Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Worship Wednesday – Celebrating the Giver and Sustainer of Life – Life Song – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Bible Study Tools

Every four years, my birthday and the US Presidential Inauguration are celebrated on the same day. This year was one of those years.

Now, my birthday was one of the big ones, drawing a lot of exclamations from friends when they find out which one. So that either says I look or act younger than my age, or I’m way older than they thought. I’m wondering at my age, as well.

Not so much that this birthday isn’t getting celebrated – like a rock star! Bring on the flowers, the cake, and the meetups [COVID-altered but undaunted]. Yay, for birthdays.

Peaceful transfers of presidential power are also worthy of huge celebrations. It is the American way, and it’s happening again.

We may have mixed feelings about birthdays…and even about inaugurations. If we raise our gaze just a little higher, we can thrill to what is going on in the spiritual realm.

Whatever we might think about life right now…us getting older, or times getting stranger…we can take heart.

Perhaps we were born for just such a time as this. [Esther 4:14b]

Photo Credit: Salvation Army

God is not surprised, nor is He hindered in giving life or sustaining life. Certainly, He is able to equip us and keep us on track – in the works He has given each of us from the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

Isn’t that astounding?! For us, yes; for Him, no.Photo Credit: Daily Verses

I take great comfort in the passage in John 10 above. Nothing can snatch us out of His hands. Nothing. No one. Forever we are His.

In thinking about birthdays and inaugurations, we celebrate the God who gives us life and sustains us through it.

Facing a new decade of life, I look up. To the God who keeps His promises…who gives us life day to day straight on to eternity…and sustains His children through it all.

As for the Inauguration and a new US President…we are not saved by any political party or president, we are saved by a King. With a forever kingdom…and it stands in beauty and power and glory.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

I love Gill’s Commentary on this great God being a consuming fire: “…here it is our God, our covenant God, our God in Christ; not that he is so to the saints, or to them that are in Christ: he is indeed as a wall of fire in his providences, to protect and defend them, and as fire in his word to enlighten and warm them, to guide and direct them, but not a consuming fire to them; this he is to their enemies, who are as thorns, and briers, and stubble before him.”

Oh that our lives bring a smile to the face of our Creator and Sustainer God! [As the picture the Casting Crowns‘ song paints below].

May we take birthdays and inaugurations in stride, and in the context of a larger Kingdom…and a God who is very much in control.

Worship with me:

Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight

May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be Your hands and feet

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You

*Lyrics to Life Song – Casting Crowns – Songwriter: John Mark Hall

Behind the Song: Casting Crowns Shares the Heart Behind Their Hit Song “Lifesong” – Abby Young

5 Friday Faves – “Beyond the Guitar” Doing What He Does, From Cynicism to Delight, the Glad Game, a Great Life & a COVID Death, and Life’s Comforting Rhythms

Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.

1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.

YouTube Video – The Mandalorian/Force Mashup – Classical Guitar Cover

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

YouTube Video – Spider-man: Miles Morales (PS5) Main theme on Guitar

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.

2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.

Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.

This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.

How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.

Jennie Allen Podcast – Cynicism vs. Delight

What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.

Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative –  gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.

In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.

Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.

“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.”Jennie Allen

Photo Credit: Empowered Living, Facebook

3) The Glad Game – There is so much we can learn from sweet Pollyanna and young Anne of Green Gables. Either through the book about Pollyanna or the movie. Or Anne: the books or the movies/TV series.

Both these girls were orphans, and both had figured out a way to thrive in their circumstances. Very different ways, but fascinating.

Ten Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me – Samantha Ellis

Anne of Green Gables vs. Pollyanna – (In the Battle for My Mind)

I was reminded (see Friday Fave #2 above) of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. She was determined to find something good in every situation… something to be glad about.

YouTube Video – Pollyanna and the Glad Game

YouTube Video – You Surely Will (Pollyann’s conversation with the minister)

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Abraham Lincoln

If Your Behavior Is Contagious, What Will People Catch?

Networking Lessons from Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables – Marzena Podhorska

4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago. 

Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.

He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.

We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.

5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).

Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).

Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.

Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.

Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)

And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]

That’s it for this Friday Faves.  Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off – Gina Cleo

7 Good Things That Came Out of 2020 (It Actually Wasn’t All Bad)

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50 – Abigail Barronian

5 Things People With Tidy Homes Don’t Do

What If We Have Another Year Like 2020 – Nice Lessons Leaders Should Already Have Learned – Eli Amdur

Amazing Image of Unborn Baby at 18 Weeks Is Called the Photograph of the Century – Micaiah Bilger

Image may contain: 1 personPhoto Credit: Eric McCool, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – October Creepy, New Politically Charged Words, Dads, Lockdown, and Family Glue

1) October Creepy – This year, we seem to be in need of bigger and earlier seasonal celebrations. Our neighborhood could totally be a drive-through Halloween fête with houses and yards dressed up on all sorts of creepy ghouls and goblins. The kids must love it!

For musical creepiness, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) delivers with five spooky themes (from shows too scary for me).  Never having seen the shows, his interpretation of these themes is lovely and haunting (maybe that’s where the spooky comes in). Enjoy.

Still my favorite October offering of his is the theme from Stranger Things. All that sound from one guitar?! Crazy good! Here it is again:

2) New Politically Charged Words – These words may not be new to you, but they are to me. What words have you had to sort out in these strange times of redefining culture and society? Please comment below with words of your own that have forced their way into your vocabulary. For you non-native English speakers/readers, how about in your language? Any words you’d be willing to teach us?

Photo Credit: Schools Week

Disabuse – to undeceive

Mansplaining – a man talking down to a woman, explaining something he assumes she does not understand

Safetyism – a culture or worldview where safety is considered sacred and must be protected

“Dog whistle” – a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others

Panderto provide gratification for others’ desires; to cater to or exploit the weaknesses of others

Schadenfreude – enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Illiberal – opposed to liberalism, not broad-minded

Populista member of a political party claiming to represent the common people

3) Dads – Do an online search of the importance of fathers and you’ll be reading all day. We are so grateful for our moms (see Friday Fave 5 below), but dads are the unsung heroes. My biological father was a ghost in my life. After my parents divorced when I was 5 years old, I saw him once after that. Once. Fortunately we later had a step-dad who became a dad to us.

Having dads actively involved in kids’ lives, whether they live with them or not, can make huge differences in their success in life. Both in how they see themselves and their place in the world. It matters.

These two videos are just a small evidence of impact. Sweet!

Dads make a difference. We all know it. Get up out of the recliner, Dad! We know you’re tired, and we understand it isn’t always easy to connect with your family. Go find that son, daughter, grand of yours…and be to them what no one else can be.

4) Lockdowns – Physical distancing will continue for many of us especially those most at risk for contracting COVID-19, but for the rest of the world, “lockdown is a terrible experiment”. So says Harvard epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. We’re told to “follow the science” which seems reasonable, but the science is evolving. COVID-19 is a new disease. We are learning every day.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Martin Kulldorff [I took a screenshot in case his Twitter account got shut down or the Tweet deleted.]

Dr. Kulldorff and more and more others are encouraging “focused protection” – with the elderly and others at higher risk the focus. Then everyone  else should take precautions – wash hands, keep some distance, maybe wear masks. However, any proposal to lockdown a whole state or country will only cause its own harm. The unnamed prognosticator Ethical Skeptic says the same as he follows data of deaths not by COVID per se but related to COVID (in particular, lockdowns).

‘Lockdown Is a Terrible Experiment’ – An Interview with Dr. Martin Kulldorff – Fraser Myers

5) Family Glue – When the image below crossed my Facebook newsfeed, it immediately resonated. My mom was our family’s glue (my mom-in-law continues to be the glue on my husband’s side of the family). Photo Credit: Lessons Learned in Life, Cardinal Crossing, Facebook

When Mom died, we still rallied around our Dad.

When he died, things got a little shaky. Someone has to take over that role of family glue, or holiday celebrations shift and family gatherings, in general, become tenuous. I would have loved taking on the responsibility of holding our extended family together, but living far from them made that impossible. Still, we try. How thankful I am for siblings, nieces and nephews who make space in their schedules and nearer relationships to gather to celebrate the memories of great old ones gone before us and the family bond we carry. What a blessing!

Who is your family’s glue? How do you hold together over the years? You folks who still manage family reunions and fun traditions are my heroes. You who put up with all the idioscyncrasies and prickly nature of family hold a deep place in my heart.

I hope our children have family glue in their DNA. My Mom’s delight in us, her readiness to always forgive, her holding us together no matter what are in my DNA for sure. So thankful for her…my mom-in-law, and those in our extended families applying the glue.

