Tag Archives: family

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter – Medicine for the Heart

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Here’s to all those who make us laugh! Without any need for alcohol or even inspiration, something said or done, a facial expression or shoulder shrug, and we are happily taken off-guard and laughter follows. No matter the setting. In fact, I have memories of laughing with friends at the family visitation before my mom’s funeral. As off-putting as that might have been for some, it was a joy in reminiscing over shared times together, with Mom in the mix. I’m sure in some Heavenly space, Mom was glad for that momentary release from grief for us. Laughter…what a gift!

Photo Credit: Swedish proverb, PPT-Online

Earlier this morning, I was thrifting with my friend, Angela. We were scanning titles in the used book section of the store, out of view of each other. Then I heard her actively engaged in animated conversation with a man also looking at books. They clearly knew each other and their laughter at this chance meeting splashed over into my own heart. He was an old co-worker from another season of her life, Angela would tell me, and it was a happy remembrance of those days.

For me, it was just fun to hear her laugh. I was reminded of a situation yesterday afternoon while reading a book my daughter had shared with me. She said I should occasionally take a break from my serious non-fiction reading and recharge with some fiction. The first book she lent me, some weeks ago, was author Gary D. Schmidt‘s Okay For Now. [I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a break from the serious.] I finished it in a couple of days. Then she gave me Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. Both books tell the story of middle school boys and the trials and tribulations of their lives (as seen through their oftentimes hilarious take on reality). The stories are set in the late 60s during the Vietnam War era (I resonated so much with that period and those stories).

There’s an especially funny part in The Wednesday Wars where seventh-grader Hollings, the hero of this story, was assisting the school custodian, who was replacing bulging ceiling tiles damaged by two enormous rats. Previously, the rats were the class pets (cute when tiny, terrifying once grown) but they escaped and built a nest in the unseen space above. In dislodging one tile, the custodium unleashed an avalanche – the gross, chewed up contents of the rats’ nest fell straight down onto Hollings’ head. [You’ve got to read it to know just how hysterical it was.] Reading that portion out loud to husband Dave – we were both laughing so hard, it was nearly impossible for me to finish what I wanted to share with him.

Laughter.

All this gave pause today, thinking about the joy of laughter. I’m a fairly serious sort, so folks aren’t drawn to me for hilarity. You can count on me to stay in the room if you’re struggling with something. Hopefully, you might feel better, encouraged, hopeful after our visit, but laughing out loud? Probably not. Thankfully, others bring that gracious gift to relationships.

[I actually took a few minutes to go through my phone directory to be reminded of those who simply brighten life by showing up…more than that, they regularly make me laugh. They probably aren’t that way all the time, but they are genuinely and gently funny. Steve C., John D., Sarah DeJ., David G., Anne S., Heba T., and Sharon W. Combinations of people also have a chemistry that literally combusts laughter for everyone – Khiry, Cam, and EB are such friends. Who are your people?]

Being a serious person who leads a fairly quiet life, I end up going to reels on social media for laughter (too often really; should just invite these friends over for dinner…or invite ourselves for coffee dates). Recommended for you are the three comedians below…there are many others, including folks who are just funny without making a living at it. Please put any favorites of yours in the Comments.

Michael Jr. – From Comedy to Clarity

John B. Crist

Leanne Morgan Comedy

Finally, in my family of introverts, I’ve had great cause for laughter. Husband Dave is one who makes me laugh. He can be very serious himself, but his take on life can be quite oddly funny. He also remembers perfect lines from movies for just about any situation.

Then there are our children. Christie, as older sister to her brothers, has always been a buffer for their shenanigans. She calls them back to perspective and, like her dad, has a sharp memory for stories, situations, and song lyrics (that make us laugh and can shake us all out of sourness). Her tales of babysitting in college and teaching kids in public school are still favorites when we’re together. Now with children of her own (who aren’t subjects for social media), she captures the sweet and funny with them and shares with us.

Nathan, our middle child, makes us laugh, with his many faces, and his wise and sometimes unusual takes on life. Growing up, he could be hard on both his big sister and little brother, and yet he also brought the joy. Even more now.

[Nathan with one of his many faces and post-anesthesia after wisdom tooth extraction. Legendary.]

