Monday mornings can start so well and then sort of spiral. This was that sort of Monday around here. So much stress – with tough news, tight deadlines, and too much time in my own head…
Then a lovely idea…sparked by Tea with Tolkien (a Twitter account I follow)…lifted my spirit and cleared my mind. 30 Days to a Hobbit Heart. The focus of these 30 days is “slowing down, choosing simple joys, and forming new hobbity habits together”.
At the top of my movie list are The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) and The Hobbit – both from the pen of British author J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s stories are of great adventures, loyal friendships, and battles for good against evil. The music from these films does justice to the stories. [Sidebar: Two songs from above film series inspired Nathan at Beyond the Guitar to arrange and perform them – here and here.]
I signed up for the 30-day journey. Let me know if you do, and we’ll do it together. The guide for the 30 days is actually a simple checklist of how to order your day in a hobbity way. [I want to say that word at least a few more times.] Suggestions include less screen time (of course), more time outside, more time with friends, simple suppers, second breakfasts, and time for walks, reading, and writing.[Just a bit of my husband’s garden which he makes hobbity time for]
Where do we find the time for these habits of life? If there is room for all that Marie Kondo requires in minimizing our stuff, then there is room for Tolkien’s ideas of reshaping how we spend our time…and with whom.
One of the suggestions is actually reading some of Tolkien’s letters. I’ve already begun today. It was thrilling to read in one letter (#47) how he was nearly finished with the sequel to The Hobbit. He mentioned how it would be a much longer story (The Lord of the Rings) but that the reader would not be disappointed.
Author Cam Clark describes how being familiar with The Hobbit Life actually made him a better person. He talks about how hobbits value the simpler things of life – friends, food, and stories. He also points to two characteristics that distinguish them from folks of our era. They are 1) not beleaguered by status anxiety (fearing have a lower status than others), and 2) they are more technophobic (whereas the villains of Tolkien’s LOTR were advanced in their weaponry). Hobbity people today would not be so bothered by pursuing status, and they would incline toward being less attached to their devices.
So there you have it…this little distraction brightened my day and altered my perspective. Looking forward to the 30-day journey to wherever this hobbit life idea takes me.
By the way, the tough news and tight deadlines are still there…I’m just differently engaged…hopefully in a better way.
For those of us who follow Nathan’s career, he was also featured again this week on the Rising Tide Startups podcast. Check it out here.
2) The Thai Cave Rescue – We all celebrate the Thai Cave Rescue where national and international forces came together to accomplish the impossible. The rescue of 12 boys and their coach, from deep in a mountain cave, trapped by rising waters. Photo Credit: CBS Philly
Engineers, divers, doctors, and so many others turned this story from tragedy to triumph. A miracle, really. Not without loss. A former Thai Navy Seal diver, Saman Kunont, died while they they were setting up oxygen lines for the rescue. His death most assuredly helped those who would later be successful in bringing the boys and their coach to safety.
3) Pizza Memories The food we enjoy often has memories attached to it. Biscuits and gravy are a comfort food that takes me all the way back to childhood. My mom, on her days off, happily making up homemade biscuits and gravy – patting out the biscuits onto the pan and, while they cooked, standing over the gravy, constantly stirring it into perfection. Just the mention of Tang orange drink takes me back to Red Sea family respites from our crazy Cairo life. We stayed in quite affordable hotels offering the loveliest local food. What looked like orange juice on the breakfast buffet was Tang, and it meant we were away from the big city – with all the nurture of blue sky and fresh sea air.
Pizza memories return us to places and people that continue to be endearing. My years of teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, included lunches and suppers out, lingering over the great food of local eateries. New Haven pizza is well-known through the US. The culinary styles of pizza vary from the thin charred crust of New York and Chicago pizza to the cheesy, deep dish Greek pizzas.
My best food memories of New Haven center on an old campus favorite with the unlikely name of Clark’s Dairy (it was also an ice cream shop). Name changed to Clark’s Family Pizza & Restaurant. There our order was always the same: coffee and the Feta cheese and sausage pizza. Photo Credit: Yelp
4) Friends Through Thick & Thin – “Don’t forget to crowd your calendar with depression this week”, said no one ever. I was really looking forward to this week…then dark thoughts and their resulting lethargy fell over me like a suffocating wet blanket. I could still manage most of the usual stuff, but the very things that would have lightened my heart required me to get myself there…and it just didn’t happen.
Friendship that endures, over time and trouble, is an amazing gift. People you know will be there, not just for you, but for those you love also, are such a treasure. I hopefully am a better friend because of those who have stuck with me through the years, even when I wasn’t at my best. Friends like this one who missed me…when a no-show.
No judgment. No advice. No rejection. Just care. The note went on to give updates about her family which were a delight to hear/read.
“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.” – from Therese Borchard’s 8 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member With Depression
When we struggle and seemingly remove ourselves from others… maybe we do need to be left alone for awhile. Mostly, however, we just need to be invited in, even in our diminished states. Does this resonate?
