Just Keep Goin’ On

As a long-time groupie of Putumayo World Music compilations (grooving to multiple iTouch playlists & CDs in my car), ’twas so exciting last weekend finding one previously unseen (& unheard.)

If you haven’t heard of Putumayo, you can click here to read how they connect inspiring international musicians to a wide audience with music grooves from around the globe: Putumayo World Music.

new Putumayo find

Just realized this compilation is for kids (of whom I’m a slightly older one.) No wonder its filled with happy grooves, something we could all use a bit more of these days?

While the songs on World Playground come from artists from all over (Ethiopia, France, Congo, Brazil, Greece, Canada, Jamaica, Bolivia, Australia, and my favorite so far, Touré Kunda from Senegal singing, “Fatou Yo”) the last song from the USA seems like a good mantra for today: “Just Keep Goin’ On” by Eric Bibb & Needed Time.

Here’s a YouTube of Eric Bibb singing it (email readers, you know the drill…)

“Take every knock as a boost, every stumbling block as a stepping stone, lift up your head… and just keep goin’ on.”  (Eric Bibb)

For anyone knocked down today by life storms, blocked dreams and tumbling stumbles – just keep goin’ on.

grace, peace & inspiring music grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. Looks like Erib Bibb has been singing it out for a long time! Here’s a link to his inspirational story & website: www.ericbibb.com

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The Power of Love (@ a Royal Wedding!)

Virginia’s plans for a chill Saturday cleaning out stuff went askew, hijacked by the Royal Wedding. You know, the one today @ Windsor Castle with British Prince Harry & American actress Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex?

Hadn’t planned to watch, but last night my brother asked to record it (history and all that) so I set our DVR to capture it in the wee hours. Checking in on network coverage after breakfast, suddenly all the chattering highlights intrigued me into a look-see.

But first, watching a royal wedding ‘tis best done in style (even @ home.) On went the kettle, out came my finest china cup from England (a gift overseas 20+years ago), whisk went a tablecloth on the TV table, and out came an English serving tray from the depths of the tray cupboard (another treasured gift.)

Stymied by the tea selection for such an important viewing, it didn’t take (too) long: Jane’s Garden Tea by Harney & Sons (a favorite green tea made with roses.) Fortified with cuppas from the first (of three) pots of tea, tuned into the wedding service.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow!

Royal British pomp & circumstance met Gospel traditions and American liveliness, with Love (note the capital ‘L’) the connecting factor.

So many lovely details – Meghan’s dress, elegantly classic (& gorgeous), the way Prince Charles accompanied her down the aisle (after she walked part-way herself), Meghan’s mother (classy, classy lady!), ethereal music, but loveliest, how Prince Harry’s eyes lit up when he saw his beloved.

When the Most Reverend Michael Curry, leader of the Episcopal church in America, began his message, Virginia geeked out with her notebook. He brought his A-game (& God’s, too, methinks) with a fiery message about LOVE.

He began by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And, when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. For love, love is the only way.”

He went on, “There is power in love, not just in its romantic forms, but any shape, any form of love because ultimately the source of Love is God. There is power in Love to help and heal when nothing else can. There is power in Love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There is power in Love to show us the way to live. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself… if we do that (& love ourselves, too) there’s real power, power to change the world.”

Bishop Curry said so much more, so eloquently, but his basic message: There is power in Love, especially God’s love that knows no boundaries or division, and we need to love each other, more.

The Kingdom Gospel Choir sang a rousing ‘Stand by Me’ that moved hearts there & across the globe, then later sent off the happy couple with a thoroughly uplifting Gospel ‘Amen’ interspersed with ‘This Little Light of Mine.’  Truly glorious! Truly groundbreaking @ a royal wedding!

What got Virginia teary-eyed? When 19-year old cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason launched into Franz Shubert’s Ave Maria, and when commentators shared afterward that Prince Harry had picked flowers for Meghan’s bouquet, including Princess Diana’s favorite forget-me-nots.

Learning more about Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, her life journey and how she has served as an advocate helping others all around the globe is truly inspiring. She reminds me of Princess Diana – her work with landmine awareness, HIV/AIDS, and many other issues. Surely, Princess Di would be pleased for her son, for England, America and the world.

Three pots of celebratory tea (all for me) later: Jane’s Garden Tea, then Empress Grey (a loose leaf favorite from Stash), followed by a Darjeeling (the champagne of teas.)