Glue only works in contact with what needs gluing.

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Friday Faves on a Monday. The struggle is real sometimes. Like a friend says, life itself must always trump writing about life. Blessings on you, Dear Ones.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – 200 Kids Sing A Cappella Style – You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban – Peter Hollens

Taking On Inequality in Education – Raj Chetty

Conversations with Coleman – Trump, COVID 19, and Cold War II with Niall Ferguson

Photo Credit: Twitter, Ethical Skeptic

 

Against Fear – Heather Mac Donald – [Don’t let the pro-Trump flavor of the article, any more than with pro-Biden bent, cause you to miss the reasoned content.]

Emily Dickinson’s Revolutionary and Reclusive Life, in a Lyrical Picture-Book from the Lacuna Between Fact and Myth

Hopefully when this Presidential election is over, these neighbors will still be friends.

The waning summer garden gives way to autumn bounty. Kale.

A Date Night idea – hand-delivered to us by a dear friend.

5 Friday Faves – Overdose Awareness, Quiet Influencers, Primary Physicians, Habits of Purpose, and Museums for All

1) Overdose Awareness – August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Let’s have the goal of #NotOneMore loved one lost to drug overdose.

“May you never get that call. I did on October 24, 2010. Worst day of my life. I was lucky…he survived………..so many don’t…….These people are someone’s daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends…….Don’t judge. Listen to their stories. We need change. Many people need help and there is not always help out there.”Jeanne Barney

Overdose Day Website

Photo Credit: Facebook, International Overdose Awareness Day

“National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people [in the US]. More in 2018. These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

2) Quiet Influencers – We have all had them in our lives: these quiet influencers. People who gave us their best without needing to be center stage themselves. People who helped us to mature into people of influence ourselves…for some even, people of significant power or renown. These quiet influencers could be our parents. Or peers who saw in us maybe someone we couldn’t imagine ourselves.

Writer Rachel Pieh Jones urges us to capture the stories of our quiet influencers:

Power resides not only in the obvious leaders, the loudest voices, or the wealthiest donors, but also in the quiet influencers.

Search out these leaders, collaborate with them, use their own words, be wise in the details emphasized, and be mindful of how the story will be heard. Pass the mic to these influencers and do your part to elevate their voices. – Rachel Pieh Jones

How (and Why) We Should Be Telling the Stories of Quiet Influencers – Rachel Pieh Jones

I personally am so thankful for the many quiet influencers in my life and work. They are many and they are “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).

Thanks to Jones, I am feeling the need to capture some of their stories…so hopefully you’ll read about them here. How about you? Please comment about your quiet influencers in the Comments below. It’s a good start.Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie McGowan

3) Primary Physicians – You know you’re getting some age on when your doctor retires…especially when he is not so old, or so it seems.

Not everyone in the world has the privilege of having a family doctor. One who both cares for you and possibly your own adult children.

For over 10 years, we have had Dr. Bill Harrington as our primary physician. He’s been with us through all sorts of life transitions…as well as quite a few medical scares. I won’t go into the details here, but a physician who can get a hunch and follow it through – to discover cancer or a potentially life-threatening cardiac malfunction – is a tremendous asset. That is the kind of person Dr. Harrington has been to us. Wise, funny, thoughtful, and intuitive. We will miss him.

I’m counting on him still writing the poetry we have gotten to read – which he began writing just a short time ago. Definitely models for his patients how good life can be around every corner. Retirement blessings, Dr. H. Well-done!

4) Habits of Purpose – I’ve written about Justin Whitmel Earley. He is a very successful attorney who is now also a writer, speaker, and life coach.

Photo Credit: Joshua Straub

His book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction has become one of my favorites. Below you can find a graphic that gives his habits of purpose in brief (some are daily practiced and some are weekly).

Earley’s website has lots of free helps on it and now he has produced a video series (also free) to help us move our lives more toward purpose. I’m hoping to gather a group of friends to have weekly evenings of watching the short video and talking about how we might incorporate those ideas into our lives. Good stuff!

The Common Rule – Book Review – Darryl Dash

5) Museums for All – We have a family membership to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo Credit: Visit Richmond Va

My daughter, grandchildren, and I visited the garden earlier today. It was a marvel, as always!

As we were leaving, I commented what a privilege it was to be able to afford a membership to such a beautiful place. It was then my daughter told me about the Museums for All program.

