Category Archives: Life Lessons

Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Anne Riley) Part 1 of 2

Friends!  Anyone besides me ever feel helpless when your friends lose loved ones?  Sorry to say I’m the babbling fool at visitations where the bereaved has to comfort me.

I know.

Good news!  I have a few remedies up my sleeve I’d like to share in the form of a children’s book this week, and several other books for us grown-ups next week.

John and I were blessed to have dinner with old and new friends in Lexington this past April.  We learned about a book where a family lost two of their children. I immediately thought of Nancy Guthrie in Nashville who experienced such. (We’ll talk about her books next week.)

To my surprise, Nancy was not who our friends were talking about.  Surely there’s not another family who’s also lost two of their children? Sadly, there is, and a family friend has written a beautiful children’s book to help families cope with losing a child.

The book?  Voyage to the Star Kingdom

Author Anne Riley was so moved by her friends’ story, she and her cousin, Amy Grimes (who’s also friends with the family), put this beautiful book together.  Anne wrote the story (www.annerileybooks.com ) while Amy created the beautifully charming illustrations. (www.storypaintings.net ) Anne says Amy came up with the “essential story elements” and God wove the rest of it together.

When Anne first heard of Frazer and Dana Gieselmann and their plight to fight Batten Disease, she was so moved she literally couldn’t move.  She kept praying about how or what she could do.  It was in church the Holy Spirit convinced her to use her gift of writing to tell their story.

Blessed with three beautiful daughters, Frazer and Dana were completely thrown off guard when their daughter, Milla, began having seizures in August of 2013.  By October of 2014, Milla was diagnosed with a disease that’s very rare, and so far, incurable. It attacks the brain, causing loss of sight, mental impairment, worsening seizures, and a decline in motor skills. The dreaded disease is known as Batten Disease. Milla passed away November 26, 2016, just three weeks after her 6th birthday.

Unbelievably, Batten Disease possesses a genetic nature, thus docs suggested Frazer and Dana have their other two daughters tested.  Soon afterward, they learned their youngest daughter, Elle, also has the disease. Elle began having seizures not long after the discovery. You see now why Annie felt compelled to do something. (Miraculously, their eldest daughter, Ann Carlyle, does not have the disease.)

Thanks to extensive research at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Elle is receiving new treatments, infusions, and surgeries. Their long, hard, ongoing fight is explained in detail on their blog:  www.thegieselmann5.blogspot.com

Warning:  The family’s daily battle will tear your heart out, however the book is so well done, you’ll want to share it with your friends. Huge favor:  Please pray for this precious family.

The Gieselmann’s live in Memphis, Tennessee, so upon discovering Milla was treated at Le Bonheur Hospital, I immediately reached out to a friend of our kiddos who went thru’ an excruciating ordeal, also at LeBonheur, when their baby boy only lived two months.  I told her about this book and she said her NICU nurse gave her a copy. She and her husband, like the Gieselmanns, thankfully live with an eternal perspective. (See Revelation 21:1-5)

The grandest news of these sad stories comes as a reminder from Anne: “Milla and Elle will receive their prize early. Yes, we will suffer greatly in their absence. But this life is so short compared with eternity, and one day very soon, Frazer, Dana, and Ann Carlyle will be with Milla and Elle forever.”

My other favorite aspect of this book is it speaks matter-of-factly about real-life issues.  You’ll see the family undergoing multiple storms.  Two of their three daughters have to leave their family on earth, per the request of the Star King. Anne emphasizes, “The rest of the family will follow soon, but for now, they must say a temporary farewell.”

A beautiful angelfish escorts the girls to Heaven. (Don’t miss the part where they learn about how to fight evil on their journey.) Upon their approach, they see a man coming out of the Radiant Palace, waiting for them.  “Are you the Star King?” the youngest girl asked.

He smiled and said, “I have many names: Elohim, Jehovah, the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd. And yes, the Star King.

Oh, my beloved children, I am so glad you’re here.”

The story gets even better as the King shows them He’s set a table for five. You must read this book to witness something beautiful!

