Category Archives: Babies & Children

Another Anniversary – a Walk with God as Much as With Each Other

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from the Archives]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

36 years.

The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.

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Our marriage has never been the stuff that would draw much interest on Instagram  or even Facebook. My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in many ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. Opposites. “Read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.

This morning we woke to the last winds and rains of Hurricane Isaias (downgraded to a tropical storm, thankfully). As we shared breakfast, Dave observed that we came through the storm intact.

“Intact through the storm” is a great picture of the hard times in our marriage. I journalled all of it, through the years. In fact, our daughter has been advised about future days when she reads my journals (which she would more than the boys, probably). I told her to read with grace her mom’s emotional and angsty processing of the early years of marriage. [If Dave journalled such things, his would hold as much or more struggle with marriage to me.] We weathered those years, because we were more committed to God than even each other…and we hoped not to leave our children with the legacy of vows broken and relationships torn. God has given grace.

[I know it takes two to hold a marriage together, and there are people we love who suffered divorce never wanting it…so I write carefully, knowing the hardness of that…in my own birth family and with friends persevering past the pain of divorce.]

I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being a “laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.

2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)

Whatever these thirty-plus years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.

2012 December family snapshot 014

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 36 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this 36th. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

YouTube Video – Jesus and You – Matthew West

YouTube Video – Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

Thus Far the Lord has Helped Us – Lisa Nichols Hickman

Sunday Blessing – The Lord Bless You & Keep You – He Is the Waymaker

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”  – Numbers 6:24-26

This wall art (in English and Arabic) hangs beside the door we use most often, receiving and sending out friends and neighbors. It reminds us of the goodness and faithfulness of God and how He means for us to also be His blessing on others.

In this season of listening and learning from God and many voices crying out over our nation in its time of crisis, I got a notification which moved me to post this. It was a Jesus March in the Bronx, New York. It was an event organized by At the Well Ministries, founded by Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes. As we listen and learn, we are not going to agree on all points. It matters that we hear the heart.

These two women are Christ followers. They are publicly and sacrificially pro-life. They are all about saving the lives of black babies and loving on the women (and men) who find themselves in the rock-and-hard-place of seeking abortion.

This is not what today’s march was about. Today they marched for the police in the Bronx. They marched to raise the name of Jesus over their city and over those in law enforcement there and all around our country.

Watch minutes 25:35 – 35:25 for their prayer for the Bronx police and others…and their praise of a way-making God. [At the very end of that segment you will see Bevelyn and Edmee – beautiful sisters.]

If you would like to sing in prayer and praise, below is a lyrics video of these two beautiful songs – The Blessing and Way Maker:

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Verse]
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going

In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Chorus]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

[Bridge 1]
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

[Bridge 2]
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you

[Bridge 3]
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you

[Refrain]
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

Whatever our politics, whatever our opinions…they don’t matter today. What matters is that we reflect the glory of God in our lives – to extravagantly love those who are hurting all around us. In particular, right now, our black neighbors and our law enforcement officers. May we see God work to bring healing. His purposes are not thwarted.

Monday Morning Moment – Protests, Pleading, and Prayers

Photo Credit: John Englart, Flickr

What kind of world do we call home where we can actually watch a man die in minutes, in handcuffs, begging to live? George Floyd died May 25, 2020. We hear of such things in other nations – public murders, executions – but to see them in the US awakens us more to the injustice and the utter wrongness of such situations. No wonder there is so much outrage right now. How we respond to that pain and anger matters…moving us either toward needful unity or worsening division.

How do we respond?

1) Protests – In the US, we have the Constitutional right to right to peaceably assemble and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.  There is a way to protest that gives pause; that rivets our attention; that demands a hearing. A protest that doesn’t destroy its very own cities.

Photo Credit: David Sanabria, Flickr

In Richmond, Virginia, friends on the police force see themselves on the streets, during these protests, there to protect the protesters. So they may be heard.