Daniel, our youngest, is also one who can make us laugh and whom we want to make laugh. He loses it better than anyone I know. We never tire of each of the kids’ retelling stories of Daniel’s antics growing up and his many funny outbursts and creative word pronunciations. We have hilarious memories from our family vacations together, especially in the seaside town of Oualidia, Morocco. Like experiencing seafood we’d never eaten before – sea urchin (the spiny exterior was still moving) is one that caused uncontrollable laughter at our table.

Our Daniel works very hard at living independently and can take the struggles of life too deeply to heart. That’s why it’s especially lovely for his Mom to have his siblings around the table to pull that smile and laughter out of him.

Is There Laughter in Your Walls? – Cavin Harper

The grandkids are their own story which I won’t share here. Still, don’t kids say amazing things? Their wonder and joy at living, their perspective on life, and their sibling and cousin challenges and how they get sorted…always make me smile.

So there you go…now, you may be one of those people in your world that makes others laugh. I just want to thank you for that. If you’re one who takes life more seriously (as part of your own wiring), and you don’t have regular encounters with the people above, maybe it’s time to take an inventory. Watching YouTube videos or Instagram reels are a bandaid for sure, but let’s be intentional about having laughter in our lives. That generous kind that spills over into the lives of others. Bring it!

[Please comment on those folks, professional and personal, who make you laugh. Share away. Also what do you do to up your appreciation of the joys around you? – like collecting and remembering stories, journaling the joys of life, being present in the moment wherever you are and whomever you’re with.]

Laughter in the Walls – a poem by Bob Benson

Leave Some Laughter in Your Walls – The Raineys

The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy – Emma Seppälä Ph.D.

Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s No Joke – Mayo Clinic

How Does Humor Affect Mental Health? – Dan Brennan

Give Your Body a Boost–with Laughter – R. Morgan Griffin

Feel-good Hormones: How They Affect Your Mind, Mood, and Body – Stephanie Watson

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar, “Thrive by Five” Parenting, Unexpected Wisdom, Confessional Communities, and Funerals

Happy Friday! Welcome weekend. Rapid fire Friday Faves.

1) Beyond the Guitar – While Nathan’s “saddest song” arrangement on YouTube moves toward a million views, he continues to teach, arrange, and compose.

Enjoy!

YouTube Video – This Scene from The Office Changed My Life #Shorts – Beyond the Guitar

2) “Thrive by Five” Parenting – Have you seen the TED Talk below? Start here…fascinating the impact of attuned parents on their babies.

YouTube Video – Molly Wright: How Every Child Can Thrive by Five – TED Talk “Serve & return. Early & often.”

Photo Credit: YouTube, TED Talk, Thrive by Five

I so appreciate the work of psychiatrists/therapists Curt Thompson MD, Adam Young, Matthias Barker, Dan Siegel MD, and others.

Foster mom Jamie Finn posted on the first year of a baby’s life and how vital it is to build that foundation of secure attachment:

“Baby has a need, baby cries, attuned caregiver meets need, baby learns to trust. This is the basic foundation of the attachment cycle.

And it’s the foundation for every relationship and interaction a person has with the surrounding world from that point forward. Secure attachment teaches the child’s brain & body & beliefs: I am safe, people are trustworthy, the world makes sense.

The first year of life is the most developmentally significant, formative time of a child’s life.

The moments of motherhood that make up the first few months of a baby’s life go far beyond the present and profoundly impact the future of that little person. Every cry that’s responded to, need that’s met, and discomfort that’s soothed actually changes the brain’s chemistry and structure, the body’s ability to regulate and feel safe—the complete trajectory of a child’s life.

I don’t know how long this little one will be with me, and I don’t know if he’ll have memories of me. But I know that his brain and body will remember my nurturing care, and it will change his life forever.”
Jamie Finn

The 4 S’s of Secure Attachment and How They Impact Adult Relationships – Hope Gillette

Integrating Science, Culture and Anthropology: A New Journal Article Discusses Thrive by Five International’s Novel Scientific Framework

Thrive by Five – Ideas Hub

Thrive by Five – Minderoo

Facebook – Foster the Family – Jamie Finn – First year of life is the foundation for attachment.

Instagram – Foster the Family Blog – Jamie Finn

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=770770747740992&set=a.548292643322138

3) Unexpected Wisdom – We have a subscription to The Richmond Forum. It’s a lecture series with world-renowned speakers. Some are politicians, some actors, some writers, some private and public sector leaders, and all influencers. Two of my favorite speakers this year were actor and arts education advocate John Lithgow and a dialog between Dr. Cornel West and Thomas Chatterton Williams. The West and Williams dialog centered on “the absolute condemnation of no one”. Brilliant and redemptive!

