Tag Archives: Holidays

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar Christmas, a Prayer for the Grieving, Experience and the Brain, Complaining Exposed, and Gift Giving

It’s Friday! Days before Christmas. So no time to lose…here’s this week’s five favorite finds:

1) Beyond the Guitar ChristmasNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has given us 4 sweet Christmas videos over the years. The latest is a medley of 3 Christmas movie classics on guitar. Watch it here:

A Star Wars Christmas – a Classical Guitar Mashup

December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise)

2) A Prayer for the Grieving – This Christmas more than any other I can remember is marked by multiple losses…friends who have died and family members of friends. Words are tricky when you want to reach out to those wounded by loss. Writer Dena Johnson Martin‘s prayer for the grieving at Christmas is a just-right-to-share piece for these dear ones who are still in the throes of grief right now. Especially those looking to God for help but don’t have the words either.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Dena Johnson Martin

A Prayer for Christmas Hope – Dena Johnson Martin [another prayer]

20 Messages of Advice for Suicide Loss Survivors During the Holidays – Sarah Schuster

What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas – Nancy Guthrie

3) Experience and the Brain – You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect”? Well, that has been found to be true only with the right kind of practice. Another saying “Use it or lose it” however does continue to hold true. Exercising our brain and building our brain through experiences are both still vital for brain health and aptitude – from childhood through old age.

Author and brain injury survivor Debbie Hampton has given us 5 Ways Experience Changes the Brain. [It is a ton of cool science. I decided not to list those points out because you really need to read it – to glean just how we can power up learning through experience, intentional and meaningful experience, from early childhood through late adulthood.Photo Credit: Experience Life, Jon Spayde

Neuroplasticity is a fascination of mine. It is defined as “the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual’s life, e.g., brain activity associated with a given function can be transferred to a different location, the proportion of grey matter can change, and synapses may strengthen or weaken over time.”

“It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.” – Celeste Campbell (n.d.).

What I love about the potential of experience’s positive impact on brain function is that we can be strategic in our own actions and responses. Building healthy and meaningful mental responses rather than being passively reactive to whatever stimuli comes our way.

What Is Neuroplasticity? Definition + 14 Brain Plasticity Exercises

Use It or Lose It – Exercising Your Mind Becomes Even More Important in Old Age – Dawn C. Carr

Upgrade Your Brain – Jon Spayde

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills Writer

4) Complaining Exposed – When it comes to complaining, we all think of someone else who does it…not us. It is an irritating habit, and (like we saw in #3 on neuroplasticity), it only gets worse if unchecked. Poet writer Anne Peterson talks about complaining and how it flows out of 6 heart attitudes. Complaining reveals that:

  • We feel entitled.
  • We are impatient.
  • We hold on to resentment.
  • We compare ourselves to others.
  • We don’t think life is fair.
  • We are conformed to this world/culture.

Read her article for the particulars. Be prepared to rip the excuses off your complaining.

What Your Complaints Actually Reveal About Your Heart Anne Peterson

Photo Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk writes about how his mom and wife seem to be incapable of complaining and it’s one of the things he loves about them: “Complaining has zero value. Looking at the negative, seeing the glass as half empty, and complaining are some of the biggest wastes of time a human being can engage in. Instead, tackle the problem head on. Assess it, see what you can do about it, and then do just that. ‘Woe is me’ is truly one of the biggest things that can stand in the way of success both professionally and personally.”

Gary Vaynerchuk

One of the Few Things I Complain About: Complaining – Gary Vaynerchuk

5) Gift Giving – My shopping for Christmas is probably about as done as it will get. As for what I want for Christmas? Forgive the song reference, but all I want for Christmas…is you.Photo Credit: Facebook, Kelly’s Treehouse

When you can’t always have your family around…if you have friends who are generous and genius gift-givers, you can still wrap up all cozy with your family [photo fleece] anyway.

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Happy Christmas, y’all. Thanks for spending this bit of time here. It means a lot to me. May God’s richest Christmas blessing find a place in your heart.

Bonuses:

Who Is Jesus? – Explore God

Marwencol – the website and the feature-length film: Welcome to Marwen – What a story!

2018 Lights on Canoe Brook – The Greatest Showman

I Fit the Description – The Good Men ProjectPhoto Credit: Steve Locke, The Good Men Project

Photo Credit: Facebook; Pal’s Blountville

Photo Credit: Facebook, Christmas comes to Aleppo, Syria under reconstruction.

