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Remembrance

We celebrate many anniversary events in our lives. Often what is unspoken are our anniversaries of loss. We all have them, yet we typically don’t collectively mark the occasion. Sometimes the emotional attachments are so poignant and intense it seems too difficult. Yet if we share just a bit, even a funny story…perhaps our grief feels a little lighter and our loved one is tucked into our heart memory just a little more snugly.

RemembranceToday we take a moment to remember our mother-in-law, Kitty. It’s been six years — a speck of time in the grand scheme of things yet so long in a family’s history.

Rather than dwell on all that she’s missed, we remember her spirit at family events. She was ALL IN. She loved the chaos of little boys running all over, digging in sandpiles and leaving their handprints all over her windows. She relished those grubby little bodies crawling into her lap and reading with her. She instilled a love of reading into all of her grandboys. I have fond memories of our firstborn backing up with an armload of books, landing topsy-turvy upon her and being caught with love. She’d exclaim, “Whew!” and they were off, diving into reading adventures together.

She loved well. We strive to pass on her legacy well.

We pray and hope that each of you are able to reflect and share special moments of your loved ones with those around you. Relive a funny story together. Look through old vacation albums or family reunion pictures. Remembrance is an honor and weaves a deeper texture to your family tapestry.

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” — remember that moment in Steel Magnolias? It’s such a great example of the tenacity of the human spirit.

When we come together, we are stronger.

(…and surely that increases the odds someone has Kleenex!)Kitty's beloved dogs


“a time to weep and a time to laugh…” Ecclesiastes 3:4



 

Hot Cocoa Station

hot cocoa timeAs soon as Thanksgiving is tucked away and Holiday decorations are bursting out of our attics ready for display, we set up a Hot Cocoa Station in our homes that our families always enjoys year after year. The beauty of this little spot is that we tend to leave it up past Christmas and New Year’s and let it linger until the winter weather begins to warm up. As a mom, it frees me up from all the prep of making cups and cups of chocolate. And as a kid, it enables them to make something without assistance. (I will step in with younger ones and help with hot water prep). We sometimes throw in some hot apple cider and tea options too. It is fun to have friends and family come over and feel able to” help themselves” to a warm beverage!

cocoa station

Another trick we find MOST handy in both of our kitchens is a Drink Station. Our families have been using this tool for several years now. When you have multiple kids in your home, the last thing you want during “germ” seasons is for them to drink after one another!! And inevitably, as much as I used to try to catch them before their lips hit a cup that was not theirs…the germs had already been shared. YUCK!

Sooooooo, if you feel me on this one, then you might want to set up one of these in your kitchen:drink stationA long tray works perfectly for defining the space. We have been using this drink station in both of our homes for several years now. It has been great for cutting down all those loads of dishes. I was constantly collecting cups from all over the place and decided enough was enough! By defining the spot in your kitchen, all cups are corralled, and I wash them every day or so now because I know whose they are. This is a simple but very effective way to manage your family’s beverages.

Lately, my boys have been using these mason jars that have a number on them. I found them on a clearance rack and assigned each boy a number (birth order is easy to remember), and they look at it as some form of “secret code”! Win! Win! For All!! kids drinks

You can be as creative/practical as you want on your drink station. You match it to the style of your kitchen and make it personal for your family.  Hope this helps the traffic of cups in your kitchen!

“My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

What’s for Dinner??

Every single day we are faced with the dilemma:

“What’s for Dinner??

We’ve each triSlow cooker mealed different menu plans over the years. We’d like to share what works for us…most of the time. I know for me personally that the days I have “a dinner plan” go more smoothly because I can focus my energies elsewhere and tackle the dinner preparations with my designated helper when it’s time to hit the kitchen in the evening.

Menu board ideas are all over Pinterest. I adapted my own a few years ago by combining what appealed to me: flexibility, easy-to-use, and able to be quickly updated for the season.

What's for dinner??

 I used a 12 x 12 scrapbook frame that holds up to 25 pages of paper:

Menu board frame

I loaded it up with scrapbook paper for seasonal background color.seasonal scrapbook paper

I used glue dots to affix tabs for days of the week and mini clothespins to hold menu items. This could be simplified further by using clothespins or mini chalkboards that have days of the week already labeled.

— alphabet stickers for the title: What’s for Dinner??