Whatever turns the protests to violent, destruction raids on businesses and neighborhoods makes the loss of George Floyd and others even more painful.

That’s Not Going to Bring My Brother Back’: George Floyd’s Brother Calls for End to Violence – Janell Ross

Atlanta is where I was born. Hear from this city’s police chief:

2) Pleading – As a mom myself, I’m so thankful for other moms who use what platforms they have to cry out against the evil in this world and call us together for the sake of our children. So many are doing this right now. We have to put our politics aside. People matter more. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used her office to plead with her fellow Atlantans to “go home”. Don’t miss her impassioned appeal below.

Dear White Moms, Here’s What I Need You To Know – Jehava Brown

Now, I don’t believe Senator Susan Collins is a mom but she is a  fearless advocate for change, standing her ground for what she believes is right. Here she is speaking from the Senate floor on killing of George Floyd:

3) Prayers – The Scripture gives us clear direction in this response to the division in our country right now: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to take God’s call to prayer seriously. He calls us to come to Him. He will listen. He will act.Photo Credit: Needpix

Songwriters Andy and Rachel Graham, on a visit to our own divided city, wrote this beautiful prayer song in response:

Cry Out – Susan Lafferty

Photo Credit: Facebook, We Are That Family, Brick House in the City

“Oh God, help us to listen. To You. To those in so much pain around us. Help us to listen. Our words take up space that needs to go to others right now. Help us to listen, Lord. Right now, we see in the news the chant “Take the knee” as police and protestors confront each other. Heavenly Father, we would all do well to take the knee, in humility, before a just and loving God. Forgive us our sin toward each other. Forgive our sin toward You. Thank You for the life of George Floyd. Have mercy, Lord. We need You now. We’ve always needed You…in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday Morning Moment – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Where Are We Now? – Deb Mills

Today’s reading with our grandchildren…

Worship Wednesday – Something So Much Bigger Than Our Fear – Your Presence, Lord – Francesca Battistelli

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Where does fear come from? That fear that tears at our insides and causes our thoughts to scatter and light on the dreaded “what if’s”. That fear that draws us away from the promise of God’s constant care to the wrong thinking that we are left alone…to fend for ourselves and those we love.

It doesn’t come from God. I’ve written several times on one of my favorite and most fear-busting Bible verses, 2 Timothy 1:7. The Apostle Paul reassures us that God isn’t the One who causes us to fear. On the contrary, He actually gives us “power, love, and self-control/sound thinking”.

When we are tempted to fear, the struggle is against three “enemies of the soul” – the world, the evil one (Satan), and/or our own flesh (humanness).

We are presently hemmed in by a pandemic. COVID-19 has many of us on a sort of house arrest. It would be so easy to give into fear. Fear of the disease…fear of one another…fear of our own death or giving the virus to someone else.

Listen to what a pastor friend of mine says about how our core values as Christ-followers can be shaken as we are torn between living “safe” and living obedient to God.

“It is NOT NORMAL to view other humans (or ourselves) as potential carriers of death who must be avoided. To live and maneuver as if there was something so intrinsically deadly about people that we must constantly protect ourselves? This isn’t how human interactions and relationships are supposed to be! Make no mistake, this covid-19 stuff is causing relational trauma and teaching us things we will have to un-learn.

We are going to need time to readjust our thinking and prepare our hearts to be with people again. To allow ourselves to be (at least to a degree) unguarded and open. To look people in the eyes and communicate welcome and warmth, to mirror one another’s body language. To allow ourselves to be soothed by relationship, not threatened by it. To remember that God plans to use people in our lives for good.

We are not designed to adjust to a “new normal” that doesn’t allow for human connection. True, connection might look different for awhile. But we aren’t just biological cells prone to viruses; we are humans – image bearers – who are meant for relationship. Let’s not forget this!”Jared Corrie Burwell, Facebook

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

A couple of days ago, I finally got some needed dental work postponed for two months because of the social distancing. It was a chipped molar requiring a crown.

