Five gifts from my father

My dad learned to play tennis when he started working at Victor Sports, Incorporated, distributor of TA Davis tennis racquets and Victor Imperial gut strings. He’s the kind of guy for whom nothing is “just a job;” it’s something you believe in and invest yourself in. My whole family grew up playing tennis with Davis racquets.

1. Applicable Wisdom

Whether I need a fresh perspective on an annoying relationship or practical help understanding a business problem, my dad is able to give sound counsel without sounding paternalistic. I still turn to him when I need advice, and I still rely on classic bits of wisdom from my growing-up years, including:

  • “Garbage in, garbage out.”
  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
  • “Take what you eat and eat what you take.”
  • “Nobody likes a smart-alec.”
  • “Life is not fair.”

2. Good-natured Humor

My dad is a funny guy. Not “stand-up comedian” funny, but “make people smile” funny. He enjoys a clever turn of phrase, an ironic observation, and good-natured ribbing. And he always manages to use humor to make people feel better about themselves and about life.

3. Willingness to Learn

For most of my childhood, my dad worked for Victor Sports, Inc. of Chicago. He was the Vice President of International Sales, and whenever he came home from an international business trip, he brought us fascinating souvenirs, including the tiny soaps from his hotels, which we loved! My dad was good at sales then (and he’s good at his ministry job now) because he respects people and considers them interesting. He listens and remembers. He’s always willing to meet new friends, try new foods, explore new locations, learn new things. That combination of confidence and humility set the tone for our whole family.

4. Quiet Generosity

My dad is as generous with his time as he is with his resources. I know of situations from many years ago, when he did things like secretly dropping off groceries for a family in need, or anonymously paying bills for people who were struggling. I’m sure he continues to commit incognito kindnesses today. He’s been a blessing to countless people facing a variety of material needs, but the real blessing is that he manages to help without hurting. His good-natured humor and genuine respect leave people feeling better about themselves. That’s a gift.

5. Worthy Example

A lot of people tell me I’m a lot like my dad, and I always consider that a profound compliment. If I can internalize the gifts he has given me, I’ll find myself surrounded by beautiful people, enriched by interesting experiences, and able to face disappointment with optimism. As I said in my Mothers Day blog, in all the most important ways, I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I do not take his example for granted.

In the Bible, God tells his people, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7) That’s the kind of faith my dad has—not just talked, but lived. I thank God for that legacy.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad. Thank you for everything you do, and everything you are!


Need help putting your thoughts about your father into words? Email me, and I’ll see if I can help!

Memorial Day thoughts

This Memorial Day I’ve been thinking about a song by Twila Paris that I’ve liked for a long time— “What Did He Die For?” It’s a nice juxtaposition of the literal and spiritual meanings of truths like “freedom” and “sacrifice.” I’m posting a video of the song here, and the lyrics to the song are replicated below.

What Did He Die For

He was twenty-one in 1944.
He was hope, and he was courage on a lonely shore,
sent there by a mother with love beyond her tears,
just a young American who chose to rise above his fears.

And as I watch him struggle up that hill
without a thought of turning back,
I cannot help but wonder:

What did he die for, when he died for you and me?
made the sacrifice so that we could all be free—
I believe we will answer each to heaven
for the way we spend a priceless liberty.
Look inside and ask the question, What did he die for—
when he died for me?

To the darkest day in A.D. 33
came the mercy and compassion of eternity—
sent there by a Father with love beyond His tears,
Blameless One, the only Son
to bear the guilt of all these years.

And as I watch Him struggle up that hill
without a thought of turning back,
I cannot help but wonder:

What did He die for when He died for you and me?
made the sacrifice so that we could all be free—
I believe we will answer each to heaven
for the way we spend a priceless liberty.
Look inside and ask the question—What did He die for?

He died for freedom.
He died for love.
And all the things we do to pay Him back could never be enough.

What did He die for when He died for you and me?
made the sacrifice so that we could all be free—
I believe we will answer each to heaven
for the way we spend a priceless liberty.
Look inside and ask the question—What did He die for
when He died for me?

The question Twila Paris asks in this song—What did He die for?—leads me to examine my own life. What would I die for? What am I living for? How am I spending this “priceless liberty”?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

Five words that describe my mom

I describe my mom as creative
My mom, who thinks she is not creative, made this cross-stitch for me in 1990. It is one of many beautiful touches from her that help make my house a home.

1. Creative

My mom does not consider herself to be creative, which is too bad, because everyone else knows that she is. She does needlework, painting, drawing, and interior decorating, and while she’s not a professional in any of these areas, she leaves lasting beauty in everything she touches.