Below are samples of their work including a longer version of the West/Williams conversation on another platform. Don’t miss it.

Photo Credit: John Lithgow, Richmond Forum

Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

YouTube Video – John Lithgow Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters

YouTube Video – Carnival of the Animals – John Lithgow

4) Confessional Communities – My absolute favorite podcast is Dr. Curt Thompson‘s Being Known. I’ve been listening (watching on YouTube) ever since Dr. Curt Thompson’s books changed my understanding of the mind/brain and community.

This season’s podcast focuses on confessional communities and if you only listen to one before you will want to listen to them all, here‘s the one.

Being Known Podcast – Dr. Curt Thompson & Pepper Sweeney

“We need others to bear witness to our deepest longings, our greatest joys, our most painful shame, and all the rest in order to have any sense at all of ourselves.” Curt Thompson, MD

Confessional communities are not therapeutic groups as we have traditionally known as group therapy. However, they are also more than a Bible-study oriented small group, the kind we might experience as part of a church curriculum. Confessional communities require commitment of a deeper nature from participants who are willing to explore attachment, attunement, presence, and vulnerability – extending welcome and experiencing welcome, all seeking to be known and truly know and affirm each other.

Read Thompson’s books and listen/watch his podcasts for an excellent introduction to this process. I would love to be part of a confessional community…it will happen.

5) Funerals – Why a fave? Well…it comes after watching a British series involving an undertaker (the show had a great story-line but very adult-themed so will leave it at that). The funeral conversations, preparation, and executions were both poignant, sometimes oddly funny, and beautiful.

I was reminded of the funerals of people close to me – young nephew, parents, brother, father-in-law, uncles, aunts, friends and colleagues. It was a privilege to be present for many of these. Some we had to watch via live-stream which itself was a blessing…a perk that came out of the COVID era.

Photo Credit: Air Force, Defense Department

Looking back at images from our mom’s funeral and then our dad’s some 15 years later, memories washed over me. How honored they were by those officiating, how healing the conversations with family and friends (some whom we hadn’t seen in too many years). The care given to detail. The time given to both grieve their passing and celebrate their lives. Such a mix of emotions. Completely thankful for the gathering and strengthening of community that funerals facilitate.

Cremation is replacing burial more these days. We are rethinking our own choices on this. However, having a funeral is something I want for our children and grandchildren, in particular. Not for my sake but for theirs. They may not want this, and I get it, but my hope is they have helps to reflect, remember, and reorient. A funeral, or celebration of life, or memorial service – whatever it’s called makes a difference.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Doing Death Differently: Today’s Funerals Are Not Like They Used to Be – Elle Hunt

Should We Celebrate Funerals? – Kenneth J. Doka Ph.D.

Americans Avoiding Funerals and Not Leaving Their Mark

The Importance of Flags and Horses in American Military Funerals – Suzette Sherman

Well…it’s been a minute since I’ve pulled together a Friday Faves. Hope it was fun to read. Thanks for stopping by…it’s means more than you know. Have a restful weekend.

Bonuses

The Trait that “Super Friends” Have in Common – Marisa G. Franco

Tim Keller – a Reflection and a Very Short Prayer – Scotty Smith – Facebook

Photo Credit: Twitter, Terence Lester

[Here’s the full quote found in his forthcoming book, All God’s Children “Everyone is welcome” is drastically different from “we built this with you in mind.” People don’t want to go where they are merely tolerated, they want to go where they are included.”]

Photo Credit: The Soul Leaf, Facebook
Photo Credit: TobyMac, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – For All That You Have Done – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: Pledgett

 

   

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

Thanksgiving is here again. At least in the US. For us, it’s 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.

Oh…just in case this Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage . I pray you can rein in your heart to remember that God sees you and loves you beyond your imagining. We can find blessing even in the struggle. You are a blessing to more than you realize…your taking the time right now to read these words is a blessing to me, and I hope right back at you.

Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table. There’s a place for you there, and I look forward to looking into those eyes of yours, and listening to all your stories. Or we can sit in the silence of His peace. As you like.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s “For All That You Have Done” to the melody of Auld Lang Syne:

Your grace will never be forgot
Your mercy all my life
Will be my source forever song
My story and my light

From mountain top to valley low
Through laughter and through tears
Surely the goodness of my God
Will follow all the years

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

You know our failures and regrets
You always led us home
Redemption’s arm has raised us up
Our triumph in the storm

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done

(You’re faithful through the ages)

In unity we’ll stand as one
As family we’ll go
Shoulder to shoulder
Hand in hand
Into the great unknown

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that you have done*

*Lyrics to For All That You Have Done – Songwriters: Gareth Gilkeson, Chris Llewellyn

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

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

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

[If you’re too young to have seen the film/play “Godspell“, don’t miss this endearing song, in video below, about the goodness of our God. It portrays Jesus (in Superman shirt) and his disciples. I still get goosebumps listening to this song. Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!]

Thanks for reading along and worshipping with me today.

Worship Wednesday – Thanks Giver – Crowder Music

Photo Credit: Facebook, Frances Moon

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s Fall, Y’all! My favorite season (here in the US). Now…as for holidays: my favorite holiday is Christmas followed by Thanksgiving, as a close second.

Family, family, family. That’s what it’s about for me. Those two holidays bring families together for all that comes with family gathering…the lovely, the crazy, and the memory-savoring and making.

Yet what brings us all together is the reason for those holidays: 1) celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior, and 2) thanks giving for all the good in our lives, Him being at the top of the list.

Most of us have an order to these celebrations – first Thanksgiving (US Thanksgiving) in November followed by Christmas in December. I try to keep that order, except for one thing.

Christmas music starts around here in October. Sacred and secular. There is just a wealth of music from so many years past and right up to latest releases this month. If you love the nostalgia of Christmas music and the richness of the lyrics of many of those songs, then you may be one of us (tuning to it much earlier than most).

Speaking of new releases (the topic of this blog today) is David Crowder‘s Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas.

Photo Credit: Nevin Martell, Open Table

This album has something for everyone. Quirky new songs about elves and Mrs. C. (which when you hear the song could also refer to Mrs. Crowder and not Mrs. Claus). Then you’ll hear some beautiful standards as only Crowder and friends can do them. Finally, included in the album, are original songs glorifying Christ and pointing us to all we have in Him. Powerful!

Photo Credit: K-LOVE, Pinterest

The album is unique in its production having an ethereal feel of a vinyl record, including some brief narration sounding like it could have come from a film like It’s a Wonderful Life.

So the track above is the first track on the album, but the one below fits the blending of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s early, I get it…but don’t miss this album, and don’t miss the sweet messages of the song “Thanks Giver”.

Worship with me:

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0

It’s getting cold
I’m driving home
On interstate 3-0
Mama’s calling, “Where you at?”
The turkey’s almost done
I hang up the phone, tear in my eye
Moments like these I realize
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Just took the pumpkins off the porch
The wreath is on my door
There’s something sacred ’bout the time
Of year when You were born
The Street’s alive, it’s Christmas again
But moments like these, hope I don’t forget
God You’re so good to me

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

Thank You for this life and all the joy that’s in this heart
For when I get to hug my dad and punch my brother in the arm
Thank You for the grace I know I’ll never have to earn
All because You chose to come down here and save this crazy world

You make joy out of simple and ordinary things
You fill life up with stories I’d never think to dream
So this holiday
I wanna praise
The One who’s making a saint
Out of this sinner
The One who’s turned me into this thanks giver

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Sonoma

You’re the reason
You’re the reason
Why I’m a thanks giver*

*Lyrics to Thanks Giver

Crowder Announces Holiday Album Milk and Cookies Out Oct. 21 – Abby Young

Crowder Releases ‘Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas’ – Ross Cluver

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose

Photo Credit: Corinne Dobbas

A friend of mine lamented this morning that someone in her family unfriended her on Facebook. Painful. I get it. Been there.

We make choices every day to lean in or pull out. Some of these choices have little consequence. Others break hearts or turn them into concrete. Taking ourselves out of others’ lives has consequence.

Father’s Day is coming and it has become a complicated holiday for me. I had a distant birth father and a great step-dad – both gone. My husband is a good father. My son and son-in-law as well. What complicates it is when things with fathers aren’t so good. This Father’s Day marks two years of a painful extended family rift. The pain of that has wide circles reverberating throughout. Everyone hurts for those hurt the most. Do we just ignore it or take sides? That would be choosing the “out” option. Or do we choose to stay in – refusing to leave the room (or either room since there are two now), praying for wholeness and healing, and fiercely fighting for our family?