— a line of ribbon for color

— two mesh index card holders with small chalkboards labeled Entrees and Sides

— cork board attached by spray adhesive; this area gives you a place for extra food cards or new recipe ideas

I made pockets out of folded index cards to hold individual menu items, loosely organized by food group categories. **Adding the page number and name of cookbook for specific recipes is helpful to you later!Menu pockets - entreesMenu pockets - sides

In each category pocket, there is a card with a specific food item. Some have been personalized by the family member that made the card or who is the “author” of the dish.

Menu pockets - fruits

Menu pockets - veggies

My kids take turns being my dinner helper. When we are discussing the menu plan for the week, they each get to pick what they would like to help make for dinner on their helper night. This helps their motivation tremendously!

Menu planning - kid helping

I encourage them to choose an entree and two sides. Since there is only one card for each item, this is an easy way to get a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week.

When I began this project I used paint chips to add a splash of color. I now have blank index cards pre-cut into strips to make additional labels as needed.

Start with your favorite foods and add as you go.

Although I’ve been using this system for years and making a grocery list each week, I just recently had the insight to keep track of weekly menus that have worked for us to use again in the future. #duh!

It takes a bit more time to make a menu plan and coordinated grocery list, but I think it will be worth it next month when I can pull out a weekly menu and head right to the store!  I even did myself a favor and grouped the shopping list according to sections of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, frozen, canned/dry goods) and made a copy to use as a checklist, keeping the original in a menu planning binder.

You can personalize your menu board however you like. Pick the basic elements and streamline to your family’s needs. You can make it as simple or sophisticated as you want.

Menu planning - grocery list
Menu planning & shopping listGive yourself a break and include cards for “Take out,” “Dinner Out” and “Scrap Night” (aka: Leftovers) as well as some simple themes such as “Soup & Sandwich Night” and “Pizza Night.” Adapt what works for you and your family now. You can always tweak it later.

I’m off to “test” my shopping list with 3 boys…I may rip my list in sections and challenge them to see who can locate all their items first. Since I’ve drug them to the store provided them with ample shopping opportunities before, they know to search for store brands and sales items first. They may grumble a bit now, but their future college roommates will be impressed with their grocery skills, right?

apples and pears

fun veggie display



So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6:8



Yes, menu planning is a chore. It does take time and effort. Every once in a while I need a reboot. When I freshen things up, I get a little more enthusiasm behind the process. 

What's for dinner - Jan
January menu board, prepped for the week
What's for dinner - Feb
February menu board ready to prep

Ready, set, go!     Let us hear how YOU are doing!

What's for dinner?? menu board update
February menu board, prepped for the week

 

Legacy

 

quilts

 

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

A neighbor that our family holds dear in our hearts just said goodbye to a mother of 90 years. Such a good, long life, but still hard to lose at any age, always.

As he reflected on his mother, this is what I heard:handpicked

she loved her children dearly

she worked hard in life

she poured into her family

she stood up for us, and stood by us in every circumstance

she knew how to make each person feel important; special

I never met this woman, but I listened to this son’s heartfelt sentiments and I began to think…

Feelings trump Actions a lot of the time. The memory bank cements the details with the years added; but the feelings infused to the spirit stay long and hard in our minds. Our heartstrings are attached to those feelings.

This is good news to the daily grind of life!! But a strong, powerful and important lesson to pay attention to…

whatever the event, circumstance or situation, be it good, beautiful or ugly; you can CHOOSE to end each well. There is an enemy that would really like to keep this a secret, but oh what a great Godly weapon against such one!!!

 

teacup

Listen: God can restore anything when we choose to give to to Him. Every time that we show LOVE, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL... we are ending it well. The people around you- Family, Friends, Strangers, God-orchestrated People will remember how they felt in your presence long after any event or meeting.

I know that I strive to point to the Lord with my life. I want to look like a big, beautiful, messed-up, imperfect, redeemed, restored person that ended things well because the Lord showed me how. And then that irritating enemy can’t replay any tapes to confuse me later, because God stops him, and reminds me how we ended even the hardest things in life well; together.

reflection

 

Embrace every moment you’re given. Time flies and moments are fleeting, but as you give the very best of you,  then our Lord can use that to be part of your legacy.

Mercy Me has a song called “In the Blink of an Eye”

 

 

shamrock

Here are parts of our Legacy:

This shamrock plant is in my house and my sister-in-law’s because it reminds us of our mother-in-law who loved this plant. We both have quilts that go back to great-grandparents in our lives that we wrap our children in. We share stories about loved ones that have gone on before us, and we cook with the recipes of cherished women in our past. All of these simple things implant feelings on our hearts; they are an evolving legacy…

Each transition that we take hold of will add another layer of texture to our lives and our children’s memories of home.

 

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children. Psalm 103:17

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

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