One hint arrives from the Angelfish: “You will be together again sooner than you think. The Star King is not bound by time.”

This is a beautiful picture of 2 Peter 3:8 in the NIV that says,

That verse reminds me of a time when I read about a young Mom who knew she was dying of cancer. She asked her pastor to verify the above Scripture, promptly proceeding to do some mind-blowing math.

She said, “I figure if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like an hour. I’ll be leaving my husband and children soon. He may live another forty years, but that’ll be just like an hour to me in heaven.

…My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that’ll be like two hours to me.” Just before she died, she told her husband, “I love you. Take care of our children and I’ll see you in an hour.” (from One Month to Live:  30 Days to a No-Regrets Life by Kerry and Chris Shook.) Now that’s some sweet eternal perspective!

Soak in 2 Peter 3:8, and you will sleep well tonight. And every other night.

‘Til next time!

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Love and Chocolate Treats for February (Part 2 of 4)When You’re STUNNED about your Valentine’s Day Gift…

Friends! Happy Belated Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! Please enjoy two wild tales…

FLASHBACK:  Valentine’s Day 1993…

“No babysitter for Valentine’s Day???” I whined, coupled with a proficient pout…

“Now honey…” my way-too-practical hubby began…”You know restaurants jack up their prices on Valentine’s Day, and the boys are too little to take out…”

Translation:  “Why don’t you just cook us up somethin’?

Silent thought while heaving an extra loud sigh for future Oscar potential:  “Oh boy, grocery shopping with three boys is such a trip…literally….”

Determined to create fun and education for our Valentine meal, I hunted down ingredients for everything RED:  cherry cool-aid, red spaghetti sauce, cherry jello,  red sprinkles to go on the ice cream with the not-so-red-but-filled-with-a-boatload-of-chocolate brownies.

Spreading out papers for the boys to color, my scary cooking commenced…

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Quickly into our “project”, something was not quite right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Our oldest son, John Jr., was way too excited about helping with his brothers. They were coloring at lightening speed, wanting more and more “Valentines” to make for Daddy.

Dinner pulled together, Hubster now home and seated,  John Jr. and Gordy seated, Woody in his high-chair, the following proclamation ensued:

“Mommy!  We have a huge surprise for you! Daddy’s gotten a babysitter and everything!”

Visions of an escape to a hotel sans les enfants rolled thru’ my head….

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Fantasy interrupted, my mischievous husband said, “John Jr., why don’t you tell Mommy about her Valentine’s Day gift?”

“Mommy”, John Jr. continued with wildly excited eyes, “Daddy and I got a babysitter for Woody…

so that the four of us can go to…..

…the Truck and Tractor Pull!!!”…

Taken from www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

Taken from http://www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

“The what?”  I managed to ask…feigning interest…

“THE TRUCK AND TRACTOR PULL!!!” John Jr.  repeated, now standing, voice at high decibels.

Fabulous hotel fantasy comes to a screeching halt.

Pivotal moment in Mother/Wife Career:

Enter a God moment…”You’d better put on a sense of humor while raising these boys, being a Godly, cheery, loving  wife and mom, or you’ll never make it.” (Guessing The Lord didn’t say “or you’ll never make it”, that’s just my translation.)

3boys

Bidding adieu to my very-sheltered-only-child background, it was time to buck up.  Riding a perpetual roller coaster comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will still praise you, Lord.

That year was a turning point for me.  Ups and downs, yes, but with a sense of humor.  Which segues beautifully into one of the funniest books on marriage I’ve read lately.

Allow me to share snippets of The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life  by Melanie Shankle.

antelope

You’ve probably heard of Melanie.  She’s one in the same who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn. She reports receiving countless pairs of earrings after the book published.  (There’s an idea!  She said she really wanted her next book to be Louis Vuitton Purse with Matching Wallet!!!  I’m thinkin’ A Caribbean Villa…could be swell.) Check out her way popular blog at www.thebigmamablog.com.

With killer humor, Melanie shares good times and not-so-good ones with her husband, Perry.  Melanie and Perry define opposites attract.  She puts it like this:  “Perry loves the outdoors and I love air-conditioning.”

