[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]
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 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.
My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have 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 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 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, or traditions like them. Passing 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 with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.
Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.
I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.
Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.
[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]
Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction. I could be wrong. For sure.
Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.
Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]
I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:
“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”
“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
― Langston Hughes
On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):
*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.”*
Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:
“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.
[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]
“O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch of these great green states– And make America again! “
The weight of worry is something we have all carried…a burden never meant for our own shoulders. Over the safety and future of our children. Over our ability to provide adequately for our families. Over the meaning of the lump or the dizziness or the pain. Worry fills our mind to no good end. Joy and peace are pushed out, for no good reason.
Sure…there is plenty to drive us to worry, but we are too small, too fragile ourselves to fix everything we want fixed. Worry is futile.
My Mom was once a world-class worrier. She would lose nights of sleep in worry mixed with prayer mixed with tears. I remember, as a teen, waking to her muffled crying (from another bedroom, hoping not to wake Dad with her fitfulness). Do I go to her, or would that make her sorrow worse, to have waked up one of her children? I stayed and prayed.
However, for any of you who had the joy of knowing Mom, the best of her life story is that she learned to trust. Not just for herself but for all those God placed in her path.
When Mom got cancer and fought it futilely for the last three years of her life, her faith in God grew as it only can in suffering. Through chronic pain and cancer treatment that only made her sick, and left the cancer untouched. Mom was radiant in her faith. While we all prayed for healing, she only prayed for God to be glorified…and He answered her prayer (our also but in Heaven, as He called her Home). She had lamented one time years earlier of how she wished God would speak plainly to her so she could know it was Him. In her last days, I asked her was God talking to her through her experience with cancer. She looked at me with those bright, beautiful eyes of her and that radiant smile, and answered, “All the time”. All the time!
She prayed His will and He showed up strong and with grace upon grace. She endured, and He showed up. That intimacy with God was worth it all for Mom.
What I learned from Mom in the worry of years earlier and in her walk of faith with God in the end changed my life forever.
Does worry still rise up in its mean life-stealing phantom form? Yes.
If we pay attention, God will point us to what is true, through His Word and through precious brothers and sisters, reminding us of His character and His ways for us.Photo Credit: Daily Verses
I’ve already written earlier this week on the teachings of Canadian author Tim Challies, but his most recent posting stirred today’s blog.
He writes most recently on the day he drove his daughter, Abby, to the airport to return to her Freshman year at college (after spending the holidays together, grieving the loss of their son/brother). It was at college that Nick died. Anxiety over releasing Abby to God…as parents have to do over and over again in life…overwhelmed him…
“How, then, can I let go of such anxiety? If I have learned any antidote it is this: deliberately submitting myself to the will of God, for comfort is closely related to acquiescence. As long as I fight the will of God, as long as I battle God’s right to rule his world in his way, peace remains distant and furtive. But when I surrender, when I bow the knee, then peace flows like a river and “attendeth my way.” For when I do so, I remind myself that the will of God is inseparable from the character of God. I remind myself that the will of God is always good because God is always good. Hence I pray a prayer of faith, not fatalism: “Your will be done. Not as I will, but as you will.”
“So I will pray for the desires of my heart, I will ask God to bless and protect my girl, I’ll plead with him to bring her home to me in May. But the steel thread woven through the fabric of such a prayer is not “my will be done” but “thy will be done.” Ultimately, if there is to be comfort, it will not be grounded in the hope that nothing bad will happen to me or to the people I love, but in the perfect God whose perfect character is displayed in his perfect will.” – Tim Challies
In his reminding of the goodness of God, no matter what, he also brought to mind the great old hymn It Is Well With My Soul. If you don’t know the powerful story of the writing of this hymn, take the time to read it in the link below.
Fastest week ever. Here I am late again for Friday Faves, but they have to be posted. It was a beautiful and amazing week for this woman here. Hope you will find something through which you are encouraged or amused. Happy week ahead!
