Category Archives: Babies & Children

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

Worship Wednesday – Love Notes – How Mom Encouraged Her Faraway Family

IMAG2718 (2)

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

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 18 of them now passed since she died. This blog adapted from the Archives. Using #WorshipWednesday today to showcase how we can share the love of Jesus with those He places in our lives.]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Worship Wednesday – Fighting Words – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
“Use your words.” That’s what we say to our little ones when they come running with wails of woe that are more emotion than intellect. They have to learn to find the words to say what they are feeling so they can get the proper help or solace that they need.
With our children as they grew older, the sorrows were more wrapped around struggling with chemistry homework, or not making the soccer team, or dealing with bullying. The sad or angry tears would come along with words that kicked at their situation…wondering aloud what was wrong with them.

Photo Credit: Piqsels

“What’s really true?” we parents would ask. No, they were not stupid, or untalented, or too different from others. The truth is that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and they were “loved with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-38

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s song Fighting Words caught me off-guard at first. Fighting words? That expression always meant something that escalated a situation, yet she uses “fighting words” as those with a righteous punch…an impact that exposed the lies!

Our adversary Satan uses words against us. Whispering stinging accusations in our thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the thoughts have my voice around them or that of the enemy. Whatever the origin, our hearts and minds are embattled by words that aren’t true, even when they sound true.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and the Lord Jesus who so graciously saved us, and the Word of God that arms us with truth…we are equipped to stand against the evil one.

After hearing the whole of Holcomb’s song, I’m inspired. Earlier this week, studying in Genesis, the temptation of Eve touched my heart like never before. Satan used words to color the truth  in ways that made God seem less good. As if He was withholding something good from her. As if He shouldn’t be trusted.

Eve fell for the lies. Oh, if only she had used “fighting words” against the tempter. She and Adam. If only…

We have terrible outcomes from their acting on lies. We also have benefit of her experience…of being caught off guard wavering on the truth, with calamitous consequences. We also have benefit of so many others in the Bible who faced trials and temptations, without faltering, standing on the truth of God’s Word.

Oh God, help us to believe You. Help us in our unbelief. Help us to remember who we are…who You are. Remind us daily of the great gift of salvation we have through Jesus. Give us courage to stand as Your children and speak with the authority You have given us in Christ…speaking the truth without compromise…speaking the truth in love.

Worship with me.

[Verse 1]
Fear is like a broken record, same old songs of accusation play
Like, “who are you to speak the truth, just look at all your failures and mistakes”
And “If they really knew you, there’s no way they could love you anyway”
Oh-oh-ohh, but I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Verse 2]
The enemy keeps talking, telling me to hide my face in shame
Whispering that everything I’ve done will drive the Father’s love away
Saying, “It’s too late for hoping, that something in your heart could ever change”
Oh-oh-ohh, so I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Bridge]
My debt is paid up
I’ve been set free and
You gave Your life up to rescue me
You say that I am
Worth fighting for and
Grace is like waves that keep crashing on the shore!

[Chorus]
Fight, the lies with the truth, oh-oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh…

[Outro]
I’m so tired of forgetting what I’m worth
So I will use, my fighting words*

*Lyrics to “Fighting Words” – Songwriter: Ellie Holcomb

“Fighting Words” – Story Behind the Song

Get Back, Satan! 5 Tips for Using Scripture as Defense – Alicia Purdy

YouTube Video – “Kutless” Word of God Speak

Monday Morning Moment – Life

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Life…it’s precious. It’s what we know. We depend on it. We think it lasts forever. Here. In our best health. Surrounded by our people.

The thing is, what we also come to know is life’s brevity. The Bible calls it “a vapor, a mist, a breath, a passing breeze.” Yet, life is also described as something beyond our finite understanding – beyond our wildest imaginings – in its possibilities, its purposes. It stretches across into eternity. Nothing is wasted. All of life is meant to be lived fully – the great good of it along with the sudden sorrows.

Life – Bible Study Tools [short article; worth the read]

America was rocked this weekend by the helicopter crash that killed athlete and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, two of her basketball team friends, parents, coach, and the pilot. One very famous person but also eight others who all leave families and friends grieving their instant deaths. Life is precious.

Then here in Richmond, a man in his early 40s in a near neighborhood also died this weekend. He was crossing a busy street at night, on his way back home from a store, and was hit by a car. It was fatal. This man had, months ago, left his friends and work in another state and came here to care for his grandparents, in their 90s and frail in health. Like the nine people above, this man also died suddenly. Leaving behind those who will grieve him, too.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Robert Kuykendall

I contrast these two because in life and in death, we matter, whatever our circumstance. To each other and to God. Our lives matter…and when death interrupts…it affects us…even when it happens to strangers.

Today, a friend of ours is undergoing surgery for cancer. For several hours he will be in the operating room, surrounded by an excellent surgeon and staff specialized in his particular kind of surgery. Family and friends wait outside…praying. We are all praying. He is young and we are praying for him to do extraordinarily well.

As you read this, your own stories may come to mind. People who make life what it is for you. By faith, trusting in God for good outcomes. These are the kinds of stories and situations that give us pause and move us toward gratitude for this life.

Our wee grandchildren live near us. It is a joy to see them often. Their take on life is much simpler than ours as their adults. Their joys are simple, too – time with their people, a favorite toy, snacks they get to choose, a hug and kiss for comfort, a new discovery, any cause for laughter.

They don’t understand death…but neither do we, really.

I’m re-learning from these grandchildren to squeeze all the goodness to be had out of this life. Being older and understanding that death comes, I also get to look forward to what comes after… life forever with a God who is good and who is love, and with all those who went before us.

Choosing life…here and there.