I am afraid of dental work. Afraid the pain will rip through the anesthetic. Afraid I can’t endure a long procedure. Afraid I could contract a deadly virus. You name it, I could fear it related to dentists.

Does that exhibit “power, love, or sound thinking?” Well, no. God knows this struggle and He keeps his promises. I am the frail one; not Him.

So I prayed…

During that longish time in the chair, I was supposed to be calmed by the repeat video on the screen in front of me. Beach, waves, blue sky. If fear is your foe, that scene can make you want to scream after awhile. Then the playlist…it was actually relaxing. Standard rock music of the 70s and 80s. Oddly, early in the “drilling” part of that experience, a familiar refrain, not from that era, penetrated my focused-elsewhere hearing.

“Your presence, Lord.” From a song I had heard often since it debuted in 2014.

Worship with me today, as I worshiped that day in the dentist chair:

There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
Nothing can compare, You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone
By Your presence, Lord

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness*

God is so kind to His children.

Whatever is causing us to fear at the moment – be it a dentist chair, an alarming symptom for which we await a doctor’s appointment, a complicated marriage, our sense of inadequacy with our children, or the visitation of COVID-19 itself on us or someone we love.

The world is full of stuff to fear, but God is with His. His presence ever with us. He will take us through whatever comes. He will rescue us.

I wish dentists would tell you, “We’re about halfway through…we have about 10 minutes and then you’ll be done.” “Almost over.” That didn’t happen at this visit. Just about the time I was about to ask for “a moment”…to stretch my back, calm my rising panic, and let my mouth relax from all the stretching…one more refrain broke through the 70s-80s songs.

It was the words “I will rescue you.” From singer songwriter Lauren Daigle‘s song “Rescue”.

And then, it was over. Oh, the dental visit lasted a bit longer, but I was calm again.

Some who read this may think I’m such a baby. In light of the huge threat in our world from this pandemic.

Maybe I am a baby…but, thank God, I’m His baby. These baby steps through small pains, small threats, small fears prepare me/us for the larger ones. Remembering that He is with us and He will rescue us… one way or another. Hallelujah!

He will never be shaken.
The righteous one will be remembered forever.
He will not fear bad news;
his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is assured; he will not fear.
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.Psalm 112:6-8

Photo Credit: Roy T. Bennett, Twitter

Do you struggle with fear? How are you handling it? [Comment below.] Believe me, I’m aware of the struggle. Praise God, He is present with us.

*Lyrics to Holy Spirit [Your Presence, Lord] – Songwriters: Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt

Worship Wednesday – My Fear Doesn’t Stand a Chance When I Stand in Your Love – Bethel Music – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle – Deb Mills

Mother’s Day – On Mothering and Grandmothering – a Life of Love, Launching, and Lifting to God

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[Adapted from the Archives]

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she still informs much of how I live life.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t so well. My children are grown, but “mothering” them still flows out at times. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years (we forget the hard days, right?). Still, like my mom, I encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering – a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. Wife of Billy Graham, with the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Blog-Mothers-Day.jpg

Prayers for Our Little Ones

“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

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Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.”Gigi Graham

“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!”Jill Briscoe

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.”Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?” –  Ruth Bell Graham, Prayers from a Mother’s Heart

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May this day not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners not made by our hands. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/MomMom-Nathan-Daniel-2015.jpg

and to my fellow moms-in-law with whom I get to share a sisterhood in love.

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch & Sheila McGraw

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

5 Friday Faves – Love Your Neighbor, Civility and Cooperation, Fish & Chips, Sidewalk Messages, and Spring Came Anyway

Here’s to the weekend. With social distancing and working from home for some of us, the days blur together. For those essential workers out there, thank you so much! Here are my favorite finds this week.

1) Love Your Neighbor – Writer, attorney Justin Whitmel Earley lives what he writes. His piece 9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor in This Pandemic is practical, beautiful, and freeing. Have a read.