1) Big Birthdays – I had a big birthday this week. Big. One of those with a 0 in the 1’s place. Another year, it would have been celebrated by a beach somewhere. With a dinner in a nice restaurant or a movie out with Dave and a family-size buttered popcorn. COVID. So…my kids planned a birthday lunch for me, and that would have been sweet enough. Coming so close after Christmas, I just couldn’t come up with any gift ideas. It was going to be ok…just being thankful for life and with my little family. Well…this birthday turned into a one-day-after-another, full of surprises huge hurrah!! Dear friends and neighbors showed up in so many sweet ways. In so many humbling and satisfying ways. That birthday joy was spread through a full week. Wow! So many thanks to you who knew this was going to be a bit bewildering for me. Can we do this again next year?!
2) Long Life – During my younger years, the Bible verses promising long life to those who honored their parents were easy to grab hold of. My parents were easy to honor. It just wasn’t much work for me. In fact, it was a joy.
Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. – Deuteronomy 5:16
Here’s to long life! And wonderful parents! Especially after one of those “big” birthdays.
3) Words on Inauguration Day – Every four years, this large day is observed in the United States of America. The peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next (after a two-term presidency or if the incumbent doesn’t win the second term). There are speeches, songs, and oaths. Many highlights. The most special for me? The 22 y/o poet laureate Amanda Gorman asked to recite one of her poems for President Biden…as the rest of the world listens.
Below is just a bit of her poem. Click on the video for the whole.
4) The Life and Wisdom of Hank Aaron – Baseball great Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron died this week. He was a great athlete and a great man. my Dad loved the Atlanta Braves…so much so that whenever they lost in the playoffs, the World Series no longer had interest for him. Hank Aaron spent most of his baseball career with the Atlanta Braves, and I grew up watching him and hearing Dad talk about him.
I should have known, but didn’t, how much racism Hank Aaron endured. Especially as he edged closer to beating the homerun record of national hero Babe Ruth. Aaron could bring homeruns…Photo Credit: Hank Aaron, AZ Quotes
…all day long. Hammerin’ Hank. He was a champion and a man with deep character. How is one’s character forged? With Hank Aaron, he probably learned it from a mom and dad, but he also unfortunately learned it through suffering. [“…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5]
I thank God for Hank Aaron – for enduring the racism of that era without bowing to bitterness. He was a shining light to so many.
“In playing ball, and in life, a person occasionally gets the opportunity to do something great. When that time comes, only two things matter: being prepared to seize the moment and having the courage to take your best swing.”
“I need to depend on Someone who is bigger, stronger and wiser than I am. I don’t do it on my own. God is my strength. He gave me a good body and some talent and the freedom to develop it. He helps me when things go wrong. He forgives me when I fall on my face. He lights the way.”
“What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are.”
“I am very proud to be an American. This country has so much potential, I’d just like to see things better, or whatever, and I think it will be.”
“The way I see it, it’s a great thing to be the man who hit the most home runs, but it’s a greater thing to be the man who did the most with the home runs he hit. So as long as there’s a chance that maybe I can hammer out a little justice now and then, or a little opportunity here and there, I intend to do as I always have — keep swinging.”
“A high school class learning about the Salem Witch Trials, and their teacher told them they were going to play a game.
“I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a regular person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does NOT have a witch in it. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”
The teens dove into grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the students broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought gave off even a hint of guilt.
“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Time to find out which ones fail. All witches, please raise your hands.”
No one raised a hand.
The kids were confused and told him he’d messed up the game.
“Did I? Was anyone in Salem an actual witch or did everyone just believe what they’d been told?”
And that is how you teach kids how easy it is to divide a community. Some adults can learn a bit about this too.”
Sometimes rolling out of bed is an act of faith. I’d been awake for an hour already. Trying to clear the dark thoughts out of my head. Praying. Remembering what is true and distinguishing what is only speculation. This time it had to do with a family concern…what could we do to help? What could I do? Only God could do anything at this point. So I prayed.
