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Archive for December, 2019

At the end of every year, I reflect on my most favorite moments. I always think in moments, not days, because it’s those snapshots that stick with me. I can’t recall whole days, but moments are embedded in my mind’s eye. These are only a few that warm me on cold mornings. Family. Beauty. Connection. Moments.

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The groom with his new brother-in-law

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Brothers

Ellie and Sean

The kiss

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Our auntie-niece coffee shop selfie right before we ran to catch the ferry

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Siblings – precious friends

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Liberty Bay on my last morning

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Overlooking Red Wing, MN – vacation with Don

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Precious mother-in-law Mary with her great-grandson Chase

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My best friends

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Annual NEEDTOBREATHE concert with kids (and moms)

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Sweet girls

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Meeting my favorite author Jennifer Dukes Lee…and my awkward hug.

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My very bestest friend

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My heart.

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control IGControl. Those who don’t have it, want it; and those who have it, want more. No one seems to want less control. But in reality, we don’t have the control we think we have, and certainly can’t hold onto it as we age. Control is a slippery and brutal beast. It will rip out your heart, even as you grasp at it’s greasy tail. Control will lure you with promises of riches, happiness, and popularity. But it’s a trap. Life is full of things we have no control over, and with no hope of gaining that edge.

For example, when I realized I was pregnant with my first child, I bought the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” An avid reader, I devoured the wonderful words of advice and information within it’s 300+ pages. What the author failed to mention: My kid did not read this book before he was born. All that I “expected,” all that I sought to control, went right out the window before the little bugger made his appearance. I should have seen it coming – my labor and delivery was epic…as in awful, unpredictable, and without a shred of control. Though David was a wonderful baby, he never wanted to go to sleep. Tried everything short of allowing him to scream all night.  I will not bore you with more stories of my beautiful baby boy, but it didn’t take long for me to realize who was actually in control, and it wasn’t me or Don.

Last week we visited Don’s sweet mom and saw the awful ravages of dementia. She has no control over what she can remember or who will take care of her. Those around her love her well, but there is no illusion of control for her.

As the end of 2019 approaches, I decided to share another wisdom tidbit.

If someone else says it well, you don’t need to try to improve it.

So, as I contemplate the topic of “control,” I decided to tap into the already-published wisdom of Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of the best-seller “It’s All Under Control.” Reading Jennifer’s book was very freeing for me, filled with wonderful insights into control, how to let it go, how to hang on, and how to give it all to God, the One who controls all things. Jennifer produced a thought-provoking printable about what we actually CAN control and I have it posted by my desk. May be time to print it again for the new year.

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None of us want to have regrets in life. I want to live each day so when I look back, I can say I have no regrets. But I also realize that may not be totally reasonable. We all make mistakes. Maybe it’s as little as eating too much cake and cookies over these holidays (definitely) or sitting more than moving (maybe) or choosing my own comfort over someone else’s (probably). Maybe you’ve lived a life full of things you now regret. I hope you know it is not too late to change, to choose better moving forward, to ask and receive forgiveness, and to extend to yourself a wonderful gift: Grace.

My pastor reminded me today that our past (good or bad) does not define our future. God has a new thing for you – a path, adventure, purpose beyond anything you can imagine. Don’t allow regrets to keep you from saying “yes” to whatever God has for you. Don’t keep looking in your rear view mirror – you’re not going that way.

Milkweed seeds ready to fly

Monument to life

Reflection is necessary occasionally.

The colors of sunset – dramatic reminder of a full day

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For many years I relied pretty heavily on only one or two of my senses…my sight and my sense of smell. But my mindset has shifted as I age and I’m intentionally engaging all my senses. What a gift God has given us! The wonder of a sunset, the sound of waves on the shore, the aroma of fragrant flowers, the feel of silky baby skin, the smooth flavor of dark chocolate melting in my mouth. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos I’m including in today’s blog as I remember the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and feel of my August vacation to the Pacific Northwest.

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Flying into Seattle at dusk.

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The intricate beauty of a flower

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Close up of small shells stacking inches high along the waterway.

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Pike Place Farmer’s Market – strings of chilies.

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The silhouette of my nephew.

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Under a restaurant pier in Poulsbo, Washington

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Foggy morning in downtown Seattle

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A sailboat floating by in the waterway.

 

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A harbor in Poulsbo, Washington

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Preparing flowers for my nephew’s wedding

Get up close or take a big step back. Big breath in, large exhale. Touch the texture of furniture, skin, upholstery, flower petals. Get quiet to hear the sounds of birds, insects, raindrops, distant machines. Get down into the grass to see each individual blade. Go to the top of the parking deck and look out over your world. Explore new taste sensations: chilies, chocolate, sweet, spicy, savory. Close your eyes and listen or smell what’s happening around you.

