When Giving Takes the Fun out of Christmas

The Dreaded Gift List

There are parts of Christmas that many of us dread.

For Jeff and me, it’s the gift craziness.

Trying to find the perfect gift for everyone can take the joy out of Christmas.

Three Wiser Women

3 Ideas for Your Gift List

What can we do to relieve our stress over gift lists?

I share three ideas here:

“Tired of Looking for Perfect Gifts?”

Looking for Perfect Gifts

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I’m writing today at Do Not Depart for our #SimplifyingChristmas series.

Will you join me there?

sharing with DebLyli,
Maree, Susan, Crystal, Kelly,


When the Bad Thing Does NOT Happen

When the bad thing doesn't happen

A Gun?

Last Thursday morning began as an ordinary day.

Jenna was driving to school on the same roads, past the same neighborhoods–some good, some bad–that were always part of her path.

Except this past Thursday. Someone unusual was on the path.

And he had a gun.

She heard two shots before she saw him. Were they really shots? Or could it be a car backfiring?

But then she saw the man. He was hiding behind a brick mailbox in the wealthy neighborhood. He was firing his gun at a truck.

Mystery Wake-Ups

When something unusual happens, it grabs our attention. Our senses perk up. Our brain wants to make sense of any mystery.

I’ve tried to stay awake to more of life’s mysteries this year. My One Word for 2018 has been “Mystery.”

And mysteries deep inside God’s mercy.

Last Thursday morning I was most keenly aware of the mystery of God’s mercy.

If the man had pointed his gun at Jenna’s car as she drove by that morning, her whole life would have changed in a split second. And my life. The life of her husband, her extended family, her friends—all changed.

E. J. Bradford, Jr.

Many people are forced to live with those split-second changes. Just ask the family of E.J. Bradford, Jr.

E.J., a 21-year-old African American man, was shot and killed by police on Thanksgiving  night at Alabama’s largest shopping mall, the crowded Riverchase Galleria Mall, near Birmingham, AL. He was mistaken by police as the gunman who had just shot others in the mall.

E.J. Bradford

E.J. Bradford, Jr and his mother, April Pipkins (Courtesy Benjamin Crump)

Instead of E.J.’s family celebrating Christmas together this month, they attended his funeral, their lives forever changed, forever pained.

We are forced to live with mystery. Why this person? Why not that person? Why this and not that?

God doesn’t answer all our questions.

And human explanations fall inadequate.

Notice the Absence

But when bad things don’t happen?

Let’s notice these, too.

  • Notice when the car accident doesn’t happen.
  • Notice when the layoff skips over you.
  • Notice when the doctor doesn’t call with bad news.

Also on Jenna’s path Thursday morning was a police officer, two cars in front of her. He seemed in no particular hurry, not heading to any particular crime.

But upon seeing the man with the gun, the policeman immediately turned around and headed back toward the mailbox.

Police closed the road to further traffic. They arrested the man for shooting at passing vehicles. He was taken to the hospital for a cut on his arm and for a mental health evaluation.

man shooting at traffic

photo credit: WHNT News 19

Jenna drove on.

She arrived safely at school that day, shaken, but unharmed. She could go about her normal routine. Spend it as an ordinary day.

So I could, too.

More things go right than go wrong. And we don’t notice.

When bad things could happen, but this time they didn’t, appreciate it.

  • Feel the relief.
  • Give the thanks.
  • Acknowledge the mystery.

Ordinary days are miracles, too. 

* * *

Do you ever think about the what-if’s that could have happened but didn’t? Please share in the comments.

Did you live One Word for 2018? Are you choosing one for 2019? (I’m close to a decision.)

sharing with JeniferHolley, Kristin,
Bethany, MaryDiane,
RonjaKelly, Char, Meg


Keep Out? Not Always

You see the writing.

The message is clear. Keep out.

Outside Signs, Inside Gifts-Hurricane Michael

Do you stay away?

