A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.
“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.
What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit threeblooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.
Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.
“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18
Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers. We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.
Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges.
We’ve each tried different menu plans over the years. We’d like to share what works for us…most of the time. I know for me personally that the days I have “a dinner plan” go more smoothly because I can focus my energies elsewhere and tackle the dinner preparations with my designated helper when it’s time to hit the kitchen in the evening.
Menu board ideas are all over Pinterest. I adapted my own a few years ago by combining what appealed to me: flexibility, easy-to-use, and able to be quickly updated for the season.
I used a 12 x 12 scrapbook frame that holds up to 25 pages of paper:
I loaded it up with scrapbook paper for seasonal background color.
I used glue dots to affix tabs for days of the week and mini clothespins to hold menu items. This could be simplified further by using clothespins or mini chalkboards that have days of the week already labeled.
— alphabet stickers for the title: What’s for Dinner??
— a line of ribbon for color
— two mesh index card holders with small chalkboards labeled Entrees and Sides
— cork board attached by spray adhesive; this area gives you a place for extra food cards or new recipe ideas
I made pockets out of folded index cards to hold individual menu items, loosely organized by food group categories. **Adding the page number and name of cookbook for specific recipes is helpful to you later!
In each category pocket, there is a card with a specific food item. Some have been personalized by the family member that made the card or who is the “author” of the dish.
My kids take turns being my dinner helper. When we are discussing the menu plan for the week, they each get to pick what they would like to help make for dinner on their helper night. This helps their motivation tremendously!
I encourage them to choose an entree and two sides. Since there is only one card for each item, this is an easy way to get a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week.
When I began this project I used paint chips to add a splash of color. I now have blank index cards pre-cut into strips to make additional labels as needed.
Start with your favorite foods and add as you go.
Although I’ve been using this system for years and making a grocery list each week, I just recently had the insight to keep track of weekly menus that have worked for us to use again in the future. #duh!
It takes a bit more time to make a menu plan and coordinated grocery list, but I think it will be worth it next month when I can pull out a weekly menu and head right to the store! I even did myself a favor and grouped the shopping list according to sections of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, frozen, canned/dry goods) and made a copy to use as a checklist, keeping the original in a menu planning binder.
You can personalize your menu board however you like. Pick the basic elements and streamline to your family’s needs. You can make it as simple or sophisticated as you want.
Give yourself a break and include cards for “Take out,” “Dinner Out” and “Scrap Night” (aka: Leftovers) as well as some simple themes such as “Soup & Sandwich Night” and “Pizza Night.” Adapt what works for you and your family now. You can always tweak it later.
I’m off to “test” my shopping list with 3 boys…I may rip my list in sections and challenge them to see who can locate all their items first. Since I’ve drug them to the store provided them with ample shopping opportunities before, they know to search for store brands and sales items first. They may grumble a bit now, but their future college roommates will be impressed with their grocery skills, right?
“So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6:8
Yes, menu planning is a chore. It does take time and effort. Every once in a while I need a reboot. When I freshen things up, I get a little more enthusiasm behind the process.
Dinner is over. Boys are in the kitchen messing around doing dishes. Dad and I sneak out calmly walk out of the kitchen and down the hall. The boys’ voices escalate to fever pitch blend in cheerful unison to their blaring peppy playlist. We look at each other knowingly: it’s time.
We kick off our shoes and I toss off my hoodie.
Taking a deep breath, we rip open two bags of large marshmallows and load up. Armed with handfuls of sugary fluffballs, we are ready…
We pad in our socksstealthily approach the boys unaware and we begin to bombard them with marshmallows. Shrieking erupts as boys duck behind counters and hide behind each other.
We fire off as many marshmallows as we can before they have time to retrieve them and return a barrage at us. Soon they are pelting each other with marshmallows, then ganging up on us. Giggles break out between shrieks of delight and whispers of strategy.
I get a brief reprieve as I corral our golden retriever to put her outside; she’s enthusiastically smacking her lips from the mouthful of marshmallows she’s already snagged.
White blobs blur by my head and soft splats echo as marshmallows find their wriggling targets.
Alliances form and my husband guards my back as I gather up more soft ammo, now sticky from all those sweaty hands. We emerge back-to-back and throw jet-puffed balls at whatever moving targets we can see. The tide turns quickly as our conniving loving offspring smush the marshmallows into large balls and throw at us rapid-fire.
We duck, breathing heavily gazing at each other with laughter…and my husband eventually calls a truce the finale when he sees that more marshmallows are sticking to cabinets than bouncing off the floors.
During arsenal reloading clean-up, the boys swap stories and exclaim excitedly as they find marshmallows in curious places.
It’s a wrap: another no tears and nobody got hurt successful indoor snowball fight is in the books.
It’s cheap inexpensive family fun that allows parents to act sillycrazy wild like kids and to bring a little outdoor experience inside when winter days are stretching long.
Marshmallow tag is a win-win!!
Dare to ambush surprise your kiddos with some spontaneous fun. If you’re feeling especially naughty brave, go for the jumbo-sized marshmallows snowballs!
Picking up a piece of trash off the floor and throwing it away as you head into a meeting
Returning a grocery cart to the store for a young mother with toddlers in tow
Reaching an item off of a high shelf for a person in a motorized chair
These are all acts of kindness, many of which we do each day out of instinct or because these little gestures were drilled into us as children. Now as parents we encourage our children to be kind to each other — to share, to take turns, to do something nice for a friend or neighbor, to be helpful to their teachers.