Prayer can clear the mechanism, for sure. Going to God when we are distracted beyond good sense, disoriented by the noise in our heads, worried that nothing good is coming down the pike. By concentrating our thoughts into a cry to God, we gain clarity. Maybe on how to deal with an issue ourselves, or finding no clear answer, on the goodness of a holy and wise God.
So I rolled out of bed, had coffee, spent a bit of time in Scripture, got my clothes on, and headed out the door.
What a sky! Past the vivid colors of sunrise, but still with the hint of pink, streaking the clouds. It was beautiful! In a split second, taking in the largeness of the sky and the clean slate of a Monday morning, I head out…with hope…and peace in my heart.
Just like the sky changes through the day, so do our thoughts. Is the family concern still real and present? Yes. As far as I know. Do I have a clear path to help? No. However, it’s a new day. Anything could happen.
Dark clouds are rolling in, and just a hint of blue remains before the rain starts.
Even since last year, when I wrote here on Martin Luther King Jr., our country seems changed. Divided, blaming, hostile, cautious. Remembering Dr. King is a good thing. He did much to bring us together, even as divided we were across racial and ideological lines.
Perfect for reflecting on the action by which God had rescued me from my own thoughts. Giving me the will and determination to take on a new day.
The songwriters created this song from the Biblical text below.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11
The song above, “It’s Gonna Be OK”, was born out of dark times for the songwriter couple, through which God brought them into light. A song just right for us going through COVID and this year of 2020.
We may not have any idea what “OK” is going to look like…but we can grab hold of it, and take each new day as both promise and possibility.
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.
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”.
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
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.
Twitter is just like a public street. You’ll encounter all kinds of people. Some are evil and nasty—many actually dangerous—and some are wonderful souls who are sent by God to bless you. Others still are people he wants to bless through your friendship and prayers. Be mindful. pic.twitter.com/Z8rToFE1IX
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.
1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.
Grandchildren – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.
2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.
“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” – C. S. Lewis
Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.
He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.
Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…
“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.” – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.
The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.
Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.
So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.
5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.
2) The Mercy of Forgiveness – Talking to my sweet mom-in-law this morning, and she was commenting on how “life is too short for unforgiveness”. Immediately the thought came to mind “and eternal life is way too long for unforgiveness”. We may have a lot to forgive, and we may think we have forgiven (willing & hoping to never see that person again in our lives)…the thing is, I’m pretty sure we know in our hearts if we have truly forgiven or not. Unforgiveness is living in the past, ruminating over the offenses and the person who did them, negative thoughts that permeate our mind. Can’t get clear of them …without forgiveness. Photo Credit: Twitter, C. S. Lewis
Peace in the present…that’s what forgiveness gives. It also frees us from the self-imposed imprisonment of unforgiveness…which imprisons us, our families/friends/coworkers – depending who all our unforgiveness includes. Forgiveness – it’s what we’re counting on from God. How can we think our reasons for unforgiveness are higher than His in forgiving us? Peace. P.S. I get how hard unforgiveness can be. So thankful my mom (in Heaven now for almost 20 years) practiced and taught us to keep short accounts with others. Short accounts, knowing we can hurt others, too…and we do.
“Every home (like every other micro-society) has a distinct culture. In other words, every home reflects a pattern of unspoken assumptions which convey the approved way to perceive, think, and feel.
One of the most important things parents can do is to create a culture of forgiveness in the home.
It begins with a gracious tongue. Parents should be quick (and sincere) to speak grace into every corner of family life. The language of graces and manners – “Please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” and “I’m sorry” — should flavor the family conversation.
Additionally, parents should not tolerate disrespect, shrillness, selfishness or cynicism.
We didn’t dishonor our children; they couldn’t either. House rules.
[Included in our house rules as well]
Forgiveness should never be extended purely as a model or teaching tool. However, parents should be quick to apologize to each other and to the children. And, of course, children should be taught how to extend and receive forgiveness.