Even with social distancing, we are pointed to many different ways we can extend love to our neighbors. The first and foremost is to stay well ourselves and not carry the virus to others. Photo Credit: Facebook, Brooke Anderson, Elaine Lovelace & Associates, Psychological Counseling

After that, local agencies have packed their social media with ways we can help – either in person, if we’re not at risk, and otherwise through online purchases to aid with material needs or delivery of services and support.

Although children are less at risk for contracting the virus, they still are at risk in other ways. See article below.

The Kids Aren’t All Right – Vann R. Newkirk II

I love the message below. In it, Martin Luther displays the wrestling between faith and foolhardiness, or what might be perceived as such (during the Bubonic plague). First we social distance, and then we have to weigh out decisions…when to enter in to help when if not doing so could mean a worse outcome for the someone. Sobering.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Michael Catt

2) Civility and Cooperation – In times like these, voices of reason are prevailing. Lines of political self-interest don’t seem drawn so deeply in the sand. People usually at odds with each other are showing a greater willingness to cooperate and even to be civil. The arguments of whether the Coronavirus is a true threat have quietened. The video below is the best I’ve heard on the difference between this virus and the flu. Don’t miss it.

YouTube Video – Professor Hugh Montgomery on Coronavirus – How Much More Aggressive the Spread Is Than the Flu (same as above)

I am so thankful for how this crisis, like so many before, is pulling us together…acknowledging that there are some things way more important than the issues that divide us.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Barry McCarty

3) Fish & Chips  When we lived overseas, and traveled through London back and forth, we loved the layovers. England is beautiful all on its own, but we also never missed an opportunity for fish and chips. Yum! My mom and dad had this favorite fish restaurant where they enjoyed their own version of our British delicacy. My folks’ go-to place for fish? Captain D’s . Their weekly dates for fried fish was almost a joke for all their kids. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I had to repent of all the teasing. I myself stopped into our Captain D’s. Dave was out of town and I wasn’t cooking that day. It could mean I’ve gotten old, as it seemed everyone in the restaurant was older. Or maybe it could mean they had clearly figured out that this is good food. It was so reminiscent of our sweet times in London eateries. I’m going back (after social distancing is over) and plan to take Dave. Not sorry.Photo Credit: Captain D’s

4) Sidewalk Messages – These are days disrupted by the stress of social distancing and the fears of this pandemic. Every positive message and every medium possible should be considered…even sidewalks and driveways. Thankful for friends who led the way on these sweet expressions of hope and faith.

5) Spring Came Anyway. Yay!

 

That’s it for this week. Please share in the Comments your thoughts and faves of the week. We would all appreciate learning from you.

Bonuses:

A Group of Nashville Studio Singers Perform an Epic Cell Phone Choir – Derry London

Some Thoughts on Abortion – Scott Sauls – Don’t miss this one. He is one of the gentlest persons I read.

YouTube Video – Peter Diamandis – Optimistic Look at the Future – The Richmond Forum

Texas Roadhouse CEO Gives Up Ssalary to Pay Frontline Employees During COVID-19

Fed Cattle – the Production Sequence We Love to Hate – A local blogger & farmer who only identifies herself as Patty has written the most fascinating series of pieces on the beef industry. What really goes down in the production of that hamburger you’re about to enjoy. I actually felt better about being a meat-eater after reading this. The link is to the blog that got me started on the series.

Worship Wednesday – Even in the Madness, There Is Peace – You Are Writing a Symphony – Switch

Photo Credit: Piqsels

[Two nights ago I was on a Zoom meeting call with Virginia’s Kids Belong representatives and several others from churches and other community organizations. All meeting for the purpose of brain-storming for how we can best support foster kids, birth moms, and foster families. During this season of the Coronavirus and subsequent school closures and limited contact. Then last night Dave and I watched a movie – Instant Family – not meant for everyone, but definitely it moved my heart all the more – in terms of reaching out to these kids.]