5) Returning the Favor – Mike Rowe is this funny, larger-than-life TV show host and writer. He currently stars in a web series entitled Returning the Favor. The goal of this production is to discover and showcase the lives of regular folks who are doing good in their neighborhoods. Then Rowe, through various means, surprises this local heroes with some sort of monetary gift and national recognition. I never knew about him or his work until this week, so now, except for the money part, I want to return the favor and recognize the good he does.
These are my five favorite finds. How about you? Anything that energized your week, brought a special kind of joy, or you just found funny? Share it with us.
Have a splendid weekend with those you love or those who could do with a bit of your love.
[First fruits of a summer garden – thanks to Dave.]
Friday came faster than usual this week and is ticking fast away itself. When you can take a minute, here are my favorite finds for this week:
Beyond the Guitar and Malinda Kathleen Reese Collaboration – What happens when a YouTube sensation like Malinda Kathleen Reese collaborates with an incredibly gifted guitarist on the rise? Magic. If you’ve been here before, you know what Nathan does with the guitar…and Malinda’s voice? An angel. Full stop.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
Their collaboration on the song “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was other-worldly beautiful. Click on the link and refresh from any hard in your day.
I hope this is just the beginning of beautiful collaborations between these gifted artists.
Nathan posts guitar arrangements twice monthly. Just in this week, he posted three! The third was his arrangement of the 4 themes of the superhero Netflix shows; now all combined in the show The Defenders. Great characters blended together into a fun series.
Nathan’s crazy impersonations of The Defenders are part of what makes this video so endearing…but again…the music. Wow!
2) Podcasts – Who besides me listens to podcasts? They are a great source of inspiration, information, and entertainment (depending on the podcaster). Some of my favorite podcasts are here.
This week the Academy of Podcasters had its award ceremonies. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I’ve linked to some of the favorites below. One of my faves is Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast – a funny tongue-in-cheek look at our culture in America.Photo Credit: Knox and Jamie
3) The Uncivil War on Racism – We in the US have been in great turmoil for quite some time over the issue of chronic racism. Is it worsening, or is that the deafening cry of mainstream media? I don’t know, but I’ve certainly taken a more serious look at my own heart.Photo Credit: CDN, CLD
We live in a city that was a capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond, Virginia, has sharp racial divides still. Some of this has focused in recent days on the Confederate monuments displayed around our city. Should they come down?Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
[Sidebar: J. E. B. Stuart, V, is a hand surgeon in Richmond, Va. He was my surgeon the last time I broke my wrist. Wonder what he thinks. He is a great-great-grand (?) of the Confederate General above. ]
If the monuments come down, where does the “taking down” stop? A friend of mine today took the issue to its simplest form. “If they hurt people, take them down.”
What frustrates me is that the focus on monuments will change nothing about the problems of “poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime, and violence.” (Herman Cain). Protests between the alt-right and alt-left groups inflame the situation and divide us even more…along racial lines…
I was asked recently why did I think whites and blacks were so silent on this topic in real conversation. There’s much said in social media, and the news media is loud with hate-filled voices.
For me, I don’t know what to say, but I want to listen…and to participate in action that changes quality of life and the futures of our children.
Will taking down statues help? If so, then so be it. While we’re at it, I wouldn’t mind this one coming down. It’s housed in the Smithsonian Museum. She is Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.
“A statue remains in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution commemorating the one person responsible for the deaths of more African Americans that any other in history: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.
‘More than 19 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country,’ according to Michigan Right to Life’s website. ‘On average, 900 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.’ Planned Parenthood is responsible for many of those abortions.
4) Invisible Yemeni War – I have followed the Syrian conflict fairly closely over the years since 2011 when it took the international stage. What has happened and continues in Syria in terms of lives lost or displaced is unfathomable. Then there’s Yemen – the poorest country in the Arab world; in its most recent civil war since 2015.Photo Credit: Raw StoryPhoto Credit: Flickr
American news doesn’t quite reach the plight of the Yemeni people. This year has been especially devastating for those still in country, caught in the throes of war. Famine and cholera both taking their toll as well.Photo Credit: World Health Organization
This week, the Yemeni people are now back on my radar. Hopefully, they are on yours as well. We can pray; we can give to reputable charities; we can refuse to forget them.
Ending on a serious note today, but I hope to live life with eyes wide open…and my heart the same. Burying our heads in the sand…or in our phones, etc. diminishes the possibilities for us to truly love our neighbors. It’s a daily battle.
Have a refreshing weekend…be kind to yourselves and each other.
This week’s favorite quote: “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart – for men and women of all generations everywhere who love the Savior until adoration becomes the music of their soul until they don’t have to be fooled with and entertained and amused. Jesus Christ is everything, all-in-all.” – A. W. Tozer
Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.
While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.
1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends
2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).
Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).
3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!
Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.
4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beckdefines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.
“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.
Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.” – Martha Beck
As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo
Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.
For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.
He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.
Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.
Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.
Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy
A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”. Make the decision; execute the decision.
Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.