“Tell me a story”

Once upon a time I was creative, artistic, and spontaneous, and yet when bedtime happened and my children said, “Mommy, tell me a story”, I froze.  My mind went haywire for no known reason other than I was tired and might have “small” doses of perfectionism I’m working through! img_2032

These “surprise” requests became more frequent so I devised my plan. What happened next is something I could not foresee or imagine; it has been pure joy.

I started off by saying that this story will not have an ending, it will continue in layers, that I will share a small chapter each time and that we all would have a part in the story. And then I was off! (Pretty much winging it!!)

I introduced characters a few at a time. And made up stories of many fun-filled activities that they do in their backyard. The boys were captivated; questions started flying, along with their imaginations.

img_3708“What color is Swift the dog?”

“How many fat cats live up in the tree?”

“Where does Sammy Squirrel hide his nuts, and who does he share them with?” and on and on the questions sparked. img_3709

I began thinking up story plots during the day as I watched life experiences play out in my boys lives. A simple story gave room for so much more!

sweet, secure times at sleep, focused parent time poured out, imaginations explored, ending the day on such a beautiful note, sealing wonderful memories of our story times together.

My older sons began writing out their own story plots off of our ongoing “book”. My younger ones started drawing pictures of our characters that we had created with words. One son dabbled in comic-strip approach and then shared it with the family.

Self-esteem boosts ALL because of the bedtime story. (And teeth got brushed faster because they wanted to make sure there was time for “our story”) img_2323

Stories are a part of our legacy. We tell and re-tell stories of family events, special reasons why each individual is dear to the family and moments that brought us to belly laughs. And then we create stories together; silly ones, happy ones, ones where giggles abound and seal that sweet bedtime into something sacred.  

img_1796If you have not begun your story, don’t trip over perfect and planned,  like I once  did. Jump in with both feet! If you don’t know how to begin, start with “Once upon a time…” Sweet dreams for all.

A Nature Scavenger Hunt!

 

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Every Fall,  my boys and I watch eagerly for the first leaves to begin turning. As the magnificent watercolor display of foliage transforms our street, we get ready for our nature scavenger hunt! Since I have all sons, there is a deep internal need to have a walking stick in hand. This is my 5th year, so I now have a spot in the garage where our family walking sticks park! Some are painted, others carved into, and mine might have a few sparkles added…I’m the ONLY  girl remember.  We prepare brown lunch bags for our treasure hunt. Each has the list and we have our own marker to check off the boxes as we go. For my littlest one, I draw the picture instead of the word so that he has ownership of checking his boxes too. img_2253

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We have the best time stomping around our neighborhood! We help one another, we become competitive in the hunt and we just enjoy the process of the adventure. When we feel that we have had enough of it, we head home to size up our treasures. This part has evolved for us through the years.img_2258 Each boy gets a tray and pours the contents of his bag on to it. We take pictures of their trays and then decide which one or two items could be brought into the home for part of a table display. 

It makes for a memorable family tradition. If you need a starter list for your scavenger hunt, I’ve got a great one to whet your appetite for the hunt! img_2257

 

 

 

 

Copy this list on bags for each participant and make sure they have their own marker to check off their finds.

NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT

something fuzzy              img_2590

2 kinds of seeds

2 pieces of litter

something straight

something smooth

something round

something rough

2 types of leaves

something that makes noise

a chewed leaf

a beautiful rock     img_2252

a pinecone

something green

a stick

an acorn

a treasure


 

Margins

the bookAre you a bookworm like me?  Our family is full of avid readers and books populate every region of our house. Books have even inspired some Halloween costumes. We devour books of every flavor and struggle to put them down for mealtimes or to turn out the lights at night. When we settle into the couch together with our favorite books, we focus on the words. We dive into plot lines, soaking up the 12-point font as quickly as we can.

What if we paid attention to the margins as much as the parade of words lining themselves into sentences and adorning themselves with perky punctuation? What if we tuned into the space surrounding those sentences that are building themselves into paragraph blocks?

