In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14
This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.
I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.
Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.
My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.
Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.
What is Christmas?
Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.
Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.
Family – both with us and not able to be.
Friends – near and far.
Food…so much food.
Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.
Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?
There’d be no
In excelsis deo
In excelsis deo
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*
I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. – Colossians 3:15-20
35 years tomorrow.
[Warning: I’m feeling all teary-eyed grateful so a lot of gush ahead.]
The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us…and I am grateful for his company.
Our marriage has never been the stuff that draws much interest on Instagram or even Facebook. My husband and I married best friends. We were polar opposites in most ways, except our faith and being raised in Southern families. He was “read and follow directions” marrying “fly by the seat of her pants.” It was definitely a match made in Heaven because we would need the God of Heaven to keep us on course as we figured marriage out…both without and, later, with children.
I’ve often quoted Elisabeth Elliot on love and marriage. Two thoughts come to mind. She speaks of love as being a “laid-down life.” She also talks of marriage as being good for Christians to mature in their walk with God, because [in marriage] “there’s so much scope for sinning.” My husband has taught me a lot in both of these areas, and I, him – hopefully more on the lines of laying down our lives for each other, rather than the scope for sinning part…sigh.
Whatever these thirty years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the extra children who’ve joined our family through them, so far)…and GRANDCHILDREN! Alongside those treasures is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.
I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 35 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one on his side as he extends himself to others.
Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship. Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. Whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this eve of our 35th. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.””)
Christmas is huge to those of us who love it. The beautiful upside to Christmas is Jesus Himself – celebrating His entry into the human world as an tiny baby. Because of Jesus, any of us feeling lonely or unloved this time of year can hopefully be sorted out…because we are loved, and we are not alone.
Strange then that the one downside (wait for it) would be so silly, really, in contrast. It does however exist for some and can make us a bit distracted and discombobulated…at least for awhile.
That downside is the quest for just the right present for each person on our Christian gift list. For some fortunate ones that is actually a thrilling challenge and a worthy cause. These shopping wizards and crafting geniuses already have their presents sorted out before Thanksgiving. Black Friday is the occasion to finish off their lists, not start them.
For some of the rest of us, not so much.
Back when our kids were kids, we used to watch this funny little film Jingle All the Way. It tells the story of two good dads who love their families but procrastinated in buying Turbo-Man for their boys – that film story’s prototype of the most-sought-after toy each year that sells out early to the smartest of shoppers. The film focuses on their Christmas Eve race (with each other) to find one last Turbo-Man somewhere in the city. It is both funny and anxiety-provoking.
I love Christmas but this downside of it looms large right now. In recent years it the need to find that perfect Christmas present (or experience) is heightened by the addition of sweet grandchildren – and hoping to choose the gift both the little ones and their parents will love.
Just this weekend, we were doing a craft at the table in Sunday School, and the kids in my class began talking about what their grandparents were buying for their siblings. They, of course, don’t know for sure what THEY themselves are getting, but based on their wish-list and what their siblings are getting, they seemed confident of a nice haul. It was impressive.
Today is Cyber Monday, the last great post-Thanksgiving sale event where we can take advantage of sales online. Shopping made easy, in our pajamas, fortified with hot beverage of choice. I’m in my annual panic of what to buy for our precious little ones. What to buy…such that when they open their presents, a nervous tic won’t develop in their parents’ eyes. We have the instructions of not to buy too much, and yet, we don’t want to be the only grandparents who abide by those instructions… Aarrgghh!
So this is today’s quandary…my Monday Morning Moment’s lament. Once the gift-buying is finished, Christmas loveliness will be restored. Whatever happens on Christmas morning will be wonderful, either way. It’s Christmas after all. By then, I’ll be at peace with it. In fact, by then, it will be more than fine that the grandkids get super fun presents from others who love them and money toward their college education from us… They know they’re loved, and that’s what matters.
For today, I will stare at screen after screen of parent-preferred educational toys, latest greatest children’s books, and local family-friendly “experience” possibilities.
Then…whatever ends up under the Christmas tree for our grandchildren, we will still have play dates, and snuggles in front of the TV, and walks together with the neighbors, and joy at all the wonders of life.
