Category Archives: Harmony

only girl

Recently we had some friends over for an impromptu pizza dinner after soccer games were finished for the day. Our combo of kids resulted in an 8 boys:1 girl ratio. The solo girl told her mother on the way home, “the mom is the only girl in their house.” Oh, so very true! During her visit I enjoyed digging out some “girl stuff” from my play therapy toy stash. I invited her to play with my collection of Lego Friends I’ve received from my boys during their Legos-for-every-occasion phase that lasted persistently for years. I listened to her little girl chatter, noting the lack of crash-bang-argh sound effects that typically accompany boy play at our house. I watched as she fidgeted with her long, tousled hair as she told me stories with vibrant animation. She was enamored with our baby turtle, Pipsqueak. She had so many words and was so willing to share.Salsa

Just as our young visitor had the realization that I was the only girl in my house, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve become accustomed to how my sons dole out their words at a slowly measured rate as if they need to conserve their syllables to last the remainder of the day. I’ve noticed how they interact playfully with me and show affection in boyish ways that don’t require stringing all those nouns and verbs together. Much of their communication is through touch and sound.

I’ve got one boy who is my Leaner. As he’s grown taller than me, he’s developed a lean-in stance when he drapes over me for a hug. He stands very still but is so fully present that it seeps into my heart like a soft rain soaks deeply into the ground. Often he will hum softly as his breathing slows and I feel the man-child weight of him pressing onto my shoulders. He releases with a big sigh and we’re both a little more centered somehow.

morning hugAnother son has developed his technique of the hold-and-squeeze. He comes in for a “typical” hug then holds me tight, waiting for an off-beat amount of precious seconds to do a double-squeeze that sometimes takes my breath away. Occasionally I’ll get a few mini-squeezes in before he loosens his hold on me. I can sense the melody of his mood in how he prolongs the hug or stays only for a brief skirmish. Sometimes we’ll finalize with a rhythmic tap-tap of our fingers, drumming onto each other’s backs without saying a word–yet also saying so much. This seems like a foreshadowing of the letting-go process we face when he leaves for college in a heartbeat.

contented boy

My last one I can still tuck under my chin when he dives all-in, often leading with his head and wrapping around me with all of his limbs. I often wonder how many limbs he has because they are EVERYwhere! A lot of swaying and giggles accompany this hugfest, especially if he gets a firm headrub or backscratch out of the deal. He lingers longer if a variety of wiggly movement is sustained in this light-hearted encounter, reminding me that his primary Love Language is Physical Touch. Squirmy love is his forte; I have adapted my reflexes accordingly.

mandevilla bloomSo, yes, I am the only girl in this house, but I’ve learned to communicate “boyspeak” as I’ve grown along with them. They can out-talk me about sports, outrun me in 5k races, and definitely out-eat me at any given meal…yet they can’t outgrow the mommy-son bonds weaved ever so tightly during all these leaning, squeezing, squirmy moments.


“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord… His reward.” Psalm 127:3


“Mother’s day” has passed yet each of us mommas can harvest these little snatches of our child’s affection however they may come. It may be braiding your daughter’s hair for the umpteenth time or gritting your teeth through those first driving lessons. A wink, a nudge, a crayon drawing, a morning grunt or an after-school story…cherish these tokens of your child’s unique interaction with you. We’ve got 50 weeks until the next round of “direct” appreciation the card-makers will remind everyone about. In the meantime, soak up the ordinary love today, my friends.

Paths

crosswalk in parking garageThe other day I was waiting to get out of a crowded parking garage and idling at a pedestrian crosswalk. An older couple caught my eye as I watched them navigate through parked cars to get into a medical building. The wife was all-business, clearly focused on the task ahead as she walked briskly with purpose. Her husband had a marked limp and was making use of each vehicle he passed as a respite to catch his breath. He was looking all around, taking note of his surroundings before he took a steadying inhale and propelled forward in his teetering gait, aiming generally in his wife’s direction. She paused several times to cast a glance back over her shoulder to make sure he was still following.

She came to a determined halt at the entrance, sending the whooshing automatic doors into a tizzy of confusion. Open-close-open-close-open… Her waiting stance became very intent – yet not quite impatient. Although this pair was obviously together, each of them was approaching what lay beyond those insistent doors in very different ways. She was charging forth while he labored with each step.

