Tag Archives: family

5 Friday Faves – Red Dead Redemption 2, National Day of Mourning, More Christmas Adverts, Holiday Musical Evenings, and Family Gatherings

Here we go! My 5 favorite finds of this week:

1) Red Dead Redemption 2 – A Western-themed video game, Red Dead Redemption 2, debuted this Fall. The score written by Woody Jackson has a classic feel to it – reminiscent of old western films some of us grew up with. Beyond the Guitar, Nathan Mills‘ classical guitar arrangement of the video game themes does justice to the romance of the Old West featured in the score. Have a listen:

2) National Day of Mourning – For one day, the ugly partisanship in our country fell silent in the shadow of a gracious leader’s life. The 41st US president, George H. W. Bush, died this week. On Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a national day of mourning was called for us to remember him. A two-time vice-president under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush would only serve one term as President himself. How he will be remembered in history, only time will tell. I remember him as gracious, always gracious. The eulogy for him by his son, 43rd US President George W. Bush, was beautiful and gave the reflection we all needed of a “kinder gentler” man and time in America. May it be so again…Thank you, President Bush.

YouTube Video – Alan Simpson  Eulogy for Preside George H. W. Bush

Bret Baier – George H. W. Bush – a Letter to Live By

3) More Christmas Adverts – I couldn’t resist pointing to a few more Christmas adverts. So sweet and fun. Take time to watch. They will lift your day if you’re having a hard one.

This Hallmark Crown keepsake ornament commercial made me cry:

4) Holiday Musical Evenings – There is nothing like little children, in angel or shepherd garb, singing Christmas songs. We are all proud of them, whether they belong to us or not.Photo Credit: Weldbham, South City Theater

This week marked an annual musical tradition for our family – the VCU Holiday Gala. This evening of rich sacred and secular Christmas songs performed by most all of the current musical groups at VCU is a feast for the ears…and eyes. The students and faculty fancy up nicely. http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Blog-VCU-Holiday-Gala-John-Patykula-2.jpg

I would love to share video of the VCU Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, under the direction of Dr. Terry Austin – best performance ever. Since that’s not possible, you just have to come. For the moment enjoy the versions by the United States Marine Corps Orchestra and André Rieu ‘s Johann Strauss Orchestra. Mark it on your calendar, if you’re local, for next year!

Also if you’re local…there’s still time for more. Here’s one not to miss:

Annual Advent Lessons and Carols – Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Any of your favorites? Please give a shout-out in the Comments.

5) Family Gatherings – My growing-up family had its times – good and not so good. We have always had strong beliefs, and sometimes even stronger opinions…and we were not shy about them. As the years have gone by, we have gentled the opinions for the sake of relationship. We have lost some precious family members, too, which has made us more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the gracious gift of family. We’re none perfect but we belong together. That’s why we block out time on the calendar, buy the plane tickets, and soak up family in all its craziness. The young adults we’re so proud of, the sweet new babies, the siblings and spouses.

We don’t always get to see everyone (so we will buy more plane tickets)…nor do we get to see all the friends…but the hope of “next time” is something we build on.

Along with the family time is the Christmas festiveness alongside. My sister-in-law goes all out for us, and we welcome her welcome.

How about you? Home for the holidays?

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That’s my five (plus the quick bonuses below). Any of your own you want to share? My hope for you this month is you savor the good in your life and let go of what are lesser things. We can’t get it all done. So…no matter. We can be gentle with ourselves…and each other.

Bonuses:

Henrico Christmas Mother – my favorite local community outreach:

The Birth of Jesus in the New Testament – One Event, Four Narratives – Dr. Corne J. Bekker

Eating Cheese and Butter Every Day Linked to Living Longer – Kashmira Gander

This Holiday Season, $16 Billion Will Be Wasted on Unwanted Gifts – It’s Time for a New Approach – Joshua Becker

Raising Children Near Their Grandparents Is One of the Most Valuable Gifts You Could Ever Give Them – [We didn’t raise our children near their grandparents; so thankful for siblings & siblings-in-law who did. What a blessing for both grandparents and the kids/grandkids.]Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, Facebook

How to Declutter Your Home to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Jimmy Stewart’s Beautiful Short Film on the Nativity (a comment on the YouTube video: “From IMDB: James Stewart approached the scene where Mr. Kreuger talks to the infant Jesus very seriously. Before filming this scene, he told the producer Michael McLean, “I’ve got only one of these in me. Everyone who doesn’t need to be here, get them out. Tell them I want this to go well. I can do other takes, but this will be the right one. There will only be one.” After the scene was finished, McLean asked the cameraman, “Did you get it?” “I hope so,” was the reply, “because I was crying.””)

