Category Archives: Gatherings

Gingerbread all the Way!

baking gingerbread
Some years we’ve made Gingerbread aprons…this guy has now outgrown two!

Last weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.

This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.

Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.

Jenks Gingerbread house
Jenks Trojan mascot, overlooking the fusion of campus life

The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.

Di & Audra with 1st gingerbread house
The Lone Star House – 2001 Gingerbread

We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen  kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.

We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.

Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.

the Flour KingMany versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings  just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.

gingerbread team

We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.

We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor. gingerbread in production

Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying  their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.cousins

Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.

candy-eating decorating
Eating candy is ALWAYS part of the process

As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.

Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.hospital gingerbread

Batman gingerbreadAs the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in  creating and constructing.

The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.

Sugar Cube Castle
Sugar Cube Castle 2016

generational gingerbreadseniorsGrandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.

Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true  joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.

As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles,  we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.

Superhero City
Superhero City – 2015 Gingerbread

Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.

Here’s to family and GINGERBREAD all the way!

Yay!

 

 

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!

PEACE, not pieces

give thanks: pie for dinnerOur family has done Thanksgiving in many different ways over the years. We’ve hosted the dinners yet also driven the miles to do the rounds between all the families. We’ve squished in family projects in lieu of big family gatherings. Some years we’ve taken off for a family getaway instead of sticking with tradition.

small hands making pie crustOne of the ways we’ve reclaimed our own family connections going into the holiday season  is to share a few hours together baking pies. Several  years ago I said yes to one of my boys who asked if we could cut into one of the pies  to have a taste.  pies for dinner

So, we began having “pie for dinner” on Thanksgiving Eve, letting go of the expectation of showing up to our family gig the next day with fully intact pies. We feel a little giddy with the power of “eating dessert first” and having pie as the only thing on the dinner menu.

As we were winding down our Pie for Dinner night this year, a candle was enthusiastically blown out which splattered wax all over our white tablecloth. Although a little chagrined, we tried not to let it overshadow the scrumptious fun we had just had together. We walked away from it, piecrust crumbs and all.

waxy tableclothThe next day after returning from a festive and full family dinner, I gathered up the tablecloth and stuck it in the freezer to deal with later. (I read about this handy trick somewhere, so I gave it a whirl.) Yesterday morning I attempted to get the wax to flake off.  No luck! I threw it in the washer with mild hopes that some laundering magic might make the wax disappear. Nope! It morphed into a smooth patch of muted blue splotches…and is on the verge of being downgraded to a craft tablecloth. Oh well!

As I’ve gone round and round with this silly thing, I’ve realized I can get worked up about it or come to peace with it and move on…because we know the next season’s messes will be upon us before we know it, right?

Christmas tree pine needles

Along with the jingly bells of the season, we hear the buzzing of pressure all around us.

Sometimes our calendars fill up rather than our hearts.

We can easily get pulled into holiday stress, feeling the fractures sneaking in. Or we can remain steadfast in seeking out the joys and peace of the season, one choice at a time.Bible Quilt™ - heart at peace

When we’re tugged to get our shopping done early or to be among the first wave of holiday cards arriving in busy mailboxes, we need to intentionally slow down to pull together rather than apart.

We know we need to choose relationship over finding just the “right” gift…one heart decision at a time.


“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…” Luke 2:19


It’s okay to take a break to ponder…and perhaps reflect on the bigger picture.

People all around us are hurting. Families are facing loss. Friends are financially squeezed. We can all use a dose of PEACE rather than fall to pieces when we get overwhelmed with holiday stress or encounter another flavor of brokenness.

give thanks at #theturquoisetable
Giving Thanks at the Turquoise Table

We can strive to give thanks for the overflow of one season blurring into the next, preparing our hearts one day at a time.



PEACE, not pieces.



 

Simply Gather

– – – Gather up – – –

If your last few weeks have seemed like a whirlwind and the sound of Christmas music makes you feel a little edgy, you’re in good company. I’ve been trying to gather up my thoughts about the upcoming holidays and can’t quite get there. I really want to enjoy the Fall, to bask in the beautiful colors outside my window.maple tree through window

trees in fall

I want to marvel at the leaves piling up under the trees and remember how my boys relished rolling around in leaf piles until they had leaf dust ground into every inch of their clothing and they had begun to sneeze/wheeze with the overpowering earthiness of Fall.

playing in leaves

– – – Gather in – – –

red leafWe’ve had a few brisk days and I’ve enjoyed gathering in, cozying up with my flannel-clad boys and enjoying the aroma of simmering cider in the trusty crockpot.

Slowly, we’re rummaging around in the depths of our closets to pull out our favorite layers and then second-guessing the weather to see if we’re on track for those surprising temperature flip-flops this season brings.

We gather in closer as we shift to more indoor activities, putting away the toys of summer and lean expectantly toward more family time lounging with favorite books and taking turns adoring the family dog who just can’t seem to get enough affection from her people.

katie - greeting

– – – Gather round – – –

fall tablescapeOur family goes through phases (depending on the sports of the season) of consistently making it to the dinner table together.

I love the nights when we can settle in and banter  conversation about without the pressure of the eat-and-run.

Gathering around our table & exchanging  tidbits about our days (often sprinkled with witty humor and gentle teasing)  binds us together a little tighter.

