This son of ours is 32 today. We won’t be seeing him but we will be celebrating him. Today and every day of his life.
Here’s to you, Nathan.
Happy birthday, Son. Over the years, you have single-handedly taken me to my knees more often than you realize – praying to be the parent God would have me be for you; praying for you to come to faith at an early age; appealing to God for all the moves (overseas and stateside) to not be too hard for you; asking for comfort when situations were sometimes hard anyway, and thanking Him for all He’s done for you – the friendships, the opportunities, and His relationship with you from forever.
So many memories.
“Let’s go kill buffalo!” was your call at your Native American-themed third birthday party. Following your sister around for play ideas. Grandparent visits. Family vacations at the Chesapeake Bay. Move to Africa. Carpool buddies. Gameboy. Drawing cartoons.Computer games. Getaways to the Red Sea. Dreamcast. Becoming a Christ-follower. Baptism back home in Tennessee.
Roadtrips to the Sahara Desert. Soccer. Cousins. Airports. Naps whenever and wherever. Basketball.
Grumpy when hungry – feed the boy. High School Rock Band. Great friendships. Game Nights. Sleep-Overs. PlayStation. Laughter. Working out. Classical Guitar.
Virginia Commonwealth University. Honors College. Aletheia Praise Band. Guitar Professor Patykula.
Sharing a house with your brother, sister, and then friend Duy.
Met and married beautiful Bekkah.
Grad school at East Carolina. Then back to Virginia, teaching guitar, playing beautiful music, and making a home…grown.
With being grown, comes adult friendships, some nurtured since childhood, some within the family, others without. Siblings. Cousins. With being grown, comes new work challenges, fulfilling life aspirations, and deepening your faith in God. With being grown, comes new family designations – becoming uncle to your nieces and nephew.
Then that crazy day the summer of 2016 that you wildly trended on social media through a posting of one of your krue.tv live streams. [Krue doesn’t exist anymore but it was a springboard for your social media presence as a classical guitarist.]
Best of all…the day Titus was born…and you became a dad.Photo Credit: Helen Phillips, Bekkah MillsTakes after his daddy – Titus (l) & Nathan (r)
And then sweet Emma.
Nathan, you are settled for now in the U.S. after so many stamps in your passport. Settled in our hearts forever. You make us laugh, and you make us think. Your grown-up heart is so worth the childhood/teen year battles. And your music…what a gift to us. Whether you’re on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Your music goes right to the heart. Thank you for honing the gift God gave you. – that heart of yours first, and that music flowing out of it.Photo Credit: Duy Nguyen
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
“When a person is really marked out for leadership, God will see that that person receives the necessary disciplines for effective service.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch His method, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects;
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends, but never breaks,
When his good He undertakes. . . .
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
God knows what He’s about. – Anon. – often quoted by Tom Elliff
Here we are again. Friday Faves on a Monday. I’ve really wrestled with what to include in this week’s Faves. It is never my desire to put up “don’t you wish this was yours to experience?” sorts of things. That is a pretty strange fruit of social media, as we all know. How does one look back over a week that is filled with loss – Afghanistan, all the mess in our own country, family strife, broken marriages, and death – and count anything a favorite? I still will because it is a way to look away for a moment and to look up…and keep my eyes on God…praying for those in dark places right now…and holding onto hope. So…my Friday faves:
1) “Where Is My Mind?” on Classical Guitar – Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) did it again. Twice a month he posts an arrangement of his, and they never come soon enough. Here’s his “Where Is My Mind?”a Pixies song from (among other places) the film Fight Club. Only Nathan can take a rocking song like this from a rough film story and turn it into an amazing classical guitar piece. Have a listen:
2) Writers & Artists – Let me have the pleasure of introducing to you a poet, a writer/illustrator, and a painter. You may already know them, but I LOVE their work.
First is the poet Samantha Reynolds, “BentLily” on Instagram. Below are screenshots of just three of her poems, posted daily. So good!!!
As a photographer (amateur at best, but earnest about my work), I love the realism in her paintings. So gorgeous. You feel like you’re in the room, or you, for sure, wish you were.