She says,  “There are days filled with laughter and compromise.  And then there are days filled with silence and anger.  But at the end of it all, you’re two people God has joined to journey through life together

… For  better or for worse.  In hunting season and in health.”

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My  wild-n-adventurous husband, John, used to ride motorcycles.  Shouts of praise he’s not riding anymore.  (At least for today.)  I poked fun at all the “accessories” a bike could have, not to mention the “gear”.  They make that in leather???

But guess what Melanie’s husband’s hobby is?  In addition to hunting, he makes homemade ammunition. You go, Perry.

In addition to humor, Melanie includes the importance of their faith.  She alludes to not following God and making bad choices prior to meeting Perry.

She and Perry met at a Bible study at Texas A &  M.  She said, “There was something about Perry that intrigued me.  He was different from other guys I’d met.  And he had a heart for God I hadn’t seen in many other guys.”

Making a list of husband qualities, Melanie realized, “What you really need is someone you’d want to be in battle next to you, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best  you can be…” (Sounds just like our “Balcony People” from a couple of weeks ago.  My friend Trish says her husband looks at her with “husband eyes”.  Same concept.)

Since surgery seems to be in the air at our house (we’ll go there later), I cried from laughing so hard over an incident when Perry had yet another surgery for his back.  After a night in the hospital, Melanie got Perry secured in the car for the drive home.  Spying a Chik-fil-A and craving one of their chicken biscuits, Melanie pulled into the drive-thru’ only to be informed they were no longer serving breakfast.

Seven minutes past the breakfast hour caused her to jump the curb to get out of the drive-thru’ lane.  Never mind Perry was in the passenger seat, barely twenty-four hours post-op from back surgery.  This is only the beginning…

Melanie gets Perry home and situated on the couch, somewhat still sedated.  She reports: “According to Perry, the Clemson Tigers band marched thru’ our living room to dispense his pain medication at some point that afternoon.  Which is weird, because we’re not even Clemson fans, not to mention that South Carolina is a pretty good haul from Texas.  So I took this as an indication that maybe it was time to cut back on the meds just a tad.”

bigstock-Clemson-Marching-Band-In-Gator-4405527

So for a guy who creates his own ammunition, hearing him suggest they try “radiant barrier paint” one day doesn’t seem so far fetched.  When Melanie asked him what he was talking about, he explained:  “It’s paint that makes a surface heat resistant.  They use it on the space shuttle, and I’m thinking about buyin’ some.”

Melanie replies, “Well, of course you are.  I’ve always said that if it’s good enough for the space shuttle, then it’s good enough for us.” 

bigstock-Space-Shuttle-Flying-Over-Eart-2873702

John and I aren’t the only ones having fun with this book!  Guess who else was caught laughing out loud reading this?  Ann Voskamp’s husband!  “The Farmer”, as she often calls him, got side-tracked while paying bills, and read some from The Antelope in the Living Room.  Picture Ann and the Farmer  howling, all the way up in Canada.

Melanie also sprinkles in a few stories about their daughter, Caroline.  She discusses leaving a legacy for Caroline and her future children.  A prayer she prays continually comes from Deuteronomy 30:6—“that the Lord would circumcise our hearts and the hearts of our descendants so that we will love God with all our heart and with all our souls.”

“That’s the legacy that’s worth working thru’ the hard times to leave for our daughter.”   She adds, “In this world that sometimes treats marriage like it’s a disposable commodity we can throw away when it no longer seems to serve our purposes, a world that whispers to us that the grass might be greener on the other side, that’s something worth keeping in mind…”  Oh, someone please shout hallelujah over that one!  May we press on…

Finally, soak in this visual:  In one particular scenario, Perry offered Melanie some inexplicable kind of grace.  She said,    “…even tho’ I thought I understood what grace looked like, I really had no idea how deep and wide the mercy of Christ is.  That he looks at us when we lay ourselves bare before him, with all our ugly truths and realities, and says, ‘And?’”

