Monday Morning Moment – Advent Begins and Christmas Memories Follow

[Adapted from the Archives]

In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).

This time each year I clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish.

Driving to the thrift store with the bags of what will become someone else’s treasures, my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In those bags, among the bits of stuff, were several sets of Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.

I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.

Still in the driver’s seat, with the car running, a song I’d never heard on the radio came on. It was Michael W. Smith’s Somewhere In My Memory (from his 2014 album The Spirit of Christmas.

In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. The musical score was composed by John Williams.

Have a listen:

Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me

Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see

Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home
here with me*

What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.

So Happy start of Advent, kind readers. Whether we get the gifts right or not this year, Christmas still comes for us. What your loved ones want most for Christmas…might just be you.

We have good advice, on choosing love, in this image of a holiday bucket list:

I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift… Solitude instead of having every minute of our December weekends filled with parties or other seasonal events. One such grace for me was seeing the plaque below, at a local Chick-Fil-A. Surprised by the joy of it.

A Better Way Ministries -a place of refuge for men struggling with life controlling issues such as drug and alcohol addictions

Anyway….there you have my Monday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2019.

One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them.

Until then?

“All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me”.

*Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube Video – Michael W. Smith – Somewhere In My Memory Feat. Audrey Smith

5 Friday Faves for Thanksgiving – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and All the Emotions

[Adapted from the Archives]

In the US, our Thanksgiving Day celebrations are renowned across the country. Traditions abound. We’re always sorry when people have to work…which happens more now that Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US., has pushed in on Thanksgiving Day.

For this week’s Friday Faves, our Thanksgiving Day regulars are posted below. Paramount over all the day’s festivities is thanksgiving itself – reflecting on and reviewing all we’re thankful for over this past year and always. God is good…present with us at every turn.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Singing News Radio

Holidays can be tough. Family doesn’t always cooperate, nor do our work schedules, or our health situations. Still we can redeem even the hardest days. I really appreciate the hacks in the link below.

Ten Pre-Thanksgiving Hacks (2019 Edition) – Shane L. Bishop

1) The Gathering – Our celebration of American Thanksgiving always involves some sort of gathering. When children grow up and start their own families, sharing them with their greater extended families on various holidays. I’m very thankful for the inlaws/in-loves inherited through marrying Dave, and we’re also thankful for our children’s inlaws. Whatever configuration you have, either for Thanksgiving or another occasion, here’s hoping for sweet times.

VCU International Thanksgiving Dinner – a few years back

2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? Every year finds family recipes honored through the generations. Uncle Mark’s oyster stew, MomMom’s strawberry salad, my mom’s cornbread dressing, and sweet wet cornbread (Aunt Stacie’s and Bekkah’s recipe neither of which I have).

Thanksgiving Dinner at Mom & Dad’s years ago – Feast on the bar

The dilemma is when the recipe is a bit sketchy…as in this video below (so reminded me of how my mom cooked – a little bit of this and a little bit of that…to perfection).

Do you have any favorite family recipes you’d be willing to share? Even if it’s just the story? Please! In Comments below.

3) Table Talk – With so many around the table, the conversation is never dull. There’s always some variation of the theme of “what are you thankful for” – and then we turn to topics as varied as the feast spread before us. We hear about new boyfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category – politics, technology, and the world. There’s always reminiscing on past Thanksgivings, when more dear ones were still with us. This time, what will it be?

4) Living Room Sprawls – After we leave the dinner table, and the dishes are washed and food put away, it’s find a place to sprawl in the living room. Either for a football game or a nap.

What favorite activity do you have besides those I listed? A walk outside? Playing football instead of watching? Table games? Talking family history with the old ones? Loving on the babies?

A Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt or a Gratefulness scavenger hunt:

Blog – Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt – the housewife modern Photo Credit: Facebook, Maude Metzger Meyers, One Thousand Gifts Study Group

One activity I would love to add to Thanksgiving is singing around the piano. We do that at Christmas time, but the video below, by People and Songs, below got me excited about pulling folks together to sing at other times of the year as well.

YouTube Video – People & Songs – Revelation – FB Live Living Room

5) All the Emotions – Because of the family nature of Thanksgiving, it’s as full of emotions as it is the annual carb load. This year our beloved PopPop (Dave’s dad) is gone from the table, nor will we be seeing Aunt Nancy on Black Friday. They both died this year and their loss is significant for us.