It flows out of an initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) based in Washington, D.C. For anyone who has an EBT card (for supplemental food assistance), that person can buy and individual annual membership for a museum for $1 or a family membership for $5. That is an incredible benefit for those in our city who couldn’t afford a membership otherwise. So, yay for Museums for All!

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That’s it for this week. Although we still have days in the 90s, with the start of school and the small but clear changes in the environment around us, Fall is coming! I will leave you with a few images we all look forward to. Have a sweet weekend peopled with those you love.

Bonuses:

For you guitarists out there: Beyond the Guitar Academy

The Surprising Benefits of Talking to Strangers

On slavery in North America 400 years ago this August and slavery in the world today:

Photo Credit: Twitter, D. B. Harrison

The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes &

 

Photo Credit: Gzero Media

U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain

Perfect dessert at a friend’s house after we shared lunch. Fruit in a bowl from North Africa:

Photo Credit: Amazing Things, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Gladiator on Guitar, Documentaries, Our Faces, Toni Morrison, and Families Sorting Out Trauma Together

It’s been a week! Babies and birthdays, neighborhood gatherings and sweet homecomings, diner dates and conversations in a late summer garden, walking with friends and working in solitude…life shared. Here we go with this week’s 5 favorite finds.

1) Gladiator on Guitar – I remember the only time I watched the film Gladiator. It was in a theater in Cairo with an Egyptian girlfriend. We both covered our eyes for more of the film than we watched. There is a scene where the military general turned slave turned gladiator (Russell Crowe) came into the arena. He bowed to the warriors selected to kill him, and then he killed them all. Bloody and horrific. Then he called out to the ruler and commoner audience, “Are you not entertained?!” Underneath his imploring, you can faintly hear the orchestral theme – composer Hans Zimmer‘s gripping theme “Now We Are Free” . Arranged and performed by Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, this song is so exquisite on classical guitar. Watch it here.

2) Documentaries – Film gives us the opportunity to engage with a story. Documentaries offer us a look into a real world we might never engage without a bit of a push or pull. 16 Bars is one of those films. It is the story of what happens when hip-hop artist Todd “Speech” Thomas spends 10 days in the Richmond, Virginia jail, giving voice to the inmates.

Photo Credit: Richmond

This effort was part of a recovery program to help those in jail not to become re-incarcerated after release. Thomas taught some of the men how to write and perform music (a 16 bar rap). What came out of that was both painful and hopeful. Beautiful. I am working on seeing the full film, but here is the trailer.

16 Bars – REAL LIFE

Do you have a favorite documentary? Three of mine are below along with one I’m looking forward to, still in production.

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls – documentary on the global sex trade

The Long Goodbye – Kara Tippetts Documentary – Jay Lyons

Bono & Eugene Peterson – The Psalms – Fourth Line Films

The Funeral Home [Now entitled The Passing On] – Teaser – Fourth Line Films – The Passing On Movie website

3) Our Faces – What do people around us see in our faces? What do we see in others? In T. S. Eliot‘s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there is a line about preparing our faces for the faces we meet. As in the phrase “putting on a face/mask”.

T. S. Eliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – Brandon Colas

We want to be real with each other, right? To be the real persons we are all the time, not to mask our faces differently depending on whom we have in front of us.

Is it the performance rather than the person with which we interact? We can default to vilifying the person when it’s really the performance that offends…or the opposite: placing people on pedestals…and we don’t really know them.

I don’t want to wear a mask; nor do I want to profile a person based on a mask. It is a discipline to keep from doing both.

I was so touched by a video I saw this week…wondering if it was truly authentic – it seemed to be – and the masks were off.

Two huge TV personalities Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper  talk together in a 20-minute interview on loss, faith, and humanity (shorter section of same interview). I don’t usually watch them, but a man I respect posted this on his Twitter feed and I was mesmerized by it…the honesty, the tenderness, and the understanding of shared experience.

Are They Seeing the Face of God in You? – Lisa Brenninkmeyer

4) Toni Morrison – On August 5, author Toni Morrison died at 88 years old. I thought she was younger.

Confession: I’ve never read any of her books. Now, I am reading what others write about her and know I need to at least hear something of her heart…and her wisdom.

The Wit and Wisdom of Toni Morrison

What have you read by this author of many books?

