Category Archives: Words

Patience…a little at a time

Patience plateWhen my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.

As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.

I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.binoculars

Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.

To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.

crayons

I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!

Coffee cakesAnother friend of mine likes to bake.

I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.

For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.

one foot in front of the otherPerhaps in the heat of the moment, you’re a “count to 10” person…or a “3 deep breaths” type?

The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.



“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11



 

Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot.  Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.

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

Fruits of the Spirit

Sometimes you don’t know when a simple craft activity is going to have a big impact. You’re just trying to keep those little people in your house engaged in something productive so they aren’t tearing the house apart!

Several years ago I led my boys through one of those Make-a-Plate kit projects and then actually managed to get it mailed. Some days the simple completion of a task is a major accomplishment, right, busy Mommas?” Since we were working on table manners and talking about how the kids could show kindness at school, I chose the Fruits of the Spirit verse and let them pick which concept they wanted to illustrate. Rainbows, trees, and stick figures emerged as those wriggling bodies slowed down to color and carefully write out these powerful words.



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

Fruit of the Spirit plate

We were all excited to receive the package of our completed plates! Each week we would choose one Fruit of the Spirit  to be our focus. We set that plate on a stand as a colorful reminder as we passed by it throughout the day. At dinnertime we enjoyed hearing about the gestures the boys made with friends, teachers, and soccer teammates to show that particular character trait. As parents, we shared examples from our workdays or stories from our childhood. Sometimes we used the plates as ice breakers for teaching moments as we redirected boyish antics at the table. When setting the table, we often shared knowing looks with each other as we placed a certain plate in front of a specific person, acknowledging “he sure needs a little extra self-control tonight” or “she needs some PEACE today.”

Fruits of the Spirit plates - devotional

When we signed up to go on a mission trip with our church and were asked to share a family devotion, we took our plates on the road — literally traveling 2,000 miles roundtrip to visit a children’s home in Mexico. We used the plates to illustrate our story of trying to put the Fruits of the Spirit into action in our daily family life. We helped lead the craft activity for those children to make their own plates. Many kids chose the phrase “Dios es Amor” = “God is love.”

Although we weren’t present when the Children’s Home received their shipment of plates, we Fruits of the Spirit platesheard it was a time of great JOY as these children received something tangible with their names and drawings featured. The following year our family returned to the same Children’s Home and we saw how much these plates were being used and treasured by children who had little of their own.

When we returned home from the mission trip, we made a poster to share at our local school and had another chance to share the Fruits of the Spirit in the context of a mission trip report. Several of the students were unfamiliar with the verse, but it became “real” to them when they passed the plates around during show-and-tell.
Fruits of the Spirit - sharing at schoolI was humbled as I realized how God had created an outreach of ministry from one small family project. Our family’s craft activity was shared with our church’s mission team families, about 100 Mexican children separated from their own families and then again locally with children at our sons’ classes at school. God is faithful. He reveals His GOODNESS to us through our small actions that He uses in big ways for His glory.

Fruits of the Spirit plates - missionsFruits of the Spirit plates - loveFruits of the Spirit plate - Jesus me ama

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?

 

 

 

 

Words

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet for the soul;

healing for the bones.”  Proverbs 16:24


celebrate todayWe know that God created the universe with words, and Jesus healed with words. We learned in our upbringing that our words of prayer overcome evil. We were read scriptures about sowing words:  “the seed is the Word of God” Luke 8:11. We know by experience that words build faith or doubt; they are sometimes subtle, but so powerful. And of course they can bring joy or pain to our day in a split second, changing the course of how we feel or act.

Last week we decided to walk through our homes, just out of curiosity, and write down all the words we have on our walls, tables, frames, etc. Wow! This was a great exercise: you should try it! It took just a few minutes, but it showed us something interesting. We have wall art with words painted, small rocks with words etched in, pillows with words stamped, blankets with words stitched, letters that symbolize initials in our families. Once we had our lists of words constructed, we began to see themes emerge that we never recognized! In fact, we both gravitate toward this layer of our home, and some of our rooms were missing that layer. The dining room was void of any words. This was quickly remedied as we borrowed a few items from other spaces, and now, as we are sitting at that table, we see words of hope, of family, and of love. It is subtle, but it makes us smile.

peace

The word Peace is in a boys’ game room that is anything but peaceful!! It was hung during a season of raising 3 babies when it was desperately needed as a visual for the momma. It hangs a little crooked, yet there is no way we want it straightened. It still brings calmness to a crazy family space when we see it; and it reminds us of how faithful the Lord has been to us through thick and thin. One word can change an atmosphere. One word can adjust a momma’s attitude and that, dear friends, can make a difference for the whole family dynamic.

We build up our children each day with words of affirmation, pouring love into those sweet spirits.  We sometimes have to ask our family for a “do-over”  — for words that came out wrong. We pray out loud with them to etch those words on their hearts. We write them silly notes and tuck them places; only to discover they sometimes cherish them and place them under pillows or in special boxes to save and look at over and over. Words are full of Life.

If this is a layer of your home that seems meaningful to you, then take a stroll through your rooms and see what you discover. It is a thread that you weave throughout the spaces that your loved ones walk. Enjoy the journey.cropped-IMG_2607.jpg