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.
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.
– – – Gather in – – –
We’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.
– – – Gather round – – –
Our 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.
– – – 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.
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.
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.
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!)
One of the illustrations I shared with the group was about how I incorporate the Bible QuiltTMinto 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.
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
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?
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. Wehave 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
Some projects are worth the wait. Our ideas have to germinate and our baby steps of action often take longer than expected, but the end result allows all the effort and perseverance to slide into a happy place.
So it was with our turquoise table.
I first read about #theturquoisetable concept a couple years ago: to have a friendly painted picnic table in the front yard to draw neighbors closer together. I loved the simplicity of Kristin’s idea and how the beauty of this gesture blossomed into a hospitality movement across the country.
My brain hatched a plan: “I can do this,too.”
Later that spring when we had some landscaping done, I incorporated an area large enough to accommodate a picnic table. I settled for spray-painting a garden bench for my splash of “welcome” turquoise. We had other things going on at the time and a picnic table project was not one of them.
Fast forward two summers. My sister-in-law called to tell me they were moving —into our neighborhood, about a half-mile away.
My brain cranked up the plan another notch: we could paint TWO tables at the same time, involving all our boys, and we could gift one to them as a housewarming present. An action plan was finally taking shape!
In late June, we sprang into action by getting the tables and buying the paint. They moved and then we went on vacation. Our tables kept each other company in our garage for a month.
Busy summer schedules eventually slowed a bit and we drug the tables out for an initial priming session:
These boys tackled the painting project with gusto!
While the primer dried, the boys went off to have a nerf dart war in the front yard, complete with trashcans & moving blankets for impromptu barricades.
At least one boy was still scampering around in only his underwear.
hmmm…Do you think this is what Kristin meant by #frontyardpeople?
We ran out of time that day, so the primed tables returned to the garage. The majority of our boys were “spotted” at back-to-school events with splotches of white paint in their hair.
Another week went by before we could wrangle all the boys in for another painting session. This time the excitement cranked up a notch because the fun color, Nifty Turquoise, was revealed.
(Moms were encouraging the use of hats and gloves this time…some boys heeded the warning; some didn’t.)
The magic of the Turquoise Table took effect immediately before the tables were even fully painted.
A neighbor lady walking by gushed about the fun color…and quizzed us about the number of boys involved. “Yep, they’re ALL ours!”😉
As we were painting, the air pressure changed and storm clouds rolled in. We hustled the almost-but-not-quite painted tables back into the garage just in time to beat the large raindrops threatening our progress.
Another 10 days or so elapsed before we got a second coat of paint on the tables…and it took another week to spray them down with polyurethane, but at last they were finished!
We celebrated with oreo ice cream sundaes prepared by my youngest son way back in June when we first started the project.
Yep, they were worth the wait, too!
As fall approaches, we’re eager to move family life to these cheerful tables out front and embrace the community around us.
If YOU haven’t started one yet, go for it!
It’s a fun family project . . . and almost as easy as 1, 2, 3!! 😜
However long it takes and the messes it makes, take joy in the process.
Memories are etched in the layers of these everyday colorful moments.
(aaand…if you’ve had a kid photographer involved, then you’ve got plenty of evidence to show for it!)
In between the hustle and bustle with this crew, I’m looking forward to some quiet moments out there with my Bible Quilt™journal, too.
Ordinary Threads is about to meet with a great group of women to help them set up Menu Planning Boards for their homes next month. As the preparation for that swirls in our heads, our thoughts are focused on FOOD! I have a few Go-To meals that I’ve been making for years now. When a week turns crazy, these are my steadies. They are easy, fast and yummy. Add a salad, veggie, bread or fruit and you’re ready to eat! Try one or all!
1 Kraft Italian Dinner Box
1 16oz. can Tomato Sauce
1 6oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese, grated
Boil spaghetti from dinner box and drain and rinse. Beat eggs in large bowl and add parmesan from dinner box. Add spaghetti and mix well. Put half of spaghetti mixture in bottom of greased 9 inch pie plate and then layer half of the grated cheese and then repeat layers one more time. Bake 10 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Do sauce per package directions. Cut pie in wedges and serve with sauce.