Then the emotions of all that’s going on in the lives of those we love – kids home from college, our littles in their various developmental milestones (and all they bring, as small as they are), marriages weathering the storms of life, friendships enduring distance, and the experience of peace…

Thankful.

[It is not always…these happier times and emotions, and for that we are there for each other. It is what family is meant for…]

Bonuses:

Christmas Playlist for the Roadtrip by Beth Wayland

Raising Memories: The Ultimate List of 100 Non-Toy Gift Ideas – Heather Lynne

Raising Memories: 100 Kid-Approved Stocking Stuffer Ideas – Heather Lynne

Worship Wednesday – What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei – Travis & Daughter Lily Cottrell and a Whole Lot of Other People

Photo Credit: YouTube, Travis & Lily Cottrell

[Adapted from the Archives]

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 cling to, 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.

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”Philippians 2:5-11

Considering the answer to questions is a part of how we learn, how we set a course toward knowing. We search out in our own minds the answer to a question. If we come up blank, we seek out other resources, those who show mastery, knowledge, or understanding that we lack.

Is there a most important question in life?

I’m posing this as the most important question: What will you do with Jesus?

The weight of evidence that Jesus existed is substantial, unquestionable. In fact, to say he didn’t would require more faith than not, given the historical documentation and his impact on history. Note one reference here.

What we do with this Jesus is partly determined on whether we see him as a man, a prophet, a revolutionary…or God.

During my early childhood years, my family was not religious. There were no rituals, no spiritual conversations, no sense of God or who he was.

I was eight years old before we ever went into a church building. This followed my parents’ divorce, a couple of house moves, and my mom’s remarriage to my sweet step-dad. Lots of ups and downs in there.

A student of mine once told me that he believed children just grow up in the faith of their parents…no personal wrestling of what to believe…or whom to believe in.

My family didn’t have any faith to speak of in those days. When friends invited us to join them in church, it began a journey for my mom, dad, and siblings. For my parents, it was a re-acquainting themselves with God…for me an amazing new discovery.

Everything I have learned about Jesus and know of him through personal experience has enriched my life like nothing else in this world. No human love, no accomplishment, no other adventure can compare with what has come to me through him.

There is no question for me that if there is God, then Jesus is God. It is difficult to wrap the mind around the reality of a triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have to take that by faith, but not a blind faith. The life and teaching of Jesus point to one linked so intimately to the Father, they are one. Thoroughly infused by the Spirit of God. No ordinary man, or woman, could live as he lived, love as he loved, spend himself as he did. He was human and divine… completely…and without sin.

As a child from a broken home, whose biological father’s neglect and disregard continued through our lives until he died…I longed for the love that only God, through Christ Jesus, offered.

He has never disappointed.

Two beautiful songs have been weaved together in today’s Worship Wednesday. The Hillsong Worship song-writer team of Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood gave us What a Beautiful Name – a song that describes something of the beauty of the name of Jesus.

Photo Credit: Phatmass

Singer Songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s Agnus Dei is a huge worship anthem lifting Jesus, the Lamb of God, as worthy of all praise.

What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei has been arranged for choir by singer/songwriter Travis Cottrell. The song features his daughter Lily Cottrell, and a whole lot of other people.

In a world where too often Jesus’ name is used as a derogatory exclamation, my heart is renewed in the company of those whose lives have also been transformed by knowing him…and praying to the Father, in his name. Jesus…God coming so close to us and making a way for us to come close to Him…now and forever.

Let’s worship together…[click on the link; the lyrics are there. By the way: my struggle often with posting Worship Wednesday is the possible distraction from the exquisite truth of Jesus and the Gospel with the emotional beauty of the music and the winsomeness of the singers in the video. May we never settle for the lift our hearts receive in a corporate praise experience…and miss both the rock-solid grounding and ascendant nature of the message of who Jesus is. Hallelujah!]

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High
Your hidden glory in creation
Now revealed in You our Christ

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

You didn’t want heaven without us
So, Jesus, You brought heaven down
My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now?