 

Thanksgiving Memories – All Good Gifts

2006 -- Nov -- Thanksgiving table

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

[Adapted from the Archives]

For most of 20 years, we lived in North Africa where a Thanksgiving holiday was a foreign concept. “Eid el Shukr” (“Feast of Thanks” in Arabic) was understood but not a day set aside. We, along with other expat Americans, brought Thanksgiving with us and invited our local friends into the experience. On the surface, American Thanksgiving has pretty much three constant components – food, family, and football.

Back in the States, the old traditions are changing and yet stay sweetly familiar. My Mom, who always laid out an incredible Southern-style feast on the kitchen counter at home in Georgia, is no longer with us. As with some of you, I’m sure, I miss her still every day and how she lavished love on us through these family times together. Our children are grown now and establishing their own traditions with more families and friends added into the mix. Each year, we find ourselves re-working our own traditions as well.

Thanksgiving is again, for us, all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith… I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.

Over 30 years ago, a funky little Broadway musical was turned into a film – Godspell. It was an adaptation of the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. At that time, I was in the season of life that young people pass through of searching out what exactly I believed. It wasn’t going well at that time. Praise God, He did not forget me during those days when I had all but forgotten Him. Watching the film Godspell was one of the occasions God used to wake me up. There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical. It reminded me of what I had once with God…and what could be again.

All the songs in the musical Godspell are lovely. Composer and Lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, beautifully captured some of Jesus’ teaching and the depth of love and rightness between Him, His followers, and creation, in general. All Good Gifts, adapted from an old hymn, is one such song and is a pure and proper doxology of praise for Thanksgiving.

Worship with me.  [Here’s the YouTube video from Godspell to give you the melody.]

All Good Gifts*
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..

I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..

2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 010Food – Family Favorites in Mom’s Kitchen2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)

Football – on T.V. or out on the street with cousins and friends2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

Family – Time together…savoring every minute2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 015

Happy Thanksgiving…

Oh…just in case Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage and rein in your heart to remember that God sees and loves you. We can be a Thanksgiving blessing to each other…if you’ve read this far…you are a blessing to me. Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table.

YouTube Video – Take Courage – Kristene DiMarco

*Lyrics and Story Behind the Song – All Good Gifts (Godspell)

YouTube Video – All Good Gifts (Godspell 1990)

YouTube Video Clip – All Good Gifts (Godspell original cast 1973)

Wikipedia article on original hymn/lyric – We Plough the Fields and Scatter (1862)

Writing Waits

Photo Credit: Pixnio

Life waits on no one. That tension of lovely and less than occasionally takes us away from such things as thinking and putting those thoughts into words on a screen.

I love to write.

1000 words a day paves the way for that book…or that blog that touches lives with clarity and thoughtFULness.

The connection between you and me is encouraging and emboldening, I hope. It sure is for me. Even not knowing who “you” are with each posting, my imagining is that we would be friends. If we aren’t already.

Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.

It’s been over a week and will be two before I sit in front of this “word processing” place.

A new granddaughter…a birthday and anniversary…a visit with beloved inlaws out of state. These and other things have taken priority.

For the moment…

So gladly I have hit pause.

Miss you but you have those moments too…

when writing or something else less peopled waits as we embrace what is in front of us.

While I’m not writing, how about you write? I would love to hear in the Comments, who you are, Dear Reader. Dear fellow traveler. In this space of a life.

Until next week…take care.

5 Friday Faves – Bringing Children into the Light, Jurassic Park on Classical Guitar, Chris Pratt’s Rules of Life, Comic Aparna Nancherla on Depression, and Babies & Birthdays

It’s Friday! Summer solstice was just yesterday. Even here at the tiptop beginning of summer, the days will begin to shorten. Maybe that’s the pressure of summer to squeeze every bit of yummy goodness out of the days that have our children home from school and vacation plans unfold. On this shortening Friday, here are my favorite finds of this week.