Our eyes fly from the bottom of one page over the valley of the spine and onto the top of the following page without a second glance. We turn page after page to catch the next stream of letters without appreciation for the blank space that provides a landing spot for our greedy fingers.

Yet…what if that margin was not there? Letters would fuse into unintelligible gobbledygook. We wouldn’t know where one word stops and another launches. Clever ideas and witty phrases would merge into an alphabet hodgepodge, lost in a sea of black type. That overlooked w h i t e s p a c e provides a backdrop for those colorful characters that tell our beloved stories. Without margins and whitespace, it’s just a blur of ink on some crisp paper bound together and tucked into a colorful jacket.

Children's books

Margin is important. We need it to make sense of our stories… to give us a border between things.



Margin is

the whitespace that frames

the text of our lives.



Without margin we would merge into each other and all over the place. Margin helps provide boundaries in the messiness of life. Margin gives us a defined perimeter — a pause before we turn toward our next activity. We often don’t stop to consider how much —or how little— margin we actually have. Our borders get blurry sometimes.

Margin is the “amount by which a thing is won or falls short” or the “amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety.” It’s a cushion to lean into. How often do we hurtle from one thing to another with little margin for error? Margin can make the difference between success or failure. It can tip the balance toward a more favorable outcome.

Margin matters. 

Our personal margin varies throughout different phases of our lives. In some busy seasons, our lives might feel like a well-worn novel full of adventure and action. The pace is fast and furious. We’re caught up in drama and focused on the end result. Our margins feel cramped and narrow.

Fox in Socks

During slower seasons or treasured vacation getaways, we may have more “picture book” moments. We have time to enjoy the artistic balance between witty rhymes and colorful illustrations in our stories. In  the lull of leisure, our margin expands and the beat of our storyline becomes more vibrant.

Later in  life, we may develop a large-print perspective:  we discover more space around  words and appreciate the friendliness of a wider margin that gives us more time to reflect on our story…or to listen more closely to someone else’s.

reflection

Whatever our season, can we pause to embrace margin — to acknowledge its protective features?

Margin provides us with a soft buffer against the significant events and plot twists of life. It gives us some recovery time to process our stories.

boy reading on bench

 

Every little bookworm could benefit from that, don’t you think?

 

 

Something Good

muddy toes

Do you trip over, or treasure interruptions? The way you perceive something will determine a lot about the outcome. An interruption is usually inconvenient, sometimes messy, and never on the checklist of to- dos. I wonder if I miss some beautiful, fulfilling, messy gifts because I didn’t like the wrapping. To find out if this was indeed true, I conducted a little experiment for myself. It went like this:  
I started my day with the usual list of tasks; wrote them all down and even starred the priorities. After I felt satisfied, I released half of them to another day… which means I had more than enough time to finish the few left. This felt foreign, but I purposed to leave room for God to really move. And He did.
Richer conversations, opportunities to help people, moments to reflect on God’s amazing creations, and a most surprising one: rest. My checklist is not as tidy these days, but my heart is thriving as I walk it out with the Lord. Give it a try! You will not regret it one bit.

 

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The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.  Psalm 85:12
            muddy warriors                                           I chose to treasure the interruption of this messy crew that arrived at the back door right at a meal time. Our food got cold; but the squeals of delight as I hosed them down still ring sweet in my ears. Worth it.

 

 

Closing the Gap

When generations come together, beautiful connections are made.

In the small Kansas town we moved from last year, we left a web of connections in our wake. During our 16 years in that community, we started our own little family and also “grew” an extended family. Although we still didn’t have relatives within 200 miles, we felt like we were severing family ties when we pulled out of town with Uhaul trailers dangling behind us.

soccer sidelineThese bonds didn’t occur overnight. We wove them over time through snatches of conversation on soccer sidelines, volunteering at school events, working in the community, visiting with neighbors, and serving alongside others at church. Since our children didn’t have grandparents nearby, we crafted some of our own through repeat connections with people in our community.

