All posts by Audra

A Touch and Feel Christmas

When I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a week putting up Christmas in our home. It is a highlight in my childhood. We removed everything from table tops and hearth and brought in boxes of nativities, lights and garlands. We played carols and sipped on hot cocoa and apple cider the whole week. We reminisced about ornaments and even decked out the ceiling fan!! It was magical in every sense of the word for me. In the evenings, I would curl up with a blanket in the far corner of the room and bask in the glow of the lights from the tree; I dreamed grand dreams there. It still is one of my dearest places tucked within my heart.

Lean in, Linger, Listen to God’s voice. Let your Loved Ones Touch and Feel Christmas…it Touches Their Lives Forever.

 

We have these 5 Senses… and the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to play up every single one of those beautiful gifts! It is vital to all of us; young and old, to engage with one another. There are traditions, memories, and new starts all tangled together. There are candle smells, crackling fire sounds, warmth of familiar blankets, and tastes of yummy baking all swirled together in our memory banks. There are joys and sorrows interspersed too… they’re captured in the promise of Redemptive Peace during this month! 

So let the children decorate the tree.  Give them a step stool so they can stretch on tippy toes to hang their ornament high.  Pile books near so that you have the fun of catching them sprawled out by the tree reading in the glow of the twinkle lights.  Set up an Advent Box and let the finishing touch of each evening end with something nourishing for the soul and a sweet treat for the taste buds!

Leave space on a table for a puzzle or crafts to be dreamed up. Decorate a Gingerbread House or Cookies and make a HUGE mess!! (And don’t stress about it in the process; let your loved ones AND you enjoy and play.)

As I grew up surrounded by cousins, we annually created a play to perform on Christmas Eve together.  We dreamed up the story, wrote out the lines, created scenery even!  When the big night arrived, we passed out programs and felt the excitement mount… All our senses were engaged.  It was equally as fun preparing those plays  to opening the presents. We lingered longer with one another and had so much fun. 

As I write and reflect.  I feel very blessed to have had so many Touch and Feel Christmases in my life so far. It’s become such a part of me, that I pass that on to my kids from my heart. Whether you share the same experiences or not, it is never ever too late to engage those around you in the same feelings.  You can go whole hog, or simply linger in more intentional time with someone; both result from the same desire. 

Joy to the World!

Attitude Adjustment

                                                                                                                  Every morning we have the option to choose JOY and be THANKFUL in the midst of our circumstances. That is easier said than done on any given day. There is a real enemy of our hearts that’s primary focus is to snatch our joy at every opportunity he can.

So I’m confident that this is what happened to my morning as I opened the curtains and saw an amazing sunrise and paused to be thankful… only to then turn and take my boys to school and immediately back my car into my husband truck. You can imagine how my joy quickly dissolved.  (Gratefully, I have an amazing gem of a husband.)

Many years ago I tore out an article from a Family Magazine that I have read over and over for 20 years  now. It talks about being thankful in ALL circumstances and looking at the positive even when the situation may seem bleak.

When you have mountains of laundry in front of you…instead of grumbling, it said to be thankful for those loads because it means your family has plenty of warm, clean clothes to wear daily.

When it is time to prepare a meal AGAIN, be thankful that your pantry is well-stocked and your home has many mouths to feed.

It went on to talk about being thankful in washing dishes, yard work, and all the menial tasks that are easy to grumble about when you are in the midst of them. Some of these tasks are a forced “slow down” for us. This can bring its own agitation to the table in a society that travels at a fast-paced sprint. But I have seen a lot of growth in my own life when I take the time to slow down in my days and feel the full impact of the chores I’m steeped in.

Sometimes the slowing down brings am immediate reflection of Joy that I can see. And sometime the slow down is an excruciatingly long test of patience in a lesson that I may need to learn, or it is to stop me and safe-guard my heart until it is clear for me to move on.

The chores of life are daily, but so is the abundance of Joy that the Lord has for us. My prayer for you is that the Lord teach you the secret of being content in every situation, through Him who gives you strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Practicing this in my own life, has brought comfort to my heart in hard seasons, respite to my spirit in exhausting seasons, and Joy unspeakable in the details of Love that God showers on us in all seasons. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart! Psalm 9:1

The Leaves Are Turning Into Turkeys!

Oh good gravy!! I just love everything about the Fall season. Even when I was young, I have always been captivated by the trees changing colors. And I have forever been picking up fallen leaves and pressing them for projects. Even in college I was home on break and scavenging for these treasures with aspirations of creating wonderful things with them.

And I did! My sweet family members were the recipients of many leaf-pressed bookmarks and animals created with leaves. The whole process was enjoyable to me. Now that I have children, it has been passed down to them too. I asked them to make me some turkeys with leaves, and look what cuteness I got!!   