There was something so familiar about the scene in front of the window, at the beach. Then…I realized! I ran downstairs to look at the artist name of a print I had bought at an estate sale…a few years back. The lighting in the room wasn’t great when I snapped the pic below, BUT…it is a Karen Hollingsworth print! Such a sweet surprise.
3) Beach Trip – This week, we took a very quick trip to Virginia Beach. There is something so healing…so “other” about being near an ocean. We had four generations together. I can’t post the grandchildren, but will post just a few pics of our time there…for your enjoyment, if the ocean does the same for you as for me.
Free prayer – all kinds of traffic on the boardwalk – This was sweet!
A feast from the 19th Street Italian Bistro – in the room. Including a fresh cannoli for dessert. Yum!All sorts of wildlife – dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, & folks on vacationSunrise over the Atlantic
4) Our Old Ones – I had the great surprise of being tracked down by a cousin of mine. We haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. Thankful for Facebook on this one. Gloria has always been a joy. She is one of those people who can see the light in the darkest situation.
We desperately need people like that in our lives. She got me searching for pictures of the “old ones” in our lives (most all of whom are no longer with us). What a joy this renewed connection was, with one who reminded me of some of the best in our family’s history.
This came on the heels of a visit with our only parent still living. I don’t really consider my mom-in-love as an “old one”, but tipping into her 80s makes her so, I concede. She is a delight. If you need prayer, you want her praying for you. She is tenacious and full of faith in a God who wants to show Himself mighty on our behalf. She is a continual blessing. Sturdy, funny, sharp…with the biggest servant heart. I’m so glad she continues to have good health and hope that continues a very long time.
[She won’t love the pic above, as we sat one morning waiting on the sunrise. It is so like her though – gaze fixed on the horizon. Love her.]
One of these days, Dave and I will be “the old ones”. I hope we have taught our children well the great gift of life…even in the older years. Not just to us but to our “youngers”.
Us and our “original three”, August 2021
5) Summer Delights – OK, an IKEA run may not be a summer delight for you, but it took a trip to the beach to make that happen for the first time for me. It was fun (including the Swedish meatballs for lunch) – lunch was all we bought, but the showroom was pretty spectacular. Also on the road back home, we visited Hummingbird Macarons & Desserts. The ambiance alone was worth the detour. What other summer delights? Fresh fruit cake – for any reason. Beef brisket (OK, again, not necessarily a summer thing but gathering both old and young ones at a new restaurant is a unique treat for us). The ever-changing summer flowers in Dave’s garden.
That’s it for me. How about you? Any faves, please comment for us to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.
Anyway, back to this recommended book. If you consider yourself a creative or you have one in your family or friend group, then you know something of the battles. Our nearest and dearest creative is classical guitarist Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar fame (you know him if you read this each week).
Creatives have an incredible drive to do their craft, but they also have to work against resistance. The pressure of time, the struggle with self-doubt, the tension of balancing other parts of life.Photo Credit: Slideshare
As a writer, Steven Pressfield gets the warring that goes on inside creatives’ minds. He writes eloquently and insightfully about it:
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous.”
“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself,. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Two video clips follow. One is a clip of the “miracle of fish” from the TV series The Chosen. The clip below it tells the story of how the scene was actually and finally created…the beauty of art and technology working together, for sure.
2) Food Waste – Recently I was reminded of a time years ago when Dave and I bought a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to share, just the two of us. Later, we decided, halfway through the box, that we didn’t need to finish it. “We don’t need to eat all these doughnuts.” [Like what were we thinking buying a dozen?!] Well, I threw the box into the garbage. We would both discover hours later that each of us, unbeknownst to the other, retrieved doughnuts from that box in the garbage. #TooGoodForGarbagePhoto Credit: Krispy Kreme, Facebook
[We were also reminded of a family legend of a certain adult child of ours retrieving an untouched chocolate eclair from his inlaws’ garbage. #RaisedRight]
Anyway, what I’m getting to is the matter of food waste in our country. When we lived in North Africa, we learned you just didn’t throw food away…you just didn’t. You either ate leftovers, reconfigured it for another meal, froze it to use later, or gave it away (either to neighbors, friends, or the less fortunate in your life – known or stranger. Also vegetable/fruit waste could be composted. What couldn’t be salvaged (like food scraps or plate leavings) were put in a separate bag from the garbage and set out for people to use to feed animals.