Here’s to the grandparents who don’t wait until Christmas Eve to sort this dilemma out…who know their grandchildren so well they can scout out that perfect present…and who have their own sweet times with these kiddos.
You are rock stars and super heroes.
Anybody else out there with the same struggle as mine? Comment below…and any advice on this downside of Christmas is welcome.
The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!
2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer
This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.
From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!
4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.
Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame
Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.
The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.
I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.
Sigh…any thoughts? Please.
[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]
5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children. When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…
Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.
Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]
[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]
As I write the sun’s going down on another work week. Friday came and has almost gone as the days shorten in Fall. Before the day passes into the weekend, here are my favorite finds of the week.
1) Super Mario Brothers – Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, Nintendo is releasing its latest version of the popular video game series: Super Mario Brothers Odyssey. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has played these games for much of his life. So many memories.
When he arranges and performs some of composer Koji Kondo‘s themes, you will hear the love and sweet nostalgia, in his playing.Check it out.
2) Great Television – So many viewing options these days with cable channels, Netflix, etc. It is amazing to me how many great shows are on TV right now, without us viewers having to be bombarded with vulgar language, and so much sex and violence. Three of my absolute favorite shows are on the regular networks. They are The Good Doctor (ABC), This Is Us (NBC), and Blue Bloods (CBS). Photo Credit: Facebook, International Business News, CBS
The writers on these shows really seem to know their audiences. Intelligent, touching, and riveting stories. I’m not going into all the reasons why these shows are favorites today, but I would love to know why you love these or other shows (please share in the Comments below).
3) Not Hoarding – In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on a project that has required much manpower and discernment. It relates to clearing out a much-loved property left “as is”, in order for the next occupants to use the space. The word “hoarding” has been thrown around several times, and I’d like to address the use of that word in today’s culture. Actual hoarding is a painful, psychologically and socially debilitating disorder.
To call anyone a hoarder is insensitive. It’s not a word that should be used casually to judge people. What some would call hoarders are actually resourceful, frugal, or innovative.
Financial planner Amy Jo Lauber posted a great piece on this: There’s a Fine Line Between Being Resourceful and Being a Hoarder. On the surface, some could appear to be hoarders, but their reasons for holding onto things make a difference. My mom and dad had two sheds full of tools and treasures when Mom died. As we cleared out those sheds, I was reminded of her reasons for having the things she had in storage – it was always to bless others. She didn’t hold onto things because they gave her some measure of comfort or stability. They were in storage and in transition, on their way to others…and she just didn’t get to finish. After she died, Dad began going through his tools and did give most of them away to family members and friends.
It’s easy to just judge people as hoarders if you don’t know them well. A key to determining if it’s not hoarding is to look for margin. Are there chairs to sit in and room to maneuver in your home or that of your friends and family? Is the kitchen usable? Can you park cars in the garage (of course, the garage is sometimes used for storage? Are material things barriers to relationships or are they just stuff?
Stuff management requires from its owner time and energy. However, so does shopping (and the finances) for replacements for the things discarded.
To judge others based on how they deal with their stuff can be as misguided as the old addiction of trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. However, we would be just as culpable if we negatively judge those who don’t hold onto things. I hope this makes sense; I’m wrestling with it this week…wanting to understand both sides.
4) Thrifting – Don’t you love discovering great finds in thrift stores? This sort of thing goes along with “not hoarding” as we reuse, repurpose, recycle. Here’s a sweet story about thrifting. One of my favorite thrift shops is West End Thrift in Richmond, Virginia. It’s just been open since the Spring of 2017. When it first opened, one of the promotions was new wedding dresses at thrift store prices.Photo Credit: Facebook
The story goes that these dresses were donated by a consignment shop owner who was retiring. She apparently had final ownership of the dresses and gave them to West End Thrift. I was only in the store once when a young woman took advantage of this great deal. She had been in the store in the Spring and had seen a dress she loved… but didn’t buy it (for whatever reasons). More recently she dropped back by, and inquired if it was still available (doubting such a possibility). The dress was still there and fit her beautifully. Here’s this lovely young woman, and a handful of store volunteers, and about the same number of customers – who in that moment were like her moms, sisters, and friends. Complete with tears and picture-taking. What we pass on to a thrift store often becomes someone else’s affordable find. Love it!