“In Psalm 103 we are told that God redeems our lives from the pit.  Verses 11-12 proclaim, ‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’”

Melanie adds, “I once heard someone say that those words (of Psalm 103) represent the beams of the cross—reaching all the way up to the heavens with his love and stretching out to remove our sins as far as from where the sun rises to where it sets.”  Grasping the picture???  Beautiful!!!

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I pray you’re encouraged and enlightened by these glimpses of The Antelope in the Living Room.  There’s twenty-four lovely chapters to keep you that way!!!  And don’t forget this Valentine’s week:  Marriage is fueled by fun and forgiveness.

‘Til next time!

Our chocolate treat this week comes from another Kentucky cookbook called “Splendor in the  Bluegrass” by the Junior League of Louisville.  Its’ Chocolate Chess Bars on p. 245 are not to be missed!

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Let’s Start the Year Off Right with Help from “Chasing Slow—Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path” by Erin Loechner

Friends!  Happy New Year!  Let’s rejoice we have a fresh start…a new year, a new calendar, a do-over (anyone?), a mulligan for you golfers.

Recently I discovered a multi-talented young lady by the name of Erin Loechner. Some of you know her from her wildly popular blog, www.designformankind.com Others of you may have caught her when she was on HGTV.  I found her from her latest book which caught my eye:  Chasing Slow—Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path.  The book cover plus its’ title grabbed me right away.

The layout of the book is clean, easy to navigate, and includes some amazing, healthy recipes.  SOLD.  Divided into three parts (“Chasing More”, “Chasing Less”, and “Surrender”), you’ll get thirty-four small chapters to absorb.

Because I’m forever using phrases like, “I’m chasin’ my tail today.” Or “I’m playing beat the clock and losing again…”, Chasing Slow sounded wildly appealing.

Erin takes you on her journey while showing us what it looks like to look for, but avoid, the lion. You know, the roaring one lying to you through his teeth.

Newly married and living in LA, Erin and her husband, Ken, learn he’s got a brain tumor. Couple that with depression and anxiety on Erin’s part, and they’ve got more than a full plate.

She says, “In my mind’s ocean are jaws of depression, tentacles of anxiety. I live daily in the hope that if I work hard enough, if I paddle fast enough, I might outswim the sadness. I might outsmart the tension. I might overcome life’s ambiguity with sheer will, force of mind….” (Notice how many times she uses “I”.)

Then she remembers this verse:

She concludes, “I do know that with God comes wisdom and time, and with wisdom and time comes perspective, and that sometimes, overcoming depression requires an oversized cocktail shaker of all of those things, on the rocks, please.”

Bottom line?  She carries on her sense of humor:  “But sometimes, often, the most reverent spiritual practice is to pick up the pug dung and get back to work.”  In other words, just do the next thing.

You’ll get to see how her blog was born, which she says is her escape, a way to “silence our lions.” She honestly reveals many of their highs and lows. In an article in Relevant magazine from last fall, Erin says, “It’s all about creating margin, ‘Sabbath’ is there for a reason.’”

Another fun fact from the layout of this book, is every so often Erin gifts us with a math lesson. My favorite is #004:  “No = a Complete Sentence.”

Savor this from G.K. Chesterton:

You’ll also get to see how Erin and Ken get themselves into a financial mess, which leads to a move back home in the Midwest with Erin’s family. An opportunity with HGTV suddenly arrives and Erin remarks, “The thing about apples is that we’re always biting off more than we can chew. It is hard to see which bites might nourish and which might cause us to choke.” That’s another case of beware of that prowling lion!

Erin teaches, “Here is the secret to subtraction: It doesn’t matter what you remove. What matters is that you stop adding it back.” POW.

Erin and Ken become blessed with a new baby daughter, they name “Bee”. Their navigation into parenthood is a blast to read. If you’ve had a newborn in your life before, you’ll laugh along with them. Another one of Erin’s math lessons for us is #010:  “Sticker sheet + Toddlers = 5 minutes of peace and quiet for Mama.”

