Music is as universal as a smile. We understand its impact on our mood, our larger experience, and our sense of belonging. In fact, we unconsciously develop soundtracks for our lives with little effort.
When our children were entering their teens, we would often do long roadtrips, visiting family or heading to a beach somewhere. All three kids had their own headphones on, with their own individual soundtracks for the road. Occasionally, being the parents messing in their lives, we would insist they put away their private listening devices. Then we shared our various personal favorites through the car’s stereo. With differing levels of enjoyment for sure.
It was a bonding exercise of a sort. Or at least a cross-cultural musical experience between the five of us. I wonder if they remember.
My wonderful mom-in-law is visiting us this week.
Over the weekend, we were driving and Dave cued up Alan Jackson’s Gospel country song albums. Sweetly familiar to all of us, even though some of those songs we haven’t sung in a very long time. We all sang along, even our youngest adult son who remembers those songs from childhood (only). It was a lovely experience that wouldn’t necessarily have happened without MomMom in the car.
Do you have favorite soundtracks for different times in your life? I know you do. Something nostalgic…or maybe new still? Something that restores you from a dark place or returns you to a happy time or just causes you to get out of your seat to dance or raise your arms in praise?
I sure do. A wide range of music because I’ve lived a long time now. One thing about music for me: for half my life, the soundtracks wouldn’t be instrumental. Music had to have words for me to engage. Marrying a quiet man began the reconstruction of that. If Dave was in the house, strains of big band, jazz, or classical music would always fill parts of the house. Even then, my appreciation for instrumental music just wasn’t happening.
Until our middle child, Nathan, picked up the guitar. He had his high school garage band days, but then honed in on mastering the classical guitar…and my soundtracks for life began to change.
Where words once seemed necessary, the music itself can bring “all the feels”. Especially when we already have the words in our heads, and all we need is just the right rendering of a melody, or harmony, to draw out the memory.
Nathan, at Beyond the Guitar, regularly brings to us his classical guitar arrangements of film, TV, and video game themes. Nostalgia is strong in this guy. When we listen to music that takes us back, we are, more often than not, fortified because we experience both an intimate connection (with our own sense of meaning) and with a social emotion drawing us toward others with similar music memories. It’s a sweet looking back. We don’t stay in the past, of course, but the emotions drawn out by such music refreshes, reconnects, and reorients us.
We have various playlists from Nathan’s beautiful, lyrical music, but I will post just a few of my many favorite videos of his below. Including his most recent “Tifa’s Theme” from the Final Fantasy video game franchise. No nostalgia attached to this one for me, because I never got into video games, but…The beauty of his arrangement of this gorgeous piece of music stands alone to touch my heart.
Here we go:
Just a few. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to share some of my soundtracks for life…music that lifts our mind and fills our hearts with sweet emotion. Put your earbuds in or turn your speakers up. Let the music flow and wash over you.
Please share some of your go-to tracks in the Comments. Have a soaring day!
Having an artist in the family can be an extraordinarily sweet experience. One reason being we get to know the artist. Also, we have the opportunity of experiencing the art, with all its expansive nature. I know and love music that would never have come on my radar were it not for Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar classical guitarist.
I asked him last week what he was working on, and he said an arrangement of “Hurt”, the Johnny Cash version. Well…I didn’t know that song, but I did know the late great Johnny Cash. He was my mom’s favorite country singer. His music was the soundtrack of my early childhood.
After listening to the Cash version on YouTube, I was so taken by both the lyrics and the soulful melody. The original “Hurt” was written by Trent Reznor and performed by the industrial band Nine Inch Nails in 1994. That version was dark and despairingly sad, drawing our attention to brutal self-harm and drug addiction.
The Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” came about when record producer Rick Rubin approached him about doing an album that would reintroduce the aging artist to the MTV generation of music fans. “Hurt” was one of many covers on Cash’s 2002 albumAmerican IV: The Man Comes Around. This album was a huge success.
Cash’s version of “Hurt”, like Reznor’s original, was also sad and filled with regret. However, there was a difference. A big difference. In Cash’s rework of the original, he changed some of the lyrics to incorporate his faith. Still, the lyrics spoke of deep pain, the losses of his life and the losses to come. He knew he was in the last years of his life. His cherished wife and fellow artist June Carter Cash is seen briefly on the video of his cover. She would die in 2003 and he would also just months later. Somehow, Cash communicated both love and hope in his “Hurt”. It was excruciatingly beautiful.
Now enters Nathan’s arrangement and performance of this haunting melody. You can hear the emotion…even without the lyrics. Although I usually say “Enjoy”, on this one, just take it on and let it teach you something of life. Its great worth and the incredible gift it is.