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Good Housekeeping

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Richmond Forum

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

StoryCorps – Danny & Annie

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

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

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

Photo Credit: IMDB; Barnes & Noble

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Andrea Lane, Redbooth

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

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

How to Discover Your Personal Productivity Style – Andrea Lane

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Personality Types for Productivity – Slideshare – Tom Fox

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

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

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

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

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

7 Habits/Lifestyles Most Damaging to the Brain

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

7 Modern Lifestyle Habits Doing the Most Damage to Your Brain

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

Bonuses:

The Pain of Suicide – Clay Smith

A 2020 Guide to Rabbit Room Content

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Loveliness, Spoiling Our Children, Answered Prayer, the Gentling Nature of Christmas, and a Bunch of Great Reads

Happy New Year! With travel and a family illness, I have been more out-of-pocket than usual. It will show in my Friday Faves. Some of them are carry-overs from previous weeks but not to be missed. Hope your New Year is off to a grand start.

1) Classical Guitar Loveliness – Since it’s been a bit, this Friday Faves includes 3 videos by Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!

  • The Witcher 3: The Slopes Of The Blessure – composed by Piotr Musial.  Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • Netflix “The Witcher”: Toss A Coin To Your Witcher – composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

  • FRIENDS – “I’ll Be There For You” – composed by The Rembrandts. Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills.

2) Spoiling our Children – What does that even mean really? We all want the best for our children…at least we want to want it, for sure.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Wikimedia

As parents we have many layers of responsibilities plus we are faced with our own inadequacies and outright fatigue. How do we keep from disadvantaging our children by our parenting? Everyone has an opinion – some more educated and well-thought-out than others. Here are two:

The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – Victoria Prooday – Prooday is an occupational therapist and educator on parenting all-round healthy children. This article sets up her premise that parents are the most instrumental in providing their children with the foundation for growing up resilient. Her bullet points are easily accomplished in most situations: technology-free meals, chore assignments, time outside, training children in emotions, and teaching them manners are just some of what she advises. Read and consider the other of Prooday’s points. Being invested and emotionally connected ourselves to our children is crucial.

Do You Agree With This Viral Post About the “Silent Tragedy” of Spoiled Children? – Jessica Suss – English teacher, writer Suss sounds a cautious rebuttal to Prooday’s article. She agreed with much of what she prescribed, but she objected to the tone of the “Silent Tragedy” piece. Suss argues that Prooday was talking to wealthier parents rather than those who might not have the means to carry out all her prescriptions. “Healthy food at every meal is a great goal, so long as you can afford it. But when more than 100 million people in America are food insecure, getting anything on the table is a better goal. Playing outside is also great, but if you live in the city or in an area that’s unsafe (as many lower-income families do), you’re not going to be able to complete the daily, hour-long hike Prooday says is necessary for a healthy child. And family game nights and dinners are all well and good, but when parents are working two jobs (or nontraditional hours), that might not be feasible.”

Two viewpoints – one prompting parents to be more intentional and the other giving a pass to parents – depending on the day and the situation, we need both.

10 Alternative Parenting Styles That Might Be Right For You – Samantha Steiner – Interesting Read; 10 parenting styles? Still, interesting.

3) Answered Prayer – I mentioned at the top about family illness. Our youngest granddaughter was very ill for about a week.

I can’t say enough of what it meant that so many prayed for her. We are so thankful for answered prayer and that she is back to her fun, lively self. When life takes us and those we love into the back of ambulances and down corridors of emergency departments of hospitals…we never know what will happen next. So thankful for those who wait with us, and encourage us, and serve us…all when they have their own situations that need attention. Thank God, thank you, and thank God for you.

4) The Gentling Nature of Christmas – It’s long since passed, both Western and Eastern Christmas. We still have our Christmas lights up…just because. It’s winter and feels darker than the rest of the year. Those lights warm the world where we are, so we have no rules as to exactly when we put away all the decorations.

Whether we celebrate Christmas or not, I think it’s true that there’s a gentling nature in this holiday. People are more thoughtful of others, more generous, more willing to give space to others. In general. Even in politics…well, sometimes.

I wanted to just include three short videos with Christmas themes that speak to the beautiful and connecting nature of Christmas. One is a scene from The Andy Griffith Show. The second is a performance of Saviour – The Story of God’s Passion For His People. [On the second video, 14 minutes in, you hear the singer Wintley Phipps. Any opportunity to hear him sing is magical.] The last video is the 2019 John Lewis Christmas advert…so darling.

5) A Bunch of Great Reads – It’s been over a month since I’ve posted my Friday Faves. Lots of stuff that has influenced and enlightened me. I didn’t want to miss sharing it all with you. Photo Credit: Needpix

So here goes. 10 of my favorites from the last few weeks – all very different – take your pick.

10 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself

We’re Treating Friendships Like Transactions and It’s Ruining Relationships – Ephrat Livni

What Happened to Richmond’s Thriving Black Community of Navy Hill?

10 Books to Give You Superpowers in 2020 – William Treseder

Emily Norton Opens Up About Battling Depression as a Caregiver – Alikay Wood

What Widowers Wonder at Night – Erich Bridges

Q & A with Sherry Stout – Building Capacity and Collaboration for Energy Resilience [Sherry Stout is a dear friend of ours. Fun to see her in print.]

No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore – Adam Minter

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple Deena Shanker & Lydia Mulvany

Who Killed the Knapp Family? Nicholas Kristof and

Bonuses:

The True Story Behind Your Thanksgiving Cornbread – Adina Steiman

Enneagram & Coffee Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Facebook, Country Girls Do It Better

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Christmas?

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

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

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

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

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me