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

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children–and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.  1 John 3:1

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.Psalm 68:5

I’d wanted to watch Instant Family since first seeing the trailer. Finally, as one result of “social distancing”, Dave and I watched it last night in our living room. It is NOT a family film. Strong language and adult themes throughout. However, it is one at least some adults should see – it is real (if not perfect – see excellent review below) in its depiction of foster parenting and foster care. Not recommending for everyone to watch the film, but do catch this one scene of the painful failed reunification with the children’s birth mom. So beautiful in the raw work required of adults reaching into the lives of seemingly fatherless children.

Instant Family – What Mark Wahlberg’s New Movie Gets Right and Wrong about Foster Care – Christy Tennant Krispin

Coronavirus Leaves Foster Children With Nowhere to Go – Eli Hager

In aligning with other churches and community agencies to serve this vulnerable population, we do a work that must please the Lord. To the point, even, that it is an act of worship. Right now foster children, and their birth and foster families, are more isolated than ever. The pressure in their hearts and homes must be hard for all involved. When in school, foster children have teachers who watch out for them. Teachers are a safety for these children because they care, they provide structure, and they sound the alarm when the children appear to be at risk for neglect or abuse.

I don’t have answers here, but there are folks in our communities who are working toward answers. Ears wide open.

Who knows how long we will be in this situation of “keeping distance”? However we are not out of hearing or direction from the Lord who loves these children and the adults in their lives. My hope is through listening to God, these agencies closest to the kids at risk, and through our churches, we can extend love, even in these days… in the power of the Lord.

In preparing for this piece today, I went looking for songs that reflect God’s love and provision in such situations, and there are many.

Songs for Foster Parents

One of the songwriters of Symphony, Cassidy Estevez had this to say about the song: “…one of those themes which we landed on for this song, was how everyone has gone through some type of chaos in their lives, whether it is unemployment, family issues, marriage distress, difficulty raising kids, everybody has some type of chaos in their lives. We wanted to write a song that could be a prayer for people to sing in the middle of those circumstances.” She also added, “This song reminds us that even when you can only see a small part right now, God is doing something bigger and He is crafting something beautiful that we can only see when we zoom out.”

Worship with me to Symphony by worship band Switch:

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe
All these thoughts they shout at me
Try to bring me to my knees
And it’s overwhelming

Darkness echoes all around
Feels like everything is crashing down
Still I know where my hope is found
And it’s only you and ooh-ooh

You say you’re working everything for my good and ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Tune my heart to your beat
Let me be your melody
Even when I cannot see
But you orchestrate it

Even when the dark surrounds
You’ll never let me drown
I know that my hope is found
In the name of Jesus

Ooh-ooh
You say you’re working everything for my good
And ooh-ooh
I believe every word

‘Cause even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Yo, I wanna truly know
If you compose beautiful
Music, though
From all my unruly notes
Distance is distant, it’s movin’ close

Now I see, erase the scales from my eyes
Then play the scale of my life
Chaos played off with a chord in accord
With a source prevailing through strife and

I’ve tasted suffering
I’ve been embraced by the painful buffering
I’ve been bound by doubts so loud right now
But a melody is made when you play these rusty keys

So we all gotta get pressed
Tuned up like instruments
But I know
All of life’s tempo is set
Whenever we remember this

That even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony

And even in the madness
There is peace
Drownin’ out the voices
All around me
Through all of this chaos
You are writing a symphony
A symphony, oh

Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony
Ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh, a symphony*

I’d like to close with this beautiful love letter fashioned for children with the words of our Heavenly Father (God’s Love Letter for adults also here).