What songs have touched your life in ways that continue to grow with time…and with the different reiterations and interpretations? Whatever genre. For me, many are old songs. Both in pop and country as well as old church hymns.
call me old school, buuuut…
while 99% of the songs that I listen to on my phone and sing at the top of my lungs in my F150 are newer worship songs,
the actual songs that I sing from memory that minister to my soul in times of need… are old, old hymns.
Another old favorite is the love song that became ours – Dave & me – years and years ago. “I Only Have Eyes For You”. A reminder of this song hangs on our bedroom wall. It always gives a cause to dance together.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.
Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.
2) Mental Health Awareness – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.
Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.
3) Antidote for Self-Deceit – Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.
I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.
Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.
During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.
As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.
4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.
So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.
On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.
I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.
We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?
Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.
“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.
And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili
“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?
“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.
So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:
It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” – Kenneth Vogt
[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]
Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.
It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.” – Rachel Macy Stafford
5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring
Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.
Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.
I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.
The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.
5 favorite finds of the week. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
1) Music and the Soul – We all know the soothing touch of music on our souls. It lifts us and takes us to nostalgic places. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, J. S. Bach
Nathan at Beyond the Guitar is like an online music therapist. Sweet guitar melodies that cause us to travel to a film, TV show, or video game that brought us fun, but more often, joy in the experience.
Nathan’s latest posted arrangement for classical guitar is linked below. Sweet piece.
Occasionally he plays a song just for his patrons. This week he performed Leo Brouwer‘s Cancion de Cuna. Such a romantic classical guitar piece. I wish I could bring you that video, but unless you’re already a patron, you will miss that one. Here’s him playing it in 2009 (thanks to his filmmaker roommate Duy Nguyen. He was a youngster then, but the soul knows. Enjoy the loveliness.
I love his music and how it elevates our souls. Words can often do the same for us, especially us extroverts. Below are links about how many see the impact of music on our hearts and health…here, words are used.
2) Asking Good Questions – Several years ago, we were in charge of a cross-cultural post-grad experience for groups of 20-somethings (millennials). One time, a mom came out to visit her son, and she gave us some good advice (although at the time it wasn’t something I wanted to hear). I’ll get back to that advice shortly.
In this cross-cultural context, these young people had many hurdles to quickly master – language, culture, worldview, physical and emotional challenges. Having lived well for many years in this particular culture, we could very easily fall into just “telling” them what to do and how to succeed, and often we did just that.
This mom told us, “Young adults want to discover their own way through difficulty. Ask them good questions and they will find the answers for themselves.”
Sigh…OK. I get it. It may take longer and require more work on the part of the teacher, mentor, supervisor…but it is excellent advice.
Asking the right questions is an art. Too often, we just default to giving the answer rather than asking the question. Four excellent articles on this are linked below. Asking questions (the right way with the right intent) can build trust and transparency. We also find out what we need to know rather than making suppositions that could be way wrong.
3) Hygiene Theater – We have dear friends who are still terrified by COVID-19. Even after so many of us are vaccinated. Lives have been severely altered by the safeguards put in place with the advisement of the CDC and other government agencies as we “follow the science”. That sacred science changes weekly because we are gaining new understanding of the virus with increasing data helping us to open up our lives more.
Thus the flurry of articles and videos now on the topic “hygiene theater”. Remember early on when we were told to sanitize our surfaces, wash our vegetables/fruits, and vigorously clean all public places on a daily basis.
What have we learned? How have we changed in our mediation of COVID impact? Now that I’m fully vaccinated and so many in my life have been, I look forward to welcoming people back into my home and visiting others as well. Shopping, though still often online or curbside pickup, has been happily opened up. Still, it seems we live in a world that is strangely toxic. All of us wearing masks and wiping down surfaces wherever we go. In this seemingly apocalyptic space.
When is the fear of COVID, of dying, so paramount that it squeezes all the joy and quality out of our lives? How can we move forward?
Now, I won’t play down the danger of COVID. We have lost friends and colleagues to it over this year. Not many, praise God, but some. The fact that there is still such a fear of it, over a year in, seems inordinate. Given the numbers. For sure in the US. Especially when COVID-related deaths reported appears suspect.
Maybe I am unwisely cynical. However, the deep cleaning still being advised (in our schools, for one huge example) seems unnecessary. Given all the findings. Given what we know about the transmission of COVID (through air and not surfaces). Follow the science, right?
I’m grateful for every turn in the COVID pandemic that restores life processes for our good. Kids in school. Friends visiting in each other’s homes. Work forces back in full. Weddings, births, graduations, funerals, hospital stays with our people in attendance, fully supporting us.
Enough with over-sanitizing. Now, on to masking. When is it truly protective and when is it theater?