I wonder how long they have been doing this hurry-wait dance together? I’m curious when they were last side-by-side, slipping into a natural cadence as their footsteps marched in tandem.

sidewalk with brickI’m not sure what awaited this gray-haired couple in the doctor’s office that day, but their disjointed progress made me think about how often we can be in misstep with our people we are doing life with each day and how off-kilter our different paces may be in our personal journeys.

We all have different paths in life, which we walk in our own rhythms and progress at our own unique pace.

Sometimes the journey is expected and the path unfolds in an unwavering straight line before us. We feel focused and confident.

Some days we are eager to see what awaits around the next bend. Our steps may be light and energetic as we embrace the anticipation of what is to come.

curvy path

Other days we drag our feet, weighted down by uncertainty about what we may face. We have to dig deep to take the next begrudging step into a novel experience, tentatively exploring an unfamiliar path we have not traveled before. We steady ourselves with a brief prayer, a whispered plea of trusting God to hold us fast on His path for us.

In this season of graduations and life transitions, you may be facing the challenge of embarking upon a fresh path or launching a family member on a new journey. As you tentatively approach this unknown doorway, may you have the courage to reach forward and lean in to a new venture…knowing that someone is tenderly looking over their shoulder to make sure you are on your way.

doorway in brick wall



“My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” Psalm 17:6



Starter threads

How does God transform the ordinary threadsthose events and experiences of our day-to-day moments…into extraordinary tapestries of our unique life stories? How can we honor His workmanship as He does this artful transformation in us? 

Beginningsspools of thread

Each of us are given “starter” threads that are unique to us. These are individualized and personal, representing a broad spectrum of colors, unique textures, and varied lengths. We develop our threads over time, through life experiences and choices we make. We’re impacted by those around us, whether they nurture and encourage us, strengthening us and weaving us tight…or whether they don’t.

yarnAs parents we have the opportunity to nurture these “starter” threads in our children, to provide them with what they need to grow. Do we settle for the basics? Or do we strive for a complicated weaving of academics and extracurricular activities to stretch them? How do we balance what each individual child needs in the midst of a large family? How do we buffer our children from negative life experiences that are inevitable? When do we protect and when do we challenge? When do we WEAVE in and strengthen their fragile strands? When do we step back and allow them to make their own connections, threading our past into their future?

embroidery flossThrough Jesus’ offering, we have the capacity to become a beautiful tapestry representing His love and strength. Focusing on Him each day to help us develop our threads in the most beautiful way possible is our challenge. We are His design, but we have to yield to His process. This can feel out-of-control and messy at times. I struggle to maintain an openness to His work in me. Yielding is hard to do.


“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.” Psalm 51:10


pillow tapestryA tapestry can be decorative or functional, providing warmth and comfort. It can represent one’s cultural influences or historical significance. A tapestry includes many different textures which add depth and reflect unique characteristics. Some parts may be rough while others are soft. Some portions may be scratchy where the threads were rubbed the wrong way. This may represent a time when we weren’t following God’s plan for us — going against the grain/weave He intended for us.

Tapestries have a vast array of colors. The more color is woven into one’s tapestry, the more life experiences it represents. Colors that are deeply saturated reflect intense experiences whereas lighter colors may reflect more carefree times in our lives.

throw blanket

At first glance a tapestry may be a beautiful blend of textures and colors. Look closer, though, and you discover the knots of imperfections within the weave. These are the hard times that we needed to work through or soak in until gradually we were able to knot the threads and resume our course. We continue rather than start over. We knot and move on, continuing our tapestry. A loose strand or two may be left dangling for another season when we’re more “capable” of making a knot. These scraggly knots and bumps are an important part of our tapestry. They are part of our history. These knotty imperfections make us easier to relate to, reflecting our humanness and tie us together with universal common threads. Without these, we are diminished and plain. With them, we have depth and vibrancy.

Some days we feel about to unravel. Other days we may be tied up in knots over something. Whatever our current season, let us take a moment to embrace the work God is doing in each of us, knitting us closer to Him in His grand design…one frayed strand at a time.



“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14



 

Nooks and Nests

Think back to when you were a kid and when you felt the most safe and secure…what images come to mind? Were you with a particular person…or in a certain place?

Chances are that you were tucked into a small space with someone you loved. What sensations does this memory evoke?