1) Bringing Children into the Light – Even being a writer myself, I don’t trust media. To believe something that pops up on my newsfeed, especially something provocative, I go to different sources to try to piece together what could possibly be true in all the bias and politicalization of our news today. The detention of illegal immigrant children has been going on for years now, and I was totally blind to it. This week, it came to light for me and for many.Photo Credit: The Cut

I’m not going into detail here. The news is full of how this happened – how children are separated from their incarcerated parents and warehoused. Older children can understand and hold onto the hope that, in time, they will be reunited with their parents. Little children do not have the maturity to understand…

It is wrong. I don’t know what’s right in dealing with people who make such desperate decisions to flee their countries and cross into another one illegally. I just know this is wrong. Thinking of my little grandchildren being put in the same situation was unthinkable. How would a 2 y/o or 3 y/o not be somehow wounded in this action.

When I read Brene Brown‘s Facebook post on this, it was a much-needed wake-up call, bringing these children’s plight into the light for me. The over 5000 comments were also a great education, as one after the other gave personal accounts – not just about the kids in detention centers but others damaged or destroyed by their parents’ choices. Even choices they think are the only ones they have. Or choices for darker motives… Within the comments were laments about children in our broken foster care system as well as children who never see light themselves because of the choice of abortion.

I don’t want to just talk and talk and talk about these issues. God help us to do something of substance for the children, now that we’re paying attention. This is too critical to last just one week’s news cycle. This problem is way bigger than one executive order, although hopefully that will stop the hemorrhaging. Hopefully.Photo Credit: Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger

[We did see something this week about the powerful voice of the American people. The outcry, across political ideologies, was heard. I also think the anguished prayer of people of faith was also heard and answered by a much higher authority than our government.]

Together Rising – How to Change the World with $25 – one way to give

The Missing Children: How Abortion Changed America’s Literary Landscape – Jonathon Van Maron

2) Jurassic Park on Classical GuitarJurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the latest film in the Jurassic Park series.  I haven’t seen any of them because dinosaur-devouring-human action is not my idea of entertainment. Still the film scores are beautiful with John Williams as the brilliant composer. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has written a lovely classical guitar arrangement of the main theme. With the videography team of Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika, the YouTube video of this theme is both gorgeous and whimsical. Not afraid of that little featured dinosaur wandering around the beautiful James River environs of Richmond, Virginia.

3) Chris Pratt’s Rules of Life 9 rules of life– On a recent awards show, actor Chris Pratt used his acceptance speech to spell out his . Here they are:

9 Rules to Life From Chris Pratt

  1. Breathe.
  2. You have a soul. Be careful with it.
  3. Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons. Do not wield them against the weak.
  4. When giving a dog medicine, put it in a little piece of hamburger. They won’t even know they’re eating medicine.
  5. Doesn’t matter what it is, earn it.
  6. God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that.       I do.
  7. If you have to poop at a party, lock the door, sit down. Get all the pee out first. Then poop, flush, poof!
  8. Learn to pray. It’s easy.
  9. Nobody is perfect. You are imperfect, but there is a powerful Force that designed you that way. If you’re willing to accept that, there’s grace. Grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted. Chris Pratt

4) Comic Aparna Nancherla on Depression – I never heard of Aparna Nancherla until this week. An accidental comedian, she is 35 years old and single. Nancherla struggles with anxiety and depression; growing up as a terribly shy child into a funny articulate woman. Her humor is so understated and staggeringly spot-on, especially for us as women. I’m thinking, though, she has perspective for men people as well. Her YouTube videos have me binge-watching. Writer E. Alex Jung posted an article on Nancherla this week entitled If You’re Feeling Anxious or Depressed, Aparna Nancherla Has Some Jokes for You.Photo Credit: The Day, Chris Barton

Nancherla has this to say about depression: “No matter how far or wide you go or how many lives you touch or how much money you make or success you achieve, your brain can tell you different. It is a constant companion and you cannot take a break from it…The truth of depression is it is often quiet and it is boring and it is insidious in its lack of spectacle.”Aparna Nancherla

5) Babies & Birthdays – This week brought a sweet new baby into our family and a second birthday. The baby is a girl and much-longed-for, making me a great-great-aunt (sounds old, I know, but the mommy and grandmother both married very young). Our little grandson can now turn forward in his car seat and he is discovering a whole new world looking in the same direction as his parents.

These are my five favorite finds of the week. I would love for you to share one or more of yours (in Comments below). Have a safe and sweetly peopled weekend.