God has granted us an opportunity to enjoy so much more than we take advantage of. Engage all those senses – breath it all in.

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Eating ice cream with Grandpa

All dads are major influences in the lives of their children, even the bad or absent ones. I was blessed with a wonderfully kind and gentle father, who loved me unconditionally and believed in my potential way more than I did. In honor of my dad, today’s blog is devoted to five tidbits of wisdom he handed down to his children.

  • Take care of the land.

My grandfather was a farmer, and my dad farmed with him until I was nine years old. We lived on a small acre plot of land adjacent to the main family farm, where my paternal grandparents lived. My dad loved farming, but when my grandpa passed away, my parents couldn’t afford to buy the farm, so Dad sold most of the farm equipment and started driving a semi-truck hauling grain and farm animals. But my dad always loved the land.

img_4309He spent hours in our wooded acres, cleaning up downed trees, and using the wood to heat our home. He loved those trees. My nephew recently found a video recording my dad made while walking through his beloved woods. To hear his voice again, poetically extolling the beauty and majesty of the massive oaks and elms…we were amazed at his eloquence. My dad was a quiet man, but his heart was huge. Listening to that recording revealed his passion for conservation.

  • Everyone needs some alone time.

This could easily be part 2 of the previous point. My dad was an introvert who loved people. And yes, that’s a thing. Dad enjoyed being around friends and family, but he needed to get outside or get alone for a while to re-charge. Dad drove tractors (alone), semis (alone), and lawnmowers (alone) so he could have his solitude. He told me often about having conversations with God, listening to the radio, observing nature, just soaking up the quiet without any competition for his attention. He could talk with anyone about many things, but he was most content when he could get outside, in his woods, alone.

  • Don’t cruise along in the left lane.

We just finished 12 hours of driving in the last two days. So many drivers have never learned this bit of wisdom that my dad drilled into me when I was learning to drive. People – the left lane is for passing.

  • Show up and work hard
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Though it looks as though Sean is miserable, this was a favorite activity: riding on the John Deere lawnmower with Grandpa.

My dad worked hard his whole life. He didn’t make much money, but when he left our house, he gave 100% to whatever needed to be done: field preparation, driving trucks, hauling grain or hogs or cattle, splitting and hauling wood, mowing lawn, planting and harvesting, etc. When he was an employee, his boss knew Bill would show up, no matter the weather or his health. My dad was more reliable than the U.S. Mail. And his kids learned that work ethic who have now passed it down to their kids.

  • Finish well

I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my dad during the last few months of his life. He had been diagnosed with leukemia and I would travel to his house to sit with him to give my mom a little break from care giving. I loved listening to my dad tell stories about his young adult life. About how he first met my mom. How he thought she was the most amazing and beautiful girl he’d ever seen. He was a shy, quiet young man, but my mom flirted and joked with him and he was a goner. At least, that’s what he said. He also told stories of mistakes, regrets, errors in judgment. He was so sad about those things. My dad was not perfect. He made mistakes in his life and lived with some measure of guilt. If he were here, he would tell you the same thing. But the greatest decision he ever made was to ask Jesus to forgive him, to cleanse him and clear him of that shame and condemnation. From then on, my dad was a different man. Before his God-encounter, Dad had high expectations (for himself and his family) that were seldom met, but after he met Jesus, spent time allowing God to transform him, my dad became less judgmental, and more grace-filled. He experienced being set free from guilt. And those last few months of his life were marked with a love more profound that I had ever seen before. His love for my mom was deeper and richer. He took time to meet with the men he wanted as his pallbearers so they would know how much he loved and appreciated them during his life. He talked with me for hours about heaven, what he wanted us to do for my mom when he was gone, how much he loved me and my siblings…and how much he loved His Savior, Jesus. Those were precious times with my dad, priceless conversations I can still hear in my head. He taught me one final lesson – finish well.

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My mom and dad soon after their engagement. Mom was 17, Dad was 21.

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Hope you all had opportunity to spend Christmas with loved ones. In my opinion, family time is more priceless than any gift you could purchase.

As I prepare to celebrate the big 6-0, I’d urge you to choose family time over work whenever possible. I’m so thankful my sons live close to us and we can see them often, but I have to be intentional about visiting more extended family members.

My siblings live away from me so whenever we can get together, we celebrate and love on each other. We take selfies together. We laugh. We joke. We tell stories. We choose family.