I loved that system/worldview.
What do you do with “food waste”? How can we shop and cook in ways that keep waste down as well?
Thankful for food champions who expose our waste and challenge us to do better – both in our homes and the public and private sector.
20 minute video below is so revealing of food waste in Canada and the US. Also follows food waste activist Rob Greenfield.
I struggle with clutter. Putting things where they belong. “Resetting the room”, as James Clear puts it. Letting go of stuff. Getting better but it is a challenge. Now…here’s our guest room…where my sweet Mom-in-law sleeps when she comes to visit.
However, it is only half ready for her next visit. In her absence, it quickly becomes a storage room. Stuff without a home is stowed there.
I’ve written about decluttering, and I’m getting there…slowly. After listening to her video, the guest room is closer to being ready for MomMom. Everything is not completely in its place or out of the house but it’s closer.
Dawn describes Pareto’s Rule in her coaching about decluttering. What that means is focusing on the imbalances in our lives and being intentional to clear some of them out. For example, let’s say we use just 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. What should we do with the rest of the stuff that requires us to manage it even if we rarely use it? [For me, Christmas decorations get a pass.] Or let’s say that 80% of our goals in life could be accomplished with 20% effort. What if that 20% effort included decluttering? Would the gains far exceed the losses?
Stuff management takes time and energy from the larger life goals we have. If we apply Pareto’s Rule to clutter, a small amount of concentrated effort can free us up to be able to focus on what matters more to us.
So how about you? What did you get from the 80/20 rule related to de-cluttering? Also, let’s be clear on this. Decluttering is definitely not a global issue…it is a problem in the wealthy West. Something to think about on the next trip to Target. 😉
4) Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden – Such a beautiful season. The grands thought so as well. Enjoy!
5) A Local Restaurant Find – This week we went on a cultural culinary excursion. Dave, some friends, and I went looking for a new restaurant. Local. Ethnic food. And it was amazing!
Chef Charles delivered up some of the best Caribbean food I’ve ever tasted. He was born in Guyana but his parents were from St. Lucia. He grew up in St. Thomas. In the US, he spent 35 years in the insurance industry as an underwriter. Then he moved into the restaurant business and has owned and operated Charles’ Kitchen for the past 6 years. He works his own culinary magic with family recipes, using locally grown vegetables and herbs (some of which he grows himself). The service was also just right.
Chef Charles and Dave
The food was excellent (as I’ve said before), but meeting Chef Charles and hearing some of his story topped off our meal. Then he did one better: served us caramel cake warm from the oven.
That’s it for this week. How about your faves of the week? Anything you want to share (in Comments below)? Thanks for stopping by.
1) Loki Theme on Classical Guitar – Twice a month a video. Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar) drops two classical guitar arrangements every month. Twice a month. It’s a happy time when that happens. Here’s his arrangement of the main theme from Marvel Studio’s Loki. Enjoy.
2) Farm to Table – Summer in this part of the world is a feast of flavors and colors as farm harvests come in. Markets abound and we reap all the good.
3) The Color of Law – Much of my adult life, I’ve lived in cities – Atlanta, New Haven, Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, and now, Richmond, Virginia. Cities are where our children grew up. Amazing experiences for us all. Now we, who own homes, live in the suburbs. Last week I had the great privilege of hearing educator Sara Kennedy talk about the history of Richmond, Virginia. Particularly the history of the last 150 years or so. In just over an hour, she talked through the many laws, ordinances, and covenants put in place to seemingly protect the growth of the white middle class. Also to stifle or curtail the socioeconomic flourishing of African Americans in our country. In particular home ownership. How in the world? Through federal, state, and local laws. Kennedy explored all of this without shaming or judging those in the room…just talked about the laws, the impact on urban quality of life, and…”the color of law”.
Last year, I watched the 13th documentary about the abolition of slavery. It was hard to watch because, over and over, I had to take a breath, shake my head, and acknowledged to myself, “I didn’t know.”
“The core argument of this book is that African Americans were unconstitutionally denied the means and the right to integration in middle-class neighborhoods, and because this denial was state-sponsored, the nation is obligated to remedy it.”