Bonuses:

Vacation Bible School – This is a summer fixture around a lot of cities. Our church doesn’t currently offer Vacation Bible School, but young moms in my life are scurrying to find them around town as a wholesome summer option for their kiddos. I’ve decided that VBS is a community service. Tons of work on the part of the adults, not cheap, but worth it for families around town. The husband of a good friend of mine volunteers in the VBS at their church. 300 kids show up daily for that week of Bible stories, singing, crafts, and games. He helps the older elementary kids make their own Adirondack chairs. Great way to break up the routine of summer.

Is God Enough? – A Soulful Conversation  Podcast – Special Guest Helen Phillips – [she’s a friend of mine] with Sheila and Frank Battle

Reclaiming Your Family Trips From Technology – Chris McKenna

Photo Credit: Music Notes

Great Infographic!!! – Below is just one frame of the whole. Check it out.

Photo Credit: Music Notes

Monday Morning Moment – Crisis: Its Physical Impact and Its Bonding Power in Relationships

Photo Credit: 403rd Wing

We are living in the early aftermath of many days of rain and the threat of flooding. For some it was worse than for us. It was nothing compared to the flooding we’ve seen in other parts of the country.Photo Credit: WikimediaPhoto Credit: 403rd Wing

Still, for us, it was a quick study on what it must be for others who experience such a crisis and its aftermath. In small measure, but same lessons.

Our basement is both a storage space and living area. We, in fact, do a lot of life there…with friends and grandkids. The storage consists of 1) boxes of our memorabilia from our years of travel and our children’s growing up, and 2) boxes of stuff from my Mom’s estate, given to us but as yet unboxed…until now.

When we discovered water coming into our basement from an over-saturated yard, on Friday night, we had to act fast or we don’t know how high it would have risen. Dave, our youngest son, and I began the work of dealing with a relentless flow of water into spaces it wasn’t welcome. Our son-in-law and older son came and we worked for hours attempting various diagnostics and maneuvers to stop the water and hold it back. It was exhausting work. Finally, sometime in the middle of the night, the water stopped coming in.

[My husband was supposed to have been at a work conference far from home, but other circumstances kept him here. You can imagine how thankful I am that he was home for all of this.]

When the rain stopped, we began the drying out process…and the cleanup. The work of making our basement into the friendly, happy space it was is almost disorienting. Hard to know where to start.

It will all happen. We are so fortunate. Now, more than before, we have an inkling of understanding of what others have gone through suffering tremendous crisis…like losing their furnishings and more in a flood.

In a quiet moment since Friday night, when we were taking a break, we marveled at what happens in human response to crisis. I’ve participated in crisis management throughout my career, and in our microcosm experience this weekend, we saw those practices at work…without even thinking about it.

Who Is Involved in a Crisis Response?

1) Crisis manager – the person in charge; the one running the crisis response; the one who knows what’s happening where and has all that in his head

2) Secondary managers – the persons who could be in charge but are working themselves on a piece of the operation

3) Frontliners – those with or without crisis manager skills but who have a piece of the response; the ones counted on to persevere in their tasks until they’re told to do something else.

4) Supply Line – the ones who by the nature of their skillset (or lack thereof) or physical ability who support all the above – the “go-fers”, the bringers of food, water, tools, encouragement. These, like the crisis manager, have the purview of the whole crisis and how each person is responding. They also, because they don’t have the stress of leadership, may see more clearly the toll on the individuals. They influence by alleviating stress through the supply line or by stating need to the manager (for rest or relief for frontliners, for instance).

5) Lastly, the Persons in crisis – they may very well be a part of the above, as was our situation. They carry the brunt of the crisis and its longer term impact. They also may not have capacity to respond to the needs of those around them, also in crisis [this was hard for me personally, knowing others we loved also having water issues.]

Crises show what we are made of, but they also show us our capacity and our potential. We’ve all responded to crises. What did we discover about ourselves? Sometimes we hesitate to respond to crises because of past negative or difficult experiences. Yet, we see those, who become our heroes, run (not away from danger but) into danger for someone’s sake. Every single time. Photo Credit: GeauxGuard

How do we become more like them in responding to danger (or crisis)?

  • We see the possible outcome as greater than the cost.
  • We build capacity by continuing to stay open to the smaller daily crises of each day (this helps me).
  • We learn from our heroes – not just about courage but about skillsets and thinking and even community-building.
  • We lean on each other, and (if you will) on God in crisis. All we can do ourselves is not always enough. Being in community and keeping our faith in a living God help us endure crisis and manage it, helping others.