While Erin was writing Chasing Slow, her circle of friends began passing a book around called, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You might imagine Erin adores it given her book topic. Don’t miss her hysterical remarks about the book.  It was passed around my circle of friends as well.  As I survey my surroundings, I spot signs of mega clutter. It’s occurring to me I may need to dig that meddling book back out with the new year. Sigh…

Finally, when you hit chapter 34, you find yourself wanting more from Erin, and yet her encouragement, use of Scripture verses, and prayers throughout make you want to roll your sleeves up and start chasing slow. Erin suggests, “Chase what God wants for your life, and ask Him how to get there.”

The grande finale of the book holds TWO surprises before you read the last page: (1) The Resource section.  “From A to Z, a Few Easy Changes to Slow Your Life” will bless you further. And (2) “Five Methods of Decluttering Your Home”.  These are priceless.

Thank you, Erin, for a delightful way to start 2018!

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

 

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Mind Your Mind….

Friends!  I just ran across this post from a couple of Octobers ago, remembering I’d forgotten (huh?) its’ message…May we all remember to guard what goes into our minds.  Enjoy!…

Filled to the brim with excitement, Hubster and I were crossing the pond for our first-ever trip to France. Flying thru’ the night from Detroit to Amsterdam, most everyone but me slept.

Watching a little virtual map of our plane flying over different countries, logging hundreds of miles in minutes, kept me wide-eyed. Just as we touched down in Amsterdam, a big, beautiful orange sun was rising over the airport! While it was midnight back in the States, it was six o’clock in the morning in Amsterdam. Wow.

amsterdam

Clueless as to how to find our next gate, some sweet soul showed us how to enter different checkpoints en route to our plane to Marseilles. Suddenly, we came upon a very familiar landmark: Starbucks! And what before my wondering eyes did appear, directly across from Starbucks, a very large chocolatier!!! What a welcoming sight!

eliz in front of chocolate store

We had plenty of time before our next flight departed, so we plunked ourselves and our carry-ons down for a big ole’ comforting cup of coffee. Like little children on Christmas morning, our adventure was already unfolding.

Amsterdam’s airport is a melting pot of passengers from all over the world. John and I sat back and took it all in. The clothes, the accents, everything was fascinating.

Even the moving sidewalk…this lovely female voice, in a sing-song manner, repeated over and over, “Mind your step…..Mind your step…..Mind your step.” We Americans would’ve just hollered, “Watch where you’re goin’, already!!!”

One of many favorite books by Max Lucado, Glory Days: Living Your Promised Land Life Now brings up another way of thinking from “Mind Your Step”, to “Mind Your Mind”….

Glory Days

One favorite chapter is called The God-Drenched Mind. Don’t you want your mind to be God-drenched??? This chapter centers around Joshua 14:6-15.

The good news? Max helps us readers with ways to equip our faith and our minds.

The bad news? He opens with, “You’ll never have a problem-free life.” That’s okay, tho’, because surely by now every single one of us has discovered this!

Max points out that “The Lord” is referenced nine times in this passage alone. We know that any time anything is repeated in the Bible, it’s significant.

Max asks, “Who was on Caleb’s mind? Who was in Caleb’s heart? What caused him to have a different spirit? He centered his mind on the Lord.”

Watch this…Max gets personal: “What about you? What emphasis would a transcript of your thoughts reveal? The Lord? Or the problem? The economy? The jerk?”

In another recent post we talked about the importance of putting on the helmet of salvation. We addressed running everything thru’ the Philippians 4:8 filter:

Philippians 4 8

Max offers a show-stopping visual:

“Imagine two cooking bowls. One contains fresh, clean water. The second contains battery acid. Take an apple and cut it in half.

Place one half of the apple in the bowl of clean water. Place the other half in the bowl of battery acid. Leave each in its respective bowl for five minutes, and then pull out the two halves.

Which one will you want to eat?”

Two different apples, fresh and withered. Rotten apple.

“Your mind is the apple.

God is good water.

Problems are battery acid.

If you marinate your mind in your problems, they will eventually corrode and corrupt your thoughts.

But thoughts of God will preserve and refresh your attitudes.

Caleb was different because he SOAKED HIS MIND IN GOD.”