As you go through this season, and are looking up into the trees with all their glory, make sure to take time to look down too.  A friend dear to my heart once said that if you slow down and really look, you will see that even God’s “litter” is so beautiful. 

When I pause to take a closer look at things in nature, it brings my focus back to God; a really great place to be!

Slow down with me, and enjoy all there is to see!


  

As our society begins its annual press-in of stress during our holidays, stay connected to the wonder and awe that is found everywhere, even in God’s “scraps”

Undeniably You

What do you do? What makes you extra ordinary? What little details do you weave into your every day, the different seasons that come and go throughout your life? What is something that only you do, and you hear others say, “oh, that’s so very ___________!”. And what do you do that stems off of what your legacy is riding on? The things you do because a loved one:  parents, grandparents, neighbors, mentors…people that have inspired you to step up in life and be an even better you; an undeniable you.

How you set up your Home, how you layer your life, what you incorporate into your sights, smells and sounds around you that draws other in… All of these make up an undeniable you. Peoples different layers are all interwoven from one another. You pick up bits and pieces as you grow; you reflect on mentors in your life and the different stages of it and can see the  Encouragers that have spurred you on to follow your dreams, and the loved ones that have poured time and attention into you and filled your heart to overflowing. All of these experiences are details given by God; a gift for each one of us. They make up who we are, and how we walk our lives.

As the season changes into Fall, and then Winter chasing close behind, it’s a fun time to reflect because you’re pulling out memorable things. You see your youth as the leaves dance and children  rake only to be able to jump with wild abandon into the colorful piles. You taste and sip hot cocoa and apple cider and remember the feelings of warmth. You take out dishes and serving pieces for the Holidays that hold cherished heirloom sentiment. You cook and bake the recipes that have been passed down to you to carry on. You have traditions that either you have started for your home, or you have incorporated from some place that you count a treasure in you heart.

In these shifting seasons, we tend to linger longer  and reflect a bit more. We come together with those we love and we squeeze in tighter as we prepare to hunker down for the winter calm. It’s good for your heart to think about what makes you undeniably you. Try it, it will put a beautiful smile across your face, each detail comes from different stages of your life.

here are a few of mine to hopefully prompt your heart to see yours:

The different stages of life lends itself to certain details; I sang a series of lullabies to each of my babies and I always sang them in the same order. I have vague memories of my mother rocking me to sleep in my early childhood and singing to me.

I take a Sharpie marker and draw simple pictures on water bottle lids for my boys lunch boxes…I don’t know why I do that. It started at one point, and now my boys mention if I forget one day, so I will continue to draw on water bottles.

My family has a large collection of turkey plates that belonged to my grandmother. Whichever house the extended family meal is at, those turkey plates travel to for all of us to remember.

I turn down the corner of each bed in our home right before sleep each night. I never saw anyone do this, I just began it one day and it has stuck with me and become part of my daily routine and gesture of love towards my family.

I light a candle every morning as I go through the house to open curtains and begin our day. I do it probably because it symbolizes warmth and comfort to me, and I want my boys to start their day with those things.

I have 26 lamps in every room…OK maybe a slight exaggeration, but not too far off if you’re asking my husband! But I love indirect lighting, because my mom has always loved indirect lighting.; it makes it feel like a home to me.

My favorite color is red. Every day I have something red that I wear, carry, etc. I just love red, simple as that!

Enjoy being the undeniable you that stands out to those that know and love you. There is nothing ordinary about how our loving God designed you. You were made to shine as only you can! Enjoy this season!!

Bold Prayers

I used to be afraid to pray bold prayers. I thought that if I prayed bold prayers I would have persecution come my way. And then one day I read that it doesn’t matter how intense ,or not,  your prayer time is, persecution will still come your way. And so that is how I came to be a prayer warrior.

Now the  Armor of God is an invaluable gift to us, and  I used to also think that I had to ask God for it each day or else I didn’t have that spiritual protection. It wasn’t until I was considerably older that I came to understand that the armor was a gift that is never taken back. The importance of praying for it daily is truly for us to remember in thanks that we wear it all the time, and can use it in times of need.

One of the things that our family does on the drive to school each day is to take turns and thank the Lord for His armor that He custom made for us. I started that prayer time to teach my children about the armor of God…but every day is a reminder to me as well, and it fortifies us in our day. We are all prayer warriors.

When we pray, it diffuses the enemies schemes. We then get the privilege of watching God move through our lives. I’m not fearful anymore of prayer.

When War Room came out in the theaters, many people set up places in their homes to pray bold prayers. Whether they taped cards on their closet walls or wrote them in journals…bold prayers came out of that movie. The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer also was written alongside War Room.  She walks us through a simple way of writing out a bold prayer.  At first, I wasn’t going to try the technique…but I’m so grateful that I went ahead and tried it. These are the prayers I cling to in peace and persecution.  The prayers I have taken the time to write out, are the ones the Lord uses the most with me.