It is much easier for me to write these thoughts than to do the next round of clean-up. All the wet cardboard went out this morning with our recycling. Now it’s what do I keep and where do I put it…Stuff. There is our treasure and there is stuff meant to be someone else’s treasure…none of it should stay forever in cardboard boxes.

The real crisis is over. The fatigue and “let-down”* will pass. The best part of it all was the human part. To work into the night with family who love each other willing to drop what they were doing and come. Working together, even though we are all people of strong opinions; dropping that for the sake of the work and each other. This was, for us, the greatest impact and power of this crisis. We are grateful.

Reactions to Crisis and Trauma (pdf)

The Power of Personal Relationships in Times of Crisis

*The Left-Down Effect: Why You Might Feel Bad After the Pressure Is Off – Stacey Colino

Crisis Communication Within a Community: Bonding, Coping, and Making Sense Together – Sifan Xu

Photo Credit: Sifan Xu, ScienceDirect

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Kind – Ken Sande

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

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

Beyond that sweetness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotes About Christmas – Good Reads

Bonuses:

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

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

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

Saturday Short – Sweet Christmas Nostalgia – Somewhere in My Memory – Michael W. Smith

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 year I decided to clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish, should they be the ones clearing it out one day.

The bag of someone else’s treasures in my car headed to Hope Thrift yesterday was my front-seat passenger. While Christmas music played, I occasionally looked over at that bag, and my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.

In the bag were several sets of vinyl 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.

Even though I don’t use those red and green placemats, 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.

Then while 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.

[Now the cloth napkins she made…and the crocheted Christmas ornaments…still with me.]

So Happy Saturday, kind readers. If you can’t afford the gifts you’d like to give your family, take heart. Christmas still comes for us. Most probably what your loved ones want most for Christmas…is you.

If finances aren’t an issue for you this Christmas, then still we have good advice 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…or having every minute of your December weekends filled with parties or other invitations. One such grace for me that also happened yesterday was waiting for my order at Chick-Fil-A. I was standing at the end of the farm table in their dining room and saw the plaque below for the first time. Surprised by the joy of this.

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 Saturday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2017. I do celebrate you amazing and persevering shoppers for just the right presents for your loved ones. It is such a joy for us on the receiving end of that.

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, gifts of some sort, probably severely lacking imagination, will make it under the tree…and the best part?

“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 – Thanksgiving Edition – the Gathering, Family Recipes, Table Talk, Living Room Sprawls, and Thanksgiving Day Naps

It’s Friday! The day after Thanksgiving. Otherwise known as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the US. Personally, I try not to even enter a store on this day. If you did, then you’re in better shape with your Christmas gift-buying than I am, so congratulations. For me, just one more day of Thanksgiving reflections. Another day of being thankful to God for this life…and for traditions that help us hold tight to each other…in the best of ways.

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

2) Family Recipes – It’s all about the food, right? My mom-in-law lavishes many lovely traditions on us with each holiday. One yummy one is her strawberry salad (a dessert, disguised as salad) served with the meal instead of after it. This year, we had Thanksgiving at home instead of at MomMom’s. Our youngest son Daniel followed her recipe and served up that dish of goodness, full of sweet memories for us. Also on our table this year was my mom’s turkey dressing and a sweet Southern cornbread from our daughter-in-law’s grandmother’s recipe.

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 girlfriends, new babies, new jobs, etc., etc. Always fascinating and occasionally we learn something outside of the good news category. This time, I learned about this thing called net neutrality. It’s defined as the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Basically, in the U.S., we have been able to access any type data we choose (whether it’s live-streaming, or an online game community, or an uploaded video of your nephew’s Christmas program). What puts net neutrality in the news is that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is moving to deregulate the internet such that internet service providers can have more say in their treatment of data. We may have to pay more for some services, internet speed could be affected, and we might not have the final say on what is available to us (data-wise). It’s an interesting issue because there’s big money companies on both sides.

My husband and I were talking about it today as to what the motives would be on wanting net neutrality vs. wanting to get rid of it. He brought up the issue of privacy and how willing we are to give up personal information over the internet. Right now, for instance, Facebook is free…or is it? Dave quoted someone in regards to this:

“If something is free, you are the product.” Are the internet service providers after our money or our information  (personal data)? It is one or the other. Later this month the FCC will make their decision, and we’ll see what comes out of the loss of net neutrality…if that happens. What are your thoughts?