What a wonderful name it is, what a wonderful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a wonderful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a wonderful name it is, the name of Jesus

Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again…

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names

What a powerful name it is, what a powerful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a powerful name it is, nothing can stand against
What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus

You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, God, You reign
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names
The Name above all names!…

Holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb
‘Cause You are holy, holy
Are You Lord, God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb!…
You are holy!

What a beautiful name it is, what a beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ, my King
What a beautiful name it is, nothing compares to this
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus
What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus

Photo Credit: UEChurch

Explore God: Who Is Jesus?

Worship Wednesday – The Name and Person of Jesus – Various Artists – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – Do You Know Him By Name? – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – What a Beautiful Name (Lyric Video) – Hillsong Worship

YouTube Video – Agnus Dei by Michael W. Smith (w/ lyrics)

Monday Morning Moment – the Positive Power of a Community of Women

First off, this is for you women out there. Men could also profit reading, because it speaks to a need they have as well. [At the bottom, Guys, is a link marked with an * that speaks to a situation worth assessing, along with this one.] Today, I am writing to women though because it’s women I know best and whose community I need most.

West Texas mom and blogger Amy Weatherly has written a great piece on the essential nature of having a tribe. I have to say that word has gone South for me. A tribe too often means “a clique, a squad, a pack” – exclusive, closed, self-promoting. Not in Amy Weatherly’s article, at all…as you will see. Just for my own sensibilities, the word tribe is translated community elsewhere in this blog.

Here’s Amy Weatherly’s piece and her defining quote on women in community:

Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Tribe. A Tribe of Women Who Could Choose to Compete, But Take the Higher Road of Collaboration Instead

Behind every successful woman is a tribe. A tribe of other women who support her and love her and push her to be her absolute best but stick by her even when she’s at her absolute worst. A tribe of other women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe of other women who don’t just fix her crown, but also bend down to pick it up and dust it off when it’s fallen off. A tribe of other women who refuse to get jealous. Who refuse to compare. Who refuse to belittle or go low. Who refuse to gossip, or leave out, or hurt just to watch her crumble under the pressure.

A tribe of women who tell the truth. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it’s uncomfortable. When a lie would be the simpler road to travel.

A tribe of women who pick her up and put her back on her feet when she’s gone off-course. A tribe of women who have the courage to encourage her. A tribe of women who have the strength to strengthen her.

A tribe of other women who have her back, and her front, and her side, and her soul, and her spirit, and her heart, and her best interest in mind. Always.

Behind every successful woman is a God who knows the plans He has had for her from the very beginning. A God who holds her in His own hand and cheers her on from Heaven. A God who loved her before she was even born and had dreams for her before she even took her first breath. She mattered to Him before the womb. She mattered to Him in the womb. And she sure matters to Him now. – Amy Weatherly

We Adore Messy Bun, No-makeup Mom’s Post After Friend Asks: ‘Who Even Are You Anymore?’ – Sonja Haller – USA Today

What Weatherly wrote so resonated. Across the geography of my life, communities of women have reached in and given me love, confidence, and safe places where dreams can turn into reality. I hope to have learned well enough from them to do likewise in other circles of influence.

Sometimes the communities are small – my mom and me, for one. However, there are always other women connected. I think of the women, friends of my mom’s, who taught and counseled me growing up (in church and in our neighborhood). Then in Mom’s last years, friends of hers (and mine) who leaned in to love us well when cancer became our collective enemy. Losing Mom was awful, but her friends stayed…and are staying still, for me. Praise God for that community.

After reading Weatherly’s article, I got to thinking: what is it that makes for such a community? Here are some characteristics:

  • They show up…
  • And they stay (you don’t have to worry about them walking away)
  • Challenge in positive ways (all in)
  • Empower (bringing their own skill sets to insure success)
  • Serve one another
  • No selfish ambition
  • Inclusive
  • Genuinely interested in what each cares about
  • Will give benefit of the doubt
  • Refuse to think/speak ill of the other
  • Will move Heaven and earth to make things happen
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Grieve the losses and comfort those most affected
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Keep short accounts (ask forgiveness, forgive, and counsel to do both)
  • Speak blessing
  • See and know each other

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? [In Comments below.]

Are any of us always that way as a group? No. Of course not. Still, in genuine community, we experience a fertile soil to grow and flourish.

I wish I could include images of all the communities of women that have peopled and blessed my school, work, and home life through the years. It would be a beautiful sight.

