Category Archives: Family Ties

Fruits of the Spirit

Sometimes you don’t know when a simple craft activity is going to have a big impact. You’re just trying to keep those little people in your house engaged in something productive so they aren’t tearing the house apart!

Several years ago I led my boys through one of those Make-a-Plate kit projects and then actually managed to get it mailed. Some days the simple completion of a task is a major accomplishment, right, busy Mommas?” Since we were working on table manners and talking about how the kids could show kindness at school, I chose the Fruits of the Spirit verse and let them pick which concept they wanted to illustrate. Rainbows, trees, and stick figures emerged as those wriggling bodies slowed down to color and carefully write out these powerful words.



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Fruit of the Spirit plate

We were all excited to receive the package of our completed plates! Each week we would choose one Fruit of the Spirit  to be our focus. We set that plate on a stand as a colorful reminder as we passed by it throughout the day. At dinnertime we enjoyed hearing about the gestures the boys made with friends, teachers, and soccer teammates to show that particular character trait. As parents, we shared examples from our workdays or stories from our childhood. Sometimes we used the plates as ice breakers for teaching moments as we redirected boyish antics at the table. When setting the table, we often shared knowing looks with each other as we placed a certain plate in front of a specific person, acknowledging “he sure needs a little extra self-control tonight” or “she needs some PEACE today.”

Fruits of the Spirit plates - devotional

When we signed up to go on a mission trip with our church and were asked to share a family devotion, we took our plates on the road — literally traveling 2,000 miles roundtrip to visit a children’s home in Mexico. We used the plates to illustrate our story of trying to put the Fruits of the Spirit into action in our daily family life. We helped lead the craft activity for those children to make their own plates. Many kids chose the phrase “Dios es Amor” = “God is love.”

Although we weren’t present when the Children’s Home received their shipment of plates, we Fruits of the Spirit platesheard it was a time of great JOY as these children received something tangible with their names and drawings featured. The following year our family returned to the same Children’s Home and we saw how much these plates were being used and treasured by children who had little of their own.

When we returned home from the mission trip, we made a poster to share at our local school and had another chance to share the Fruits of the Spirit in the context of a mission trip report. Several of the students were unfamiliar with the verse, but it became “real” to them when they passed the plates around during show-and-tell.
Fruits of the Spirit - sharing at schoolI was humbled as I realized how God had created an outreach of ministry from one small family project. Our family’s craft activity was shared with our church’s mission team families, about 100 Mexican children separated from their own families and then again locally with children at our sons’ classes at school. God is faithful. He reveals His GOODNESS to us through our small actions that He uses in big ways for His glory.

Fruits of the Spirit plates - missionsFruits of the Spirit plates - loveFruits of the Spirit plate - Jesus me ama

White Noise

chillThere is an unconventional layer to a home that you may have never considered. It is the White Noise that plays as the background music to our lives. It is usually unspoken, but for our memories it is SO powerful. It’s worth taking a look at.

Songs have a way of mentally dropping you back to a certain event and time; so do the sounds of a home, and they are a layer to each of our lives.

Definition of White Noise: random frequencies with equal intensity

Here are a few of our families’ favorites:

A football game on TV Sunday afternoon signals that Dad is home; the best naps come with the low steady rhythm of a football game on.

Pots and pans clanking in the kitchen entice you to expect something delicious soon.

Children giggling in another room as they play are branding brotherhood onto their hearts.

The hum of the washer and dryer in the evening at bedtime lulls you to sleep and secures your spaces.

Lullabies and music calm children and invite them to linger longer.

Basketball games in the driveway are a beautiful noise to neighbors that are empty nesters.

The rustling of pages during family reading sessions…Everyone is absorbed in their own books yet this shared time itself is becoming a beloved chapter in the family’s own storyline.

The panting and giggling interwoven into the beat of “Just Dance” tunes during family Wii competitions evokes a sense of spirited togetherness.

The jingle of the dog’s collar rushing to greet the kids coming home from school is a joyous welcome.

The creaky sound of the garage door going up signifies family members returning home.

A Dad’s chuckle and a boy’s snort as they read the comics together is a bond of humor.

An instrument being practiced in a particularly diligent way just before a recital adds a vibrant undertone to other activities.

The loud clatter of Legos tumbling out of a bin and then the quieter clinks as little hands search for “just the right” pieces are echoes of boy happiness.