The world is a big place with a lot of things coming at us all the time. Sometimes we just need to close it down a little bit — like clicking the minimize button on the computer to narrow things down to a smaller focus.

high-top game tableOccasionally these recharges happen naturally, but otherwise we have to be a little intentional to have some prompts in our environments to slow down. As moms we can provide some nooks around the house to encourage our kiddos to find a place to recharge…

boy doing homework at shared family room desk

-a game table for an impromptu game or puzzle

-a seat tucked into a corner with a cozy blanket and soft pillows; some low-key reading materials

-a bedroom fort, making the most of those bunkbeds

-a desk in a corner of the family room so your child can share your space while you’re making dinner

-a pile of beanbag chairs for kids to plop into while reading or gaming

Every one of us craves a nook that is “just ours,” where we can get lost in a good book or daydream and plan. This space is not just for children. My husband’s nook is usually a favored chair in the living room where a nap can ensue as the lullaby of sports plays him to dreamland. As a mom who is always searching for a moment to be creative, I find myself “nesting” throughout our home. I leave lots of “twigs and fluff” in each room so that wherever the children are, I can settle in as well and be near. I group reading material in baskets, and I have small containers holding current projects that I can pick up at a moment’s notice. My nests are for the most part side-by-side with my kids’ nooks. However, once the day has been put to rest, and I can really call my time my own, there are nooks that ground me and restore any fraying from the day…

I have a battery-powered candle that is on a timer so that when I finally make it to my bedroom at night, I walk into the glow of this candle. It makes me smile each night when I snuggle into bed with a good book.

As you think about the personalities of your family, nooks and nests will begin to emerge on their own:

-a reading nook

-a Lego nook

-an electronic plug-in nook for all iPads, etc

I love my coffee nook with a devo for the start of my day.

I laugh as I walk by a nook I set up for my boys: an oversized chair, a small table and low lit lamp with comic books… 3 boys are surrounding this nook they were drawn to, but none of them are in the chair! Each boy is laying on the floor or under the chair...unconventional nook building.record wallWhen I think of a nook, I think of it in layers…indirect lighting, a soft place to snuggle in, sounds in the background…white noise of a home that reflects each individual settling into their spaces after being out in the world.teen boy nest

Sometimes a cozy space is outside. When we moved, one of the first things we did in the yard was hang our hammock. It became a magnet for boys seeking a daydreamy spot to gaze at clouds or squirrels chasing each other overhead. From the house often the only thing visible is the top of a head, knobby knees, or a pair of dirty feet.dreamimg

Remembering my mother’s nature nook: on warm summer nights after dinner, she would slip away to her garden patch in the backyard by herself. She would garden through dusk and come in with the fireflies for bed. It was good mental relaxation.   climatis in the backyard

As a preteen, I would sneak away barefoot to the swing outside and sway back and forth under the stars. I felt secure looking past the windows and seeing my parents unwinding with the news or a book inside our home. I liked testing the distance with a safety net still in place during those formative years of adolescence. I would dream and grow in that swaying nook.

Enjoy your nooks and nests in life. Share them with loved ones, and keep a few sacred for your heart only. Rejuvenation and Dreams come forth from such places.

 



“The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are His everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

…”for You alone, o Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Psalm 4:8



Little hitchhikers

After a very fun-filled weekend road trip, I managed to get my weary self out the door for a walk. Within a few moments of dragging myself down the street, a little baby caterpillar landed on me. I considered taking him home to show my kiddos, but opted to set him free in the fresh spring grass so he could continue on his way. After all, didn’t our mothers tell us not to pick up hitchhikers?

I reflected on how this bright green caterpillar had clung so tightly to me until I released him. In much the same way, don’t we allow others’ words and comments stick to us? Maybe a taunt from an elementary school classmate still clings to us after all these years? (All of us “Four Eyes” unite!) Perhaps a harsh remark from a spouse or family member lingers even after apologies have been said? These verbal hitchhikers don’t have to come home with us. We can release them.

What if instead we carry compliments or words of encouragement as welcome travelers? Words have lasting power.
All you have to do is observe a woman be told she is strong, brave, kind, a warrior, a truth teller, capable, a shepherd, a gatherer, an encourager, poetic, worthy, loyal, precious, or genuine. Watch the emotion wash over her as her eyes sparkle or tear up. Let the moment sink in so she can absorb this new identity into her repertoire of names she’s collected during her lifetime. Transformation can occur in a few syllables spoken earnestly.