Photo Credit: Father’s Love Letter

*Lyrics to Symphony by Switch – Songwriters: Louis Biancaniello, Michael Biancaniello, Cassidy Estevez

Hope Beyond Coronavirus Roger Carswell

Father’s Love Letter

Ministering the Love of the Fathers to the Fatherless – Anna Meade Harris

God Promises to Be a Father to the Fatherless – Barry Adams

5 Ways that Churches Can Stand in the Gap for the Fatherless – Daniel Darling

Chris Tomlin Reveals the Dream God Gave Him 10 Years Ago That Is Now Saving Children Across America

Monday Morning Moment – What Can Mr. Rogers Teach Us About Life in This Coronavirus Crisis?

Photo Credit:  Flickr; NPR

Coronavirus COVID-19 seems to have taken center stage in the world today, and rightfully so. It is a terrible illness that kills some of our most vulnerable – especially the elderly and those with underlying disease. Our government (like many in the world) is appealing for us to do all we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus. Handwashing, not touching our faces, social distancing, and testing if symptomatic. We have been asked to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10. Schools, universities, gyms, various government agencies, and some businesses are closed to safeguard the larger population.

I find myself, because of age and health history, to be in that “at-risk” population, so life has become much less peopled and much more quiet.

At home this weekend, Dave and I finally watched the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It focuses on the life and work of children’s television personality Mr. (Fred) Rogers (played by Tom Hanks). In the biographical film, we watch unfold a relationship between Mr. Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod (played by Matthew Rhys). The writer met Mr. Rogers on an assignment to interview him for the 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say…Hero?”.

YouTube Video – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Official Trailer

The film begins slow and quiet, much like this new normal for me (my husband is still working like a crazy man, so not so much for him). I was about to release Dave from watching it with me, and then the story totally captured our attention.

At the end of the movie (which I highly recommend), Mr. Rogers’ sweet personality and deep wisdom seem to find an anchor in what we’re dealing with at present. Here are my thoughts and some of what he had to say, as if in response (although Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74).

1) To avoid contracting and/or spreading the Coronavirus, some of us must settle on a quieter lifestyle for awhile.

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?”Fred Rogers

Even days into this social distancing thing, I’m finding that the quiet is helping me reflect on and think through issues and ideas that I’d left unattended in previous more busy days. For some of you, with children home from cancelled school and carrying more responsibility than less, this quiet may still elude. Do what you can to chase after it. It may be one of the most crucial outcomes of this trial.

2) In this unique crisis, we are making intentional decisions to protect the most vulnerable…even facing our own hardships while about it.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers communicated in the film, his TV show, and in the songs he composed that “Each one of us is precious.” It is so moving…so transforming…to actually be a part of a nation’s resolve to protect our more elderly and those at risk because of underlying health issues. This protecting of the most vulnerable will have enormous cost for some…for many in our country (and the world). It is a humanizing step for us.

Although close contact is being discouraged in public places for now, we still want to reach out to each other in healthy and creative ways.

3) As we isolate to avoid the spread of this virus, we still can show care for each other…just in different ways.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”Fred Rogers

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”Fred Rogers

In Mr. Rogers’ life, one way he showed care for those in his life was to pray for them by name, every day. He spent long early morning hours in prayer for one after another, sometimes even strangers who had asked him to pray. His faith wasn’t something he paraded on his TV program, but he lived it deeply and openly in his relationships. It is something we can do while socially distancing.

Also we are watching government agencies and private corporations cooperate in the fight of Coronavirus. We are seeing a different level of civility between political parties, a heightened cooperation. We all have something dreadfully in common right now in the fight against this virus. Good questions are being raised and better answers given.

4) We can have hope for what comes out of all this.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”Fred Rogers

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”Fred Rogers

Our church is helping with a feeding program for our city schools during the shutdown. This is the beginning of a relationship that we didn’t have before. What we are learning, as a country, from this virus, and how to combat it, will help us with future viral assaults. I see hope more than despair, even in countries hardest hit.

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

5) Those in our helping professions, along with the scientists, and the many change agents in the wide and diverse management of this health crisis are our heroes right now.

