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“…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


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


door with leaf wreathDoors are a means of access to our homes, the entry point for family, friends, and neighbors. Often a front door is the first glimpse of the household it represents. Sometimes it’s worn and well-loved. Little nose smudges and fingerprint smears on the door panes greet you. Remnants of the previous holiday’s decorations may linger, left in the midst of more pressing activities. The raucous sounds of children’s voices and footsteps are heard before you even ring the doorbell. Lively interactions await you here.

Sometimes the front door is new and fresh, accompanied by a bright welcome mat placed just so. Potted plants sit flanking the door. This may be the “starter home” of a young couple who is quick to answer the door, eager to welcome their first housegudoor - magnoliaests.

Another door may seem utilitarian and sturdy, only a security peephole is visible. A small dog yaps to warn its older owner of someone at the threshold. Your visit here may be the highlight of this person’s day since this door no longer gets the traffic it once did in its younger days.

Doors are made of simple building materials yet represent so much more to those that live behind them. Doors offer security, a sense of protection from the outside world.

When you are invited through a door, there’s any underlying message of welcome. An open door communicates that you are sharing yourself with others: “this is us, you’re welcome here.”

door - give thanks

Doors within our homes provide privacy as well as define our individual spaces. The more doors between you and the outside world, the more you feel “tucked in.” Doors provide comfort, a sense of belonging: “this is our space.” Sometimes a door can provide a boundary between you and another family member if you need an additional buffer. Family members communicate their level of openness in how they leave their doors – wide open, ajar, or closed? doorknob

Much can also be communicated by how you leave a room. Do we close the door gently, sealing in those sweet experiences just shared? Or do we leave with a harsh slam – “I can’t handle you right now!” type of gesture? This may ebb and flow through different developmental phases of our family life.

As parents we decide who comes in and out of our doors, showing our children how to develop discernment regarding who gains entrance into our homes and preparing them for having doors of their own one day. Parents help set healthy limits and reasonable levels of accessibility. During the toddler years, doors open and shut a lot, but under our supervision. School-aged children may have friends drop by, knocking eagerly to see if someone can come out to play. Later on, the doors are often closing behind teens as they go off with friends.

morning hug

A door also represents the launching of our family each day. With my oldest it’s a quick hug as he heads out the door on his own. Few words are exchanged early in the morning with this one, but the hug at the door is a brief connection. With my middle son I step out on the porch with him, sharing a few quiet moments sitting together on the bench before he gets on the bus. Lately we’ve been talking about how my head can now rest easily on his shoulder when not so long ago his head rested on my shoulder. Lastly, my youngest and I play a little catch with his football, often including neighbor kids as they wait for the bus. I’ve noticed the bus driver’s wave is a bit more enthusiastic on the days the boys are huffing and puffing as they climb aboard.?

Each of these small moments is a way to open the doors of children’s hearts, to help them be a little more steady as they venture into their school day. Perhaps this extra boost will allow them to impact someone else’s day in a positive way.

“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep…I am the door, whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:7

open door with doorstop

Jesus is THE DOOR and is open for all of us. All of the time.

Finding “pasture” is discovering our sphere of influence in our families and community — one person at a time; one moment at a time.

How well are we showing our accessibility to others? In this season of holiday bustle, who can we welcome through our doors? Whose door do we need to visit to extend a special, much-needed blessing?



House to Home

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Isaiah 48:17

A Home means therthe pathe are people in it, and there is love, security and memories created within that structure.  A House transforms into a Home when layers are added.

When I walk through our Home, I add layers by what I do. As I grow older, I am more purposeful in my actions. There is no right from wrong, too much, too little, because our Lord made each of us uniquely. There should never be guilt associated either. However you choose to layer your Home will be perfect if it’s done with a pure heart.

Many of the layers I add to my Home are done simply because I like them. It’s what I’m drawn to and fits my personality. Other layers are added as I watch my family; their reactions and desires. Layers for a Home can be found in sight, sense, smell, touch, etc.

I light candles because I love the scent and the warm flicker.

I use lamps as indirect lighting because it creates a peaceful, calm atmosphere.

I open curtains to start our day, and then close them at dusk to signal rest for our Home.