Once when I forgot to pour my brother his cup of tea, he said, “I need to get in touch with my inner feelings, but it’s hard to do without my Darjeeling!” (A creative way to get a cup of tea – and he got his!)

Inner feelings? Today, unexpectedly overwhelmed watching this slice of history. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted in a royal wedding? Love with a capital ‘L’ messaged for the world to hear? Gospel choirs mingling with choral meisters? People from all walks of life rubbing elbows and hearts to celebrate a joyous occasion:

Two young people in love creating bridges of love, possibilities of what can be.

grace, peace & Love (!!)

Virginia : )

“Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of Love and then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire.”  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

(p.s. All wedding photos taken of CBS coverage on our TV.  : )

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A Letter to Mama (on Mother’s Day)

Since last year I posted about being mother-less on Mother’s Day, here’s something else I wrote (hoping the Heavenly postal system can forward it on to her!)

13 May 2018

  • Mrs. Virginia Johnson Woodward
  • c/o The Angels
  • 76 Streets of Gold
  • Heaven, 23621

Dear Mama,

Oh, how we miss you! Oh, how I miss you, heart of our hearts. We are so grateful to God for the gift of your life. The legacy of the love of Jesus in and through you lives on – in the hearts and lives of all you touched.

Shere, Cindy, Dean, Dwight & I blubber on, what with missing you and Papa.

It’s been over two years, but we feel your presence, still. Hear your voice around the corner. See you smiling up at us in photographs.

But, there’s no you to hug here in this place.

My heart aches with a big Mama-sized hole in it. You’ve graduated and are (hopefully resting) in the Everlasting Arms of God. Not sure how Heavenly assignments get designated, but after all you did here on this earth (so selflessly) I hope there’s a long Heavenly vacation before you’re called up for active celestial duty.

I miss you, Mama. We miss you, Mama, and love, love, love, love, love you!

You were so beautiful, Mama. You were concerned about your crooked back, slanted by sclerosis, and how you had shrunk a bit and leaned a little sideways. But everyone always oohed and ahhed when I rolled you out in your wheelchair. With your elegant white hair and porcelain features, you were so lovely.

Just like Papa always said, “Isn’t she lovely?!”

You were, and are, and will always be, lovely and beautiful in our hearts, Mama.

I can hear Papa say, “Ginny Woodward, have I told you how much I love you today?”

The mush would continue as you whispered sweet everythings to each other, not realizing just how loud your ‘whispers’ had become (heard clearly by minion daughter at the other end of the house.)

I miss you, Mama. I miss Papa, too. I miss you both, together.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.”

That sums up the two of you: God’s faithfulness to you, your faithfulness to God, to each other, to us, to ministry. And love, so big, so bright, so real in the trenches of life, the good and the challenging (especially 28 years of Papa’s quadriplegia.)

When people came in the door of our home, they felt it: love, God’s love, spilling over and over through your lives.

We could see it in your eyes beholding each other with beauty and awe, you two were literally one: Mama, you as Papa’s hands and feet for years, and Papa as your foundation (with Jesus.)

No buts, just “both ands” – bookends that completed each other.

Moving away from the mushy bits of your lives (lest the mush police ticket herself!)

Without you and your love that has been such a constant in my life, sometimes your kid feels rudderless. You have always been there, Mama, through every scraped knee and life scrape. When I was sick, you were there with comfort, gingerale (& ice cream.)

Even as a bratty teenager!  Remember those long rides from Va. Beach to Norfolk through frustrating traffic to pick me up from after school activities, when I wouldn’t say a word the whole way home because you were a few minutes late?

You would cheerfully ask, “How was your day?” My response: silence, bratty silence.

Please forgive me for that and so many other bratty things growing up.

Yet you were there loving me through all that (and more.) Thank you for being by my side holding my hand (& later my heart.)  Thank you for all your love and prayers, Mama, that saw me (and our family) through so much.

You are now on the other side at home with Jesus. I don’t know how thin the veil, or thick, that separates us. But, please, Mama, know that I thank God every day for the precious gift of your life.

Missing you & loving you on Mother’s Day (& every day.)

grace, peace & ethereal hugs

Virginia Lea : )

Mama with Brighton Eve (one of her 4 great-grand children) & Lynn (my sister-in-law)

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Brainy Blessings!!