The signature clap of Papa’s hands as he greets his grandsons at the door provides a generational connection.

white noise

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. Psalm 98:4tulips

God interweaves some beautiful White Noise into our settings as well. Just stop and quiet yourself to listen: the melody of a bird song, the katydids and tree frogs on a hot summer night, the wind that whips through the trees, the waves that crash to the shore, the rain that drizzles and sometimes pours, the crackling leaves underfoot a child that enjoys the “stomp”; all so intrinsic and beautiful.

This layer of White Noise has so much richness to it; it is a constant, steady rhythm in our days, wherever we go and whatever lies ahead of us, there is a steady beat in our background, a soundtrack that keeps our pace. I ask our Lord for forgiveness on the days that I have created the Noise that can be  ugly. My heart is sad on the close of a day that I may have produced sounds of irritation to a loved one, or harshness and impatience to a stranger, not knowing their story, and now considering the impact.

crackling fire

I relish the days that my ears hear the sweet sounds of a happy home, the gentle sway of nature and it’s seasons. These are the days that I am grounded in God; embracing His plans for the day ahead. There is peace that surrounds those day even in the midst of Noise. Stop and listen; not just with your ears, but also with your heart and soul. The White Noise is no accidental occurrence in our lives. We produce it and blend our sounds with the amazing soundtrack of the Lord. White Noise is an incredible layer to a home if you are aware of its presence. Enjoy the melody.childhood

Tuned In

Each year it seems to get here faster than ever: Thanksgiving — the unofficial kickoff of the holiday hoopla. Friends and family are already jockeying schedules to include feasting, football, Black Friday shopping and holiday light displays. We are in the thick of it, too. Each year we talk about slowing it down, but we tend to pack a lot in even when we aren’t trying.red barn in ColoradoLast year we did a mini-vacation in Colorado during Thanksgiving break. Just our little family of five…and all kinds of random winter gear stashed into our car. It took a couple of days to recover from the road trip, adjust to the altitude, and get our local bearings. We put aside electronics and went for long walks in the snow. We spent a lazy day on the couch with a stack of library books. Another day we took an adventurous snowmobile ride. Evenings unfolded easily into family game nights or classic movie marathons including “Mary Poppins,” “Big,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” We ate pie for dinner and had a “family favorites” spread on Thanksgiving, enjoying a relaxed pace and simple expectations.walk in the snowOur boys learned to ski. We learned that having a day together while they were enjoying a last day on the slopes was The Best. #duh. The kids had tales to tell and we had the energy to really listen to their stories: Tuned in. That feeling of having our hearts aligned together as a family and being tuned in to each other…that was what we were truly thankful for…a respite from the “busy” of life and a chance to glimpse each other in a deeper way.snow on pine tree

All that other stuff happens and the to-do lists get “done enough” eventually, but it was so refreshing to feel like we had tuned in to our underlying family connections, re-centering our focus so that we could enter into the holidays with more grace. As the busy season is fast approaching, I’m wondering how we can tune in to one another again because that is the kind of tradition that I’d like to keep…oh, and pie-for-dinner, of course.



“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4



Family plate

The Pumpkin Snatchers

The Halloween hijinks are over. Costumes are crumpled up on closet floors or stuffed back into dress-up bins. Pumpkins have been transformed into jack-o-lanterns and left abandoned on porches as kids have turned their attention to sorting and eating ALL the candy.felt turkey pumpkin

What if you took this interlude between Halloween and Thanksgiving as an opportunity to be a little sneaky with your kids to bless a neighbor in a fun way?

Simply choose a neighbor that would receive a surprise well. Sneak over to your neighbor’s porch with your child and steal adopt a pumpkin. Decorate it and return it to its own front porch. This is a quick, fun little way to create community among neighbors.

As with many things in parenting, I stumbled upon this sneaky activity as my son and I were sorting through craft supplies and discovered some long feathers that he had received from his grandma. We thought they looked like turkey feathers and we searched around for something that would make a turkey body…hmmm, something like a plump pumpkin? Since we had carved all of our large pumpkins, we were soon on our way over to steal borrow a neighbor’s pumpkin that looked just right…it even had a long “turkey neck” vine protruding from its top. My son poked those long feathers into the pumpkin rind and I bent pipe cleaners into something resembling turkey feet. We glued on some googly eyes and a little red wattle…before too long we had a Turkey Pumpkin emerge.

turkey pumpkin

Turkey pumpkin on neighbor's porchThen came the fun part! In the cover of dusk, we crept behind vehicles and skulked along the side of our house and fence to sneak alongside the neighbor’s house and down their front sidewalk. We gingerly placed our Turkey Pumpkin on their porch and scurried away. Now we weren’t sure what to do. An animated whispered discussion ensued there in the dark space between our two houses: do we ring the doorbell? do we knock on the door? do we just wait to see if they notice what’s happened to their pumpkin? How loonnnng would that take?