5) Simple Pleasures – Lastly, can I just go on a minute about the simple pleasures of life? God is so kind to give most moments – and even days – of complete joy. Often, these pleasures require no special planning nor a ton of resources. They are just part of this amazing gift of life. Here are a few of mine from this week:
Visits with grandchildren (if you don’t have any yourself, borrow some – their moms would probably be grateful to share).
Happy Friday! I hope you’re ending your week on a high note. If not, you might find some help right here. So pick your Friday Fave, and dig in.
1) Financially Fit – One of my absolute favorite blog writers and thought leaders today is Benjamin P. Hardy. Unless I didn’t notice it before, he has been ending his blogs lately with a free Going Big Checklist. The checklist speaks to a person’s desire for financial freedom and heightened productivity. I got it and it’s really good! He also recommends a financial coaching firm by the name of Financially Fit. Hardy is actually one of their clients and has been for over a year. As incentive to do a phone appointment with one of their consultants, I could receive Hardy’s upcoming book The Proximity Effect. Sold!Photo Credit: Financially Fit
Before my appointment, I poured over their website. It was informative, user-friendly, and convincing. My conversation with Chris Patton, a client consultant, was even more compelling.
The focus of this company is to educate, motivate, and provide accountability to their clients toward debt elimination and wealth creation. I’ve never pursued wealth, myself, but after talking to Chris, the idea of creating greater cashflow was intriguing. Just think, to have the money to fulfill big dreams and life aspirations (not just for yourself but to help others) is something to consider.
Anyway, I’m also considering signing on for financial coaching with Financially Fit. The price is incredibly reasonable and there are no entangling strings attached. Check out their website, read some of the stories of people who have eliminated their debt and created wealth, and educate yourself. I’ll check back in with an update on my own financial fitness.
2) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills, classical guitarist, continues to create beautiful musical content. Currently he is posting Daily Shorts – arrangements on request – on his Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. They are tasty morsels of favorite themes that he arranges for classical guitar. Follow him and you won’t miss these dailies.
Inspired by violinist Lindsey Stirling‘s piece on YouTube. Both are gorgeous using different instruments. Here’s Nathan’s version:
3) Addiction Recovery – I’m not talking about street or prescription drug addiction but one that can cause some of the same struggle. Recently, I wrote about a sugar detox. Today I’m a week into dealing with my dependence on sugar. About three years ago, the articles written on sugar intake’s negative impact on the brain (especially memory) were beginning to pile up in my social media streams.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Memory especially is something I’d really like to retain. After watching my dad’s spiral downward with Alzheimer’s, it’s been cause for daily reflection – both on how much he loved sweets, and how much I love them.
I’ve successfully gone off sugar in the past, and I’m hoping to do it again…at least detoxing, and then strongly curbing my dependence on sugar. The first days of “no sugar” were not that hard. Then yesterday, I hit a wall of sorts. Depression is a struggle sometimes, and my ready remedy historically is a carb load (some sort of sugary or fatty carb-filled treat to sedate my troubled brain). An emotional cloud settled around me yesterday, and sugar wouldn’t be my go-to to pierce the cloud.
I have found that certain activities can effectively help with bouts of depression. They are:
Prayer – I prayed. It did help.
Exercise – Walked with the neighbors. Also helped.
Serving others – Helped a refugee family with paperwork and shopping. Also helped.
Still, the darkness didn’t lift altogether. Then something amazing happened. I texted the parents of our little grandson a longing sort of message (that not many adult children love receiving). My daughter-in-law wrote back quickly and proposed dropping by after an errand.
Added immediately to my list of depression aids and dealing with sugar withdrawal and addiction recovery – GRANDCHILDREN.
In very close proximity. If you struggle as I do, this is something I highly recommend. Even if you don’t have any in your family, find some! We have two grandchildren who are a complete delight to the heart and a brightening of any burden. OK…enough. Doing better today and still off sugar. Whew….