“Look for the helpers.”Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

How grateful we are for those who don’t have a quieter life right now. Those who are showing up every day for work, at great risk to their own health. The first responders, the doctors and nurses, the scientists, and our government representatives – working long hours. For us all. It is a joy to look for the helpers…and to be among them as opportunity arises, which it will.

Mister Rogers Said to ‘Look for the Helpers.’ Here’s How to Help Amid Coronavirus Panic. – Joshua Bote

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, Dear Man. Thank you, Tom Hanks, for reminding us of his wisdom, love, and sparkle.

‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’: 5 of the Film’s Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations – Umber Bhatti

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – 2018 Documentary on the life and thinking of Fred Rogers

15 Reasons Mr. Rogers Was Best Neighbor Ever – Mangesh Hattikudur

8 Things to Know About Mister Rogers From the Story That Inspired the Tom Hanks Movie – Scottie Andrew

Tom Hanks Plays Mister Rogers: Sharing Joy Is ‘The Natural State of Things’ – Scott Simon

Photo Credit: Instagram, Kristen Annie Bell; Ryan Alexander Boyles, Secondary Artifacts

Monday Morning Moment – a Tender Take on Controlling Women

Photo Credit: PickPik

We’re not talking controlling men today or men controlling women, in particular. Today, we are looking at our own leanings toward being controlling women. Ever charting the course toward our own “happy endings” or that of our children.

None of us ever start out taking control because we see it as the best course. We often stumble on controlling. We could even be oblivious to the possibility that we are. If we are awakened to that reality, we can justify it. Figuring we love too much, or we’re loved not enough, or there appears no other recourse but to control our situation.

I married later in life and had the blessing of three children. Being a wife and mom (especially the mom part) did not come naturally to me, even though I myself had an amazing mom. Maybe it was coming into parenthood as a 30-something. It was an intense experience, and I was often riddled with guilt about getting it wrong. The kids all turned out well, I think, but the journey there was broken up by stumbles and starts.

Adult children are a wonderful thing. They take care of themselves (or someone else does, for the most part, right?). They make you proud and sometimes bring you grandchildren. I find myself wanting to draw them in…reel them back home to family dinners or beach vacations or long talks on “life aspirations”.*  Is it because I am needy? Or just miss the people who grew up from tiny tots to independent grownups, in what feels like an unguarded instant.

*[It is NOT controlling when parents and children want these sorts of things but logistics are hard to work out, and you take on that work for a mutually desired end. It IS controlling, when we pressure, manipulate, or guilt our families into something they would rather not do.]

Photo Credit: Piqsels (check out all the moms/children images)

Just this week, I saw this video on adjusting to our children growing up. It is a piece by Australian writer Mia Freedman. It is a gushing, tear-jerking essay, but it sums up how we might, as mums, grasp for control…without meaning to. Sigh…

Here it is (4 minutes. Go ahead and watch it):

“Babies and toddlers and boys…will grow up and grow away and break up with their mothers. Slowly. But surely. Because they need to. And if they do – when they do – it means we got it right. We parented them right. Whether you have sons or daughters, our role as parents is ultimately to make ourselves redundant and while I don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of an adult woman, I know what it’s like to stumble as my son became a man. There are so many bat crazy things about being a parent and one that definitely wasn’t in the brochure is the way you don’t actually parent one person, you parent many, many different people who are all your child.

There’s the newborn, the baby, the toddler, the pre-schooler, the primary aged kid, the pre-teen, the adolescent, the full-blown teen, the young adult and then the adult. They all answer to the same name. They all call you Mum. And you never ever notice the inflection point where one of those people turns into the next.

You never get to properly say goodbye to all the little people who grow up because you don’t notice the growing, the changing. Except when Facebook sends you those bloody memory reminders that invariably make me cry because it’s like showing me the face of someone I can never see again. Not in that way. Not at that age.” – Mia Freedman

She went on to say, in the piece above, how handy and interesting grown children are and how proud we will be of them. How blessed she is to have had those children, acknowledging how not all women have children or don’t get to see them grown. She marveled that she actually “grew one of my best friends in the world, one of the best men I know, in my own body.”