4) Life-transforming Poetry – OK, maybe not everyone loves poetry. Yet. The poetry of artists like Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, Ezekiel Azonwu, and Janette…ikz have such a way with words. They lay down truth with their poetry. It is unique and powerful. God and person honoring. Check it out below:
Hope you’ve had some of your own favorite finds. Please share in the Comments below. It means a lot you came for a read.
Fave Quote This Week:“We are sometimes faced with circumstances that seem as if they must mark the final act. We sometimes encounter providences that make us believe the book has been closed and all has been lost. Yet when we are pressed, we must not think we have been crushed, but believe that God can still bring about a great redemption. When we are struck down, we must not think we have been destroyed, but rather have confidence that we are being prepared for some great blessing. When we are persecuted we must not determine we have been abandoned, but know that we are being made ready for some great usefulness to God’s plans and purposes. We must wait, we must withhold judgment, we must read to the end! For no story, least of all our own, makes sense until we have read all the way to the final page. It is only then, in light of the whole, that we see the skill, the ability, the genius of the Author.” – Tim Challies, Always Read the Story to the End
[A girl’s diary from 1929 – borrowed from a friend. The first owner of the diary is not written anywhere in it. Amazing for me to read her words about daily life almost a hundred years ago.]
During a girl time with some great friends (all admittedly younger than me), I remembered an old CD collection that was headed out of my house to a favorite charity thrift shop.
A family member had shared them with me since we are big music enthusiasts. They previously belonged to her mom and dad who also loved music. These beloved parents have passed and she finally was letting the CDs go herself.
My family here chose CDs for their sound systems (not playing the CDs themselves but converting them to MP3s for their particular listening devices). This collection contained some sweet old classics – a wide genre of music. Fun to just look through…if you love music.
So here was the rub yesterday. Either my friends were not music enthusiasts at all – OR – they were put off by the stacks of CDs temporarily “cluttering” my dining room table. There was no rush right over to check it out. No, “Wow, let me see what you have.”
No curiosity. No nostalgia. No “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Almost to a person, it was “Who even plays CDs any more!?” “I don’t think I know how to play them anymore.” “New cars don’t have CD players anymore.” “I’m getting rid of stuff!” “Why, when I can download whatever I want.”
It turns out my offer was laughable. Thanks again, Marie Kondo.
I actually wasn’t offended. Just amused. Looking in on a culture I loved (well the beautiful women in that room, for sure)…from the outside.
I remember when CDs replaced vinyl records…no, sorry, that demise happened earlier. CDs replaced cassette tapes. Now, that was my season as a girl. Djs at dances with silos of cassette tapes ready to make an evening magical. Friends making cassette tapes for each other of songs we captured off the radio. Fun times!
[Before cassette tapes, I remember my big brother practicing dancing with me before the prom one year with his vinyl records that I was forbidden to touch.]
Anyway…wonderful memories of each medium for playing music.
Dave, my music lover husband, is a slow adopter. Cautious. He finally packed up his vinyl records and built an amazing CD collection…and then we went overseas… He let go of that collection as we downsized our lives. I thought he was so brave.
Of course, in time, a new collection was birthed. All kinds of music, between his likes and mine, and growing children with different interests altogether.
If someone brought a box of CDs into the room and offered them up, I would have walked over, just to see what was there. Just to share in the experience. What in that collection was once loved by someone else? What did the CD liner notes include? What treasure might I take as a gift and figure out how to play and convert it – for an even longer season of its musical loveliness?
Different generation. Lovely generation. With far less “baggage” than my own.
Anyway, hope this made you smile. Based on my friends’ rejection of yesterday’s CDs, I’m thinking they aren’t just yesterday, or last week…but extinct! Unlike with vinyl record collectors, we may not see a revival of CD owners. However, one can’t predict. Whether there is anything to play them on or not, they make very tiny art pieces reminding us of the music of an era…past but pretty perfect.Photo Credit: Instagram, @kttaekey, also from the piece below by Hussein Kesvani
P.S. Two old souls among my young friends did take advantage of my re-gifting. Maybe for their mothers…Enjoy!
Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.
1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy
For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist. That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know
the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.
For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.
The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.
[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]
Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.
2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.
Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.
What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.
3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.
Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).
I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.
…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.
4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr
Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.
Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.
Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):
G. Personal growth and well-being
I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.
V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.
E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.
R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.
S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.
Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.
When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.
That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.
In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).
This year I decided to clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish, should they be the ones clearing it out one day.
The bag of someone else’s treasures in my car headed to Hope Thrift yesterday was my front-seat passenger. While Christmas music played, I occasionally looked over at that bag, and my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.
In the bag were several sets of vinyl Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.
Even though I don’t use those red and green placemats, I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.
In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. Themusical score was composed by John Williams.
Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me*
What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.
[Now the cloth napkins she made…and the crocheted Christmas ornaments…still with me.]