Photo Credit: Twitter, Music Notes

December Daffodil and Narcissus shoots in December at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenPhoto Credit: Lewis Ginter Twitter

5 Friday Faves – Thanksgiving Infographic, Emotional Intelligence, Christmas Commercials, Friends, and Dancing

Blog - Friday Faves

Well, Friends…we made it through another week. Given the world we live in these days, that’s something to celebrate. As I sit in my favorite work space besides my desk at home, listening to a friend’s Pandora picks, I’m so grateful for one more week and all the good in our lives.

Hope your week was remarkable and your discoveries sweet. Here are five of mine. Please share your favorite finds in the Comments below. I have learned so much in the last couple of weeks about how others think about the events of these days…growing my understanding is such a good thing. Thank you.

1) Thanksgiving Day Infographic – Natalie Brown of Buzzfeed posted an incredibly helpful infographic for those of us who are cooking that Thanksgiving dinner – 19 Charts on all things yummy for the holiday table. This is my favorite such find this week. Two other articles listed out multiple such infographics. Ysolt Usigan posted nine Thanksgiving infographics for all you who may love infographics like I do. Morgan Hauck listed another 6.  Everyone’s family has their own particular traditions. Along with all the favorite dishes filling the table, my mom-in-law will have Bible verses, on giving thanks, by our plates. Taking turns saying around the table what we’re thankful for is part of our Thanksgiving custom as well…sort of a given. I also found this list of questions/conversation starters…not that we need any further help with Pinterest and all. Still…I love anything that stirs conversation on a day when family gathers for food and football.blog-thanksgiving-dinner-she-knowsPhoto Credit: She Knows

2) Emotional Intelligence – OK…so there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator wit and appreciator of people. blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

3) Christmas Commercials – Even when true-life hard things leave me dry-eyed from the starkness of the situation, a Hallmark commercial during the Christmas holidays regularly cause me to tear up. In recent years, the UK John Lewis Department Store Christmas TV adverts have also touched my heart. My favorite Christmas commercial so far this year comes to us from Heathrow Airport in London. Two oldish Teddy Bears…but so much more.blog-coming-home-for-christmas-newsodyPhoto Credit: NewsOdy

I won’t give it away (watch it here), but it probably affects me so much in thinking how we are not always able to be with all our family at Christmas…and what a joy it is when we are.

YouTube Video – Top 5 Christmas Adverts 2016 UK

4) Friends – Ben Keslen wrote a piece earlier this year on the benefit of good friends. He cites research on how close friendships help us live longer, fight depression and stress, and generally adds to our happiness and well-being. Not exactly rocket science, but fueling the fire to go out to make friends if either our lifestyle or season of life has drawn us into a more solitary existence. blog-old-friends-john-lundblog-friends-inspowerPhoto Credit: ; John Lund; Inspower

Keslen did give an exception, pointing to a different study that demonstrated that really intelligent people have a less significant need for friends. Odd but interesting. I’m very thankful for good friendships that have endured through great change and separation.

Swiping Right on New Friends – Caroline Lester

5) Dancing – I don’t listen to pop music much these days. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranges music themes from video games, movies, and TV shows. I listen to that pop music often. Occasionally, thanks to Facebook and other social media, a few songs grab my attention. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling is one of those happy songs that makes you want to move with it…even me. Dancing is something of a jubilation…a response to words and music that I never want to get too old to enjoy! See if you can listen without moving.

Bonus: One of the most beautiful languages in the world is Arabic. Too often heard in our news in the context of war and political unrest, I wanted to post this short piece on the 10 Most Common Expressions About Love in Arabic.

blog-love-in-arabic-flickrPhoto Credit: Flickr

Have a restful and restorative weekend, Folks. Amidst these days of change and stretching news cycle we’re experiencing in the States, post-election, I hope you found something here to lift your heart a bit. Then…we get back out there and do all we can to “bring good news to the poor; …bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” [whatever binds us]. (Isaiah 61:1)

Keep dancing!blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.Al

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom at Work and at Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

[Adapted from the Archives]

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays and summer vacations have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into seasonal celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the these occasions helps.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, written for Advent but which also fits nicely into a block of summer days.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As summer hums along and return to school looms ahead, I hope you are savoring happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your summer vacations and holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Family, Fights, & Friendship

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My older brother taught me how to fight. He won most of our battles and yet I would keep on coming. He was a formidable foe. Then…well into adulthood, I learned not to take the bait, and we became friends. None too soon, because short years later, he died, too young. Today I want to talk about him, and what I learned about fighting…and friendship…from him.