What Happens When ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules Bite the Dust? – Tali Arbel

A Primer: Just What Is Net Neutrality – and Why All the Fuss? [Here’s What You Need to Know About the Fight for an Open Internet] – BillMoyers.com Staff

A Net Neutrality Primer: Should the Internet Be Regulated Like Ma Bell? – Ryan Radia and Jessica Melugin

Net Neutrality – Why Are Americans So Worried About It Being Scrapped? – Alex Hern

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 (see #5).

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

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) Thanksgiving Day Naps – My husband has a gift for naps. Not just after a big meal. He is one of those work hard/play hard kind of guys, and when he finally sits down…sleep can quickly overtake him.

It’s sweet to watch…until I, too, nod off.

Also, by the way, it turns out that tryptophan, the supposed sleep-inducing culprit in turkey, is actually found as much in chicken as in turkey…so tryptophan is not the agent bringing on sleep every Thanksgiving Day. What causes us to sleep after dinner this day – the HUGE carbohydrate load, right? Something along the order of 3000 calories in one meal for most of us. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it.

YouTube Video – Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? – Dr. Daniel Barone

Verify: Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? – Abigail Curran

Now that Thanksgiving is properly celebrated it’s on to Christmas! Cranking up the radio for 24/7 Christmas music! Just heard Josh Wilson’s Jesus Is Alive for the first time today. One of these days, our son Nathan (Beyond the Guitar) will hopefully acquiesce to our badgering for a classical guitar Christmas album…so stay tuned. Also on the weekend post-Thanksgiving, Christmas lights seem to magically appear on houses all around this city (see Tacky Light Tour). How about yours?

Bonus: The Dennehy Family (here in Virginia)- “Family Is Adoption.”

Loving Parents Adopted 9 Special Needs Children

‘That Armless Guy’: Guitarist George Dennehy’s Inspirational Journey

Worship Wednesday – a Thanksgiving Moment – God’s Enduring Mercies

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!Psalm 107:1

A heart for Thanksgiving this year took me all the way until the day before. Not that I am not grateful. There’s thanks in every breath. As the Psalmist proclaims, we have a multitude of reasons to be thankful to God. He is good to us. In fact, his love (mercy) endures forever. If you have a few minutes, read the whole of Psalm 107 to reckon the richness of how God’s mercies endure…through whatever we are going through.

This Thanksgiving, I have struggled to prepare my heart for a day of feasting. Until this morning, I had little stomach for it. Oh, I am looking forward to have all our children and grands around the table later today. Then on Thanksgiving itself, we’ve gathered a few neighbors and friends who, like us, won’t be with their families. It will be a sweet time.

Until this morning though, my thoughts struggled with the losses of late. Not my own, but that of some friends and extended family. The world’s a mess, isn’t it? Yet, within that mess, a good and merciful God is moving.

This morning, we said goodbye to dear dear friends who had passed through our home for a quick visit. They reminded us of other Thanksgivings spent together across the ocean. They stood in for family we would be missing, as we did for them.

Their making the time to visit lifted my heart. When I dropped them at the holiday-crowded train station and returned home, the list of preparations for this special day demanded attention.

Then in a moment…standing in this sun-drenched kitchen…

Thanksgiving came. As I began mixing the ingredients for cornbread dressing, my mom came to mind. I watched her for years doing this same action. Standing in the kitchen, mixing, adding love and sage to taste, no recipe. Years of comfort in that sweet memory.

My mom-in-law also came to mind…always preparing a loaded table of goodness for us to enjoy at Thanksgiving. Her table and company we will miss this time…as we wait until Christmas to travel home. Still, I know her. Even with a son and daughter-in-law cooking most of the meal, she will still scurry…still make her specialties…still lay a table fit for the family she loves.

Now as turkey and dressing bake in my oven, the fragrance calls to mind so many times of family together…food and football…hugs and laughter. Having adult children nearby, we are making a new set of memories with help in the kitchen…between this chef of a son of mine and two girls cooking in their homes as I am here.

There is a bond in that. In fact, there is a bond in this cooking for those we love…all over the world. What a blessing to think of being a part of that wonder today and forever.

Thanksgiving has come. God, in his enduring love and mercy, will get us through the dark times. He has done it before, and He will do it again. As for these shimmering bright moments of family coming and a table circled with love…I will be ever grateful.

Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful – Deb Mills Writer

Not Feeling the Thanks in Thanksgiving? – Jesse Lyn Stoner

Struggling Toward Thanksgiving – Trevin Wax

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Worship

An Exegetical Analysis of Psalm 107 – Jake Hanson