As for the communities of women that break our hearts or frustrate our hopes or, in some way, feel we have done wrong to them? We learn in these situations as well…to keep seeking to grow, to understand and to love anyway.Photo Credit: Edwin Markham, Tony Mayo

*Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships and Girlfriends [According to Science Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytonin] – Laura Barcella

Why Women Need Their Tribe

5 Friday Faves – Moment of Lament, Anxiety and Depression, John’s Crazy Socks, Relapse/Recovery, and Alex Trebek

Welcome to the weekend! Here in a flash are my week’s faves:

1) Moment of Lament – This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first landing of ships carrying African peoples, destined for slavery or servanthood, to American soil. [See link for some of the controversy around this anniversary.] A Moment of Lament organized by For Richmond is scheduled for several churches in our city to mark this anniversary, and to thank God for those who endured this terrible offense and have profoundly contributed to our country’s identity and character.

Photo Credit: For Richmond, Facebook

2) Anxiety and Depression – Two connected and chronic human struggles in society today are anxiety and depression. None of us is immune to these, and we all have loved ones who are especially caught in the battle against either anxiety or depression or both.

A favorite author of mine, Frank Sonnenberg, has written on 30 distressing habits we can develop over time that lead us to anxiety and depression.  Some of these include keeping bad company, prizing possessions over relationships, holding onto anger, bowing to others’ agendas for your life, and entitlement. Just to name a few. Check out his list, see if you’ve fallen into some of these, but don’t let his list guilt you (another one of his 30). Understanding how we can fall into these habits can help us climb out of some of our struggles.

Journalist Johann Hari has written on addiction, anxiety and depression. [Hari, earlier in his career, came under attack for his ethics and journalistic practices. What he said in the TED Talk below is so spot on, it warrants our consideration.]

Hari has long struggled himself with anxiety and depression. In preparation for writing his book on the subject, he took a literal journey of discovery. Traveling across the world to interview a myriad of specialists on the subject of anxiety/depression. The TED Talk is worth your 20 minutes. In short, he talked about how sometimes medication is necessary for the chemical imbalance some of us have making us vulnerable to anxiety/depression. Many more of us, however, don’t have a chemical imbalance. Our struggles with anxiety and depression relate more to “unmet needs”. The needs for meaning, purpose, community, connectedness. He talks about how we have allowed false values (recognition on social media, fame or celebrity, individual effort) to replace larger values of actually being present in our world, touching lives as only we’re able to do, connecting with life (and I will add God, here).

14:22 minutes into the TED Talk, he offers an exercise that can make a difference in the quality of our lives. An exercise that’s meant to be done in community.

Johann Hari – Quotes – Goodreads

Depression and Diet – WebMD

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, #WorldKindnessDay, and Facebook

3) John’s Crazy Socks – Socks for Christmas, right? Always a good idea. John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin are the co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks. Mark is the dad and John is the son. The whole concept of these socks is so special that you need to see the story:

Whether you buy socks at Walmart or pay the extra for John’s Crazy Socks is not the issue. What counts is that some folks have made this a very successful business, and it is much deserved! Thanks, Mark and John. You’ve definitely made us happy just knowing you a bit.

4) Relapse/Recovery – For any of us who have friends or family in recovery from drug addiction, we know the dread of relapse. One of my best friends is a recovered alcoholic. She has spent most of her life sober…to the point, in fact, that she feels God has cured her of alcoholism. However, does she ever drink? Absolutely not.

She just doesn’t go there.

Someone else in our lives has relapsed. After several years drug-free. I will protect their privacy, but the relapse has been devastating. For us, and I’m sure for them.

It happens. Not always, but sometimes. However, it still doesn’t define the person. That person, after recovery, has a job, and a family, and hopes and dreams. When a relapse occurs all those things are threatened.Photo Credit: PxHere

With the opioid epidemic, incarceration is not the answer. Drug rehab residential programs are less costly and more effective, but also are not without risks. After years of drug-free recovery, a person who relapses is more vulnerable for overdose and death because of lowered tolerance for the drugs.

Relapse also leaves the family vulnerable…emotionally and socioeconomically.

For those of us who love these wrestling with the work of recovery and the risk of relapse…we learn what we can and we rally around them and their families in healthy and truly helpful ways.

