Category Archives: Harmony

Faithfulness

During this season of Resolutions, dare we explore the concept of Faithfulness? Can we dust it off a bit and revisit what we’ve learned about it over the years? We’ve probably all heard statements such as:

“Stick to something you’ve started.”

“Hang in there when the going gets rough.”

“Keep focused on your goal.”

“Take baby steps toward a larger goal.”

“Put effort in daily to reach your weekly or monthly goal.”

What does this look like in our daily messy lives?

raindrops on windshieldSticking to something faithfully is hard. Some days are rainy and our energy level is low. We tend to be fickle and change our minds about things. It’s easier to rationalize our way out of something than look at the true motivation underlying our initial intentions.

It’s easy to get tangled up in the definition of Faithfulness. It’s personal for each one of us and changes throughout our lifetime. I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve observed or experienced as Faithfulness:

–a young Mom continuing to say “no” to her pleading child imploring for a treat at the checkout stand

–a daughter showing up over and over again to care for her aging parents

–a husband heading out the door to work each day while the wife and kids are home enjoying winter break

–following through on a workout plan by asking a friend to be an accountability partner because the motivation lapses are real, folks

–hearing the same story over and over, yet making eye contact and nodding at your loved one as they share it again

–a spouse doing an unspoken labor of loveboy mopping

–a stepmom helping her stepdaughter fix her hair even though it will make the family late for church

–a child keeping up with his chores

–saying those bedtime prayers with your squirming child when you feel exhausted to the core

–a parent asking a teenage son, “how was your day?” despite hearing the rote response of “fine” week after week

–a tired Dad helping his child with homework after his grueling day at work

–keeping scheduled appointments and checking in on time

–showing up for field trips and class parties for your younger children when the “all shiny and new” experiences with your firstborn have faded away

–making meals that are family favorites but may require some extra effort on your part or that may not be your favorite

–sending a birthday card to a friend rather than posting a quick one-liner on FB

–allowing friends or family  to have their own way of doing things without being judgy; figuring out what is “your way” and being constant in this

–carving out some Quiet Time in midst of the daily Loud and Busy

–following up with a friend who has shared some recent struggles

–being a cheerful giver

“…the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” Psalm 117:2

Faithfulness plateGod is faithful and just. He keeps His promises. Our attempts at Faithfulness may seem feeble as we strive to meet our daily purpose, but He is present and watchful of each little step. We inch along, ever so slowly, bit by bit toward His plan for us.

May the New Year provide us with many opportunities to be full of Faith in gestures big and small.

Fruits of the Spirit   Make-a-plate project

Gentleness

white poinsettiaIt’s the week of Christmas, a time of remembering Christ’s birth and celebrating with one another. Jesus came to us in the most humble and gentle way — as a baby.

Each of us has been around a newborn baby and been enveloped by the gentleness a baby evokes. Our movements slow down. Our voices soften. Our gazes are inevitably drawn in.

This gentleness is what I imagine God wants us to continue using with each other on a daily basis. To meet each other’s gaze and speak softly to one another. To soften our hard edges with one another.



“Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Philippians 4:5



Practicing gentleness may be especially difficult if we get too caught up in the stress of this season’s demands. We encounter long lines at the grocery store, post office, and retail stores. Exhibiting gentleness with the cashier or the harried shopper tapping her foot behind you may take extra effort this week, but this simple act can change someone’s day dramatically if we do.

advent boxOur children have been living the hype for the last couple weeks of school. In the myriad of Christmas programs, classroom parties, and family gatherings, how often are we slowing down to help them savor the moment? One of the ways we’ve tried to do this is by using props that are woven into our Christmas decorations and family routine in December.advent box

We’ve been attempting to do our Advent box each evening as a way to refocus on Jesus as the center of Christmas. In each opening there’s a few pieces of candy and a slip of paper with a suggested activity:

— Read a Christmas book together

— Bake some Christmas cookies

— Snuggle and watch a holiday show

— Do something nice for another family

— Wrap presents together

This year we’ve added Advent notecards to facilitate family discussion into a deeper level, incorporating scripture and a thought-provoking question to ponder. Our youngest likes to hang them up by the fireplace as a visual countdown.

advent cardsadvent cardSeveral years ago a friend gave us a cute container filled with conversation prompts. I incorporated this into our table centerpiece and we take turns drawing from it each night. These simple prompts nudge us to share about Christmas memories, to imagine specific things about the real nativity scene, to contemplate what the wise men talked about on their way to the stable, or to identify our favorite holiday food or song. These simple things cause us to linger a little longer with each other around the table and we often are laughing about what’s been shared as we move on to wash the dishes.

