability and it moves us to healing, to community, and to joy.

5) Great Marriage Advice – Marriage…whew! Earlier in my adult life, I always cringed at the observation that marriage is work. It didn’t look like work, and having the opportunity to share life with your special person seemed more joy than labor. Then I got married.

It is joy and it is work…not in the dull, redundant sort of work we may have from time to time…but the challenging, invigorating, problem-solving, “in it to win it” kind of work.

I happened across a sweet thread on Jane Lewis’ Twitter page. She reached out to her followers for marriage wisdom. Lots of response!

Below are just some of them…the ones I especially found valuable:

“No one”……and I mean “no one” can read your mind!

Develop and maintain hobbies independent of each other AND protect the hobbies you do together.

Attack the problem, not the person.

Faith (if you are inclined that way), mutual respect, and honest, loving, open communication are the Big Three that get you through life together.

Don’t take the little things for granted.

There is a challenge to live connected but free with your spouse. I’ve read that your primary job in marriage is to protect your spouse from your control.

My advice is laugh a lot, kiss each other often, and pray for and with each other daily.

Forgive quickly and keep a short memory of the bad. Focus on the good and appreciate him immensely!

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – not just about money, work, chores, kids or health, but also spirituality, fun, world events. 2. Each of you needs ‘me’ time. 3. Do something fun together every week. 4. Sex is great, but marriage is about more than that. 5. Communicate.

Seek to have a quiet heart each day. Thought today of Mary facing extreme excitement (Luke 1:18,19) and deep coming sorrow (Luke 1:35). The Lord is your Keeper in highs and lows.

Don’t criticize or complain about your spouse in public. Smile at the “husbands be like” jokes, but don’t contribute. Be honest & kind. Talk to each other about your problems, not to friends/family. Keep your own hobbies, bank account & bathroom if possible.

Don’t be easily offended. As John Bevere says in his book, it is “The Bate of Satan.”

Stay curious. Keep flirting. Never forget to tell him you appreciate his hard work…never forget the reasons why you fell in love with each other…never forget that you are on the same team.

Neither of you is the same person you will be in 5 years, 20 years, or 45 years. You’re each committing to the version of the person you love now, but you’re also committing to the many versions they will become.

As much as you love him and he loves you, know that you cannot completely fulfill him, nor he fulfill you…it’s unfair to put that burden on either and will only end in heartache.

Have close girlfriends. Be humble when you fight. Hold healthy boundaries. Learn how he processes. Let him be different than you. Stick. Bad times pass. Glorify God. Forgive. Remember marriage is a picture to help us understand Christ’s love for the church. Let that sink in.

Find ways to laugh together and always have compassion for one another.

Find a reason to laugh, fist bump or high five with your spouse everyday.

Mind who you talk about your marriage with and who you listen to about your marriage. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from others who have gone before, but there are also people who you shouldn’t let speak to your marriage.

My advice to a new bride- maintain your friendships.with your girlfriends. He does not want to chit chat, go shopping or do your hair the way your girlfriends do. Keep your girlfriends. He will be happier and so will you.

Hold to your integrity. Trust Jesus w everything. Listen deeply. Celebrate madly. Speak truth in love. Have fun! Pray together. Walk together. Hold hands. Let there be space in your togetherness. Let go & hold on.

Give dignity to your differences. Make adequate space for whatever conversation needs to happen. You’ll both still be there tomorrow, and few things are urgent. Have your own tubes of toothpaste.

An abbreviated quote by Camille Paglia: “Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. (But the world) portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.” Be understanding of his burden.

Talk through how you deal with money and come up with a budget you both agree on. One spouse can pay the bills but both of you should be aware of the state of your finances and financial goals.

You are the same team. In disagreements, in different skill sets and ways of communicating, you are all on the same team. Argue and forgive like teammates. Notice and applaud like teammates. Work out problems and brainstorm like teammates. We use “same team” as shorthand to stop ourselves when we disagree or misunderstand each other. Take a breath and explain what is going on. Learning to argue well, to listen well and be self-aware enough to give names to things and be heard. And give loads of grace.

@janeelisabethh, you have some wise women (and a couple of guys) in your Twitter world. People (and threads) like this are why I am still on Twitter.

Coming up on 38 years with this guy.

___________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Tim Keller

Photo Credit: Instagram, Tim Keller NYC

10 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest After 60 – Rebecca Wilson

Monday Morning Moment – the Rise and Fall of an Empire – Can We Resist the Decline, America?

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

How in the world are we doing as a nation?

As we watch what’s happening around the globe as well as looking inward at our country’s changing culture, how should we then live?

This week, a 43-minute video came to my attention which so fascinated me I shared it widely with friends and family…and now with you.

This YouTube video was created and narrated by Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund and investment firm Bridgewater Associates. It is entitled: Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Ray Dalio. He takes history from the last 500 years and tracks it in a mesmerizing animation depicting the rise and fall of world empires.

What are the factors that move nations to become world powers? What also are the causes of the decline of these powers?

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

His video is essentially a summary of his 2021 book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Why Nations Succeed and Fail. Now if you click on the link to this book, and go to reviews, you will find not all the reviews are glowing. So take heed to the criticism.

Still, I loved this video because it was easy to understand for someone who isn’t much of a historian or, for sure, an economist. His explanation of what lies behind successes and failures of nations seems to line up well with what is happening in the U.S. for sure.

Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

These screenshots from the video give you an idea of what you’ll find should you watch it. So good.

Dalio alludes to economic principles that we can apply to help our nation slow its decline as a world power and possibly even reserve it. He goes into these principles much more in his book, but the two he mentions in the video are quite simple:

  1. Don’t spend more than you make.
  2. Treat people well.

Ridiculously simple, but do we do them? We have had national debt since the start of the U.S. as a nation. However, in recent years our debt has wildly ballooned out of control. Also the whole “treating people well”? The last time we were able to pull together as a nation was probably the attacks of 9/11…over 20 years ago. The division in our country is so deep, it is hard to imagine our being able to come back together. It could happen…and I will keep hoping that’s the case.Photo Credit: Ray Dalio, YouTube

On the graphic above, we see the steady decline of the US and the sharp rise of China. Is this the future? Or are other factors also at play? I think there might be…one in particular, the God of this universe. However, He may choose not to save the US from its own self-induced decline. Only time will tell.

[Postscript: There is a word of wisdom here: don’t spend more than we earn and treat others well. Sound counsel all around.]

Economic Principles – Website linked to Dalio’s best-selling book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order – Why Nations Succeed and Failincluding bonus content not in the book

U.S. National Debt by Year Kimberly Amadeo

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! 

___________________________________________________________________________

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]