Heroin Addiction Recovery Program – Redeption, Recovery in a Chesterfield Jail – John Adam

What Happens If I Relapse? – Addiction Center

Guide to Cocaine Rehab

Slip vs. Relapse – What’s the Difference?

REAL LIFE Opens Women’s Home for Recovering Addicts Released From Jail – Jeremy M. Lazarus

5) Alex Trebek – A quiz show on TV that millions of Americans watch every day is Jeopardy. We wait to call Dave’s mom until after Jeopardy is off. Alex Trebek, the show-host, is as much a household name is any celebrity in our pop culture. He makes the show even more interesting and sometimes funny and treats his guest contestants with honor.

We were all saddened to hear of his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Pancreatic cancer. Thankful to hear he was determined to fight it, and he has! Alex Trebek instills confidence and if anyone can successfully stave off pancreatic cancer, he can. He announced recently, during this beloved show, that he was going back on chemotherapy, we were stunned. Even one of the contestants forfeited his opportunity to win more prize money to show support for Alex.

Here’s the video of what happened…including Alex’s emotional response – #WeLoveYouAlex – Praying for you.

Bonuses:

We heard Bob Costas speak recently at Richmond Forum – a real national treasure.

A Prayer to Remember – God Fights For You Today – Debbie McDaniel

Faking It – Could I Go From being an Introvert to an Extrovert in One Week? – Sirin Kale

A Christmas Classic and a Couple of Musical Collaborations:

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Fabulous Fifties

Learning About Someone

Jon McCray’s very fair take on John Crist’s current situation:

Worship Wednesday – Hills and Valleys – I Am Not Alone – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.Psalm 121

Hills and valleys. They are part of our lives.

A week ago, I sat silent in the car by this beautiful friend, her face blotched and shining with tears. It had been a low time for her, and, for the moment, she just needed to cry. We were together for her wedding day – the loveliest of high times. There have been other shared mountain-top experiences since…as well as valleys.

When we have those big positive experiences, the valleys are forgotten – that ache of loneliness or undoneness in the times of helplessness or disappointment. Still, we need people in both those experiences…More than that, we need God.

Several years ago, along with some friends, our family visited Mt. Sinai. Dave’s Mom and Dad also joined us, visiting from the US. It was an incredible time. We traveled up toward the summit on donkeys via a camel trail. The last 750 feet we climbed on foot. The view was spectacular. Just under 7500 ft. high, Mt. Sinai is a sentinel in Egypt’s eastern desert. Majestic, beautiful, changing in appearance with sun and shadow. Awe-inspiring.

Even more so, as we think this could be the place that Moses met with God, so many years ago. It is considered a holy mountain by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Looking out over the desert below, we got lost in our thoughts, reflecting on history and God and the privilege just to be there. It was more a solitary experience, although surrounded by loved ones and strangers. One group of tourists started singing “How Great Thou Art” in a language I couldn’t understand. We joined in, in English. It was truly an obvious mountain-top experience.

Then, the climb down. The camel trail would be slower, so we decided to take the faster route – the Steps of Repentance. Stones placed as stairs from the summit to the valley floor (legend goes that one monk placed them all as an act of repentance). 3750 stone steps. Uneven, rough-cut, some deeper or narrower than others. All requiring care in descending.

[Click on this blog for pics of Mt. Sinai’s summit and the valley below as well as a look at the Steps of Repentance – 3750 steps down to the valley.]

Plodding our way to the valley, step by step, wasn’t taxing at first, but that didn’t last long. As hundreds of steps took their toll on our knees, we started feeling shaky and unsure of our footing. Hoping not to fall or injure ourselves. It helped that we were in a group, in case we needed each other.

On that walk down, I got to see a tenderness in my husband that fit perfectly the situation. He saw his mom was struggling and came alongside her to get safely down to the valley. His dad was fine enough, as was I, although shaking from the pounding down descent. Being careful not to fall. It turned out to be harder than we thought.

Valleys are like that, in general. Ofttimes, harder than we think. We need each other and most importantly we need God. To bring us through the journey that takes us low. To give us the grace to deal with what is in front of us.

