January always feels like a “do-over” month to me.
New Years Resolutions run rampant and exercise plans loom everywhere! It can be a pressure-filled month to get things squared away. All the while, Christmas is being packed away and school times are resuming. Just when our family had found a great rhythm of sleeping-in and perfecting how to chill… that alarm clock had to get involved again.
I tend to crave simplicity in January, too, as I clean up from the holidays. The impulse to organize and sort things begins stirring within me…(I’m trying to hold off till Spring!)
Ordinary Threads is about the many ways we layer a home, so I wanted to share a few of our January layers… These help lift the fog that hovers over January, while keeping the gems that linger from last month.
All the “togetherness” that happens during the holiday season spills into January for us. We grew accustomed to being with each other A LOT, and so we soak up the hush of winter with books and blankets intertwined on couches in coziness. I love love love this layer…this is how I get books read with my train of thought still intact. All of us in one space; in quiet. hunkered down, (With 4 boys this is a big deal!)
For some reason, the whole family cooks together more this month too. I don’t have a reason for this, but I love it. Again, I think we just stay near to whatever activity is happening in the house. I’ll take the company and clean-up!!
We linger longer and laugh out loud more often. We snuggle and wrestle and give bear hugs at a whim; all that holiday love living on; Makes a Mom Heart so Happy. We aren’t feeling the tug of being outside yet that Spring will lure us to soon enough. Relishing the quiet and coziness all the while we can. The January layers are calm and reflective. They can seem foggy, but they are still rich in content if you let them be. Enjoy January!
He fashions our hearts individually; He considers all our works. Psalm 33:15
Have you picked your “word” for the year yet? Or are you wondering what all the buzz is about to adopt a word for the year?
My social media feed is full of people sharing #onelittleword for 2018. For some reason this makes me a little squirmy. It’s like committing to walk 10 miles in brand new shoes that haven’t been worn and truly lived in yet. I need a little more time to make sure it fits.
I like to gel with my word for a while, often carrying it around with me during the busy months of November & December, test driving it a while. Then when January roars in and I’m still recovering from the holiday surge, I’m able to embrace my word more fully because it feels more like a friend than a forced acquaintance.
All that to say – I’ve got my word for 2018, but I’m savoring it a bit before I’m ready to share it.
I’m also still reminiscing a bit with my word palfrom 2017, gleaning some truths I learned about myself as I focused on it throughout this past year. I’m not quite ready to relinquish it’s friendly presence in my daily thoughts.
“How do you choose your word?” – – – “What do you do with it?”
I’ve only done a “word of the year” the past few years, playing around with this concept in different ways. I think each of us has to figure out what meaning a “word of the year” has for us… or else it feels a little hollow and something else we have to keep up with.
Words are powerful. We can use them in ways that hurt or help. We can inflict them upon others or nurture with them in encouraging tones. Choosing ONE from all the words is a little daunting, isn’t it?
This idea initially intrigued me as a means to be more intentional in a particular area of my life or to use it as an overall attitude focus. I found myself utilizing my #onelittleword throughout the year as a lense to tweak my perspective when I felt stressed or was going through unfamiliar transitions.
Last year my word was RHYTHM. I claimed it to seek out ways to develop a flexible flow to all the ongoing events in my life, but not something that would impose a structured routine that would go awry at the first kink thrown at me. I gave myself permission to consider the rhythms of different seasons in our family life, allowing some things to slide away when other things needed to be more of a focal point.
I started by taking a nerdy stroll through an actual dictionary and cutting out the definition to place on my journal page.
Then I sought out some synonyms to incorporate in the page title, focusing on the strength of this word’s multiple meanings. I began to think about the “strong, regular repeated PATTERNs” in my own life and this gave me direction for a variety of ways to savor the rhythms I’ve established in my home. Rather than see some of our daily chores as monotonous, through this rhythm perspective, I could see them as a way of maintaining a consistent tempo in our daily lives.
We all know that antsy feeling of things being out of balance in our lives, right? Most likely it’s when we’re out of our natural rhythms…maybe a drastic life event has shifted us or we’re at odds in a relationship. The more I sought out ways to nurture a healthy Rhythm in my own personal life, the more capable I was of identifying ways to restore a more steady cadence for the rest of my family.
When stress or time pressures quickened the family pace too fast, each of us felt a heightened pulse of being off-kilter. During these times I tried to hunker down in theWORD and regain my own equilibrium, often by awakening in the wee morning hours before the thrum of the household beat even started. As I Bible Quilted® verses on this theme of Rhythm, I was reminded that even Jesus got up early in the morning and went to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). I clung to the promise of learning “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30 Message version) to navigate turbulent times.
The New Year is a chance to begin anew. It provides fertile ground for change in some area of our lives. Resolutions may fall by the wayside, but to have a topic/theme to focus on for the year seems do-able. As I learned from my word pal, Rhythm, the more we’re able to establish a firm foundation, the more capable we are of navigating the ebb and flow of life a little more graciously. We have a tether to ground us. As we build upon our #onelittlewords year after year, our tethers become stronger. I’m beginning to see the connections of my words strengthen together over time, centering me to face the unknowns of the coming year.
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.
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.
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.
Many 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As 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.
Grandparents 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.
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.
Our 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.
One 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.
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.
The 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?
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.
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.
We can strive to give thanks for the overflow of one season blurring into the next, preparing our hearts one day at a time.
Every morning we have the option to choose JOY and be THANKFUL in the midst of our circumstances. That is easier said than done on any given day. There is a real enemy of our hearts that’s primary focus is to snatch our joy at every opportunity he can.
So I’m confident that this is what happened to my morning as I opened the curtains and saw an amazing sunrise and paused to be thankful… only to then turn and take my boys to school and immediately back my car into my husband truck. You can imagine how my joy quickly dissolved. (Gratefully, I have an amazing gem of a husband.)
Many years ago I tore out an article from a Family Magazine that I have read over and over for 20 years now. It talks about being thankful in ALL circumstances and looking at thepositive even when the situation may seem bleak.
When you have mountains of laundry in front of you…instead of grumbling, it said to be thankful for those loads because it means your family has plenty of warm, clean clothes to wear daily.
When it is time to prepare a meal AGAIN, be thankful that your pantry is well-stocked and your home has many mouths to feed.
It went on to talk about being thankful in washing dishes, yard work, and all the menial tasks that are easy to grumble about when you are in the midst of them. Some of these tasks are a forced “slow down” for us. This can bring its own agitation to the table in a society that travels at a fast-paced sprint. But I have seen a lot of growth in my own life when I take the time to slow down in my days and feel the full impact of the chores I’m steeped in.
Sometimes the slowing down brings am immediate reflection of Joy that I can see. And sometime the slow down is an excruciatingly long test of patience in a lesson that I may need to learn, or it is to stop me and safe-guard my heart until it is clear for me to move on.
The chores of life are daily, but so is the abundance of Joy that the Lord has for us. My prayer for you is that the Lord teach you the secret of being content in every situation, through Him who gives you strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Practicing this in my own life, has brought comfort to my heart in hard seasons, respite to my spirit in exhausting seasons, and Joy unspeakable in the details of Love that God showers on us in all seasons. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart! Psalm 9:1
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.