I choose the latter for as long as I’m allowed to do so.

To be honest, whether it is family/friend conflict, or political, social or theological division – we choose where we stand. We choose to set up camp in a tight zone of comfort with those like us, or we choose to battle for those in harm’s way…including ourselves.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but today, for sure, we must be on watch of being deceived by popular opinion. It is not unifying. A choice is required. To think we don’t have to choose is its own delusion.

We’re either in…or we’re out.

“We all, like Frodo, carry a Quest, a Task: our daily duties. They come to us, not from us. We are free only to accept or refuse our task- and, implicitly, our Taskmaster. None of us is a free creator or designer of his own life. “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7). Either God, or fate, or meaningless chance has laid upon each of us a Task, a Quest, which we would not have chosen for ourselves. We are all Hobbits who love our Shire, or security, our creature comforts, whether these are pipeweed, mushrooms, five meals a day, and local gossip, or Starbucks coffees, recreational sex, and politics. But something, some authority not named in The Lord of the Rings (but named in the Silmarillion), has decreed that a Quest should interrupt this delightful Epicurean garden and send us on an odyssey. We are plucked out of our Hobbit holes and plunked down onto a Road.Peter Creeft
Now, we can scramble back into the “shire” of our own choosing. Life is so much grander than that. Being an avid book person and homebody myself, I can easily snuggle down into a self-made and self-soothing burrow. This is my daily battle of thinking I am “in the world but not of the world”.
When we are physically (emotionally) absent in real life, we are choosing “out”, not “in”. That real life includes work, family, neighborhood, and some semblance of the world…which means choosing to be in with some we would NOT have chosen to be in with. Am I wrong here? Please talk to me in the Comments below.
“Reading a book about something can be an obstacle to doing it because it gives you the impression that you are doing what you are only thinking about doing. It is tempting to remain in the comfortable theater of our imagination instead of the real world, to fall in love with the idea of becoming a saint and loving God and neighbor instead of doing the actual work, because the idea makes no demands on you. It is like a book on a shelf. But, as Dostoyevsky says, ‘love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams’ (The Brothers Karamazov).”Peter Creeft
This choosing “in” even when it’s uncomfortable may actually be the road chosen for us. The choosing “out” dulls us to what could actually happen with {God and] us in the formula.
“This [the choosing out] is where our culture has evolved and I say reject it!”Angela
As these thoughts were cooking in my head, I came across the YouTube video below by Catholic priest Father Mike. It relates to a question he received on whether Judas Iscariot was in Heaven or Hell. Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities who had him crucified. Later Judas would hang himself. Beyond that topic, Father Mike talked about our choices and how they affect both life and after-life.
“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”St. Teresa of Avila
Photo Credit: Heartlight
We make choices all day long. Choosing how we spend our time, whose lives we lean into, and what we teach our children (by attitude and action) – all those choices have an “in or out” component. The quote above speaks to these choices. If we live for this world, our default is to hold tightly to our choices. However, if we live for the next, we can open our hands, and lean in. This life, no matter how hard, compared with Heaven, is like “one night in a bad hotel”. At its worst!
Perspective.
It’s our choice. In or out.

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Worship Wednesday – Thanksgiving Songs to Fill our Day

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

Music through the ages reminds us of truths larger than ourselves. Hymns and songs celebrate the great God of the universe. Creator God also our Father. Christmas and Easter both have holiday songs that draw us into worship. Thanksgiving songs, however, aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are “We Gather Together”, “Come Ye Thankful People, Come”, and “All Good Gifts”.

Two other Thanksgiving songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely.

Maybe updated versions would bring them back into our worship services. For sure we can sing them in our homes and teach them to our children.

Worship with me to “We Gather Together”. [Lyrics in the link.]

Now, “Come, Ye Thankful People Come” – again lyrics in the link.

Finally,  “All Good Gifts”. This comes from Godspell, a little Broadway musical first performed 50 years ago and then adapted into film. It depicted the life of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew (interpreted in the culture of the 70s). There’s a wonder and delight in the young followers of Jesus in the musical.

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.

Again, 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..

Goosebumps, y’all?

God is so good to us. That’s what Thanksgiving is about. The food is super nice. Being together is amazing…but God…God is due our deepest, unfettered, no holding back, thanks. He deserves our very lives. Our surrendered, loving and forgiving, and being forgiven lives. He gives the grace for all of that.