Our pastor Cliff Jordan preached on prayer a few Sundays back. Prayer and the postures of prayer. When we are experiencing a mountain-top moment or a downward spiral to a spiritual valley, we pray. As God’s children – for different reasons and with different postures. Remembering that we are not alone. Never. Not ever.Photo Credit: PixabayPhoto Credit: 163atkw.aug

Singer/songwriter Tauren Wells‘ has given us a song about this very thing. Hills and Valleys.

“When you’re on the mountaintops of life, learn to bow low. and when you’re in the valleys of life, learn to stand tall….No matter where we’re at, we’re standing in God’s grace, and that no matter what we have, His grace is enough.” Tauren Wells

Worship with me.

I’ve walked among the shadows
You wiped my tears away
And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak
And I’ve seen the brighter days
And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven
From my lowest place
And I have held Your blessings
God, You give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough
No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

I’ve watched my dreams get broken
In You I hope again
No matter what I know
I’m safe inside Your hands

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone

Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
Father, You give and take away
Every joy and every pain
Through it all You will remain
Over it all
On the mountains I will bow my life, yeah
In the valley I will lift my eyes
Ohhh, ohhhh

On the mountains I will bow my life
To the One who set me there
In the valley I will lift my eyes
To the One who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain
I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley
I know I am not alone
No, I’m not alone
I know, I am not alone
You’re the God of the hills and valleys
Hills and valleys
God of the hills
And I am not alone
God of the hills
The God of the valleys
God of the hills and valleys
And I am not alone*

*Lyrics – Hills and Valleys – Songwriter: Tauren Wells

YouTube Video – Hills and Valleys (Story Behind the Song)

Hills and Valleys – Behind the Song – Kevin Davis

Monday Morning Moment – Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life – a Story

blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

[I have written before on Emotional Intelligence here, here, and here. Below you’ll find the summaries from those pieces.]

You can probably remember an encounter with someone who was so engaging and interesting that you hoped you would meet them again, or work with them some more, or even become their friend.

Over the last few weeks, I had such an experience.

Background: Being a part of a beloved organization, engaged and working hard, we can get a passion to take it to the next level. We see both what we’re doing well and also what’s missing. For awhile, I’d been putting together an idea in my head of a particular next step. Even though it wasn’t a strength of mine to carry the ball on it, I saw such a need for it to happen that I floated it a couple of times to our leads.

It didn’t go anywhere…timing, not the right people in place…lots of variables.

Then, out of the blue, an announcement came down that we were going to run a pilot on that very idea. The woman leading the pilot was perfect for it. Enthusiastic, funny, bright, humble, and inclusive. Perfect.

I messaged her about how excited I was about the pilot and told her if I could be any help at all, just let me know.

Because of who she was (and maybe the timing…although I think it was just her), the project is humming along. Lots of others jumped in to help. I was so excited. Felt no need to push in but wanted to cheer-lead anyway possible.

Then she wrote me this brief message – surprising and lovely – full of emotional intelligence. She said at that time she didn’t need more folks on the project, BUT she commended me and expressed her gratitude for my support. Just a message. A few lines.

It was just what I needed and I didn’t even know I needed it.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” 

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Emotional Intelligence and Success – Study Wizards  – rapid read with definition and characteristics of emotional intelligence.

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Remember this distinction: there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator with and appreciator of people.  [Go back and click on that infographic – very helpful!]

Emotional Intelligence is a concept that’s been around for awhile now.  Matt Monge’s article for The Mojo Company sparked my interest some time ago. He described 6 symptoms of leaders with low emotional intelligence.

Two of Monge’s points were: 1) Leaders with low emotional intelligence say “I’m sorry you feel that way” more than “I’m sorry,” and 2) Leaders with low emotional intelligence often blame the people they hurt for the situations leading to them being hurt.

Daniel Goleman has written several books on this topic including Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. The very cool thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed. The big dilemma is whether bosses or even teammates, not bothered by their impact on others, would buy into this relational skillset. Incorporating such concepts in personnel accountability metrics might provide some incentive. I’ve added graphics below that helped me further understand emotional intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - grid - dollieslagerPhoto Credit: Dollie Slager

Blog - Friday Faves - Emotional Intelligence - low & highPhoto Credit: The King and Queen

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Even people with strong emotional intelligence can find themselves off-balance when in conflict with someone. Leadership writer Marcel Schwantes gives counsel for this in 7 Brilliant Things Emotionally Intelligent People Do When Their Buttons Are Pushed.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Schwantes encourages us to respond rather than react in a conflict situation. His seven action points follow (read more of his article for his commentary on each one).