A dear lady in our church always greeted us with a warm smile and thoughtful questions about our family’s activities. Typically I’d have one child on my hip and another boy tugging on my arm, but slowing down to visit with this generous lady gave me an internal boost. We exchanged notes in the mail occasionally and she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner one year — a special treat for all of us without our “other” family around.

Thanksgiving guest

Another year we incorporated Acts of Kindness into our advent activities and serenaded a neighbor lady down the street. She reciprocated with holiday goodies and a beaming smile.

Christmas carol

She added a watchful gaze and a friendly wave as my boys trudged  by her house to school day after day, year after busy year. My youngest son developed a special connection with her, becoming her handy helper for various little tasks she needed from time to time. She got to share her stories with an enthusiastic listener who wore curiosity on his sleeve like a badge of honor.

These interactions unfolded naturally over time; they weren’t forced or felt like an obligation. Typically they occurred through seasonal shifts or holiday overflow of family activities. Somehow these brief interludes closed a gap for us. They weren’t quite a substitution for our “Family Tree” people, but offered a soft tether of connection in our chosen community.

Often I was the one behind the camera, orchestrating the logistics, yet I got to observe the faces of the young and old. I witnessed an echo of mutual admiration pass between them. Simple gestures –young hands carrying small treasures for elderly neighbors or weathered hands offering treats to eager boys — bridged the generational gap, pulling each closer. Something quietly slipped into place during these encounters; a sense of belonging and purpose emerged that wasn’t present before.

Now we’re on the lookout for potential opportunities in our new neighborhood, trying to be open to possibilities around us. Meanwhile we’re enjoying increased contact with our own extended family once again, knitting ourselves into deeper family grooves.
two generations' hands

We dabbled a bit recently by participating in a craft activity with a small group of seniors. Hands of different generations joined together in common purpose reflects such a beautiful collaboration, closing the gap of all the years in between.


“Live in harmony with one another…” Romans 12:16


A brief visit here or a quick craft there…you never know where you’ll discover a new “family member” to add to your nest.

Striving to Become Unnecessary

 

family

I was solo-parenting on a Saturday that was jam-packed with soccer games for all four boys. My husband was at work and I had rallied and was ready for the daunting task of transport, snack-prep, hands-on game cheering, after-game breakdown and car loading… times four!

soccer-day

The day sailed smoothly along. It was like a well oiled machine; fluid movement, happy boys, proud mom at the feeling of success. At the last game of the day as my 7-year-old son and I were weaving through the parking lot headed for his field, and I was once again in this day lugging wagon, water jugs, balls, blankets, and chairs, I found myself a little more weary than the first round hours earlier. My son, a few feet ahead of me turns back and says, “I’ll run ahead, Mom. You can just meet me there. It’s really okay because you’re not that necessary“.

Ouch. Sucker punch to my gut.

He must have seen me wince because he quickly added, “Mom, you know I’ll always love you; I’ll see you there”.

I forced a smile. Once I got my bearings, this is what my take-away from that moment was…it was hard, but truth… What am I really trying to accomplish each day that I walk through with my children? Isn’t the end result of childhood for my part to become unnecessary“?

Wow, that’s hard to grasp. It sounds wrong; like I don’t want that at all! But then I remembered my son’s next statement, “you know I’ll always love you”. And really, I don’t want all my children to grow into adults and be fully dependent on my husband and I. We strive to give them life skills so they will be well-rounded independent men.

love-holding“Unnecessary” is a hard word to accept. For a little kid, a parent is very necessary for survival!! So I thought through it and have decided that it is really true; I am striving to become unnecessary. It’s my parent job, but I love that second part! If I can give them all they need to do life well without me one day, but also infuse a deep love within them,  then I will get to see them turn back to honor love amongst us. And my day will be complete.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.   -Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

 

 

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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