I have either flowers, a plant, leaves and acorns or something”alive” from outside in the Home to bring nature in.

readingI hug each member of our family and tell them I love them daily.

I bake in our Home so the smells of yumminess drift through the rooms.

I lay books, journals, newspapers and magazines on table tops to encourage the refreshment of reading, writing and stillness.

I place pictures of special moments in sight so they can enrich our memories.

I set a basket of soft blankets in our living room so that everyone can snuggle and stay longer.

These are not amazing things that I have discovered. I never even thought about any of them until recently. But once I put some thought to them, it brought joy to my heart. Layering your Home isn’t about how long the checklist can be. You already have layers in your Home just by being you.

Layer for you; how God designed you. Then Layer for family; each one unique. This will create a Home that is rich and full of Life.

As our blog shares more about the layers we love, please note: some will speak to your heart more than others. And some will be that tug from our Lord, nudging you to try them for yourself. A few will be for remembrance of childhood or loved ones. And absolutely none of them are to make any of us feel inadequate. Layers are used to enrich our Homes; a few, or many, depends entirely on the family and God’s design.





Shifting Seasons

We all have these shifting seasons throughout our lives. They are sometimes smooth, while rocky at other times. None of us are exempt from the effects of both. In each season, I find myself looking for ways to be grounded in the Lord. It’s quite easy when the forecast is sunny. The blessings are flowing, the schedules are clicking, the famicloudsly is in harmony and everyone’s health is stellar. This is when my devotional time comes easily and my prayers are full of thankfulness. In these moments I feel
very put together. I LOVE this time of year!

But as I reflect back a few years ago as I was rocking my first son, the feelings were of awe, but also exhaustion. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that my season was permanently shifting as I rocked that sweet boy. I went from a very contained and orderly lifestyle into unknown territory. So I struggled with how to stay close to God. I mourned my quiet-times with Him. This is something that doesn’t just happen with new mothers, this touches all women in differing seasons. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I was “just me;” not attached to this new little one. I then realized this was the new normal and I was forever attached by heart.  So as this started to sink in, I thought that if I could just have some quiet-time once more with the Lord then I could hold it all together. This is when something peculiar happened. I didn’t get it right away, but I sure do now, and I want to pass it on to you

This voice of guilt and despair came crashing into my thoughts. When I felt broken and weary from late-night feedings, household chores, church activities, etc., that voice would grow louder and yell thoughts like: “Not trusting!” “You’re failing!” “This is too much for you!” I would be too tired some days to read a Bible verse, or look at a devotional book. Sleep always won, and the voice of failure would too. So I want you to hear me say that none of that is from the Lord. I found this spot so consky through structurefusing; I was in love with my new baby, but mourning my individuality. I wasn’t looking for a way out; I just wanted to go from survive to thrive again.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

And so the Lord began to bring clarity to my thoughts…I began to sing praise songs out loud when holding my child. This calmed the baby, soothed my heart, and brought delight to my Heavenly Father. I placed scripture on the walls of our home, since I felt too weak to lift a Bible some days. I saw the Word of Life across my house (post-it notes totally count!). I reached out and asked some cherished friends for prayer support in this season. Please don’t listen to that voice of shame when you reflect on a way you may have behaved in the exhaustion. Don’t let the critical thoughts creep in and say you haven’t done enough. Our Lord will redeem and restore the time; He is not the voice of condemnation. And He will stand in those gaps that we cannot fill, that we are not meant to fill because we were not designed to be self-sufficient. We were made to walk beside Him, which is such a beautiful honor; such release if we can ever wrap our minds around it.sunset over house