  1. Get perspective.
  2. Take a 6-second pause.
  3. Stay humble.
  4. Try empathy.
  5. Ask the most conflict-diffusing question. [“Are you ok?” What’s going on?”….what else would you think would diffuse the situation?]
  6. Speak from your authentic self.
  7. Be the first to reach out after conflict.

Don’t miss the brief video at the end of Schwantes’ piece on 3 Simple Questions to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence.

Blog - Friday Faves - Leadership - Emotional IntelligencePhoto Credit: Self Study History 

I hope you’re surrounded by emotionally intelligent people. Maybe you’re an “EI” rockstar yourself. For me, that woman above, piloting the project, had my respect from the beginning, but because she responded to me in such an honoring, genuinely considerate way, she also has my complete support and more.

Do you have any emotional intelligence stories? Please comment below. We can always use  stories of great bosses and coworkers to inspire and spur us on.

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Try These Two Smart Techniques to Help You Master Your Emotions – Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotional Intelligence Boosts Your Endurance – Alex Hutchinson

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Bonus: Resources for Raising Our Children to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Research Shows Reading Improves Kids’ Emotional Intelligence and Increases Empathy – Katie Priske

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

Chores Lead to Happy Children. So Why Do So Few Parents Require Them? – Annie Holmquist – OK…this doesn’t really have to do with emotional intelligence but it fits in the mix of raising kids well.

5 Friday Faves – Hobbity Guitar, Favorite Podcasts, Farmer’s Advice, Speaking the Truth (in Love), and Kanye West

Fridays come so fast. This Friday was no exception…in fact, with travel and a lot going on at home, this Friday is really covering the last two. Writing has taken a real back seat…as much as I love it.

Life takes precedence.

Here are my Friday Faves, culled from the last three weeks actually:

1) Hobbity Guitar –Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar is always arranging and performing sweet guitar tunes. Here’s his arrangement of  Billy Boyd‘s The Last Goodbye (from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies):

Since I’ve missed a couple of weeks of Friday Faves, you can also enjoy Nathan’s arrangement of Phoenix from League of Leagues Worlds.

If you’re a fan like me, you might also enjoy his 50 Guitar Tips in 10 Minutes from a Professional Guitarist. Not a guitarist? He’s still fun to watch as he reveals some of his “a day in the life”.

2) Favorite Podcasts – Long car rides have been changed forever by the great selection of podcasts out there. Blogger Brandy Gainor posted her favorites recently. You’ll find them here. There are cued up for my next roadtrip. One of my favorite podcasters is Kevin Prewett. His Rising Tide Startups is fascinating as he interviews entrepreneurs who started small but not for long. So much wisdom in starting a myriad of businesses.Photo Credit: Rising Tide Startups

Would you share your favorite podcasts? In Comments below. Thanks!

3) Speaking the Truth (in Love) – When I was 15 y/o, looking forward to Thanksgiving vacation, something became very wrong with my health. Getting weaker and weaker, it was clear to Mom that holiday plans had to be interrupted. The diagnosis: rheumatic fever. Completely unsettling for this teenager. I was admitted to the hospital with IV antibiotics. Somehow the smell of the drugs kept me nauseated and I became afraid to eat, not wanting to vomit.

I will never forget one of the nurses. She came in, feigning a desire for one of the apples in my untouched fruit basket. She took the apple and sat on my bed. Then she began talking to me about how I needed to start eating or I would get sicker rather than better. That talk turned me around.

I will never forget that small kindness…one of so very many through life when someone spoke the truth in love.

The wisdom of this flows out of the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians. He called the church to a unity that required calling sin for what it was and what it does, with the motivation of love. Way deeper than people-pleasing or seeking the approval of the crowd.

A photo went viral recently with President George Bush and Ellen DeGeneres sitting side by side at a football game. Apparently, DeGeneres got a lot of grief for sitting with him. Here is her take on the whole thing. To summarize, she said she had friends who differed greatly from her, but it didn’t matter to the friendship. She reminded her audience to be kind not just to some but to all. A good word.