As parents we’ve made a more concerted effort to play games and watch holiday shows during winter break. This takes some extra energy because those to-do lists seem never-ending as we prepare for all of the extra holiday activities. Simply putting these ideas onto paper inside the advent box keeps us moving toward our intentions set earlier in the month. It helps us be gentle with ourselves in the midst of the rush, giving us permission to regroup and refocus with our family, slowing down the pace a bit.

During each of these advent activities, we gather together. We snuggle in beside each other on the couch or make eye contact with each other across the dinner table. As parents we try to add a gentle word or gesture to keep the kiddos on track, reconnecting with them in a light-hearted way.

It’s amazing how a gentle word or touch can impact the family’s overall mood. For seeming like a “meek” Fruit of the Spirit,  Gentleness sure is powerful. How might you use it today in your daily tasks or as you gather with your family?Gentleness plate

 

 

 

 

Fruits of the Spirit    Make-a-Plate Project

Self-control

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

Self-control plate

Self-control is last in this list, but perhaps during this busy season it’s one to settle on for a bit. If we get the tough one out of the way, then we can bask in the more “cheerful” Fruits of the Spirit, right?

Like a distant relative that lives in another state, we don’t visit Self-control as often as we probably should. It’s a bit uncomfortable and requires discipline.

We tend to brush up on our Self-Control when the New Year rolls in, but often it’s mired in shame and regret. Not a pleasant place to dwell. No wonder so many “resolutions” get cast aside before the February calendar page is turned. Self-control is hard.

What if we consider Self-Control as being Other-Centered? If we minimize attention on ourselves, then we have more energy and effort to focus on someone else. When we set some limits for ourselves, we have a little more margin to share with those around us. When we’re less self-absorbed, we have a greater capacity to hear the hurt in someone’s voice. When we are less self-focused, we can more clearly see the need someone else has.

clock on organizational bookThis concept of self-control rings true in many areas of our lives:

Money – if we are “good stewards” of our funds, we have more to share with someone with a pressing need

Time – if we manage our time more efficiently, we are more able to say “yes” to a quiet request for help

Food – if we manage our temptations at the holiday cookie table, we are gifting our New Year’s self with a lighter load to bear when we feel pressured with lifestyle resolutions

Devotions – if we’ve given our day over to the Lord and hidden His word in our hearts, we have greater attunement for unspoken pleas we may encounter throughout our day

coffee mugGifts – if we coach our children to consider what someone else may want, then they may have greater appreciation on Christmas morning with a present they receive. They may share more in the joy of a family member opening a gift they helped choose and wrap. It is a bit more complicated to involve the kids at the wrapping station and a lot more tape gets consumed, but they bear witness to the thought and effort involved in the gift selection and presentation process. Gift-giving becomes more meaningful to them.

The more we bless others and include others, the more our self-absorption gets whittled away. Then we can really see the joys and benefits of self-control emerging. Maybe putting this first actually makes the other Fruits of the Spirit that much sweeter? In what area do you want to give it a try?



“Therefore, prepare your minds for action: be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Christ is revealed.” I Peter 1:13

pretzels

Make-a-plate kit  Fruits of the Spirit project

Lost Kindness

Ever lose something that is valuable to you? Your heart rate quickens, your breathing gets shallow, your mind starts racing as you try to figure out when you last had the item. So very quickly your day suddenly seems to be unraveling as you are overcome with the potential consequences of the Lost possession.

lost debit cardThis happened to me recently when I got to the checkout line and realized my debit card was not in my wallet. I retraced my steps, fervently praying “please let me find it here, Lord” yet my mind was already playing the “what if…?” game, wondering who had found it and what they may have done with it. As I turned the corner, there was my debit card laying smack dab in the middle of the aisle where I had inadvertently dropped it.  I said a quick prayer of thanks, then retrieved my purchases and went on my way. Although I had avoided a negative “what if…” scenario,  it still took a while for my anxiety response to simmer down. Sound familiar?

Today I got a message from my sister-in-law who had been called by our dentist’s office that they had received a call about my lost purse and phone that had been found by a stranger. This was news to me since I hadn’t left the house in a few hours and my purse was on my kitchen desk. hmmm…It turned out to be my mom’s purse which had fallen out of her car door while she was on an errand. She didn’t yet know it was missing. It had been found before she even realized it was Lost.