We couldn’t stand the anticipation….we decided to RING and RUN. We peeked over the car and watched their reactions unfold. Holding hands, we crouched down and snuck back into our house, tucking those memories into our hearts. I savored the delight in my son’s eyes from our little spontaneous excursion out of our comfort zone to spring an unexpected blessing onto our neighbors.turkey pumpkin #2

A family tradition was started that year, involving a younger brother the next year, and continuing until those neighbors moved away. It was a small gesture yet a community connection that lingered…perhaps returning the “favor” of all those school, soccer, and scout fundraisers that our neighbors had graciously supported throughout the years.

sneaking pumpkin to neighbor's house
sneaking to neighbor's house

 

Baylor Bears pumpkinYou can use whatever craft supplies you have on hand or do a quick outdoor scavenger hunt to use some bits of nature. Keep it simple and allow your child’s creativity to guide you. You could even paint pumpkins in your neighbor’s favorite sports team colors. #SicemBears

Your child will delight in the surprise element of this unusual “gifting.” Enjoy the camaraderie that develops!

“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Proverb 20:11

Words in our Home

The words we speak in our homes are so powerful. Words can be spoken in a way that edify and result in strengthening the connections we have with one another. Or our words can tear down and fray those tender threads that link us to our loved ones.

Words within a family carry underlying messages:

“I know you.” “You are meaningful to me.”
“I want to continue our story together.”
“We have something shared that’s unique to us.”

Not only the content, but the tone conveys so much….are we communicating warmth? criticism? rejection? belonging? This is a daily struggle. I have to be intentional DAILY in my choice of words, my timing, and especially my tone of voice. The words we have posted throughout our homes are as much for us as parents as they are for our children. They are reminders to maintain the peace, to speak truth, to be kind.

there's no place like home
“there’s no place like home”

When we think about the “tapes” in our heads from our own childhood, what do we hear? Think back to those tender junior high lunch encounters, those rowdy high school band trips, those tension-filled college interviews. How many of those events had a word or phrase etched into the memory? How many of these were more negative than positive because it felt seared into us at the time?

The lines repeated to us the most and grooved into us are most likely from our closest family members and carved in deeply during intense interactions filled with highly charged emotions. What are we as parents instilling in our children’s heads? What tracks are we laying down? When our child is in a tough spot, does our voice pop in with an encouraging tone “you’ve got this!” or a negative tug “what did you do NOW?” Home is where we practice our words and reactions with one another. It’s where the training ground is for communication.

My husband and I have been working toward fostering a ‘no criticism’ buffer around our dinner table, redirecting and reminding our sons to rephrase negative statements they make to one another. Recently, we capitalized on a sermon we heard about not using a filter of negativity with one another. The pastor’s message was about how much we “filter” over our interactions, not being true and genuine, often putting a negative spin on others to cast ourselves in a better light. Since we heard this message as a family, I made a #nofilter reminder sign and place it in the center of our table. When this reminder was first invoked, my #nofilteroldest son was particularly quiet throughout the meal. My middle son noticed this and complimented his brother on respecting the #nofilter rather than make critical comments to correct his younger siblings’ stories. We acknowledged both of their efforts and moved on, not dwelling on it. It’s a little reminder with a powerful impact: this time and place is a protected space to be yourself

The family dinner table is a small zone to cover, but so far seems manageable. It creates a safe zone when we all come together for a meal, especially if we’ve been scattered in different directions throughout a busy day. This safety zone invites us to linger a little longer over a meal because feelings aren’t being hurt by inadvertent comments or direct put-downs. It’s slowly becoming a family norm so we as parents don’t have to police the verbal barbs quite so much.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

One night shortly after starting this new routine, I served baked apples as a fall treat. I suggested to my youngest, who was my dinner helper, to come up with a quick family game. He chose “Apples to Apples” to coincide with our dinner. We did a 10-minute round of the game, which ended in a greater sense of family closeness and much laughter at my husband’s expense. (Now we have a new family catch phrase “Glitter hands!” that we can use as a tension breaker, but that’s another story!) I think I had more energy to prolong the dinner into a family activity because we hadn’t been refereeing negativity. It’s a simple shift in a specific family routine that hopefully will gradually extend into other interactions.

Where might your #nofilter zone be? At your dinner table? In the car? At bedtime? During school drop-off? The 30-minutes right after a child’s sporting event?