Even if we scatter afterward to accomplish our various things, the hum of togetherness lingers a little longer because we’ve had that connection at the table.

leaves turning yellow

– – – Gather deep – – –

I’m not a “social butterfly,” flitting about the crowd and seeking to make contact with a wide variety of people. (My heart races a bit just thinking about it. gulp!)

I tend to drift toward people with intention, preferring to sink a little deeper into conversation, wading into the grit of life as I talk with a friend or two at a time.

Gather page in Bible Quilt™
Gather page in Bible Quilt™

Since we’ve been hosting Bible Quilt™ sessions, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to gather deep with friends, new and old, sharing our walks of faith and pursuit of scripture for life.



With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I encourage you to SIMPLY GATHER with the people you love and cherish.

GATHER SIMPLY, minimizing the “fuss” and slowing down to enjoy this season before we’re jolted to the next.



leavesWe’re halfway through our #30daysofgratitude series in our Ordinary Threads Facebook Group.

Join us as our members share snippets of gratitude each day!

Hope all of your Thanksgiving GATHERings are blessed! 

Hula Hoop prayers

Our mother-in-law, Kitty, was a go-getter. When she saw something that needed done, she marched out boldly and did it… sometimes with an unexpected ending. In remembrance of her birthday today, we’ll share one of her acts of boldness with you:

Kitty  once saw a dog running loose in a busy neighborhood in Houston, so she picked it up and took it home with her. She gave him some food and water, soothing him with comforting words. Then she called the number on the dog’s collar. The grateful owner gave Kitty their address. Kitty loaded up the now very content dog back into her car. As she approached the address, houses on the street began to look familiar. She arrived at the destination and suddenly realized it was the EXACT address where she had originally picked up this “stray.” Yep, she had “rescued” this dog from its own yard! She handled this somewhat awkward moment gracefully and told this story to us several times over the years, embellishing it and laughing at herself as much as we did!

After the laughter subsided, what struck me was the boldness that Kitty displayed. She boldly stopped what she was doing to take care of a need that she saw in her community. She called a complete stranger to return a dog to its owner. And, once she realized she had snatched this “lost” dog from its very own home, she still boldly marched up to that house and ADMITTED what she had done.

Be Bold page in Bible Quilt
“Be Bold” page in my Bible Quilt™

As we celebrate our two-year blogiversary (is this really a thing, we wonder?), we have been praying some BOLD PRAYERS over this little business/ministry that the Lord has unfolded for us. We’re learning a lot about accounting, graphic design, logos, links, trademarks, inventory and event planning. Our backgrounds in psychology and education didn’t necessarily prepare us for this new territory, yet the Lord has provided the foundation of skills we need, the strength to lean on Him, and the openness to seek from others what is needed to fill in the gaps.

We’ve been stretched out of our comfort zones in many ways, over and over again, since starting our blog 2 years ago. Last weekend I had the opportunity to be the speaker at a women’s retreat – to share not once, but three times. I leaned heavily on prayers of strength from my support team to get me through my public-speaking jitters. (Those retreat ladies were beyond gracious to me!)

the "Word" page in my Bible Quilt™
the “Word” page in my Bible Quilt™

One of the illustrations I shared with the group was about how I incorporate the Bible QuiltTM into my Bible study and devotions. I wanted to give them a visual about how I’ve rediscovered my strength and closeness with the Lord using this devotional technique, so I stood in the center of a hula hoop. 

I shared that when I’m in this familiar sphere of comfort with the Lord, I get grounded in the Word and feel more secure. After I’ve refueled in my “circle” of  Quiet Time, then I feel more confident to pick up my “hula hoop” of faith and share with others.

I wiggled my way through a little demonstration of hula hooping, which brought smiles and laughter to the group. Then I let the hula hoop fall to the ground and stepped out of it.

The hula hoop, although still colorful and sparkly, did not have the same impact when it just laid on the floor. It wasn’t being used to its full potential of joy.  I encouraged the ladies to think about our Quiet Time with the Lord in the same way.

If we get ourselves all filled up on God’s promises and strength but do not share our faith with others, we are not engaging the full potential of joy we have in Him. I challenged them to consider ways they could step out of their comfort zones — to pick up their hula hoops — and invite others to share their joy in Christ.

A couple days after the retreat, I received a text from one of the women. She said, “I’m working on my ‘hula hoop space’ to hear God and how to work more on my Bible Quilt.” I dearly appreciated her response and thought I might share this idea with our readers, too.

videoclip: the joy of hula hooping

In the past 10 days of actually owning a hula hoop again and inviting others to play with it, I’ve noticed that it brings a smile to each face: the one trying to hula hoop AND everyone watching. Hula hooping involves some vulnerability — throwing your hands up and surrendering to what happens, reminding ourselves it’s okay to feel a little awkward sometimes. When we let our guard down, we connect a little more…we let others see us being a little silly and perhaps more approachable in a playful posture. To stretch this analogy a little fuller, maybe we need a reminder that we are children of God. He delights in us.


“For the Lord delights in His people…” Psalm 149:4


Hula hooping fun: stepping out of your comfort zone! (slow-mo video)

As we offer up  “hula hoop prayers” to be bold and step out of our comfort zones to share our faith or to make a closer connection with someone, we’re more able to join together in community, capitalizing on our full potential the Lord has designed for each of us uniquely.

How can YOU be bold today?

Who might YOU invite to share in the joy of your hula hoop? hula hoop girls

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