Last Sunday I made it to our campus ministry service after weeks of dashing to our big church (& missing church altogether for various reasons.) I like the CCM service as college students lead different parts of the worship and our Campus Chaplain, Father Glass, always comes up with switched on applications in his messages. Last week a hum of fervency permeated the church as exam period loomed ahead (for some that’s now behind, but here @ William & Mary there’s still a few more days of finals.)

Given the vine and branches Gospel reading from John 15, Father Glass challenged us to consider our relationship to Jesus like being plugged into Him online, all the time. He encouraged the students (& community) to “stay plugged into the Vine, online with Jesus.” Father Glass also gave a special ‘blessing of the brains’ for the students, something he does each semester before finals.

Seems to me this prayer from Saint Thomas Aquinas is relevant for all of us!

 “Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth Your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance.

Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself.

Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion. This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever.  Amen.”

grace, peace & brainy blessings

Virginia : )

p.s. This is from one of my daily devotionals today:

“With God, peace, consolation, gentleness, courage, serenity, and joy, which are the fruits of the Holy Spirit find a home in our heart; then our very being is transformed; our way of thinking and acting is made new, it becomes Jesus’ own, God’s own, way of thinking and acting.”  Pope Francis

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Little birdies (in our wreath!)

Last week we noticed lots of chirping going on outside our front door. Nothing too unusual in that since our bird feeders are close by, but the chirps seemed a bit localized. At one point whilst opening the door, I looked up at our wreath and caught a hint of movement.

Our front door spring wreath (note upper right corner)

Standing on tiptoe I saw a tiny nest with a bit of fuzz around the edges. Taking my handy iPhone out to catch what was what, I could see a few fuzzy little birdies in the nest.

Little birdies last Saturday

Showing my brother these new additions to our wreath, we decided to forgo the front door all week to keep their progress undisturbed. Using the back door to get in is a bit tricky at night (but isn’t it grand iPhones have those little flashlights in them?)

Little birdies on Monday

Each day I’ve checked their progress hoping mommy bird has been feeding them (and wondering as temps roared into the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit how little birdies get something to drink stuck in their nest?)

It’s been kinda cool seeing these little birdies grow from indistinct blobs into little beings (with attitude, check previous pic out!)

Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

Here’s to hatching ourselves new wings to take on new adventures? Like these little birdies when their fuzz turns into feathery wings and they learn to fly.

Little birdies today (note the feathers!)

And what about finding worms and/or other good things to eat? Haven’t seen mommy bird, but maybe she’s an early bird out getting those early worms.

“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have never contemplated “the early bird gets the worm” from the side of the worm. oops.

That said, I hope these little birdies will have enough wormy sustenance to wing their way out of their nest before too long (I was about to change the wreath to another more springy one…)

grace, peace & little birdies (in our wreath!)

Virginia : )

Little birdie nest (on our wreath)

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Snapshot & Whatnot: Springy Light

Spring is busting out all over (finally.) The spring spread Virginia plotted for today (after taking piles of springy photos the last week) has, alas, fallen victim to a whacked-out laptop. Given time expended capturing delicate blooms on our dogwood tree, here’s a favorite framed pic that sits by my desk, taken awhile ago at Maymont Park in Richmond, VA.


& Whatnot:

“I am going to notice the lights of the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, the lights of our candles as we march, the lights with which spring teases us, the light that is already present.”  Anne Lamott

grace, peace & springy light(s)

Virginia : )

p.s. My brother & I are looking forward to Marvel’s new Avengers Infinity War movie tonight. I know, I know, so many challenges facing our whacked out world & we’re off to the movies(!) But, if you need a Friday laugh, check out this brief YouTube video of the Marvel Bunch doing the Brady Bunch. Hilarious!

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Malaria: Up Close & Personal

April 25th is World Malaria Day. Over 450,000 people (mainly children) die each year from this preventable disease and millions (216,000,000) get really sick. Since many (90%) of these folks live in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria compounds an already challenging context of health-related and economic issues.

Go figure if half your country has malaria at some point during the year productivity will be low.

I knew a little something about malaria before moving to Tanzania in 2002. A year of taking Lariam while globetrotting for a safe-water initiative definitely weirded me into a strong dislike of the disease. Deciding that Lariam-induced weirdness was not an option, I purchased the suggested bed net and went into late night mosquito alert mode: splat, splat, DIE MOSQUITOES DIE.