Messy circumstances can often keep us distant from people who need help. They keep us away from giving a blessing. They keep us away from receiving a blessing.

We were working in this neighborhood in Panama City after Hurricane Michael whipped through. The best spot to set up our trailer and equipment? Across from the graffitied house.

We saw no one there the first day.

But around lunchtime the second day, the owner of the house wandered over. He began talking.

He told us his story. He and his family had decided to stay through Hurricane Michael. At least until early that Wednesday morning, October 11.

It was 5:30 a.m. His phone rang. It was a trusted friend who was in the know.

The message was brief: Tell your family to leave town. Now!

He was wide awake. He immediately called his grown daughter. Get the grandchild out of bed and go! Go west! Go west! She did. He was glad.

He stayed behind. And experienced the worst hurricane of his life.

His first impulse afterwards was to guard the belongings in this house. At all costs.

But now?

He told our volunteers to go in, find something they need. Inside was a collection of goods he once sold.

But now he wanted to give it away.

The keep-out house was inviting us in.

When we judge others by their outside signs, by their looks, by their outer layers, we can miss their deeper gifts.

But if we can just show up, be available, and listen, we’ll discover this: There’s enough of God to go around. For everyone.

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Learn more about PAR here.

Read more Hurricane Michael stories:

sharing with Crystal, Lyli, Maree, Susan,
Debbie, Rachel, Deb,
Little Things, Crystal, Lori


5 Links, Books, and Things I Love – December 2018

What was a highlight of your November? What are you looking forward to in December?

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

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5 Things Around the Web

1. Why You Can Be a Kinda Contemplative Christian
by Ed Cyzewski

Ed is one of my favorite Christian thinkers and writers. Here he reminds us that:

“It is far better to begin imperfectly, to be ‘kinda contemplative,’ than to have no silence, no centering, no attempts to reach God in the stillness of our souls.”

~ * ~

2. Want to Remember It? Draw It
by Emma Young

The act of drawing something has a massive benefit for memory compared with writing it down.

~ * ~

3. Should We Stop Publicly Shaming People?
by The Tylt

Is it the internet’s job to make people pay for their mistakes? How do you vote? I’m in the camp of #EndTheShame.

Stop Public Shaming

~ * ~

4. Stop Hand Washing Your Dishes
by A.A. Newton

Another great excuse to just load everything up in the dishwasher, using math.

~ * ~

5. Just 5 More

Want to squeeze out just a little more from yourself? I love these short videos every few weeks from Dan Pink.

pinkcast

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5 Things with Books and Podcasts

1. How Long Does It Takes to Read Each Book of the Bible?

This is an interesting infographic about the length of time it takes to read sections of the Bible, including this:

Reading the Testaments of the Bible

~ * ~

2. I Love My Kindle, But…

It can’t do this. Funny comic by Maria Scrivan. She’s right.

Try That with a Kindle

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3. Podcast with a 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Lots of suggestions here on gifts you can give AND help others around the world at the same time.

FOR THE LOVE OF GIVING: EPISODE 01, The Hatmakers’ Favorite Things Returns: 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Guide.

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4. Podcast: 7 Little Habits That Can Change Your Life, and How to Form Them

On the OLD podcast (Optimal Living Daily), the host reads one great blog post every day that he finds around the web. This one, Episode 1079, is by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on simple things we each can do to make for a better life.

~ * ~

5. Five Books I Recommend + Video

Here are two novels and three non-fiction books that I really enjoyed and learned from in November.

5 Books I Recommend-November 2018_LisaNotes

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5 Things I Love

1. Under the Tree – Progress!

How’s your Christmas shopping going? It’s empty under our Christmas tree—no gifts there. BUT I have actually bought almost all my gifts; they’re just not wrapped yet.

under-the-tree

I never finish this early (and granted, I’m not done yet). But this is big, y’all. I’m hoping it will help remove some stress from the busyness of Christmas.