This caused me to pause and ask myself, “What am I marinating my mind in right now?” I busted myself (there’s a thought!) because I was stewing over a petite problem which my forever optimistic husband has told me, and told me again (remember???) to simply, “Let it go…” Alrighty then.

Finally, we’re blessed with one more prescription from Max for remembering to soak our minds in our Big God: “Stare at the mountain less and at the Mountain Mover more.” Amen.

LET’S MIND OUR MIND!

‘Til next time!

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How About JOMO vs. FOMO?

Friends!  Anyone besides me stricken with FOMO?  (Fear of Missing Out…)

Growing up a “lonely only”, being invited and being included were paramount to me.  Many times, especially in college, even if I was invited to do something I didn’t really want to do, I’d still say, “yes…”

Fast forward a few years as we grow up and have children. Suddenly we realize our busyness has filtered down to them and they are doing the same thing!?!  Huh?  FOMO is a by-product of our culture, I’m sorry to say. Fill, fill, fill that calendar.

However, many of you are brave naysayers. You’re strong enough to say “No, thank you very much, maybe next time.” I applaud you.

Potential solution?  Our sweet daughter-in-love, LT, just taught me a new term.  It’s become my new goal.  Call me crazy.

The term?  JOMO….Ready?  It stands for the Joy of Missing Out.  Being joyful when you answer, “no thanks” and relishing your time at home.

Lately John and I’ve been staying home more.  Some nights we enjoy being wedding crashers from our front porch when there’s a wedding nearby at Locust Grove.  We listen to the music and sometimes dance in our driveway.  (Shhh, don’t tell the neighbors.)

Sometimes turning down an invitation blesses your marriage, your rest, and replenishes you with joy…

I recently read where the words “joy”, “rejoice”, and “joyful” are in the ESV Bible four hundred and thirty times.  What does that tell you?  Being joyful is pretty important to our Lord! Being joyful = JOMO!

Let’s savor my TOP FIVE VERSES ON JOY:  Then YOU choose which are your favorites. (Extra bonus:  If you go to:  www.openbible.com , you’ll find “100 Verses About Joy” you can skim and choose some more. Problem is, they’re all good—and that, my friend, is a most excellent problem!)

Simply read thru’ the below verses. Allow them to soothe your soul:

In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

May we all strive to find JOMO.  It’s a heck of a sight superior to FOMO.  Trust me on this one.

 

‘Til next time!

 

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Find Relief and Inspiration from Maria Goff…

Friends!  Suffering from the disease to please? Anyone needing freedom from multi-tasking? Fret no more, thanks to author Maria Goff.  Grab her book for some HUGE kind of relief from this wild world in which we’re living.

The book?  Love Lives Here—Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want.

Yes, Maria’s the wife of Bob Goff. (Do not miss how they met and ultimately got married.  Killer funny.) Many of you have probably been blessed by hearing Bob speak.  John and I’ve seen him at Southeast, and some of our kids saw him at Northeast.

We all chime in with, “Could he possibly get any crazier?” Bob’s a man with an entertaining-but-sincere message (the Gospel) and a heart the size of Texas times two or ten.

Reading Maria’s book, which includes a Foreword by Bob as well as many tales on their family, is a complete blast. I say it brings relief because Maria is brutally honest about various life scenarios giving us freedom on many levels. She shows us her very genuine responses.  Priorities weigh in revealing valuable lessons, especially with their strong faith propelling them forward.

Any of you Moms out there, parenting ideas are also plentiful in the book. You will laugh out loud more than once!

Early into the book in her chapter entitled “Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper”, Maria tells of a classmate who she wanted to be just like.  Needless to say, that didn’t go so well. She gifts us with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

Maria strongly suggests, “Spot comparison coming our way, call it a liar, and simply refuse to make eye contact with it…We weren’t created to fit in; we were made to stand apart.”

We readers also get to watch what good neighbors look like in the chapter called “A Neighbor’s Love”. It includes easy ideas to get to know our neighbors and to simply be the hands and feet of Jesus. She states the obvious, “We can’t love our neighbors if we don’t know them.”