“If government had declined to build racially separate public housing in cities where segregation hadn’t previously taken root, and instead had scattered integrated developments throughout the community, those cities might have developed in a less racially toxic fashion, with fewer desperate ghettos and more diverse suburbs. If the federal government had not urged suburbs to adopt exclusionary zoning laws, white flight would have been minimized because there would have been fewer racially exclusive suburbs to which frightened homeowners could flee.”
“We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”
Read the book. Until you are able to do so, start, as I did, with Goodreads quotes of The Color of Law. Mind-blowing.
I’m learning. Not taking responsibility for the wrong of previous generations, but taking in the why’s that such division (in our city, in particular) still exists. Change is difficult but not impossible.
“Heard”– PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”
“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
If there was ever a person who turned our world upside down with something that could be termed “good trouble”, it was Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the recent multi-season TV series The Chosen on the life of Christ has as its theme song “Trouble”.
Happy weekend! Here are my five faves of this week – rapid-fire.
1) Beyond the Guitar’s “Take On Me” – Nathan Mills does it again. He takes Norwegian band A-Ha‘s 1985 hit “Take On Me” to a whole new level on classical guitar. So beautiful that lyrics aren’t needed; the nostalgia is already there. This song is featured in the video game The Last of Us Part II. Whether you loved it or hated it in the soundtrack of that game (or not a gamer)…its melody is “all the feels” under the deft fingers of Beyond the Guitar. Enjoy!
2) To The Woman Slowly Fading – I didn’t know the work of Scottish poet Donna Ashworth until my great-niece posted the poem below on her social media. She (my great-niece) is mum to three little ones; in fact, three under the age of three at the time.
She is tired and pulled. Yet in the tired, she is full of joy.
I’m grateful she shared this poem because it told me something about her and it also illuminated something I had been feeling from a very different place. My niece is nearer the beginning of her life’s journey, and I am closer to the ending. Nothing sad here; just what is.
At our latest family dinner, I had that strange thought of fading. A moment of poignancy taking in the lovely scene of adult children and wee ones around the table. Ashworth describes this sense of fading so well. Read for yourself the lines below.
To the woman who has lost her spark.
To the woman whose get up and go, has well and truly gone.
This is for you.
This is to remind you whose daughter you are.
This is to remind you, that you don’t have to be everything to everyone, every day.
You didn’t sign up for that.
Remember when you used to laugh? Sing? Throw caution to the wind?
Remember when you used to forgive yourself more quickly for not always being perfect.
You can get that back again.
You really can.
And that doesn’t have to mean letting people down or walking away.
It just means being kinder to you, feeling brave enough to say no sometimes.
Being brave enough to stop sometimes.
It starts the moment you realise that you’re not quite who you used to be. Some of that is good, some of that is not.
There are parts of you that need to be brought back.
And if anyone in your life is not okay with that… they are not your people. Your people will be glad to see that spark starting to light up again.
So, if you have been slowly fading away my friend, this is the time to start saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.
I do take exception to the one line: “Saying yes to things that bring you joy and no to things that don’t.” Fortunately for my young niece’s children, she is not going to ignore their cries in the middle of the night, or their tears after a fall, or their fears of the unknown. These things do not bring her joy, but they are part of the journey.
Difficult family members, friends in crisis, health issues, mounting drama in the world’s press…we can’t always say no, but we can measure ourselves out in wise and thoughtful ways. There is sacrifice in life, and, with it, joy.
So if we are fading…may it be for good reasons. Squeezing all we can out of life and relationships…even the hard ones. Not leaving anything left on the field when the clock runs out (was that phrase from Vince Lombardi?). No slow fade. Intentional. Deliberate. Owning it.
For believers of Jesus, there is a call reflective of this: On the return of the Messiah one day, we are reminded of the joy of that great day when “He must increase, and I must decrease”. (John 3:30) As on a wedding day, we take in that glorious arrival of the bridegroom for his bride.
Fading may be how we feel, but the reality is we all have various seasons in our life’s journey. Each with its own glory, joy, and exhaustion.
3) Mama’s Table – Our youngest child, Dan, has been affectionately referred to as a food snob. He loves all kinds of food but can be hyper-critical of what he considers bland food or just the wrong mix of flavors or textures. Fortunately he is a good cook and he has been since middle school. On bake sale days back then, he would take his cupcakes into school and brought empty platters back home. His yeast rolls, from a favorite teacher’s recipe, were amazing. He and a small cadre of high school friends who loved to cook (well, to eat, for sure) even started a cooking club.