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2. Clean and Lit – Into the Future

We’re not prepping for surgery. We were about to tour a facility that grows lettuce the hydroponic way (without soil).

clean room

The lettuce is grown under LED lights. We wore special glasses for the tour to protect our vision.

When I later looked at the picture I took, I was surprised – it was totally pink. Jeff is standing near the center, looking left.

led lights

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3. Kali’s 25th Birthday

If our middle daughter Kali had lived, she would have turned 25 on November 13.

Jeff is a wonderful caretaker of her grave at the cemetery every year. It makes me love him even more when I see how he tends to these details.

kali's grave

~ * ~

4. Siblings Turn 60?

How can this be? Both my brother Lane and my sister-in-law Bonnie turned 60 this year. Neither one of them look it!

Their daughter Amanda threw a surprise birthday party last weekend for Bonnie. We had lots of fun celebrating her and guessing trivia questions about 1958+.

bonnie 60

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5. Life at 10 Months

We were blessed to see our sweet granddaughter a lot in November. And hope to in December as well!

yawn

acorn

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5 Things on the Blog

  • You Have a Voice – Use It
    Do you use your voice to speak up on things that are important to you? Review of Kathy Khang’s new book, Raise Your Voice.
  • No Dead End Here
    This dead end street took heavy losses from Hurricane Michael. Charles was growing despondent. But there are no dead ends with God.
  • You Are – Children’s Book Review
    This children’s book, You Are, speaks words of truth into little ones about who God made them to be.
  • Want a Good, Long Life?
    The secret to a good life doesn’t have to be a secret. Study Psalm 34 with us.
  • But Are You Different Enough?
    You’re probably quite different from your partner. But are you different enough? See 5 ways to use differences to build up your relationship, not tear it down.

* * *

What was a highlight from your November? What are you looking forward to in December? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

sharing with PatriciaHolley, Jenifer, Mary, Diane,
RonjaCharKelly, MegMary,
TerriRandomosity, Inspire Me, Anita


You Have a Voice – Use It

Raise Your Voice - Kathy Khang

Don’t Be Silent

Which side are you typically on?

(1) You speak up very quickly.
Opening your mouth comes easily, and sometimes gets you in trouble.

(2) You’re reluctant to voice your opinion too soon.
You’d rather think about it first, but sometimes that means you miss the opportunity altogether.

Kathy Khang addresses both sides in her new book, Raise Your Voice.

As an Asian American, she erred much of her early life on the quiet side. But as she aged, she learned that silence carries a risk.

She shares in this book that as God’s creation, we aren’t meant to be silent. All of creation communicates, and we need to speak up, too.

“We all need to understand that voice, identity, and agency are given by God but often are underdeveloped or ignored in people on the margins. We need to be seen and heard.

That doesn’t mean we become abrasive.

Speaking up should not create more divisions or cause more pain. To the contrary, “speaking up can be an avenue of truth and healing,” bringing injustice and sin to the forefront where it can be corrected.

“I choose to speak up, over and over again, even when it’s awkward because awkwardness is easier to overcome than allowing injustice to continue.”

How to Speak Up

Kathy shares a list of things to consider before we speak up, as we speak up, and after we speak up. Here are a few items from these sections.

Before You Speak Up:

  • Pray
  • Do your research
  • Prepare your talking points

While You Speak Up:

  • Pray
  • Breathe
  • Ask questions

After You Speak Up:

  • Pray
  • Follow up
  • Start all over again

Speak Up Online

But speaking up isn’t just for IRL situations. We use our voice again and again in online venues as well.

In the video I give you some of Kathy’s tips for online communication. (I originally shared this video on Monday’s post on 5 Books I Recommend.)

4 Do's and Don't's from Raise Your Voice - video

I recently joined a new Facebook group mentioned in Raise Your Voice called Be the Bridge to Racial Unity. It’s the online arm of Be the Bridge, a website dedicated to equipping racial bridge building in the church.