“I really wanna thank You, Lord!”

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…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)

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

Monday Morning Moment – As Adults We Still Need to Feel Safe, Seen, Soothed, and Secure

Photo Credit: Nicole Michalou, Pexels

[Adapted from previous posts on parenting here and here.]

American Thanksgiving brings families and friends together for a big day of food, football, and (hopefully) fun. Social media this week will be crammed (at least in the US) with images of smiling people leaning in to pack the frame. What we don’t see is those sadly missing from the frivolity. Maybe it’s too far to travel. Or work claims too large a chunk of the day. Or another family’s turn this year. Or possibly, unfortunately, Thanksgiving is too complicated a day to spend all together.

By its very name, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have – the food, good health, the other bounties of life, but most especially, our relationships. How thankful we are to be in the land of the living with those we love.

How do we communicate our love? How do we experience love from each other? Is it complete joy behind those smiles or is it also courage. Showing up even when it’s hard sometimes.

I’ve been learning more about this whole brain and relationship thing from two brilliant psychiatrists Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Curt Thompson.

Dr. Thompson has written a trilogy of powerful, ground-breaking books – Anatomy of the Soul, The Soul of Shame, and The Soul of Desire.  He describes these books as exploring “how neuroscience relates to the ways we experience relationships, deep emotions like shame and joy and especially our own stories — and how we can process our longings and desire for spiritual connection with God and each other to live more fully integrated, connected lives.”

Such good books!

Thompson refers often to Dr. Siegel’s “4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting“. Those S’s relate to what we communicate to our children even as infants but throughout life. We want them to know they are “safe and seen” and to experience being “soothed and secure”. This is especially poignant when we introduce the word “No” into the great adventure of their lives. No…and discipline as they get bigger.

Now…fast forward to adulthood. OK…maybe your childhood (or parenting) had some tough spots or (for parents) regret. We can’t go back…we can’t fix what got broken. We can still learn to love well today. Siegel’s 4 S’s, referenced in his book The Power of Showing Up, primarily relate to parenting. However, he and Thompson both talk about these 4 experiences being needed throughout our lives. Take a look at the briefest explanations of them below:

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

As adults, we want the same things – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).

Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.

Something to think about during Thanksgiving week. Let’s don’t miss those people across the table or room from us. The ones we are missing…because for whatever reason, they are not there…let’s figure out how to show up in their lives, in meaningful, redeeming, and healing ways.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day with those you love…whether it’s your holiday or not. Thanks for showing up here.

The 4 S’s of Attachment-Based Parenting – Daniel J. Siegel – Podcast

The Power of Showing Up – Daniel J. Siegel, MD & Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Mindful Parenting: 4 S’s of Secure Attachment – Esther Goldstein

The Neurobiology of Attachment to Nurturing and Abusive Caregivers – Regina M. Sullivan, PhD

Monday Morning Moment – Living Between Adult Kids and Older Parents

God put us in families. All of us.

God put me in the middle of boys with a mom who loved us completely and a father of whom I have little memory. His relationship with us was not one of outright abuse but neglect and eventual abandonment. When I was five, my exhausted mom divorced this never-working man. She  would later explain that action as simply “just one less mouth to feed”. She soon after came back to faith in Christ and brought us with her (unchurched until then). Our dad had long since disappeared from our lives.

Fast forward to the present: married to a man who deeply loves the Lord and loves us well also. We have three adult children and two added by marriage, and now four precious grandchildren.

All our parents (including a beloved step-dad) are gone except for Dave’s exquisite praying mom.

Sandwiched between adult kids and older parents is where we are, and I’m grateful. In fact, I think about our kids and their littles (and some of you) now in this same season, just a different generation. 

The room is delightfully crowded (not without challenge) with multiple generations – each bringing extended families of their own. So many faces and so many voices.

Every family member (and each of us in that family) has great value to God. His desire for us is to bear  the fruit of His love (Galatians 5:22-23) – making it beautifully tangible to others. He is with us in this.

What if our parents made life hard for us either by trauma or, as adults, by intrusion or neglect? Or what if we find ourselves in awkward places in our adult children’s lives? These “what if’s” make us want to pull ourselves out of obedience to God, as we feel justified by our pain to distance ourselves from some in our family. The ripple effect of pulling away is wide-reaching in a family. Wider than we can imagine.