Instead of having all the anxious responses of “what if…” scenarios, we were able to retrace the Kindness trail of the lost item. We were grateful to the stranger who had picked up the purse and turned it in to the storage office. We were thankful for the lady at the storage office who made several phone calls in an attempt to reach the owner of the lost purse, including a call to my dentist office because there was a reminder card in it.  We were grateful for the dental office staff taking the time to call and email. When Mom retrieved her purse, everything was intact, including her wallet and phone.

So many times we have to experience the anxiety of what’s Lost and wrestle with the angst of being in limbo about a missing possession. Today was a nice reminder of the Kindness of strangers to return something Lost to its rightful owner even before she knew it was missing. A few minutes of Kindness made all the difference…we were filled with thoughts of positive actions and gratitude rather than negative worrying.

In this busy holiday season, may each of us invest a few minutes of Kindness in a stranger’s day, reminding each other that Kindness is not Lost.



“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” II Corinthians 4:6



rainbow in the clouds

 

 

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

Stand In

Sometimes in friendship we are called to Stand In.

When we see a friend struggling, we pause what we’re doing and step into her situation with her. However messy it is, we Stand In beside her. We join her in her moment of distress, coming alongside and being present. Sometimes we Stand In quietly, providing gentle comfort in a time of loss. Other circumstances may call for us to step in with purpose, to take the reins for a while and let her get her bearings. She may need a hug; or she may need space. She may need alone time; or she may need a humorous distraction. When initially faced with a friend’s crisis, we may feel highly uncertain about how to help. This is when we dig deeply into our friendship history, courageously following our instincts and praying for Gprayod’s direction to offer what we can that can help her through this particular difficulty. We cannot take on her struggle or fix it for her, but we can Stand In to help hold her loose threads, supporting her as she gathers herself. Our mere presence states, “I am here with you. You are not alone.”

When we Stand In with a friend, this encourages her to slow down and process what challenge she is facing. She may be grieving a loss that’s expected after a loved one’s illness or she may be facing an unexpected loss that has shaken her foundation. She may be overwhelmed by her own health diagnosis she has just been given. She may be grieving the loss of frayed threads, such as the severing of a marital knot that she thought she would always have, but that came unraveled and can’t be tied back together. She may be grieving the connection that she had with a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; that bond now seems shaky and unpredictable. She may be struggling with a teenager’s rebellious and troublesome choices. Pain and grief have many faces and storylines. We can relate to some situations better than others because we have a common thread in our own personal stories. When friends are in distress, we don’t unload our stories onto them. We can empathize with the feelings they’ve shared. We Stand In; we do not take over.

flowers in the cracksA friend’s struggle is a reminder that we are all vulnerable to disappointment, grief, and despair. It can feel very close and intense, particularly if it mirrors some of our own struggles. Yet it is also an opportunity to love on that friend, to nurture her in ways that help her through her pain. God can use these tender moments to weave friendships even tighter and create beauty where so much anger and doubt has been. He can show us beauty in the cracks of life. It’s not easy to Stand In — to have a magnified view of someone else’s hurt. It’s uncomfortable and messy. It may feel like we “aren’t doing much to help,” but sometimes providing that steadfast presence of authentic support can make it possible for your friend to grasp those loose threads and regain her strength.


 “Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


double acorns on red leaf

How you Stand In will look different from how I do it or how someone else might. Be real. Be yourself. Being authentic will ring true to your friend when you make your gesture of support. Many of us have difficulty accepting help during stressful times, but the genuine specific gestures are somehow easier to accept.

How we Stand In may also look very different from friend to friend. You may be led to send a card or care package to one, but feel compelled to visit another one face to face. Some friends may benefit from long phone calls, thoughtful emails, or encouraging texts. Sometimes you show up and do laundry, bring a meal, or provide rides for her kids to their activities. Other times you lend support by providing a buffer, perhaps being the contact person for a meal train or coordinating outreach from different sources (church, neighbors, work) so that your friend doesn’t have to manage these. Sometimes you sit beside her as she cries and sobs, providing silent solace. You remind her that she is loved; that she is a child of God. You offer tissues…and chocolate (or whatever her go-to comfort is). Essentially, Stand In when she needs you the most — when she’s not even sure herself what she needs. Embrace the relationship. Relinquish your to-do list and act on those intentions of caring for your friend. Those “good intentions” may just be a whisper from the Holy Spirit sharing insight into what she needs.