Here’s what Toni Morrison taught Brené Brown about parenting:

When a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up? When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”Brené Brown

5) Families Sorting Out Trauma Together – We don’t watch R-rated movies at our house…so when I chose Rachel Getting Married, I knew it was risky. [FYI: This film has foul language and tortured emotional conversations throughout.] The story centers on a family wedding. One sister is marrying and another sister came home from a drug rehab program for the weekend’s events. The sweet moments feel guarded as fights break out regularly over the sister’s addiction and its impact on the family…and there’s the grief revolving around a younger brother who died in a car accident caused by his older sister high on drugs… Over and over, each in her/his own way, the wedding party (sisters, groom-to-be, parents, friends) deals with the undercurrent of anger and grief.Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

Why do I mention this film? It resonated with my own experience of family at times. We children, even into adulthood, could have doozies of disagreements. We rarely came to blows, but thankfully we didn’t have alcohol or drugs as part of our growing up. Like in this film, that would have caused a worse, more volatile situation.

The film was fictitious, I imagine, but the hurt in my heart, watching it, came from recognizing familiar signs of a family in trauma.

That old adage “Hurt people hurt people” comes to mind. In real life, we are wise to look past what offends our sensibilities, and reach out to those hurting in front of us. To listen, encourage, pray, understand. This film family sorted out their trauma together… without benefit of faith in God…but with a love for each other, broken but stronger together.

7 Ways to Help a Loved One Who Has Experienced Trauma by Elizabeth Clayton Lee

[By the way, our family as we have gotten older don’t have those fights anymore. Thankfully. So thankful to God, and parents who loved us through their own hard, and siblings who refused to give up on each other.]

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That’s it for this week. Would love for you to share any of your favorites of the week in the Comments below. Blessings always.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

Goodbye Nursing Homes! The New Trend is Co-Housing with Friends – and Richmond CoHousing

Photo Credit: Victory Today, Facebook

I Want to Age Like Sea Glass – Bernadette Noll

Photo Credit: Bernadette Noll, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: Facebook, Vicky Appleton Eaton

Butterfly Breakfast Buffet

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Wisdom of Charlie Daniels, Political Incorrectness, Housing for Homeless, and Vintage T-Shirts

5 of my favorite finds of the week. Thanks for stopping by!

1) First Responders – I’ve written about first responders previously – here and here. This week, pulling into my neighborhood, I immediately saw the flashing lights of the trucks of crews from Fire Station 5 and Lakeside Volunteer Rescue Squad. They were answering a call at a neighbor’s house. All ended up well. Seeing those men and women rush to serve someone in need reminded me of my own personal experience with first responders 3 years ago. What a blessing they are! Glad to see they are recognized by others as well (see link below)

Award-winning Lakeside rescue squad runs on volunteer power

2) Wisdom of Charlie Daniels– This week I came across a radio interview with Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. This incredible musician and entertainer has been around a long time. In his 80s and married to Hazel for over 50 years now, he has shown a sturdy faithfulness to his relationships and to his craft. His song The Devil Went Down to Georgia shows off his musical ability and crowd appeal. Daniels cares about the music and clearly cares about people as well.Photo Credit: YouTube

His book Never Look at the Empty Seats is a memoir. I’ve only read excerpts but am waiting for it to come in the mail. It’s been described as a book about his journey, in life and music. He said the chapter on his faith was the most challenging for him to write. Can’t wait to read it. Here are just a few quotes full of wisdom from Charlie Daniels:

“When you develop an attitude of “I’m going to accomplish what I want even if I have to work twice as hard as anybody else,” you’re going to get there.”

“You have to recognize opportunity, no matter how subtle the knock. Everything doesn’t happen at once. One thing leads to another as the building blocks of your life start to take form.”

“Competition is good, and the only way to win is to try a little harder than everybody else in the game. The sooner young people find that out, the better off they’ll be.”

“I’ve always ascribed to the theory that if you can’t get what you want, take what you can get and make what you want out of it, and we tried to make the best situation we could out of whatever we were presented with. If there were only twenty people in the place, you played for those twenty people. If what you do pleases them, they’ll be back and probably bring somebody else with them. And it snowballs. That’s how you build a following. Bring your “A” game every night, and never look at the empty seats.”*

*Never Look at the Empty Seats – Charlie Daniels Quotes – Goodreads

[Can’t wait for that musician son of ours to read Daniels’ book. He is also faithful to play his heart out for those who show up.]