3) Virtual Christmas Parties – Most all of our Christmas festivities this year have been cancelled thanks to COVID. Well, except for small family gatherings. We did decide to convert one annual friend party into a virtual “get-together”. A White Elephant gift exchange has always been part of our party tradition. How do we do that, physically distanced?
We gathered on a zoom call and chatted while we all ate our respective suppers in our respective dining or living rooms.
[A surprise element to this party was also a gender reveal. So fun!]
We had some extra gifts in case folks forgot or just didn’t come prepared…we had it covered.
Each party friend took turns choosing a gift. With Zoom, we just showed off the gift we had made or bought and kept it in view as turns were taken and gifts were secured or stolen by another.
In the days after the party, we work out a driveway visit with those who chose our White Elephant gifts. What a plus that we get to see our friends face-to-face, albeit physically distanced. Sweet times.
How about you? How have you altered your festivities? Please comment below. We all need ideas for this year, especially.
4) Festive Foods – So many holidays have festive foods attached to them. When friends of ours dropped by this past week, for a backyard visit, they brought a copy of their Christmas menu. They live in a 55+ community and will have these foods offered in their dining room. It was sumptuous with something yummy for everyone.
As we count down to Christmas, all sorts of goodies are gifted or created in our own kitchens.
What are some of your festive foods? Again, please share in Comments. The stew below isn’t attached to Christmas memories. It is a meatball tajine with memories of Morocco in every bite. Yum!
5) Forever Friends – I wanted to close with a salute to those forever friends in our lives. Because of COVID and all the restrictions, like many of you, I have not visited with friends as often or in the more usual ways. It’s been nine months now…nine months. Our friends, especially those who live out of town, have kept in touch by phone, social media messaging, and video calls. Even cards as birthdays and holidays have passed without our seeing so much of each other… or not at all. What a blessing that we have forever friends who will hang in there with us through this and whatever comes after.
On one of my rare outings to a favorite thrift store recently, I found this little Pooh ornament. The sentiment is true. So thankful for you.
1) A #COVID Walk with a Friend – We planned a walk and then my friend thought of the conference she had attended days before, and decided it was safer for me, potentially, for us to walk together “remotely”. It was lovely.
We did our walks in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone with each other.
Took selfies after the walk in our respective neighborhoods – not our best look but exhilarating the time outside and “with” each other
What have you done to stay in touch with friends/family during these days of COVID? Please comment below. I saw just this week how one extended family connects over zoom once a month, playing games they have adapted to a screen. Seems we can come up with lots of memorable ways to stay closer in touch. We await your ideas.
2) Christmas Commercials (Adverts) – Some of the best ads are the ones that pop up over Christmas. Greetings from stores, companies, and other organizations. Here are just a few (have a cup of tea/coffee sometime and do an internet search for these (both past and present). Lovely, some funny, some nostalgic – all commentate on culture as well, through the years.
So much Santa Claus (sigh…) but had to include this one also – longish but beautiful visuals and a determined dad:
Do you have favorite Christmas adverts? Please share in Comments.
3) Monopoly Money – It wasn’t so long ago that special grants of money for disaster response from the government measured in the millions. Those days are long gone. Now we talk trillions.
For some time now, I have at the top of my issues for the Office of President these three: Life/Abortion, Supreme Court, and national debt. Now, our debt seems completely off the radar. Whew…
Some of us were talking about this issue and the phrase “Monopoly Money” came up. That’s what it’s like…as money poured out, in response to the COVID-induced economic response, to almost everyone in the US, regardless of need. Where does that money even come from?
Our current President didn’t seem to have national debt on the top of his promises (many of which he kept), and certainly our President-elect isn’t concerned with debt by all the very expensive promises he is making. The whole idea of targeting the wealthy for tax increases is short-sighted. The wealthy aren’t stupid. They can move their operations where the tax base will be more in their favor. If the highest-eschelon wealth-owners (the supposed “1%” in the US) care about those in need, they are already assisting in their own ways.
Then Thanksgiving Eve, we did our annual crazy family picture experience (thankful for friends who provided the behind the camera entertainment for the children). Here’s just one of the many pics taken. Our kiddos. The rest of the pics wait for Christmas.