2. Engaged

By this I mean that my mom is both an observer and a participant in life. She is continually learning—through audiobooks, documentaries, and occasional classes. She asks questions and remembers responses. She actively maintains old friendships while also developing new ones.

I describe my mom as sharing

3. Sharing

This goes hand-in-hand with being engaged. About half of the audiobooks I listen to are recommendations from my mom. Most recently, I listened to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (audiobook and other formats available from, which she had been very excited about. (After listening to it myself, I could see why—it’s an intricately woven story, and the characterizations by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell are, in a word, perfect.) Besides books, my mom often shares films, television shows, her cooking, her time, and her home. When my mom is blessed with something good, she likes to share it with others.

4. Supportive

When I say my mom is supportive, I don’t just mean in an emotional, intangible way. My mom will help you clean the house you just bought; she’ll bring a main dish, side dish, and dessert to any family gathering; she’ll paint your hallways and join you in the back yard for major raking, clipping, weeding, and transplanting; she’ll help with the new babies who need babysitting as well as the grandfather who needs a Sunday meal; she’ll show up for all the concerts, games, programs, and ministries that her kids and grandkids are involved in. She has almost as much energy as her four-year-old granddaughter, and she uses it to share life with you when you can’t get everything done that you want to.

5. Example

My mom is an example to me. Not that I want to be just like her (she would probably say she expects more from me than that!), but in all the most important things, I want to follow in her footsteps. And I want to live the kind of life that would make other people want to follow in my footsteps. If, someday, people recognize me as a Bible-reading, church-belonging, always-learning, always-sharing child of God, what more could I ask? And what greater tribute could I pay to my mom? (My dad, too, but I’ll be blogging about him in June.)

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes this in one of his letters to Timothy: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) Paul is describing a faith that is passed down from generation to generation, just as my grandmother’s and mother’s has been. I thank God for that.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. Thank you for everything you do, and everything you are!

Need help expressing something to your mom? Contact LifeLines! Melanie Jongsma’s wordsmithing abilities can help you create a memory your mom will treasure.

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Review: I love my new Flip Video!

When Amazon had a “Deal of the Day” on the Flip MinoHD Camcorder, I bought myself one for Christmas. I had been reading about the Flip for almost a year and had always wanted one. I just wasn’t sure how much I would actually use it. But at $119.00, I could resist no longer, and clicked “Add to Shopping Cart.”

I’m glad I did! The Flip is so simple, it’s ridiculous. I’m not sure it even comes with a manual because I have not yet needed to look anything up. It’s small enough to carry around in a coat pocket, and it’s convenient enough to operate with one hand.

Recording my dogs enjoying the first significant snowfall of the season gave me an opportunity to discover how seamlessly the Flip integrates with iMovie on my Mac. I imported my video clips into a new iMovie “Event,” organized them into  “Project,” applied a theme, added a soundtrack, and uploaded the finished product to YouTube—all in one evening. View it here and see what you think!

Now, I don’t know if the Flip MinoHD Camcorder is as delightful to use on a PC as it is on a Mac, but if you are looking for a small, simple camera at a decent price, it’s hard to beat the Flip. And if you’re looking for an outlet for your creative energy, iMovie has a lot to offer. I found that after spending a lot of time writing, it was nice to have a project that let me manipulate images and music.

My upgraded Flip Slide HD, customized at


Since this original post, I have upgraded to the Flip Slide HD, which I love even more than my original Flip! (I know, that’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.) What prompted me to upgrade was the video I tried to shoot at the 2010 Taste of Reconciliation—in a big room that was kind of dark, it was difficult to get clear footage. The Flip Slide offers 2x Digital Zoom, and the video quality is 720p HD/30 fps. Another key feature is that I can now record for 4 hours, not just 1. When you order directly from, you can customize the design of your camera, which is kind of fun. I chose to keep my design pretty basic, since when I’m shooting video in sensitive situations, I don’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself. And when I’m videoing conversations with people, I don’t want to draw a lot of attention to my camera; I would rather people forget that they’re being taped.

The Flip Slide is a little thicker than my previous flip, so it’s a pretty snug fit in the camera bag I use. If I had to do it all over again, I might choose the Flip MinoHD, which has some features I like, although it maxes out at 2 hours of record time.

I’m guessing that a lot of people buy camcorders so they can record the funny things their kids do, or their family’s various involvements in sports, theater, church, and social celebrations. I’ve been using mine to record activities at church, outings with my dogs, and the occasional seminar I lead. But give me some input here—what other life events should I be recording?

Samples of my Flip in action