3) Political Incorrectness – First, here’s one definition of political correctness: “the avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against”.

Even in the definition above, some self-proclaimed jury of a sort must act to determine who the persons are who are “socially disadvantages or discriminated against” and if, indeed, they are being “excluded or marginalized” by said expressions or actions of the insulting party.

Exhausting.

If I wanted to be successful in politics – i.e. 1) able to hold onto my constituency’s vote and 2) focus on being effective in the work/interests I’ve promised to uphold – political correctness would seem to include the following:

  • Choosing my arguments wisely and well, especially in dealing with adversaries inside and outside my party (level of government). Especially if I didn’t like them or their platforms.
  • Committing to work collaboratively with those in power, even when it is anathema for me to do so. Even if I feel it would compromise my own platforms. For the greater good of ALL my constituents. Being politically correct would not be about me.
  • Refusing to stoop to insults, finger-pointing, manipulating statistics, or rallying around half-truths.
  • Using resources entrusted to me by my constituents for their good and not for my own biases or perceived political gain.

Given what we see on any news report…no matter the network… what we find is more political incorrectness. A cavalier and relentless approach in accusing “the other side”, whatever it is, of wrong-doing and near-sightedness.

Photo Credit: eBay, C. Devane

It is as if we, the voters, the constituents of those elected officials in our government, are just sheep…who will follow the loudest voice, no matter what it is saying. God, help us.

OK…there’s my bit of a rant this week. We have real problems in our country that need to be addressed by people who care more about the work of finding solutions to the problems (cooperating across the aisle)…than winning the next election.

That would be paramount to political incorrectness in our current national environment.

I love what Mike Rosmann has to say about what could take us forward:

“We need logically and scientifically verified facts, fair appraisals of information, and consideration of a broad range of information to form reasonable determinations about almost everything. Politically incorrect insults inflame anger and avoidance rather than cooperation and reasonable solution-finding. Furthermore, replying with insults after receiving insults does little to resolve differences in opinions. Asking what others think gets us further toward reaching an understanding and agreement than proclaiming personal opinions and hurling insults.”

He had a whole lot more to say in how political incorrectness is used in today’s politics in the link below:

Political Incorrectness Can Be Problematic or Useful – Mike Rosmann

While you’re reading, also consider executive coach Ron Carucci‘s piece on hope – it is a much better place to land than the bitterness that tempts us.

Hope Hurts But It’s Our Best Option – Ron Carucci

Why listening matters. Even if you think the other side is wrong.

4) Housing the HomelessThe journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better.*  [*From an earlier blog] .

It’s been a joy to see that more positive and long-term effort in housing the homeless is happening today. Just this week, I discovered The Williamsburg House of Mercy in Williamsburg, Va. Also the Virginia Supportive Housing organization.Photo Credit: Virginia Supportive Housing

Do you have shout-out-worthy organizations in your area? Please comment.

The Renovated Homeless Shelter Gives Everything It Can to Make Those in Need ‘Feel Human’ – Benjamin West

Virginia Supportive Housing

5) Vintage T-Shirts – So this week we have another wave of nostalgia as we went through boxes long stored in the attic. Favorite t-shirts from years ago until now (note all the ones from Kingsport Tennessee’s Fun Fest – every summer since 1980 – so much fun!).

Along with all the t-shirts, we found old cassette tapes from our kids’ childhood (including homemade ones where our parents read stories to the kids to shorten the distance between them when we moved overseas). This is for another blog, but the plan is to make electronic files of all these for another sweet generation of kids.

Bonuses:

Summer Garden – Thanks, Dave!

Tour de France 2019 – Every single day; every stage – mesmerizing. NBC Sports has highlights videos for each stage on YouTube.

In the Final Moments of His Life, Calvin Has One Last Talk with Hobbes – Kashish

The article below is politically charged (not my desire) but it is also insightful of how some in our country might vote and what those in each party need to at least consider to win in the 2020 election:

The 2020 Democrats Lack Hindsight

Actor Cameron Boyce died this week at 20 years old, as a result of his epilepsy. His grandmother, Jo Ann Allen Boyce, was one of the Clinton 12. Below is a short and beautiful tribute of Mrs. Boyce, with Cameron narrating:

Why We Breathe Film Teaser & Crowd-Sourcing

The hardest truth for you to accept, based on your Myers-Briggs personality type

Girls’ Night In

Blessed are the Skeptics, and Those Who Don’t Know Where Else to Go

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a recent home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

Yesterday we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this.