On schedule the Christmas cactus begins to bloom.
Thanksgiving morning, we had brunch with our kids. They did all the cooking. It was splendid – both the food and the time together. I will never take that for granted.
Then onto Delaware to spend the rest of the holiday with Dave’s mom and brother’s family. Sweet times on the Eastern Shore.
MomMom with her two boys.
The grandson who had to miss because of work came for a visit still.
Facetime with the big and little cousins:
#TurkeyLoveliness the day after Thanksgiving:
Home again – sunrise over the Eastern Shore and then Christmas lights that night back home in Richmond:
5) Back to School (Please) – Both the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci agree that students need to be back in school. We all probably have very strong feelings about this. We don’t want our children to lose a school year with online learning (with the best efforts of their children). Nor do we want them infecting school staff or bringing the disease home. If we “follow the science”, it seems our concerns regarding COVID are unfounded. What do you think?
Below is a Facebook thread from a friend of mine – she spoke with exquisite clarity on what it is for Christians in the US right now if we are not aligned politically with what is deemed the most popular opinion at the moment:
2020 US Presidential Election – tucking this in here at the bottom of Bonuses. No matter our political party, this election was the first one in my adult life when some of the states just stopped counting the votes election night. That was confusing, with no real rationale.
Anyway, it’s been a strange ride for all of us. The certification of all the states’ votes is in process as is are the legal cases involving some of them. I do believe we will have a peaceful transition of power if President-Elect Biden continues to hold that position. It doesn’t hurt that our electoral process is being scrutinized. As a nation, we must all be able to trust our electoral process. It’s fundamental to our values in the US.
1) Twitter Gold – Social media definitely has its pluses and minuses. Twitter has taken a lot of hits lately, and deservedly, for its censorship of persons and content. It can be very negative and even mean-spirited. I’ve had the pleasure of following and learning from men and women whom I’d never have the opportunity to meet. They have taught me much about the varied positions of partisan politics, racial unrest, faith and work. Below are just a couple of the kind of tweets that have encouraged me and made me think. Who do you follow on Twitter (or other platforms) that have made a difference in your thinking.
2) Refusing to Not Care – The American Thanksgiving is this next week and many of us are looking forward to being together with family. At the same time, the CDC and many of our elected officials have advised not to travel and not to gather. What do we do?
Of course we care about those we love and even those we pass on the street or on those quick trips into stores or businesses.
We can refuse to not care. I know that is awkward wording, but it is what’s before us. We will take precautions, but to leave our elderly loved ones isolated still is not right and the lockdowns themselves can do harm as well.
I don’t like the language of “not caring.” I do think many people are weary because: – uncertain timelines (a week, then a month, then a year) – unnatural patterns (humans are made to gather) – unfair restrictions (favoring one kind of gathering and restricting another) https://t.co/JAJn476jXk
We don’t want to be reckless with those we love. We also see the double standard in some of our nation’s recommendations as crowds gather for various self-interests, and yet the private citizen is urged to stay apart.
As our COVID winter continues, we will be wise to search the conflicting and ever-evolving science on prevention and mediation.
We will continue to physically distance, wear masks around others, but we will also cautiously spend time with our family over the holidays. We will not stop caring.
In fact, anything that Dr. Thompson has written (or spoken to via podcast or YouTube video) you will find enormously. He is a Christian psychiatrist who teaches and counsels on shame, belonging, and interpersonal neurobiology. What a blessing to have this kind of access to a psychiatrist’s helps in such an isolating, disorienting time as COVID has given us.Photo Credit: Curt Thompson Associates
His teaching on COVID fatigue and how to successfully deal with it is excellent. Also he teaches about the differences in our right and left brain function and how we can develop our ability to process information in a much healthier way (neuroplasticity). Fascinating stuff.