So Happy Saturday, kind readers. If you can’t afford the gifts you’d like to give your family, take heart. Christmas still comes for us. Most probably what your loved ones want most for Christmas…is you.
If finances aren’t an issue for you this Christmas, then still we have good advice in this image of a holiday bucket list:
I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift…or having every minute of your December weekends filled with parties or other invitations. One such grace for me that also happened yesterday was waiting for my order at Chick-Fil-A. I was standing at the end of the farm table in their dining room and saw the plaque below for the first time. Surprised by the joy of this.
Anyway….there you have my Saturday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2017. I do celebrate you amazing and persevering shoppers for just the right presents for your loved ones. It is such a joy for us on the receiving end of that.
One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them. Until then, gifts of some sort, probably severely lacking imagination, will make it under the tree…and the best part?
“All of the music, all of the magic All of the family, home here with me”.
Hope you’ve had a good week, since it’s pretty much done. Deep breath! Friday Faves coming at you right now.
1) Storytelling – When I was growing up, listening to stories was one of our favorite forms of distraction. Huddled around a campfire or under blankets at a sleepover, we would listen to funny or scary stories that kept us wanting more. In these days, good storytelling seems a neglected art form. Our friend Tom Elliff tells great stories and we never grow tired of him repeating them. Very little of Tom’s storytelling has been captured on film (you can enjoy some of his stories in this sermon). Fortunately for us, Tom has published some of his stories because you don’t want to miss them.
Communicator David Grossman has written many helpful pieces for us who would love to sharpen our storytelling. Two are linked below. His quick formula for excellent storytelling is depicted here:
I’ve written previously about storytelling here and here.
How’s your story-telling? Please comment below about your experiences with story-telling or good story-tellers.
2) The Restorative Nature of Music – I love music. Choral music is my favorite, but some instrumental music, as well, has captured my heart (this musician in particular). I sang in choirs from the time I was a small child. In college, I had the opportunity to sing with the Emory University Choir, a very different experience than that in a smallish Baptist church choir in the South. It amazes me to this day how music can touch emotions…even to the point of being therapeutic and restorative. Whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can have a positive soothing effect.
Watch these two short videos of the impact of music on two elderly persons. So beautiful.
3) A Film Company – I don’t know how I first became aware of local filmmaker Nathan Clarke. He is the founder of Fourth Line Films in Richmond, Virginia. Here is how he describes the work of this company:
“Fourth Line is a Richmond, Virginia based production company specializing in documentary and authentic storytelling. As lovers, students and champions of film, we know the inherent power of a good story exceptionally told. That’s why we apply cinematic tools and techniques to produce engaging, authentic stories that captivate audiences. We strive to create films that don’t just entertain, but incite a response.”Photo Credit: Fourth Line
4) Ethnic Food – Across the street from each other are two of my current favorite ethnic restaurants:
Habanero Mexican Grill – This is a tiny restaurant with most of the seating under umbrellas on the patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter experience, but they handle groups really well. Mexican food doesn’t always love me, so it’s not my go-to dining experience. This is the exception. Really great fajitas and taco salad, just to name two.
Mediterranean Bakery & Deli – This restaurant (deli and market) caters to anyone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So good. The grocery products, the music, and the tastes and smells take us back to our life in North Africa. The fatayer (an inexpensive pie of meat or spinach, with or without Feta cheese added) is so yummy. Always our go-to.Photo Credit: Mediterranean Bakery, Twitter
If you’re a Richmonder, please take a moment to comment below what your favorite ethic restaurants are around here. Thanks!
5) A Sugar Detox – I can’t believe I’m writing on this topic outside of a piece on addictions. Still, mentally and physically, my resolve is steely right now to deal with sugar in my life. After a few days of family vacation ahead of us, I’m coming back to do a sugar detox. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Saramukitza
Diets of any kind are suspect for me because they never seem to have lasting impact. Diets also force you to be “consumed” with food – which is so counter-intuitive since it’s the unhealthy consumption of food that is already the problem.
Twice in my life, I came completely off sugar – once while pregnant with Nathan, and the second time 3 or so years ago. Both times were very positive experiences, once I got past the addictive pull of sugar. Even now I just don’t eat chocolate or doughnuts (two lovely trigger foods for me)…everything else has become fair game again…and I am quite fond of sweet treats.
So…here’s the weekend. Hope you have a safe and refreshing one with lots of loves around. The world today seems to breed loneliness which is so odd with the myriad ways people are able to be “connected”. It helps for me to be aware, and to reach out instead of throwing a pity party of one. Hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of us, let’s reach out.
On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.
I had nothing.
After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.
On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.
Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.
Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.
There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.
1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before
2. Map It All Out From the Beginning
3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately
4. Put “Creation Time” On Your Daily Schedule
Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.
Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.
I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.
The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.
Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.
My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.
Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]
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. These 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.