Even when relationships are healthy, the heavy responsibility of parenting young children puts its strain on our precious adult children. We feel the pull – torn between kiddos and our olders or others (sibling families, too). We also model for next generations what family looks like. How we handle the hard is quite probably how they will handle the hard.

We all choose, consciously or not, from among four ways to engage with or disengage from our families.

  1. Embrace. We can trust God with the families He has given us. We can love them well. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We spend time with each other and attune to how God sees them. We who share adult space try to find the balance of loving each other well without our own preferences getting in the way. The older ones will only be with us for a moment. They have stories and history and lives that matter. Our younger ones also grow up and have their own families and life pressures. We extend ourselves in both directions – up and down.
  2. Debase/Disgrace. Sometimes members of our family wrong us or another beloved family member. We “triangle” talking about them with others, without them being present. Their behavior may warrant our disdain. We are tempted to debase them privately or disgrace them publicly. However, God is not finished with them or they wouldn’t still be here. Wisdom is to take our sorrows to God and appeal for Him to help us love these hard-to-love ones. He is able. It helps to remember we may also be the ones not so easy to love. [I forget that sometimes.]
  3. Replace. We are tempted to completely replace hard family members with friends. Adult friendships are such a gift from God. They fill in empty places in our hearts. They can actually help empower us to love and live like Jesus with these family members. Or they can usurp their place in our lives. Friends, help bolster our resolve, as we choose to “stay in the room” with family members. Let’s be that one who is not going anywhere – that picture of Christ for these.
  4. Give Grace. This is similar to “Embrace” but with God-guided boundaries in place. The Word is full of instruction, like Colossians 3:12-14. Living between olders and youngers, I want to be that one who gives grace both ways. Speaking love often and always. Not judging or applying pressure. We can choose to honor one another, which, in turn, honors God. Giving grace includes giving grace to ourselves.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Gods Armour

 Do I get this wrong? All the time. We are works in progress. God’s door of healing is always open to us.

Photo Credit: Samantha Reynolds, Bent Lily (w/ permission)

[One last pic – my mom, our youngest son, and me sandwiched between them & behind the camera – wishing I could roll back the years to when she was still here. Embrace & give grace. The years rush by.]

Monday Morning Moment – 5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

The past. We are never rid of it, nor would we wish to be. Our roots are there. The foundation of our lives. Our first and formative relationships are there.  Both life and death, pain and promise.

Memories are born in the past. Experiences and emotions attached to them that feel exquisitely personal…yet are shared. Others close to us may have our exact same experiences, but have very different feelings and memories attached to them.

Family is complicated and always has been (remember Cain and Abel?). Throughout the history of humankind, family was meant to be a nurturing and stabilizing influence in our lives. It doesn’t always work out that way, but wisdom is to lean in whenever possible and learn both from the brokenness and the beauty available to us.

So how do we deal with the past? Do we ruminate on the wrongs of our past? Do they loom larger than the good? Do we see ourselves in the right in each point of conflict? Or the victim? Is our memory of family colored in ways that make us pull away?

There is a way forward, and I believe it is revisiting the past with the aim of healing…not just for ourselves but for the family as a whole.

[I love alliteration – words with the same beginning letters used in phrases or headings. So it was a personal thrill for me that this came together with alliteration.]

5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

1) Remember – We trust our memories, don’t we? Well, until age shakes that up a bit. Still, our memories can be altered by the power of our emotions and by further experiences that call the past to mind. Then our emotions, deepened by memory, can “resolve” to see things more our way, whatever is happening in the moment. Memories can be reinforced, and not always in helpful ways. We need to take into account that we, family members or friends, can remember something very differently, based on what was going on emotionally for each person at the time. That’s why we must handle memories gently with each other. Love the person her/himself more than what they might remember. Determine not to be put off by memories where we don’t come off in a positive light. Remembering is done best in community. It’s richer and more reliable that way. Of course, this requires tons of trust, transparency, and humility. It may not feel safe in some situations to remember in community. It’s also never helpful to insist our memories are the only ones that are true. Right? Again, it is experience plus emotion. Love covers. Love helps heal when we remember, with care for the other.