In the first months while trying to learn the HIV/AIDS context I visited Kagera (in the northwest corner of Tanzania) for a few weeks to meet with our 600+ community volunteers there, community representatives, women’s groups, and AIDS patients.

Meeting with community groups to understand their concerns and priorities – “when you think of your children, what keeps you awake at night?” – time & time again malaria came into the dialogue. I spoke with one mother who lost four children to the disease.

Heart-breaking to see her tears & hear her fears for her other children.

At that time in Tanzania, where malaria in many districts is endemic, (ie, you can catch it all year around), 70,000 children died each year from the disease.

After that Kagera visit I went back to our Dar office galvanized to do something more about malaria & began coordinating with our Programs Division to highlight this issue. We wove simple malaria prevention into our long-term community development projects and had several special child-health programs that did extraordinary community health at the village level, but more was needed! So, we galvanized special projects from the Australia & New Zealand governments, UNICEF & generous donors.

With CARE Tanzania we co-founded TaNAAM (the Tanzanian NGO Alliance Against Malaria) with a cross section of NGOs, pharmaceuticals and major malaria stakeholders to coordinate national activities.

Partnering again with CARE TZ, we launched into the TNVS (an insecticide treated net voucher scheme) doing medical training, social marketing & awareness campaigns in every district of Tanzania. Using best practices from smaller projects in the project design, taking the project to scale required 8 promotion and training teams moving simultaneously in 8 districts at a time – no small challenge!

During evaluation visits ‘twas so exciting to see local performance groups communicating in local languages, tribal dances & skits demonstrating bed net prevention, diagnosis & treatment. In many of these places nets had never been available, but that’s why with this disease it takes lots of folks to make a difference.

Net manufacturers, distribution network builders, social marketing, health professionals, government health infrastructure, pharmaceutical companies – all working together.

Colleagues in our Arusha National Office began calling me the Malaria Queen, since our Dar division opened our doors to host this project and our Marketing Team designed the media campaigns, logos, events (& since their humble director – moi – backstopped the whole Promotion half, including rural BCC teams) of the multi-million dollar grant from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria.

All this time I (somewhat zealously) used my bed net at home and while traveling. Our National Director, George, insisted each director visit every region at least once a year. Since we supported 126 projects in 12 regions that meant I traveled half of every month, mostly to rural areas and to our refugee programs in Kigoma.

I managed to avoid malaria for three years until traveling to Uganda for a regional conference. Asking the guesthouse desk clerk for a net, he said ‘you don’t need one here.’ Waking up at 3:00AM with mosquitoes all over the wall and bites all over my arm, needless to say the next night I insisted.

Two weeks later in Arusha for important international meetings, my temperature skyrocketed to 104 while my joints screamed with prickly pain. Did I mention being on crutches at the time?  (click here to read more about that..) 

That’s when I met malaria, up close & personal.

During this episode I learned more about the African lesson of ‘being with.’ My Leadership Team colleagues (all African) came to visit me (this, after being up all night, dazedly fevered, with my hair sticking out every which way.)  But that is the African way!

‘Being with’ each other in painful times, showing you care by being there.

A hard lesson I had learned early on that also made childhood malaria deaths in Tanzania more than just statistics. After three miscarriages my vibrant assistant, Joylline, had a beautiful baby girl my first year in Dar es Salaam. Little baby Hope became the darling of our Dar office. At 18 months Hope died from malaria and pneumonia.

A crushing death, as is the death of each and every child who dies from this disease.

During baby Hope’s first hospital stay (of many) I sent flowers and needed supplies. I didn’t want to intrude until I noticed our team members eying me askance. Finally, Happiness blurted out, “Madam you must visit, Joylline will think you don’t care!”

Yikes. I got it and visited right away. Then became first in line at every funeral, wedding, engagement because I did care and that is What You Do in Africa.

You show up. You share the pain, you share the joy. It’s that ‘being with’ thing.

Facing death, illness and tough times can be challenging, but what I appreciate about the African way – you realize you are not alone as the pain is shared across family, friends and the community.

These years later many more children are alive because people around the world have joined their hands, hearts and pocketbooks to attack malaria with prevention, education campaigns and better treatment. There’s lots to celebrate – from 1 million annual malaria deaths to less than 500,000 per year – but there are still many little Hopes out there, who need us to show up.

Not just on World Malaria Day, but every day of the year!

grace, peace & malaria, malaria

Virginia : )

p.s. Buying a $10 net for a family really saves lives.

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