They had a great time together, and we enjoyed their feasts with them. Nothing like a kitchen full of friends and all good things – loud laughter, strong opinions, and the yummiest blend of fragrances.
Food has its own culture and anthropology. In fact, Dan has moved on from just cookbooks focused on recipes to thick volumes covering not just the food of Persia, Malaysia, or Russia but the culture that goes along with the food.
McArdle tells the story of how decisions were made in homes across America from the 1890s right through present-day. The quote below resonates deeply with the food experience I knew growing up.
“The great blessing of my life is that my mother did not let me become a food snob. She was from a small town in middle America, and she did not view this as any great handicap. Nor did she look down on the culinary tradition she inherited from her mother, a “good plain cook” of the miracle-whip-and-white-bread Midwestern persuasion whose pie crust was infallible. We did not mess around with limp chicken breasts and cans of Campbell’s Soup, but I have eaten plenty of Jell-O salad, and liked it. (On summer days, I still occasionally crave shredded carrots and crushed pineapple embedded in orange jello made with ginger ale. Don’t sneer; it is delightful and refreshing.) Apples, bananas and raisins, dripping with Miracle Whip, were served as a salad in my house, and one of my favorite dishes from my grandmother was ground meat and pasta shells in Ragu. I still bake out of the Betty Crocker 1950 cookbook, and have never found a better guide to the classic American layer cake.”
We got a Betty Crocker cookbook as a wedding present and I still use it. I remember growing up with Campbell soup and Jello salads. Money was always tight so Mom would use pork brains (??) from a can to add to eggs to make them stretch far enough for us four kids. My first pizza was from a Chef Boyardee box. We never ate out at a restaurant, but I remember when a McDonald’s opened up near us (the first one in our area), and Mom took us for burgers and fries as a reward for behaving ourselves at the grocery store. That was a big deal. Church suppers were a big deal as we sampled what our friends enjoyed at their homes. Food was (and is) much more than just nourishment.
How about you? What is your food culture? Or rather the culture you knew as a child. For many of us these days, our food cultures are diverse and delicious…but we still remember the culture of Mama’s table.
4) Relationship Hacks – Just a few finds on how we treat each other, and sometimes ourselves.
Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope: Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. – Lamentations 3:21-26
We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.
What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.
“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.” – Lori Stanley Roeleveld
Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.
Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.
[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty, he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]
Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]
Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
Choose to trust. – “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.
Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.
For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*
Music is as universal as a smile. We understand its impact on our mood, our larger experience, and our sense of belonging. In fact, we unconsciously develop soundtracks for our lives with little effort.
When our children were entering their teens, we would often do long roadtrips, visiting family or heading to a beach somewhere. All three kids had their own headphones on, with their own individual soundtracks for the road. Occasionally, being the parents messing in their lives, we would insist they put away their private listening devices. Then we shared our various personal favorites through the car’s stereo. With differing levels of enjoyment for sure.
It was a bonding exercise of a sort. Or at least a cross-cultural musical experience between the five of us. I wonder if they remember.
My wonderful mom-in-law is visiting us this week.
Over the weekend, we were driving and Dave cued up Alan Jackson’s Gospel country song albums. Sweetly familiar to all of us, even though some of those songs we haven’t sung in a very long time. We all sang along, even our youngest adult son who remembers those songs from childhood (only). It was a lovely experience that wouldn’t necessarily have happened without MomMom in the car.
Do you have favorite soundtracks for different times in your life? I know you do. Something nostalgic…or maybe new still? Something that restores you from a dark place or returns you to a happy time or just causes you to get out of your seat to dance or raise your arms in praise?
I sure do. A wide range of music because I’ve lived a long time now. One thing about music for me: for half my life, the soundtracks wouldn’t be instrumental. Music had to have words for me to engage. Marrying a quiet man began the reconstruction of that. If Dave was in the house, strains of big band, jazz, or classical music would always fill parts of the house. Even then, my appreciation for instrumental music just wasn’t happening.