Did you know that when we feel danger, our tendency is to isolate (sounds like what we’re doing now with physical distancing)? Yet, our brains need human connection. Video calls help but they are exhausting because we are taking in all the faces 1) without the many other physical cues we’re used to and 2) without always making a real personal connection with anyone.
Thompson also talks about how our left brain is more focused on the past and the future. In fact, we are actually rewarded when we think more out of our right brain (analytical, rational, problem-solving, etc). Our right brain, however, focuses on the present…the moment. Picking up all the little details, and the beauty of our surroundings, including the faces of those all around us (differently than on video calls). Our right brain helps us create. These days we consume much more than we create. We might want to try to turn that around.
4) Christmas Comes Early – OK, so first we will have American Thanksgiving which I have lovingly written about here.
Thanksgiving won’t be missed, even with COVID restrictions, but it feels like Christmas needed to come early this year.
When our children were little, we put on a family Christmas play. Now our children have children, and thanks to a friend who can envision and execute the sweetest Christmas costumes, we’re getting another generation ready for this year’s family fun.
Then we put up the Christmas trees and lay out the nativities. Every ornament has its own memory attached. The nativities do as well – coming from around the world or crafted by a daughter.
The very best part of Christmas, after celebrating the birth of the Messiah, is communicated on this ornament: Gather together. Can’t wait!
5) A Message to President Trump –
Dear President Trump,
I’ve never written you before, although your staff has received emails from me about the issues I cared most about in your four years of office.
Until the lawsuits have run their course, it is not completely settled, but it appears, if all things stay the same, that Vice-President Biden will be taking your place in the White House. I’m sure you will do the right thing for our country, as you have tried over these four years in office.Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Shealah Craighead
President Trump, I want to thank you for all you have done to benefit our country. We don’t hear much about it in the news, but you were determined to keep as many of your promises as you could (given the checks and balances of our country’s government). Your accomplishments (at least many of them) are listed here, here, here, and here.
I have prayed for you these four years (as we must for all our presidents). There have been times when your words and actions have brought calamity on you and on us…it may have cost you your second term. However, your willingness to call out people for their own behavior has actually been refreshing.
You’ve been called a liar by the media…and yet, what if we find you have actually been telling more the truth?…albeit in an unpopular way…
You have seemed to really care about the regular guy. Your policies and presence weren’t just about the elites of our society. So many people seemed to feel seen and valued by your administration. You could see that in the rallies…and in the surprising (to the media) voter turnout.
I loved your State of the Union addresses. Whoever your speech writer was really helped you demonstrate your most human side. All presidents brag on themselves during these addresses, but you also pointed out person after person who deserved the spotlight on them for a moment. You were generous to share that with them and with all of us watching. It made me sad that many of our elected officials treated you with such contempt by boycotting your addresses, and even tearing up your speech.
Having lived in countries with far less freedom than we enjoy, it has shocked me the disrespect and disregard our media has shown you over these four years. That would have never happened where we lived. How you were able to keep your focus and keep at the important work of your office, with daily ridicule and push-back, is mind-boggling.
I’m ashamed of how you were maligned…not guilty myself, but ashamed as part of a nation. Why people didn’t try to figure out how to work with you is astonishing to me. We have all had bosses we didn’t prefer, but we do what we can to get along and get the job done.
It is also appalling how the First Lady was not revered as she should have been. Her courage and tenacity are a credit to her.
Anyway, I’ll repeat this in a real letter to you, but I just wanted to say as simply as possible, thank you. We, as a nation, have much to be grateful for in this Thanksgiving season…even in the very hard economic times of COVID. Thank you for trying to help people keep their jobs and hold their families together.
I’m also appreciative of the people, the ones I respect, who either love you or hate you. I’ve learned from them both. How strange that decent people can have such opposing views. I wonder what you think.
You have been more silent in these days since the election than in all the rest of your time in office. We pray for your health and the resolution of our current tangle. We pray God has become more real to you in these years like none other in your life. We pray these next weeks also will be some of the most productive and profitable for these United States, as is possible for a sitting President. I know you will try.
God bless America, and God bless you, Mr. President.