2) Reminisce – As we remember, we reminisce. This calls to mind the sweet memories of the past. Even as painful memories rush in, what happy times come to mind? How might these memories weave together? Was it all bad? All good? Reminiscing taps into the positives, and even opens the mind to what the memories of the other might be in the same experience. Are we projecting motive or intent into our experience? As we reminisce, might we look at how an experience was different for the other. Reminiscing done in community is, again, eye-opening. It can be threatening if our side of the memory is on the line, but when we enlarge on what was going on in our past, we gain deeper understanding. A softening of our attitudes can come.

3) Reflect – When we reflect on a particular situation or relationship in the past, we treat it with as much grace as we can muster. We take the past and turn it over and examine it from different angles, considering what we can learn from it. How is it affecting our present – both life experience and relationships? What can we do to glean something positive from a painful past? What is to be gained by holding onto the past? If we choose healing, what is then possible for us and the others involved? What kind of faith would be required? What kind of work? Are we willing?

“Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” – Mary T. Lathrap, 1895

4) Repent and Reconcile when possible (instead of forever Regret ) – Here’s the big leap! Owning our part and doing something about it. This is huge!

Let’s say, our past includes painful memories from our early childhood. What can a child own from situations out of their control? We can own our attitudes today as adults. For instance, it took me a long time to tender my memories of a neglectful biological father. I only have a few memories of him, none great. One memory stands out. Mom had left him, and we were living in a tiny house, supported by her income alone. One night we were awakened by shouting. I don’t remember a lot, but my estranged father, Mom, and an uncle of ours were in some sort of argument. We four children were huddled together on a bottom bunk. I remember blood and our father’s hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Was there a knife? I don’t remember. We were terrified. After that…he was pretty much absent from our lives. I don’t remember asking Mom what all happened. It just took me a long time to feel anything for that dad. Yet, I know he had to have known pain, isolation, and maybe even some regret at the dregs of his relationship with Mom and us. As an adult, I have chosen some compassion for him. Not much but some.

Why did I share that story? It is how as children, when we have trauma (or what we perceive as trauma when maybe it had little to do with us), we process it differently than we might as adults. Revisiting, with humble hearts, can make a difference in how we think about the past as adults.

When our past pushes into our present, and conflicts are revisited, we are tempted to try the offending party in the court of our emotions (re-try them, actually). We resurrect the past and all its emotions, and bring all that trauma to bear on whatever the present misunderstanding is. We are then not able to just deal with the present. All that past comes down on us, that past that may have been once forgiven, and unloads. Making it virtually impossible to deal with whatever is happening at the moment.

This is where we repent. We refuse to nurse old wounds. We deal with the current conflict as it is, without all the past. The current conflict is enough. We deal with it as adults. We repent of our part. I can tell you, if we don’t, there is collateral damage to those who love us. “Friendly fire” is not friendly, and these struggles, heightened by our past, become the past of those around us. Our children. Our grandchildren.

Repentance may take more the form of forgiveness. We refuse to remember (one place where we refuse to remember) the offense of another. We choose to forgive in the most expansive way we can.

I know we sometimes say we forgive that one who offends us, who offended in the past, and continues to do so. We forgive but commit and feel justified to have nothing to do with them ever again. I get that. I get the pain behind such a decision. It’s heart-breaking. Just to reflect: Who does that punish? As wide a circle as our relationship together makes. We are all punished…that is most probably not meant to be the intent.

Repent and reconcile whenever possible. There will be cheering by everyone who loves us both. I know; I’ve experienced it from both sides. The repenting side and the relieved and thankful other side.

[This is often excruciating and not always satisfying. Even if the outcomes are not what we hope. We benefit from trying…as do the generations that follow. Who knows? The situation – and relationship – can still change in that possible future.]

5) Rejoice – Put your hand on your chest. Can you feel your heart beating? Can you feel the rise and fall of your breath? Be grateful. Rejoice in the present. We didn’t die from our past. We still have a chance to put things right. Maybe imperfectly…but it’s possible.

A wonderful scene of this possibility is found in the 1970 film “Scrooge”. “I’ll Begin Again”.

The past doesn’t have to be forever. You have a present. There may be a future…one not framed by the hurting past but built on a healed past. We have that possibility…in our present. We can do our part… it’s the only thing we have in our control. Is it complicated? Of course, but it will always be worth the effort.

*Special thanks to my writer friend, Angela at Living Well Journal, who talked and prayed through this with me…on a neighborhood walk, in the cool of a Spring morning.

A note I found just this week flipping through an old Bible. Mom would leave love notes around whenever she came to visit, and we did the same after her pattern…and taught our children to do the same.