Mary and her three sons

I’m sitting in my mother-in-law’s living room, watching her caregiver comb Mary’s hair and help her with her coat. Mary doesn’t remember me anymore. But I remember the unconditional love and support she’s given me for over 30 years. My brothers-in-law and their families are heroes in my eyes. They choose family every single day. Even when those days are really hard.

So, before distance or regrets or health issues make the choices hard, choose family.

My family

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My nieces and nephews

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece

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Merry Christmas!

I hope you are able to celebrate this wonderful holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus.

You may be surrounded by family or alone today. You may be suffering with sickness or watching someone you love going through the ravages of a disease. You may be sitting in the midst of a wrapping paper mountain or didn’t have enough money for even one gift.

Jesus is your answer. Rich or poor, Jesus came for all of us. Those surrounded by loving family & those homeless and destitute of love. Those suffering & those watching someone we love suffering. Those grieving. Those anxious & depressed. Those who have all money can buy, yet ache with loneliness and despair. Jesus loves you.

Allow Jesus to heal your heart today. Allow His perfect peace to flood your soul. He may not change every circumstance, but He’ll be with you in the midst of it. Call out to Him – He is there to meet you. He wants you at His birthday party!

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Short post today. It’s Christmas Eve, after all, and I have a lot to do. Cleaning, cooking, baking, candlelight service, checking my list again (just like Santa)…but most importantly, preparing for Christmas Day.

I hate when I allow my schedule to dictate my joy level. So I’m intentionally choosing rest (I took a 15 minute nap on the couch last night about 7:30), and peace and the love of Jesus. Tonight we’ll have the slow-cooker filled with soup and keep the light on for anyone who stops by…for a few minutes or longer. Because I want to make sure there’s always room in my inn.

As a pastor’s family, we didn’t have a lot of annual traditions. Things always depended on weather and where Christmas fell during the week. We spent A LOT of Christmas Days on the road between our two extended families in northern and southern Illinois. Do you know that most places are closed on Christmas Day? (sarcasm) Ate a few cold truck stop sandwiches through the years. Drove through heavy snowstorms and over black ice a time or two – all because we wanted to see our families over the holidays.

So this is what I’ve learned (you know I’d get to it, right?) – be flexible. Don’t set your schedule in stone tablets, never to change no matter the circumstances. Don’t expect your adult children to always adhere to your annual traditions. Remember the most important thing isn’t the actual day you celebrate – it’s the reason you celebrate. The family you hold dear are no less precious on December 26th. or January 5th. or March 29th. Allow your family to celebrate the best way they can and maybe that means getting together later or earlier or next weekend. Or celebrating more than once. (yay!!)

Since my boys are now married, we’ve learned to adjust to what works best for all of them. Don and I are so thankful our own schedules allow us to accommodate what works best for everyone. We’ve “taken turns” on holiday get-togethers. We’ve opened gifts a few days early so our kids can be out of town on Christmas Day. We all communicate our expectations so when we do gather together, there is less stress and more joy. I’m blessed with amazing extended families, in-laws, and now “joined by marriage” families. We are thankful for the love they show year round, not just at Christmas time.

May your family find that happy balance of tradition and flexibility that brings light and life to all your celebrations.

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Picture courtesy of incourage.me – blog post December 24, 2020

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The next chapter in the ongoing saga of “Kris turning 60” – aren’t you glad there is an end to all of this? Me too.

Music. Make it a part of your life.

Music is a unifier. When you can’t understand the speaking language of your child, try listening to the musical language they are speaking (or at least listening to). Try to find common ground in the bass and treble clef, even if it wouldn’t be your personal choice. See a concert together. Watch one together on YouTube. Discover a new artist you both enjoy. Talk about the latest song or the upcoming concert tour. Play music in your house, in your car, on your phone. Instead of closing doors when the music goes on, open them up. Ask questions. Watch how your kids respond to you enjoying “their music.” Dance together in the kitchen…or better yet, embarrass them by dancing with their friends in the kitchen!

If your kids express an interest, help them learn an instrument. Piano and guitar lessons can be pretty affordable. It doesn’t have to be a band instrument, even a little ukulele with some YouTube instructional videos would be fun. Both Don and I played instruments when we were younger (wayyy younger), though neither one of us do so now. We have a variety of instruments in our basement, due mostly to our children, but there is one really nice acoustic guitar that I own and I swear, someday I’m going to re-learn how to play it.