My new favorite quote from Dave is “The world is chock full of deception.” We could just speak the truth to each other…if we truly care for the other person. It cuts through a lot of nonsense.

4) Farmer’s Advice – This is a quick run-through of some good old-school advice.Photo Credit: The Old Winter, Facebook Page

THE OLD WINTER – Now Available on DVD!
To Order: https://dvdlimited.blogspot.com

—The Sayings—

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.

Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.

Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.

Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.

Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.

It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

You cannot unsay a cruel word.

Every path has a few puddles.

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.

Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Live a good, honorable life… Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.

Don ‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.

If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around..

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.

Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

The Old Winter, Facebook page

5) Kanye West – Lastly, I just want to talk about rapper Kanye West. Honestly, I had never listened to his music until his Jesus Is King album. He talks about Jesus Is King here.

His testimony of coming to faith in Jesus Christ has been enthralling. There are many of Christian and non-Christian ilk who are suspect of West’s conversion. Everything I see seems genuine.

Below are some of the bits where West talks about his faith and his music. Fascinating!

Thanks for letting me catch up and for coming back to check in when I show up again. It means the world. Blessings y’all!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: The Kindness Rocks Project – Facebook

The 9 Most Important Things I Learned in Cooking School – Jesse Szewczyk

[The Iten’s became friends of ours when we lived in Cairo. This is the dad:]

Photo Credit: Passionate Penny Pincher, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

Some weeks are packed with distractions – both lovely and loathsome. This week we’ve had to face conflict and disease in the family.  It happens. It’s part of life. It usually resolves.

Then there is the political and civil (uncivil) realm. We had a state election this week, and it went very differently than I thought it would. The ramifications regarding issues deep in my heart are huge.

Thoughts whirling around in my head have been dizzying. Finally, in the darkness of the situations, a light came on…and brightened even the blackest of my fears and worries.Photo Credit: Heartlight, Dwight L. Moody

I remembered God.

In our community group this week, we talked a bit about Psalm 105 (the text at Movement Church this past Sunday). These verses popped out at me:

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wondrous works he has done, his wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced.  Psalm 105:4-5

Remember.

During group, I told everyone of the struggle I’d had. Forgetting that God is still about His purposes. Then His gentle reminder earlier in the day and again during group. My heart was so comforted that it seemed fitting to begin a discipline of writing down remembrances of what God has done throughout history (as He brings them to mind) and what He is doing in our lives and those around us. So here goes…

To top all this off, I’m a part of Community Bible Study in 1 and 2 Peter. We just finished 2 Peter 1. The Apostle Peter, in these two letters, was encouraging the New Testament church that had suffered much and longed for the return of Christ. God had already revealed Peter was not long for this world. In his deep sense of urgency, he wanted to remind these believers…and all of the rest of us reading his words through the ages…to hold on to the truth.

Remembering What Not to Forget

  • Remember the reality of your salvation.
  • Remember the riches of your salvation.
  • Remember your responsibility to add to your faith.
  • Remember to make calling and election sure.
  • Remember the revelation of God to you.
  • Remember “We have a more sure word.” – Community Bible Study

So I’m on my way journaling both what God is teaching in the Bible study above, but also the remembrances of His provision for our family through the years, including the nearness of Himself through every trial.

Singer/songwriter Lauren Daigle has written and performed a beautiful song to take us to worship in remembering God in all things. Its title? Remember.

Worship with me and remember…

In the darkest hour when I cannot breathe
Fear is on my chest, the weight of the world on me
Everything’s crashing down, everything I have known
When I wonder if I’m all alone

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I will lift my eyes even in the pain
Above all the lies, I know You can make a way
I’ve seen giants fall, I’ve seen mountains move
I’ve seen waters part because of You

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
I can’t stop thinking about
Your goodness, goodness

I remember, I remember
You have always been faithful to me
I remember, I remember
Even when my own eyes could not see
You were there, always there
With me*

*Lyrics to Remember – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury, Chris Tomlin, & Ed Cash

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Fight Through, Then Rest, & Remember – It’s Not Over Yet – For King & Country – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember? – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed to Be a Blessing – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.

I wonder, “by whom?”.

Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time, when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing:Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave  filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.Colossians 3:17

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love – our words and deeds – that He loves them, also.