I’m currently one month into the three-month quiet stage of the Facebook group. For the first three months, you’re asked to do active listening there—no posting or commenting.

Just this:

“Read. Watch. Learn. Feel. Examine yourself. Wrestle with God.”

This is good advice both for online interactions and in-real-life conversations. First listen. But then speak.

Gospel-Centered

Whichever way we choose to speak up, this is a truth worth remembering:

“Speaking up is never about creating conflict or being disruptive just to shake things up and leave a mess. Speaking up is always about the gospel—speaking and painting a picture of truth, wholeness, and hope.”

Regardless of your natural tendency to speak up quickly or slowly, speak up wisely. That’s the best way to make a difference.

* * *

Do you tend to react too quickly or too slowly? Please share in the comments.

Learn more about Raise Your Voice here.

Raise Your Voice - video

My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book

sharing with Lyli, Maree, Deb, Susan, Crystal,
Lori, CrystalRandomosity,
Holley, Patricia, Jaime


5 Books I Recommend + Video – November 2018

Here are 2 fiction books and 3 non-fiction books I recommend from what I finished reading in November, including a 1-minute video review of a favorite.

Once a month we share our current reading list at Jennifer’s.

5 Books I Recommend-November 2018_LisaNotes

Books I Recommend

FICTION

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is a sweet, poignant, coming-of-age (any age!) novel about two best friends navigating the 1950s and forward. First published in 1989, it was a top 100 pick this summer from PBS’ The Great American Novel. And deservedly so.

The first sentence:

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

2. The Last Ballad
by Cash Wiley

The Last Ballad

This novel is inspired by the true life of Ella May Wiggins, an ordinary woman who stumbled into working for human rights for textile workers in 1929 in North Carolina. It’s hard, tender, surprising, and important. My nephew-in-law, Colton, recommended it to me months ago. I’m glad I finally got to it.

NONFICTION

3. Raise Your Voice
Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
by Kathy Khang

[Click here if you can’t see the 1-minute review of Raise Your Voice and 4 Do’s and Don’t’s of Online Conversations”]

Raise Your Voice_Kathy Khang

There’s so much in this book about using your voice to talk about important issues. Regardless of who you are. Regardless of your platform or lack of one. Everybody has a voice and everybody is entitled to speak up.

(See full review here of Raise Your Voice)

4. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

What’s happening to our world? Harari writes about 21 issues we all experience in various genres of our lives: political, technological, social, and religious.

I’m not sure if I feel scared or comforted after reading this book. But I do feel more informed, on issues such as artificial intelligence, immigration, spirituality, and more.

“Fear of the unknown can paralyze us more than any tyrant. . . . Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”

5. Art of Focus
3 Easy Steps to Build a Life You Love and Control Your Time
by Curtis McHale

The Art of Focus_Curtis McHale

This is a great book of practical steps on making things happen (not just on setting goals). About finding your purpose, not just following your passion.

I’ve been reading McHale’s blog for awhile now. I find his book as likable and informative as his blog. McHale is authentic in sharing what works and what doesn’t work in managing your business (whatever that happens to be) while keeping your relationships healthy.

“If you’ve built a great business but have a broken marriage and relationships YOU’VE FAILED.”

READING NOW

  • The Radium Girls
    The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
    by Kate Moore
  • Resist and Persist
    Faith and the Fight for Equality
    by Erin Wathen
  • Remember Death
    The Surprising Path to Living Hope
    by Matthew McCullough 
  • The Line Becomes a River
    Dispatches from the Border
    by Francisco Cantú
  • The Ministry of Ordinary Places
    Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You
    by Shannan Martin

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What good book have you read this month? Please share in the comments.

Whats-on-Your-Nightstand-at-_5-minut

My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

sharing with KathrynKellyDebbie, Rachel,
Diane, Kristin, Mary,
Ronja, BookDate, Kelly, Char, Meg