4) Parenting – Anyone who is a parent and wants to do right by our children have already read much of what’s out there. Victoria Prooday, an occupational therapist, writes a piece that won’t necessarily give you new information. However, The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – and What to Do About It does succinctly propose direction for weary parents of over-stimulated, emotionally distant children. Prooday posts provocative statistics which may not be wholly verifiable, but her statement of problems of children today is spot-on. Technology addiction, sedentary lifestyle, and emotional disconnectedness are three areas that parents must address to help children grow into healthy adulthood.
Being a visual learner, I love infographics. Here’s one on caring for “one another”. The teaching of Jesus focused on this as second only to our love for God. We all long for community. No matter our religion, the wisdom of “one-anothering” can transform our relationships. What do you think?Photo Credit: Overview Bible
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.
Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.
This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.
Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us. A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.
Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.
For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.
So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.
I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:
O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.
How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.
Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.
Beautiful day outside…hope the same is the case for you.
Here are my Friday faves this week:
1) Music Lessons – I was the worst student at music lessons. My mom was so determined that I would learn to play the piano. Seriously, I don’t even remember having a piano in our home…we must have, right? Dear old Mrs. Bowles taught me my first lessons. She and her husband owned a tiny general store in our neighborhood. She was ancient…and kind. I loved her but not enough to practice. Some weeks, my only time on the piano was our lesson. Do you think she could tell?
In the article he lists 13 scientific benefits of the many more derived from music lessons. Below, I’m posting his list, but don’t miss his brief and fascinating commentary on each one. Here’s his article.
Taking Music Lessons:
It improved your reading and verbal skills.
It improved your mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning.
It helped your grades.
It raised your IQ.
It helped you learn languages more quickly.
It made you a better listener, which will help a lot when you’re older.
It will slow the effects of aging.
It strengthened your motor cortex.
It improved your working memory.
It improved your long-term memory for visual stimuli.
It made you better at managing anxiety.
It enhanced your self-confidence and self-esteem.
It made you more creative.
All three of our children had piano lessons early in their schooling. They all did music through high school then took different paths afterwards. After her high school girl band and college chorale experience, our oldest plays piano just for her own pleasure now. Our middle, Nathan Mills, moved from piano to classical guitar and is now doing music professionally and giving lessons himself. Our youngest loves opera and is teaching himself the harp. Music lessons are definitely worth their investment…even beyond the music itself.
2) Final Fantasy – No, this isn’t some bucket list or deathbed wish. This is a video game. In fact, it’s a very popular one and has been around since 1987. This past week marked its 15th update. During our boys’ growing up years, I wasn’t enamored of video games, but I also never really sat down and got to know what they were about (my mistake). Final Fantasy is a good-vs.-evil battle game. Its musical themes are beyond beautiful. Our son, Nathan, has arranged many of the themes for classical guitar. Most recently, he has posted the Valse di Fantastica. As I’ve listened to this piece over and over, it makes me wonder at the times I kicked him off gaming to do something else more valuable with his time. Yet, the music stayed in his head and heart. I’m glad he’s kept the music…and here it is for you.
3) Grandchildren – These littles are so worth the wait. I say if you don’t have your own grands, then find some to love. Never enough love for children – tiny ones or those nearly grown. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay
Reuters posted a news story by Madeline Kennedy that touts the health benefit for seniors of occasionally caring for their grandchildren. Without going into the statistics, this German study reported that those who care for their grandchildren, on an occasional basis, actually live longer.
This and other studies (see article) point to time caring for grandchildren as benefiting cognitive function, as well as physical and mental health of the grandparent. These benefits could be enjoyed by caregivers not related to the children as well. Also a distinction was made that the study related to occasional care-giving (rather than full-time care) and depended on what was considered stressful or non-stressful by the grandparent.
In Mertz’s article on leadership ladders, he’s not talking about building or climbing ladders for our own success but for the success of others. What a lovely and timely concept! He prescribes four different leadership ladders – family, personal, organizational, and community. Read his piece here.
Within his article on leadership ladders, he references his 3 articles below. I read them all, and you will want to as well.
5) Smorgasbord on Success – OK, we all define success in many ways. Couldn’t think of another exact word – being effective, making a living, realizing a dream, leading well. I’ve been reading a lot lately about leadership and about business start-ups. This week has made for a bounty of discovery on these topics (including Jon Mertz above). I’m just going to post the links and you can choose what tickles your itch this week.