.Again, I never wrote out a prayer before I read this book. But by taking a few moments to construct a specific prayer over a topic, and then surrounding that prayer with thanksgiving, praise, repentance and scripture…whoa. Game changer for me.

So okay, it feels slightly vulnerable, but I’m going to share a few of my bold prayers because my heart feels a heaviness to do that. There is power in prayer; it does all our hearts good.  My bold prayer right now, is that your heart is encouraged to either begin or carry on in a prayer time. I’ll never regret praying bold prayers.

 A Prayer For Passion

Lord, Your loving-kindness never ceases. Your compassion never fails. Thank You, Jesus! Lord, please take my heart and renew it; make me a holy vessel for You. Lord, refresh my spirit, search my heart, show me how to be a prayer warrior for my loved ones. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (psalm 51:10) Amen.

A Prayer For Focus

Lord, You are far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else, (not only in this world but also in the world to come. Ephesians 1:21). I lose sight of where the attacks that come at me originate. I lose my cool, temper and self-control. Please keep me continually aware. Open my spiritual eyes; strengthen me with Your Armor, God, so that you can cut the enemy off from his plots and destruction. This battle is not mine, but Yours, God. Station me where I see Your salvation. I will not fear because You are with me.

 

A Prayer For Fears

Thank You, God, that You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, (2 Timothy 1:7). Forgive me, Lord,  when I start listening to the voice of fear and stray from Your destiny for me. Help me, please, to step boldly in my faith with You by my side. Make me fearless because You are fearless! Remind me of Your promises. Thank You for Your instruction and teaching in the  way I should go.; Your counsel and Your eye always upon me, (Psalm 32:8).

May all of us have a beautiful day.

The Harvest Is Plentiful

 

Do you see them all over town? They are not shy nor will they go unnoticed. Bright oranges and creamy whites, smooth and bumpy perched on hay bales.  Oh! The pumpkins have arrived! Fall is such a fun and flavorful season to incorporate some great Memory Makers with family and friends. So many to choose from…

This is my mom holding my first son a few Octobers ago. Going to the Pumpkin Patch is part of our family tradition. We pick carving pumpkins and dream up ideas for funny faces for them. We pet all the farm animals and walk the corn mazes; we leave itchy from crawling over hay bales, and we always feel the need for apple cider after our exploration. These are sweet memories made.

 

 

Sometimes we have been known to paint the pumpkins we bring home! What a colorful mess we make! But it’s worth it; the joy and laughter is completely contagious. We add feathers and glitter and the whole nine yards!

 

The week of Halloween, we make a pot of soup, invite grandparents over, and carve pumpkins together. The seeds get washed, seasoned, and cooked for snacking during the process. We fill our tummies and our hearts in the crisp air that usually has just begun to chill our evenings. We bust out carving knives and power drills for our pumpkins! The imaginations take flight as we all carve.

 

Ever since I have any memory, my extended family has gotten together for a Halloween supper and trick or treating together. We always have chili and fritos, and EVERYone must show up in costume; no exceptions. We have years and years of pictures of children, grandparents, friends,( pets even!) dressed in silliness. We are all in, and it is so much fun!It is always pure joy to just play for the evening. A Tradition that’s in its third generation currently.

Let the kids spread out their loot at the end of the evening. Give them permission to wallow in it for the moment…when else is it ever appropriate? Pure Bliss is in those memories. Treasures that go WAY beyond their sweet tooth.

 

One of my sons is a collector of nature. I am forever being gifted dandelions, and rocks, sticks and walnut shells that have hearts carved in them by our Magnificent God. I cherish the pictures I have taken of these perishable treasures. It is a glimpse through the eyes of a child; pure and unencumbered. And the Nature Walks!! These are requested as early as August by my crew. We make them wait till the leaves start falling. But the anticipation wraps our beautiful memories made in the Scavenger Hunts we take out on each Fall with walking sticks, paper bags, snacks and all!

We have friends that always pass through during this season and spend some nights with our family.  It is fun to set up a Blessing  Box for their room while they visit. There is something so inviting about all the rich layers of colors in the Fall. A book, magazine,  candle, flowers, bottled water and pumpkin with some hand-written greetings is simple but sweet.The boys and I love watching the foliage change and the wind stir the leaves across the yards. The ambition of raking the leaves is usually tossed quickly as we jump into them! We sometimes lay on hammocks and look up into the colorful tree tops. There are so many simple moments to be found in this season that overflow with Thankfulness. Read a book out-loud as a family, make a big pot of Apple Cider to sip on all Sunday afternoon. Bake pumpkin bread with your kids and then share it with your neighbors. Begin a Gratitude Pumpkin and take turns writing all there is to be thankful for. Snap lots of pictures, and jot down memories while they are fresh in your mind. Absorb all that Fall has waiting for you.  The Harvest is Plentiful