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a “shining model” of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as our Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we created a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just easier to do it myself, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. This is a regret for me today. There were moments, however, – bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to help our grown-up children model and teach serving to their grands. Can’t wait to see them, growing up to adulthood, discover the continuous joy of serving others.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

5 Friday Faves – Favorite Book of 2018, the Courage of Rachael Denhollander, Good News, Love Across a Lifetime, and a Hint of Spring

It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.

1) Favorite Book of 2018 – It’s only January, but this 2016 book has already become my strong favorite for the year. It is Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch.

Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”.  In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!

Photo Credit: Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

The Best Quotes from Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – Barnabas Piper

Strong and Weak Quotes – GoodReads

[Playing God by Crouch is also on my short list for starting out 2018 reading. Then, too, his The Tech-Wise Family. Has anyone else read any of his books? Please comment and let us know. Thanks!]

The Tech-Wise Family: Every Day Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place – Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family – The Matt Lewis Show – Interview with Andy Crouch

2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.

The Incredible Testimony as a Former Gymnast Confronts Her Sexual Abuser in Court (Justin Taylor)

Photo Credit: Neil Blake, MLive.com

How the Indy Star and Rachael Denhollander Took Down Larry Nassar – Eric Levenson

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – Juliet Macur

*7 Lessons Learned From Larry Nassar Sentencing – Dwight Adams

  1. Believe children when they report abuse.
  2. Anyone can be an abuser.
  3. Reporting of child abuse must be improved.
  4. Child molesters strive to win victims’ trust.
  5. Children must speak up about abuse.
  6. Police must take on tough cases.
  7. Investigative journalism is crucial.*

3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here.   The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine wrote about good news in the midst of a horrific situation. She gave me permission to post this. I hope you will read some of her story below…it’s our story, in one way or another.

YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.

So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.

On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.

While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?

I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.

Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is.
God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)

You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy

Good News Network – a secular website with the goal of posting good news every day

Gospel – Explore God – several articles on various topics related to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What is the Gospel? – Norman Herbst – Explore God

4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.

These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!

How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.

5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!

Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!

P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).

Bonuses:

Amish Sayings

Disabled by Design – My Abundant Life Without Arms – Daniel Ritchie

Cracker Barrel – Lunch with one of my kiddos, Valentine’s Cards, and Rocking Chairs

5 Friday Faves – Leaning Into Relationships, Year-End Review, Coco Guitar Arrangement, Attention Management, and For Better or Worse

Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.

1) Leaning Into RelationshipsDr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Robert Waldinger

Lean into relationships.

TED Talk – What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – Liz Mineo

2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay

This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.

Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry.  His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”

That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.

3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.

It is Remember Me by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The film depicts the story of a young Mexican boy seeking both his destiny as a musician and peace with his family’s past. Lots of skeletons and spirits in the film, as it focuses on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I may have to watch it now.

Here’s Beyond the Guitar‘s lovely arrangement of Remember Me:

4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”Oliver Burkeman

Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives – Oliver Burkeman

Are Smartphones Making us Stupid? – Christopher Bergland

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills Writer

5) For Better or Worse – Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.

As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.

She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.

Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.

His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.

Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.

Bonuses:

Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.

Quote:  “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis

Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)

5 Friday Faves – Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar, Letting Go of Expectations, Together at Christmastime, Christmas Memories, and Christmas Words

It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!

1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.

STAR WARS: Rey’s Theme – Classical Guitar Cover (BeyondTheGuitar)

2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity

I’m Dreaming of an Imperfect Christmas – How to Release Holiday Expectations – Clarity With Charity

Be Kind – Ken Sande

3) Together at Christmas –  When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.

At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.

Beyond that sweetness?

Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.

Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.

Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.

4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior.  What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.

Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.

The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.

5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:

Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).

You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence.  Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?

On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset

“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
Eric Sevareid

“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke

“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Odd that a festival to celebrate the most austere of births should end up being all about conspicuous consumption.”
Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily

“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads

Bonuses:

Gut Check Podcast – A podcast like no other – with Ted Kluck and Zach Bartles

Life On the Other Side – The Humbled Homemaker – Erin Odom

The Brain Benefits of Your Child’s Dinosaur Obsession – Kate Morgan