SPEEDY SAUSAGE SUPPER
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
2 TBS Butter
1 small Onion, chopped
half cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 8oz. can Baked Beans
1 8oz. can Kidney Beans
1 8oz. can Tomato Sauce
1 envelope Chili Seasoning
Cheddar Cheese, grated
Melt butter in large skillet and add onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add beans and tomato sauce. Stir in Chili Seasoning and add Sausage. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until heated through. Garnish with grated cheese.
QUICHE (HAM, VEGGIE OR BACON)
1 Half-baked Pie Shell
4 Slices Bacon, crumbled
Veggies of choice, diced
Blend of Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, 1 1/2 cups together
1 cup of Milk
Dash of Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
Mix all together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 Degrees.
1 lb. spaghetti
1 pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
3 cups Grape Tomatoes, halved
3 cups fresh Basil
Sea Salt and Pepper
1 cup Parmesan, grated
In a large pot over medium heat, combine EVERYTHING, but cheese and add 4 1/2 cups of Water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer till Pasta is cooked through and water reduced. Stir in Parmesan and Serve.
1 small package of Ranch Dressing Mix
6 Chicken Breasts
1 sleeve of crushed Ritz Crackers
1 cup of Parmesan Cheese
Coat Chicken in Melted Butter, then in a bowl filled with mixture of crushed crackers and Ranch mix. Place in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Pour remaining Butter over the top. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 Degrees.
These Recipes are a culmination of Family, Friends and my own Finds that have proved Faithful time and time again for our Family. I enjoy cooking for my family, but time doesn’t always allow for it. The focus for me in a season of young children and after school activities is to share as many meals around a table as possible in the week. When a meal can be made fast and in one skillet, pot or pie crust, it’s a winner in our books! Makes clean-up a breeze too. Make a list of these meals and more that will give you quick sustenance but also rich time with your loved ones.
Did you catch #solareclipse fever this week? It was quite the mesmerizing event around here. While capable of making us feel incredibly small in the scope of this wide world, it also pulled us together to focus on a common goal.
This grandeur was possible through a “just so” alignment of the sun, moon, and our precious Earth. The eclipse was the “sweet spot” of these 3 celestial entities, causing quite a stir amongst us humans scrambling for our NASA sunglasses. For a few weighty moments, we were all unified in one purpose.
We all gazed upward into a vastness that we struggle to comprehend. We stilled ourselves in the midst of our daily routines, sharing in the anticipation of this cosmic event. It didn’t matter that we were wearing silly glasses and straining our necks awkwardly. We were aligned in one shared goal.
How great would it be to continue such true alignment with each other beyond these precious few moments?
I was heartened to see diverse crowds of people file into stadiums, stand shoulder to shoulder, then break into spontaneous applause as they were impacted by the aweof the moment.
Other people crossed state lines and joined strangers in open fields to partake in this unique experience, enduring long lines of traffic on the journey home, yet hopefully still full of the wonder they had just absorbed with a wider community than they are typically a part of…stretching out of their comfort zones.
In a nation that has been besieged by divisiveness and hurtful separation, it was encouraging to watch alliances form among strangers. In a country bombarded with negative headlines, it was refreshing to view positive interactions and meaningful conversations about a shared experience.
– – May our moments of alignment not be as fleeting as a rare solar eclipse. May we hold tightly to that sense of greater community and wholeness,leaning toward one another rather than away.
When we align together for a common purpose, we are more likely to be receptive to others – – to be open to their ideas and opinions. It weaves us closer. Joining together in community pulls us into alignment with one another in ways big and small. It doesn’t happen automatically. We have to put ourselves in position to connect…to stretch a bit out of our comfy zones of familiarity.
Maybe if we intentionally reach out in a small step toward someone out of our usual sphere each day, we won’t have to wait ’til 2024 to come together in unity again?