Music is a huge part of the McGarvey family. My oldest son has traveled the world playing music before thousands but it all started in our unfinished basement with pencils on empty popcorn tins as a toddler. Later he wanted a drum set so I negotiated. Two years of piano lessons first, then drums. Now he plays drums, keyboards, and acoustic, electric, and base guitar. He’s played every genre, every type of venue, though I’m sure he has a bucket list of venues he’d like to perform in.

Encourage musical interest, no matter the form.

My youngest is a music fiend but in a totally different way. He loves listening to music, attending concerts, discovering new artists, creating playlists, supporting his brother’s bands, embracing different genres. If I have a question about an artist, he’s the one I trust to know if I’d like that music or not. I think he’d make a great agent for an artist (shh – don’t tell him I said so).

img_4258Listen to all types of music.

We played music in our house all the time. Depending on the ages of our kids, we went from Donut Man to Mary Rice Hopkins; from DC Talk to Switchfoot; from Ella Fitzgerald to Louis Armstrong to Trombone Shorty; from Ben Rector to Colony House to show tunes; from I Am They to Lauren Daigle to Bethel Music. We have Bluetooth speakers in almost every room, ipods since the boys could take care of them, and hundreds of pairs of earbuds in multiple locations.

Establish a music tradition in your family. Follow a favorite artist.

In the last six years, I’ve established a tradition of taking my kids to at least one live concert a year, specifically the indie rock band NEEDTOBREATHE. We’ve traveled around the Midwest to see our favorite group…actually they’re MY favorite group, but the kids come with me anyway. We’ve discovered some new artists who we really enjoy – so much that we’ve gone to their concerts too. And the kids take me to their favorite live concerts too! This tradition, bound up in our common love of music, has made for some sweet memories, great travel stories, and good tunes!

I don’t know what our family would have turned out like without music…and I’m glad I don’t have to find out. This is one bit of wisdom I’m glad I discovered very early in life.

 

 

 

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A portion of the many Bible we have in our home. Seen here are my dad’s (Senior’s Devotional), Don’s dad’s (small black Holy Bible), my brother’s (from late teen years), my mom’s (burgundy), and one of my son’s first Bibles. Many translations, many versions, all God’s Word.

The Bible is full of amazing stories. One in particular stands out to me as I’m writing this blog about the wisdom I’ve gained in my six decades of life. There was once a wealthy and honorable man who loved God. The Lord allowed Satan to destroy this man’s flocks, his possessions, his children, and his health – and yet, after all that, the man refuses to give up his trust in God. He doesn’t understand why these things are happening to him, but he trusts God through it all, even when his wife turns away, and his friends accuse him of sin. The man’s name was Job and he has a whole book of the Bible telling his amazing story.

In Job, chapter 1, we hear of a day in heaven when the angels present themselves before God, and Satan (called “The Accuser”) comes with the other angels. You can read the story yourself, but in a nutshell, the Lord presents Job as the finest man in the whole earth. Satan says, “Sure, because You have blessed him with everything he could ever want. But just let him lose everything, and he’ll curse You.” So God allows Satan to take everything from Job, except his life. The rest of the book details the results of these actions by Satan. By the end, when God finally answers Job’s questions, we realize, along with Job and his friends, that God is in control of this world, and only He understands why the good are allowed to suffer.

Job’s story is only one instance out of many when God speaks directly to a man (or many). From Genesis to Revelation, God speaks…to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,  to Noah about building the ark, to Abraham about a trip He’d like Abe to take (Where? I’ll let you know when you get there.), to Jacob (they actually had a bit of an all-night wrestling match), to Joseph (through dreams and visions), to Moses from a burning bush, and the list goes on and on. And He continues to speak to men and women today.

God speaks to me every day through the Bible. Scriptures are full of verses showing God cares for me, He has a plan for me (and you), He won’t leave me alone, and He’s looking forward to spending eternity with me. But I would never know any of this if I didn’t read it. The Bible is my instruction manual for how to live my life, how to treat other people, how to believe and act out that belief.

img_4243As the book I hold most dear, I’ve read through the Bible many times in my almost 60 years of life. But I didn’t always realize the richness held within its pages. I didn’t always believe it truly was the living Word of God. I used to think it was just a great collection of amazing stories that may or may not be true. But…over time…through the good and bad times of life…I’ve come to realize and believe that every word written in that Book is life-changing, is living, is active in my life. It has the power to challenge me, shape me, mold me into the woman of God He desires and created me to be. Of this, I have no doubt.

Job – a man who loved God through devastating trials and tribulations – trusted Him. Me – a woman who loves God through ups and downs (though, so thankful not as low as Job went) – trust God because I know I can hold tight to God’s promises. He loves me, He has a plan for me, and He will never leave me.

The Bible tells me so.

 

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