Two years ago, some new neighbors moved in down the street from us.  I toyed with getting the other neighbors together so we could all meet the new ones.  I toyed a little too long apparently. Before I knew it, there was an invitation to come to dinner at our new neighbor’s home.  Huh?  They are hosting us?  How unusually lovely.

When we lived in Lake Forest a few years ago, my across-the-street neighbor, Kay, and I frequently met in the middle of the street with a cup of sugar to borrow, an egg or two, one time even a new puppy to meet. Maria says, “I think God wanted us to love our neighbor so we could learn how to bookend our lives from them.”

I knew Kay was special before we ever moved in.  One night John and I were at the house planning for the move.  As we were leaving, Kay and Dick walked across the street to introduce themselves.  The first thing out of her mouth was, “Are you our new neighbors?  We’ve been praying for you.”  I’ll never forget it.

The Goff Family also cherishes time at the table together, making it one of their priorities.

My two favorite ideas from the chapter called, “Let Love Set the Table” are:

1 – Have a “Good Manners” night around the table and conversely have a “Bad Manners” night around the table. Fun and more fun. I missed the boat on this with our boys, but you can bet we will give this a “go” with our grandchildren!

2 – When you have company, after dinner, have them crawl under your table and sign it.  How fun is that?  Then over the years you can see who all has put their feet under your table, dining with you and your family. (My friend Judy has had countless people pull up around her table over the years including missionaries, preachers, authors, athletes, coaches, celebrities, friends and family.  She says one of her regrets is she’s not kept a record of all of them.  Start now with those signatures!)

Maria says, “The table is not only a place to eat, it’s a place to learn about life and each other.”  She adds, “Don’t overcomplicate it. When gathering together is rooted in love, free of unnecessary stress or self-serving motivations, bonds are formed, hearts are mended, and lives are changed forever.

One time the Goff family was going to entertain a unique family in that the father was the ambassador to a small country. (Can you imagine?) They had no idea how the evening would go. Maria confessed she stewed and stewed over various meal ideas. They ultimately ordered pizza!  Everyone therefore relaxed, and the couples’ seven-year old son enjoyed being decorated with balloons by the Goff’s children.

Finally, don’t miss the chapter, “Board of Directors.”  It’s one more of many fabulous ideas from Maria. We’re not meant to be marooned on our own little island.  Seek advice,  forming your own version of a Board of Directors…Watch how Maria did this.

May you be inspired and experience some relief found in this book in your next endeavor.

‘Til next time!

 

 

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Grab These Nuggets for Your Marriage…They’re GOLD!

Friends!  Have I ever got some great material for you for your marriage!  Even if you think, “Thanks, but I don’t need that.”, I’m here to convince you that yes, you do indeed.

A couple of weeks ago, John and I were blessed to attend the Love and Marriage Project Conference at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church.  Some of you may recall we attended the first annual one last year. (“When You Renew Your Wedding Vows, You May Learn a Thing or Two.”)

Because of going last year, neither of us thought we’d be going again this year.  Until…we discovered our friends, Elizabeth Jeffries Tweed and her husband, Stephen were going to be the speakers.

Elizabeth and Stephen were just inducted as “Legends of the Speaking Profession” at the Veteran Speakers Retreat in Front Royal, VA.

Elizabeth and Stephen are not only professional speakers who speak all over the world, they also happen to be marriage mentors at Southeast Christian Church.  I knew this was an event not to be missed.  John and I began recruiting our friends.

Clearly orchestrated by the Lord, I’m grateful for His prompting to my good buddy, Sherry, who suggested Elizabeth and Stephen.  I immediately emailed Jady Koch, St. Francis’ Rector. He reached out to them, and a miraculous opening in their calendar made them available.

Nearly seventy attendees were blessed by the Tweeds’ presentation.  Take-home value was at a premium, and you, my friend, are about to be the benefactor of their amazing handout. (It’s at the end of this post.)

I’ll share just a few of their nuggets. These are entitled, “The Seven F’s of a Balanced Life and Adventurous Marriage!”  Grab your spouse and work through these at your leisure.  They are GOLD for the health and maintenance of your marriage.