First, some background on how he stayed on my mind all day today, though he’s been gone seven years now. This morning, I found a fascinating article online from the Wall Street Journal. It is a timely piece entitled Family Meltdowns: When Everyone is Arguing and No One is Listening by Elizabeth Bernstein.

Bernstein reported on how holiday gatherings tend to push buttons with family members who already have issues with each other. Fights ensue and the day becomes another chalked-up disappointment. In these family fights, is there always a single culprit or do we each have a part to own in these conflicts?

If you are in such a family, Bernstein’s description of how the family gets embroiled in such a fight is all too familiar. She lists seven different roles in family conflicts. Take note if you see yourself in this mix.

The Trigger – the person who starts the uproar by getting offended by what another has said or done. [I actually think there may be co-triggers in a family argument. We know after years of growing up together what buttons to press with each other. We know sometimes exactly what it takes to get a reaction out of a sibling or parent, and when the time is just right, we strike. So like the bullied child who gets in trouble while the one who started the commotion looks wide-eyed innocent at the teacher, a family disturbance can proceed in the same way.

The Prosecutor – this is the family member who reacts, either in defense of the offended one or the one who did the offense. He is the accuser and is ready to call out the “trigger” for his own offending behavior.

The Defender or Peacemaker – she is the one who will try to calm down the two above. She may try to get each to see the other’s side, or she herself may side with one and try to convince the other. Finally, she may actually attack both the “trigger” and the “prosecutor” for spoiling the day for the family.

The Enablers – sometimes the parents try to stop the conflict without offering any real solution for those fighting with each other. Often the mom just wants it to stop, trying to salvage the holiday for the family, rather than dealing with the issues underneath the fight. The dad at times is more a passive enabler, disappearing in the noise of the battle.

The Deserter – lastly, there are the family members who feel most removed from this family history repeating itself. These are the usually (but not always) the in-laws who will actually remove themselves from the situation, taking the children with them.

The article is a quick read and fascinating in its familiarity with family dynamics – especially those that surface when faced with holiday pressures to have fun together. Bernstein gives counsel on how to prevent such family trauma on special days, or at least how to minimalize it.

My brother and I had no such helps during our years of fighting with each other. He was often a trigger in our family rows, and I was the tireless prosecutor. I feel, however, that we were all sometimes co-triggers because we just “waited” for him to start a ruckus. We didn’t have to wait long, and then we all did the usual.

I finally got a clue after years of this thanks to the wise words of two friends. They were often a part of our gatherings and they loved us all. It helps sometimes to have that extra set of eyes looking in onto family communication…especially eyes attached to a person who loves all involved.

One friend counseled me not to “take the bait”. When my brother took offense at something one of us said or did, a fight would begin and continue to escalate until someone left the room, or the house altogether. My role always was to react, but when I checked myself and didn’t, a strange and wonderful transformation happened (over time). He softened and didn’t pursue the offense or offender. He let it go.

The other friend reminded me of an old adage “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve all heard this but when we feel attacked we also want to return the attack. My brother, over the course of his life, had experienced enormous losses – marriage, jobs, his health, the death of a child, his own helplessness, it seemed, to have close relationships with the rest of his family. These losses bent his heart, and dulled his thinking, and he struck out at the very people he loved most in the world.

Once my own thinking cleared, I stepped out of the “prosecutor” role, and began to just love my brother. Don’t get me wrong, I did not become a doormat for his abuses at all. If there was ever a time in life, I gave a person grace, it was in those (what would be the) last years of his life. We became friends. We learned to laugh together and share news instead of barbs. We both worked at understanding each other and actually looked forward to our visits together.

I thank God for this brother of mine. I was not the hero here…he was. He took a chance with me, and my sense is we both won. I know I did. Before he died, he rejoiced at time spent happily with our other two brothers. In the last moments of his life, he even began to reach out to his daughter, the one he loved the most and the one he most hurt…if there had only been more time.

One day there will be. My brother died on an operating room table, but he opened his eyes in Heaven. We will see him again, and all the pain of being part of frail, all-too-human families will be behind us. Every day will be like the Thanksgiving or Christmas we wanted. For now, we don’t give up…even though it’s tempting. For in not giving up on family, we may win a friend.

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Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29