So, my friend, choose your traveling companion wisely. Be wary of little hitchhikers that may weigh you down or cause you harm. Release those names that you have been carrying for too long.

Share your words with othEncourageers with good intention and thoughtful purpose. We never know what word is going to cling to a neighbor, friend, or our own child. One remark can make a huge difference. It can tear down or build up. Choose to edify.

~~Speak with grace~~

Now I’ll be watching for beautiful butterflies that are flying freely because they weren’t hindered in their caterpillar youth.

 

Side-by-Side

mom tackleWhen your kids are little, they are all over you. Literally. A human jungle gym…they climb, writhe, wriggle and squirm all over, covering you with earthy hugs and sticky kisses. They share every single teeny tiny detail of their days even though you were right there navigating it all. They start conversations voluntarily with you.all.the.time.

I remember one of my preschool-aged sons asking me, “Mommy, do you like khaki socks? I like khaki socks.” I responded to his random question and he fired off another one without skipping a beat, “Mommy, do you like blue socks? I like blue socks.” I will spare you the details of this lengthy conversation and remain grateful that he didn’t have full knowledge of a 64-color crayola box at that tender age. Yet I hold dear the memory of that conversation because he was trying to connect with me, exploring things we might both like that mashed us together in his little mind. He wanted us to share every daily experience and talk about it over and over and over again.

When kids start school, all that sharing is spread out among more people…teachers, buddies, and neighborhood friends. You still get a good dose of after-school details, though, and you get conversation starters cued by art projects and smiley-face stamped papers they bring home.

Then your kids have the audacity to grow more. All of a sudden mini-adults are sparking out of them as they navigate the world of middle school and high school. Their minds are extremely busy places and they are doing a lot of internal processing. All of this chaotic brain activity shorts out their verbal processing and those sweet little childish conversations become more like staccato grunts and groans. I have boys, so plenty of bodily noises accompany their one or two-word responses. Although I’ve become quite adept at reading facial expressions and body postures, my mommy-brain is still curious about their experiences in those boys walking with backpacksbusy school hallways and classrooms. I still like to hear in their own words what impacted them in the course of an ordinary day.

I’ve embraced the subtle strategy of the Side-by-Side conversation. Most often this occurs in the car as we are driving to an activity or returning home. After an initial greeting and brief run-down of “how was your day?” type conversation, a natural lull fills the car.  I try to wait patiently while my son decompresses in his own way. Sometimes it’s through music; sometimes it’s a snack. Gradually some wordy tidbits start to fall out. I try to not scoop them up too hastily, but allow them to linger between us…because sometimes those few phrases turn into an avalanche of words. Suddenly I’m hearing a funny story about a new friend or how a teacher brings day-old bakery goodies to class, endearing him to this mass of hungry adolescents.

bedhead boys together on couchDuring this season of March Madness, I join my son on the couch and absorb a litany of sports statistics of his favorite teams. I’ve learned to ask specific questions about a few key players so I have a storyline to follow-up on each game. Sitting side-by-side, my son overlooks my lack of “fervor” at his level and seems to appreciate my tentative participation in his world of sports. We are training together in this new language of ours, connecting through the excitement of buzzer beaters, the disappointments of tough losses, and the shared eye-rolling at inane remarks offered by the color commentator.

These side-by-side moments are indirect and nonthreatening. With our eyes focused ahead on the road or a basketball game, our bodies are little more relaxed and the words come out a little more freely. We are aligned in a mutual activity. Somewhere in the midst of the drive or the time-outs in the game, I pick up nuggets about social interactions that would not have been shared directly in a face-to-face Q & A. I savor these and add them to my mommy collection of these brief moments that weave into the fabric of their childhood.


“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19


I’ve learned that by coming alongside my boys in whatever they are doing or simply making myself present in their spaces, that something beautiful begins to unfold. A few words are batted between us. Sometimes I lob them too far and they miss their target entirely. Sometimes I come too close and they are returned with a solid shot. Timing is delicate. We tiptoe around, exploring neutral territory or trying a humorous diversion. Awkward moments are all too frequent, but we keep trying, side-by-side, because there’s a lot more than khaki socks out there, folks…but at least it’s a place to start.Tacosaurus socks