Also noteworthy, we were blessed to meet a couple who’d been married fifty-nine years as well as some newlyweds, who’d almost been married two months.  I thought both spoke volumes for attending as one could argue neither should need advice at those early and late stages!

Elizabeth and Stephen had all of us evaluate where our marriage is currently, plus what our five-year vision is by ranking ourselves on a scale of 1-10 in these seven different areas.  I confess John and I differed a little on the scoring which was a wee bit eye opening!!!

Early into their marriage, especially since they’d both been married before, Elizabeth and Stephen consulted friends who are also mentors to them, Jim and Naomi Rhode.  The Rhodes  gave them three do-or-die suggestions they’ve held onto throughout their marriage:

Elizabeth was very candid about this.  She remarked on the importance of who you hang out with.  She warned, “Divorce is contagious. I believe I got divorced in my first marriage  largely due to the people I was hanging out with at the time.”  This goes along with, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” (Go back and read #3 above!)

Elizabeth and Stephen initiated each of the “F’s” with Scripture as a foundation for the following categories: (I’ll elaborate on some, not all…that’s where your homework comes in on the worksheet.)

Faith – The Scripture they cited for us in this category is a favorite:

Family and Friends (Best Friend – your spouse, Both sides of your families, and Friends)

Key word in this category is CHERISH.   Do you have a “cherish mindset” towards your spouse?

Gary Thomas’ book, Cherish:  The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage came highly recommended.

We discussed what makes us feel cherished.  Elizabeth reminded us, “Language creates feelings, feelings create behavior, and behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.”  Let that soak in for a minute.

The other golden nugget they shared was a prayer to pray when you’re feeling your spouse is “less than.”  Elizabeth and Stephen suggested we pray this for our spouses continuously:

“Lord, help me to love him/her as you do.”

Here John and I are with some of our couple friends who attended.  Left to Right:  Randy and Susan Bugh, Yours Truly and John, Bev and Steve Fleece

 

And now fun with some of our girlfriends…Left to right:  Mary, Elizabeth, Mary’s daughter, Lacy (She and her husband, Dale, were our very brave newlyweds at the conference), and Yours Truly.

Fun – Oh wow, did we ever have fun with the “fun” category!  Our table mates discussed:

“What does FUN mean to you? 

How does FUN play out in your life and marriage?”

After ranking ourselves on a scale of 1-10, we unanimously decided what it would take for us to rate a “10”:

Tortola in February. (Hey, nothing wrong with goals??!!! Dreams??!!)

Here are our wonderful speakers, Elizabeth and Stephen, having FUN on the dance floor…

Fitness (Mental and Physical) – Being a book lover, it was my great joy to hear Elizabeth and Stephen ask us regarding the mental part of fitness, “What are you reading right now?”  They reminded us growth and learning are paramount to us individually as well as together.

Focus on Career

Finances

Free Gifts – Matthew 10:8 was the verse on this section reminding us, “…freely you have received, freely give.”

Additional excellent nuggets we were blessed with were two questions to ask each other at the close of every day:

Finally, Elizabeth and Stephen showed us a framed prayer they pray together every night before they go to sleep.  It sits on their bedside table:

At the close of the morning session, attendees were dismissed until 4:30 in the afternoon when a lovely service on marriage was performed by Jady.  We all then reconvened for dinner and dancing  which was the icing on the cake (Yes, we had a wedding cake of course!) for all of us.

Sherry affirmed all of our sentiments with this quote: “The day, from start to finish, was so special as we focused in on our marriage.  It’s been thirty years for Bill and me, and we both appreciated being able to reflect, learn and celebrate.”

Thanks again to Mary Young who birthed this idea a year ago, Jady Koch and the folks at St. Francis, and our outstanding teachers/speakers, Elizabeth and Stephen Tweed.

Please enjoy a couple more photos from the evening portion plus you’ll find the invaluable handout with contact information at the end.

Left to Right:  Bill and Sherry Leavell with Mary and Michael Young

Left to right:  John, Stephen, Elizabeth and Yours Truly

Do try these Seven “F’s” with your spouse (click the link to be taken to a printable version).

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Conferences, Life Lessons