Until our middle child, Nathan, picked up the guitar. He had his high school garage band days, but then honed in on mastering the classical guitar…and my soundtracks for life began to change.
Where words once seemed necessary, the music itself can bring “all the feels”. Especially when we already have the words in our heads, and all we need is just the right rendering of a melody, or harmony, to draw out the memory.
Nathan, at Beyond the Guitar, regularly brings to us his classical guitar arrangements of film, TV, and video game themes. Nostalgia is strong in this guy. When we listen to music that takes us back, we are, more often than not, fortified because we experience both an intimate connection (with our own sense of meaning) and with a social emotion drawing us toward others with similar music memories. It’s a sweet looking back. We don’t stay in the past, of course, but the emotions drawn out by such music refreshes, reconnects, and reorients us.
We have various playlists from Nathan’s beautiful, lyrical music, but I will post just a few of my many favorite videos of his below. Including his most recent “Tifa’s Theme” from the Final Fantasy video game franchise. No nostalgia attached to this one for me, because I never got into video games, but…The beauty of his arrangement of this gorgeous piece of music stands alone to touch my heart.
Here we go:
Just a few. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share some of my soundtracks for life…music that lifts our mind and fills our hearts with sweet emotion. Put your earbuds in or turn your speakers up. Let the music flow and wash over you.
Please share some of your go-to tracks in the Comments. Have a soaring day!
Having an artist in the family can be an extraordinarily sweet experience. One reason being we get to know the artist. Also, we have the opportunity of experiencing the art, with all its expansive nature. I know and love music that would never have come on my radar were it not for Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar classical guitarist.
I asked him last week what he was working on, and he said an arrangement of “Hurt”, the Johnny Cash version. Well…I didn’t know that song, but I did know the late great Johnny Cash. He was my mom’s favorite country singer. His music was the soundtrack of my early childhood.
After listening to the Cash version on YouTube, I was so taken by both the lyrics and the soulful melody. The original “Hurt” was written by Trent Reznor and performed by the industrial band Nine Inch Nails in 1994. That version was dark and despairingly sad, drawing our attention to brutal self-harm and drug addiction.
The Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” came about when record producer Rick Rubin approached him about doing an album that would reintroduce the aging artist to the MTV generation of music fans. “Hurt” was one of many covers on Cash’s 2002 albumAmerican IV: The Man Comes Around. This album was a huge success.
Cash’s version of “Hurt”, like Reznor’s original, was also sad and filled with regret. However, there was a difference. A big difference. In Cash’s rework of the original, he changed some of the lyrics to incorporate his faith. Still, the lyrics spoke of deep pain, the losses of his life and the losses to come. He knew he was in the last years of his life. His cherished wife and fellow artist June Carter Cash is seen briefly on the video of his cover. She would die in 2003 and he would also just months later. Somehow, Cash communicated both love and hope in his “Hurt”. It was excruciatingly beautiful.
Now enters Nathan’s arrangement and performance of this haunting melody. You can hear the emotion…even without the lyrics. Although I usually say “Enjoy”, on this one, just take it on and let it teach you something of life. Its great worth and the incredible gift it is.
What songs have touched your life in ways that continue to grow with time…and with the different reiterations and interpretations? Whatever genre. For me, many are old songs. Both in pop and country as well as old church hymns.
call me old school, buuuut…
while 99% of the songs that I listen to on my phone and sing at the top of my lungs in my F150 are newer worship songs,
the actual songs that I sing from memory that minister to my soul in times of need… are old, old hymns.
Another old favorite is the love song that became ours – Dave & me – years and years ago. “I Only Have Eyes For You”. A reminder of this song hangs on our bedroom wall. It always gives a cause to dance together.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.
Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.
2) Mental Health Awareness – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.
Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.
3) Antidote for Self-Deceit – Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.
I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.
Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.
During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.
As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.
4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.
So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.
On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.
I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.
We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?
Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.
“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.
And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili
“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?
“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.
So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:
It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” – Kenneth Vogt
[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]
Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.
It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.” – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring
Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.
Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.
I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.
The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.
5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach
Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.
Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.
Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.
I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.
2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.
In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.
This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”
Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.
Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.
3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.
Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.
What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.
When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?
Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.
Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?
I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.
Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?
4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:
Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.
Fave Quote This Week:“We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.” – Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End
[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]