Writer Shannon Popkin has given us a first book entitled Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible. It’s such a great book on what controlling does to us and our families…what a burden it actually is. All the stories are taken from the lives of Old Testament (from Eve to Moses’ sister Miriam. So much wisdom here.Photo Credit: Shannon Popkin

In each story, we revisit familiar stories of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters…and what control issues they struggled with. This week, I read the chapter on Rachel’s life…Rachel, the wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph. Jacob’s family would be the foundation for the nation of Israel. If Rachel knew a “happy ending” was coming, she might not have anguished so about her ability to have children. After a season of barrenness, she had Joseph, the man who would save Israel from years of famine. Right after his birth, she longed out loud for more children. She would die in childbirth, delivering her second son, Benjamin. I wonder if the joy of having her firstborn was diminished in the longing for another.

We struggle in our relationships, longing for something more. Something not yet now. Something reminiscent of what we once had. We take the reins of our relationships into our own hands and try to steer them toward the happy ending of our own choosing.

It’s a lot of work. Exhausting for us and those in the harness of our own desires.

“God wired us to long for meaningful, lasting family relationships. It’s why we care so deeply and tug so insistently on the people we love. But when our tug becomes a yank, and our request becomes a demand, rather than drawing everyone in, we drive them away.” Shannon Popkin

What do we do with controlling in our own lives or that we experience from other women? I have a few ideas (borne out of my own experience, God’s Word, the wise counsel of other women, including the author Shannon Popkin):

  • Refuse to think ill of that controlling woman. The control may very well be borne out of a heart of love…just taken too far. If you’re the controlling woman, then give yourself grace, as you pull in and examine your own heart and motives.
  • Stop self-referencing – thinking it’s about you. If you are beginning to see that controlling can rip relationships apart, then lay down your own agenda. Walk in your spouse’s/adult children’s shoes a bit. We may think that what we want is what’s best for everyone, and it could be, on the surface…but it won’t matter if the “making it happen” drives a wedge between us all.
  • Don’t get caught in the web of comparing your own marriage or family with someone else’s. There are always going to be other spouses and parents who are more gifted, cooler, maybe even more loving, and more capable. That’s a good thing, when we stop comparing. We want the best for our children. We can be thankful they have all sorts of great people in their lives. Let it go. Maybe we can serve them in ways that speak to how they feel loved…without our own agenda coming into play…or wondering if it’s good enough. Nope, not going there. Nope, not doing it.
  • Release the fear of what could happen if our adult children make their own path to a happy ending. This is a place for prayer and for trusting that they are in good hands, as are we. We raised them. It’s done. Celebrate that, loving them with wide open, unselfish hearts…praying for them, releasing them (and our fears) to God.
  • Tuck our story into the larger one. Shannon Popkin talks about how we author our lives like a “chunky board book”. We (and our spouses/children) are the characters. We, the wives/moms, could even be the heroine. The book has bright and engaging illustrations, and it ends just right, with all the “happy” possible in those sturdy pages. What if we trusted our lives, and that of our family’s, into the hands of a greater Author. One who is writing a story across the ages…and ours is tucked into it. When I’m in my right mind, and not trying to configure a scenario where my family is all mine, then I can see the glory of that greater story. And live the life God has given me today.

Letting the lesser story go…today. This could be what I give up for Lent…the whole control thing. Maybe it will stick. I sure hope so.

YouTube Video – Otherhood – Official Trailer  (Netflix, Rated R – haven’t seen the movie. The trailer points to a film which speaks to this topic from a secular point of view – Rated R)

YouTube Video – War Room – Official Trailer – Rated PG – I have seen this film and loved it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: YouTube, Malinda Kathleen Reese

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your favorites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonuses:

How to Fight Back Against Self-Doubt Ron Carucci

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

The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment – Trevin Wax

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

Photo Credit: Facebook, 2 Chron 714 network