When we made our Fruits of the Spirit plates several years ago, my son drew over-sized Helping Hands. In fact, we do typically view Kindness as an action, something we do with our hands.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
What if we take kindness a little deeper?
This verse in Ephesians clearly links kindness and forgiveness. I hadn’t thought about this connection before. Stick with me here…this verse stretches our usual idea of Kindness a bit.
Forgiveness is an internal act of kindness that’s verbally expressed and offered to another person to accept or reject. That has a lot more at stake than offering a helping hand, but potentially can be so beneficial.
As children we’re told “Say you’re sorry” when we’ve said or done something to hurt someone else, but we weren’t necessarily taught how to respond to an apology or how to forgive that other person (especially if it’s a pesky sibling!) for whatever slight we experienced. It’s awkward. It’s messy. We try to push through and move on without trying to still look grumpy.
Forgiveness involves softening our hearts toward someone who has hurt us in some way. We may bristle at a half-hearted apology or one that comes too soon that we aren’t ready to accept yet. Forgiveness involves mutual discomfort and vulnerability. This reciprocity is delicate.
When we have said or done something gut-wrenching that hurts a loved one and then offered a sincere apology, the sweet relief of receiving forgiveness is very healing. Forgiveness restores closeness; it preserves the relationship. Forgiveness puts us back at ease with one another, even offering a deeper connection that we’ve had before. It is kind.
Forgiveness is an Act of Kindness for the soul.
At this point in my life, I think I’ve got the simple acts of kindness pretty well in place and see multiple opportunities to offer kind gestures to others I encounter in my daily activities. Now the challenge is to move Kindness deeper within my relationships. Join me?
Sometimes we just have to keep it simple. We have to whittle out all the excess to get to a nugget of truth and hold it in our grubby hands.
As I pondered this week’s Fruit of the Spirit “goodness,” I waited for an inspirational story or illustration to plop into my head.
I sat with my laptop, fingers poised to type some witty examples of Goodness.
Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t force this topic?
Where to begin?
“In the beginning…” God created it ALL. From nothing He created ALL kinds of things, then stepped back to view his work each day and declared “it was good.”
Then that special day came when he created man and woman, blessing them and giving them all that He had created.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31
That’s it in a nutsell: we don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be Good as God intended. Out of all that He made, we are the part of His creation he determined was very good. We need to give ourselves the grace to dwell in that, to rest in it and not stress ourselves out.
Somehow we’ve over-inflated our expectations and expect “the best” performance of ourselves each and every day, then face disappointment and shame when we feel we don’t “measure up.” We tend to respond to a genuine compliment with a dismissive “well, I guess it was good enough.”
Good IS enough.
In each moment, each day…if our focus is to align with God’s purpose for our lives, then that isGood. And it is satisfyingly enough. Isn’t that refreshing to take the pressure off a bit?
During this season of Resolutions, dare we explore the concept of Faithfulness? Can we dust it off a bit and revisit what we’ve learned about it over the years? We’ve probably all heard statements such as:
“Stick to something you’ve started.”
“Hang in there when the going gets rough.”
“Keep focused on your goal.”
“Take baby steps toward a larger goal.”
“Put effort in daily to reach your weekly or monthly goal.”
What does this look like in our daily messy lives?
Sticking to something faithfully is hard. Some days are rainy and our energy level is low. We tend to be fickle and change our minds about things. It’s easier to rationalize our way out of something than look at the true motivation underlying our initial intentions.
It’s easy to get tangled up in the definition of Faithfulness. It’s personal for each one of us and changes throughout our lifetime. I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve observed or experienced as Faithfulness:
–a young Mom continuing to say “no” to her pleading child imploring for a treat at the checkout stand
–a daughter showing up over and over again to care for her aging parents
–a husband heading out the door to work each day while the wife and kids are home enjoying winter break
–following through on a workout plan by asking a friend to be an accountability partner because the motivation lapses are real, folks
–hearing the same story over and over, yet making eye contact and nodding at your loved one as they share it again
–a spouse doing an unspoken labor of love
–a stepmom helping her stepdaughter fix her hair even though it will make the family late for church
–a child keeping up with his chores
–saying those bedtime prayers with your squirming child when you feel exhausted to the core
–a parent asking a teenage son, “how was your day?” despite hearing the rote response of “fine” week after week
–a tired Dad helping his child with homework after his grueling day at work
–keeping scheduled appointments and checking in on time
–showing up for field trips and class parties for your younger children when the “all shiny and new” experiences with your firstborn have faded away
–making meals that are family favorites but may require some extra effort on your part or that may not be your favorite
–sending a birthday card to a friend rather than posting a quick one-liner on FB
–allowing friends or family to have their own way of doing things without being judgy; figuring out what is “your way” and being constant in this
–carving out some Quiet Time in midst of the daily Loud and Busy
–following up with a friend who has shared some recent struggles
–being a cheerful giver
“…the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2
God is faithful and just. He keeps His promises. Our attempts at Faithfulness may seem feeble as we strive to meet our daily purpose, but He is present and watchful of each little step. We inch along, ever so slowly, bit by bit toward His plan for us.
May the New Year provide us with many opportunities to be full of Faith in gestures big and small.