My biggest take-away is that if we’re willing to learn, apply what we learn, and push out of our comfort zone, we can make extraordinary advances in our work and workplace. I really believe that, no matter what our age or level. Here are some writers who say the same:
30 years ago, I knew this would be the day. Our baby was coming. It was still the wee hours of the morning, but labor wakes us. I let Dave sleep until it got to a place that I knew we probably needed to go. It was a windy pre-dawn drive to the hospital. That first day of March.
“It’s a girl!” How would I have known then how much she would change our lives? We had an inkling when, just days into parenting, and my hormones all over the place, I looked up at Dave, with her in my lap and tears in my eyes. “What if something were to happen to her?” – asked the new mom on the edge. Dave brought me back to myself when he said, “Look at how much joy she’s brought us in just these few days. We treat each day as precious…” It was something like that. He doesn’t remember, and all I can say is that each day has been precious.
This quiet girl spent her preschool years in East Tennessee enjoying friends from the neighborhood and church. She didn’t require much entertaining. The world of her imagination was rich and deep. She welcomed two little brothers in that time.
As their big sister, she created elaborate make-believe games, and they loved following her lead in play. This, of course, would end in time, as teen years would find all three off doing more of their own thing. Fun times together and shared memories.
Other times, the boys thought of her more like an old aunt…a third parent…rather than sister. Fortunately that season passed with them all still friends.
This quiet girl has known God since she was tiny. She’s always been an old soul, and that sensibleness and understanding about life informed her grasp of God. She isn’t perfect, by any means, but she carries into adulthood a faith that both anchors her and moves her toward His purposes.
She loves music and for all her life she has filled our home with singing or piano playing. I don’t know if that influenced her guitarist or harpist brothers. Their music has just been a joy…for the most part…our musical tastes have all had their own journeys. Remembering her high school girl band days still makes me smile. She plays the radio now more than the piano, and she isn’t pursuing a choir or praise team experience…but I hope she does again one day.
When we pulled her out of her lovely small-town life, along with her brothers, to move to Africa, this quiet girl took it in stride. We were always grateful to see the hand of God in these adjustments. There were tears…great, gushing cries over missing friends and family and grieving precious things left behind (even her dog once)…my heart would almost break over those tears. Then, like the sun breaking through storm clouds, she would give in to laughter. That would break the tension for all of us…that crazy-sweet laughter from a tear-drenched face. Her own wrestling through the many moves of our lives had to have helped our boys do the same. She helped us, for sure.
Making friends was sometimes challenging for this one whom we bounced around from country to country. Always having to start over was hard for her. She’s not one to push in or draw attention to herself. How thankful we were for the friends who opened up to friendship with this quiet girl. They are some of her most cherished friendships. When she does feel comfortable enough to be herself, she probably surprises people with her resoluteness, strong opinions, and deep loyalties. These are actually things I appreciate about this quiet girl. She is not going away. As we get older, it is a tremendous comfort to know that she has settled that. She will be there, God willing. With this one, you get life-long friendships and forever love.
When this quiet girl went back to the US for college, we would miss her terribly. Our home re-configured and the boys became the young men of the house. Her visits home were dear for all of us…as she perched around wherever we had landed at home and told us stories of life at school. I never tired of those stories.
After college, she would teach for several years (both inner city and county schools). Lots of crying followed by laughter in those days. The friendships that came out of both college and teaching are precious to her…lots of battle scars and victories to share there.
This quiet girl fell in love. She never really dated in high school. We as her parents were glad she, or the boys, didn’t suffer serial broken hearts. To find one so right for her as the quiet young man she married gladdened our hearts for her…and for us all.
Then she finally got a much-longed-for sister when one of her brothers married (and another when her husband’s brother married).
…and our first grandchild has this quiet girl as mommy.
[No pics of this little one on the blog yet. One day… The grandparents, I can tell you, are smitten with this little one not-so-quiet as the parents.]
I guess it’s a 30th birthday that made me want to write about this quiet girl. To know her is to love her, and I know her very well.
So Sweet Girl, Dear Daughter of ours, when you read this blog (and you do, so thanks for that), on this your 30th birthday, hope you’re having a Beautiful Day and know how Priceless you are to God Himself and to all who know and love you.