The season shifted, and I now have my boys watching all that I do. I still may not have too many coherent thoughts in the noise of our home, but I have a Bible and that devo book by a chair in the living room. And I have given myself permission to not mentally record how often I read from them. However, I do find myself reading small glimpses in the middle of our crazy lifestyle. My children see me pick them up and look at them. Some days are so loud that I just hold that Bible while interacting with a son. I find myself returning more and more as I draw strength and peace from our Lord. I taped a prayer calendar inside my medicine cabinet, and I pray each day’s word over my family while brushing my teeth! This counts, and it works because there is power in prayer. A while back I also battled the voice of guilt on the topic of Bible Studies. If you have an opportunity and a desire, then by all means go! It will bless your socks off!! However, if you are in that season that makes it impossible, then don’t allow yourself to be labeled a failure; that is most assuredly not of our Lord. There is God-time in pushing a stroller through the neighborhood and taking in the beauty of the day. There is God-time in taking a nap with your young one and stopping to listen to them breathe in the silence. And there is God-time in Legos, coloring, story books and - golden streak

May we behold the beauty of this great King in the daily routines of our life.  (Meka)

Do not let the negative steal your days as you walk them out with Jesus. Or society invade your thoughts on right from wrong. Each day we have the opportunity to reach out to our God who is extending His hand for us always. Praise, pray, love, and honor;  personalize them for yourself  in each season that you walk into.



Words in our Home

The words we speak in our homes are so powerful. Words can be spoken in a way that edify and result in strengthening the connections we have with one another. Or our words can tear down and fray those tender threads that link us to our loved ones.

Words within a family carry underlying messages:

“I know you.” “You are meaningful to me.”
“I want to continue our story together.”
“We have something shared that’s unique to us.”

Not only the content, but the tone conveys so much….are we communicating warmth? criticism? rejection? belonging? This is a daily struggle. I have to be intentional DAILY in my choice of words, my timing, and especially my tone of voice. The words we have posted throughout our homes are as much for us as parents as they are for our children. They are reminders to maintain the peace, to speak truth, to be kind.

there's no place like home
“there’s no place like home”

When we think about the “tapes” in our heads from our own childhood, what do we hear? Think back to those tender junior high lunch encounters, those rowdy high school band trips, those tension-filled college interviews. How many of those events had a word or phrase etched into the memory? How many of these were more negative than positive because it felt seared into us at the time?

The lines repeated to us the most and grooved into us are most likely from our closest family members and carved in deeply during intense interactions filled with highly charged emotions. What are we as parents instilling in our children’s heads? What tracks are we laying down? When our child is in a tough spot, does our voice pop in with an encouraging tone “you’ve got this!” or a negative tug “what did you do NOW?” Home is where we practice our words and reactions with one another. It’s where the training ground is for communication.

My husband and I have been working toward fostering a ‘no criticism’ buffer around our dinner table, redirecting and reminding our sons to rephrase negative statements they make to one another. Recently, we capitalized on a sermon we heard about not using a filter of negativity with one another. The pastor’s message was about how much we “filter” over our interactions, not being true and genuine, often putting a negative spin on others to cast ourselves in a better light. Since we heard this message as a family, I made a #nofilter reminder sign and place it in the center of our table. When this reminder was first invoked, my #nofilteroldest son was particularly quiet throughout the meal. My middle son noticed this and complimented his brother on respecting the #nofilter rather than make critical comments to correct his younger siblings’ stories. We acknowledged both of their efforts and moved on, not dwelling on it. It’s a little reminder with a powerful impact: this time and place is a protected space to be yourself

The family dinner table is a small zone to cover, but so far seems manageable. It creates a safe zone when we all come together for a meal, especially if we’ve been scattered in different directions throughout a busy day. This safety zone invites us to linger a little longer over a meal because feelings aren’t being hurt by inadvertent comments or direct put-downs. It’s slowly becoming a family norm so we as parents don’t have to police the verbal barbs quite so much.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

One night shortly after starting this new routine, I served baked apples as a fall treat. I suggested to my youngest, who was my dinner helper, to come up with a quick family game. He chose “Apples to Apples” to coincide with our dinner. We did a 10-minute round of the game, which ended in a greater sense of family closeness and much laughter at my husband’s expense. (Now we have a new family catch phrase “Glitter hands!” that we can use as a tension breaker, but that’s another story!) I think I had more energy to prolong the dinner into a family activity because we hadn’t been refereeing negativity. It’s a simple shift in a specific family routine that hopefully will gradually extend into other interactions.

Where might your #nofilter zone be? At your dinner table? In the car? At bedtime? During school drop-off? The 30-minutes right after a child’s sporting event?