Tuned In

Each year it seems to get here faster than ever: Thanksgiving — the unofficial kickoff of the holiday hoopla. Friends and family are already jockeying schedules to include feasting, football, Black Friday shopping and holiday light displays. We are in the thick of it, too. Each year we talk about slowing it down, but we tend to pack a lot in even when we aren’t trying.red barn in ColoradoLast year we did a mini-vacation in Colorado during Thanksgiving break. Just our little family of five…and all kinds of random winter gear stashed into our car. It took a couple of days to recover from the road trip, adjust to the altitude, and get our local bearings. We put aside electronics and went for long walks in the snow. We spent a lazy day on the couch with a stack of library books. Another day we took an adventurous snowmobile ride. Evenings unfolded easily into family game nights or classic movie marathons including “Mary Poppins,” “Big,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” We ate pie for dinner and had a “family favorites” spread on Thanksgiving, enjoying a relaxed pace and simple expectations.walk in the snowOur boys learned to ski. We learned that having a day together while they were enjoying a last day on the slopes was The Best. #duh. The kids had tales to tell and we had the energy to really listen to their stories: Tuned in. That feeling of having our hearts aligned together as a family and being tuned in to each other…that was what we were truly thankful for…a respite from the “busy” of life and a chance to glimpse each other in a deeper way.snow on pine tree

All that other stuff happens and the to-do lists get “done enough” eventually, but it was so refreshing to feel like we had tuned in to our underlying family connections, re-centering our focus so that we could enter into the holidays with more grace. As the busy season is fast approaching, I’m wondering how we can tune in to one another again because that is the kind of tradition that I’d like to keep…oh, and pie-for-dinner, of course.



“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4



Family plate

Doors

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.

shammrock

 

 

 

Beauty in Brokenness

fallen tree in woodsWe often shy away from others when we feel broken, less than our usual self. We hide away, tucking into those potent negative thoughts and allowing them to fester. What if this brokenness, though, is what allows us to draw closer to God? What if it’s part of God’s design to allow this reminder of our humanness and our lack of control over our earthly circumstances? That sounds deep, doesn’t it? Yet it has a genius simplicity to it — a simple message to return to God for His guidance in our daily walk…on our good days and our not-so-good days.

“Abide in Me, as I also will abide in you.” John 15:4

Throughout His Word, God sends us messages of assurance, encouraging us to turn to Him. He wants us to start fresh with Him each day, to give us “daily bread” — relying on Him for what the day holds for us, allowing Him to unfold His beauty and bounty in HIS way. To focus on today, not tomorrow — this surrender is so hard because we have to admit that we cannot do it alone.tree fallenSometimes we have to experience brokenness to become stronger. We have to acknowledge our weakness and examine our inner self to get through a rough patch. We have to hunker down and figure out how to cling to God’s mercy in difficult times. In the midst of burrowing into our brokenness, we can discover His truths for us and also the grace to accept help out of our mess.

There’s a poignant beauty in brokenness. A fallen tree provides a glimpse of what’s inside — the intricacy within, the striations in the bark, the growth patterns…just as a time of brokenness in our lives prompts us to slow down, to look at where we’ve been, and how we’ve grown or gone astray. Sometimes we have to pass through the grit of brokenness to find the hope of healing.fallen tree

A fallen tree provides us with a fresh perspective. It is no longer towering above where we can’t reach, but it’s now able to be climbed and investigated in minute detail. What was once unattainable is now conquerable…we are able to overcome it because of its brokenness. This hulking timber that was once so majestically tall is now accessible to all the critters on the ground below, providing shelter, refuge, and even entertainment. Squirrels scamper. Children delighfallen logt in walking down the strong trunk, balancing their little bodies and feeling empowered when they make it across. In its fallen state, the broken tree can provide a quiet interlude for families to stop and rest, for parents to lean in together while children explore.

We can sometimes overlook beauty in the Fallen because of our hurry to move on, to get ahead. A pile of fallen leaves is a collection of color and texture, a crunchy sound on a morning walk yet also softening of the ground after a harsh summer. In our own fallen state we come together as we hafallen leavesven’t ever before because we are all grounded. Like leaves that were so majestic and upright on branches waving in the breeze independently, we are now at rest together in a mixed jumble. Whatever heights had previously been achieved, now we are all on the same level. It’s in this groundedness that we can relate to one another, to see our similarities and admit our shared vulnerabilities.

As Fall surrounds us and scatters leaves all around, let’s consider how we can connect with one another in our brokenness. Let’s reach out to others who have fallen, offering a gracious hand because we know the depth of strength it takes to get up again. Let’s embrace the splendor of the foliage around us, resting in the assurance of God’s design for us in our highs and lows. Abide in Him. He never leaves us.

fall - golden tree

The Pumpkin Snatchers

The Halloween hijinks are over. Costumes are crumpled up on closet floors or stuffed back into dress-up bins. Pumpkins have been transformed into jack-o-lanterns and left abandoned on porches as kids have turned their attention to sorting and eating ALL the candy.felt turkey pumpkin

What if you took this interlude between Halloween and Thanksgiving as an opportunity to be a little sneaky with your kids to bless a neighbor in a fun way?

Simply choose a neighbor that would receive a surprise well. Sneak over to your neighbor’s porch with your child and steal adopt a pumpkin. Decorate it and return it to its own front porch. This is a quick, fun little way to create community among neighbors.

As with many things in parenting, I stumbled upon this sneaky activity as my son and I were sorting through craft supplies and discovered some long feathers that he had received from his grandma. We thought they looked like turkey feathers and we searched around for something that would make a turkey body…hmmm, something like a plump pumpkin? Since we had carved all of our large pumpkins, we were soon on our way over to steal borrow a neighbor’s pumpkin that looked just right…it even had a long “turkey neck” vine protruding from its top. My son poked those long feathers into the pumpkin rind and I bent pipe cleaners into something resembling turkey feet. We glued on some googly eyes and a little red wattle…before too long we had a Turkey Pumpkin emerge.

turkey pumpkin

Turkey pumpkin on neighbor's porchThen came the fun part! In the cover of dusk, we crept behind vehicles and skulked along the side of our house and fence to sneak alongside the neighbor’s house and down their front sidewalk. We gingerly placed our Turkey Pumpkin on their porch and scurried away. Now we weren’t sure what to do. An animated whispered discussion ensued there in the dark space between our two houses: do we ring the doorbell? do we knock on the door? do we just wait to see if they notice what’s happened to their pumpkin? How loonnnng would that take?

We couldn’t stand the anticipation….we decided to RING and RUN. We peeked over the car and watched their reactions unfold. Holding hands, we crouched down and snuck back into our house, tucking those memories into our hearts. I savored the delight in my son’s eyes from our little spontaneous excursion out of our comfort zone to spring an unexpected blessing onto our neighbors.turkey pumpkin #2

A family tradition was started that year, involving a younger brother the next year, and continuing until those neighbors moved away. It was a small gesture yet a community connection that lingered…perhaps returning the “favor” of all those school, soccer, and scout fundraisers that our neighbors had graciously supported throughout the years.

sneaking pumpkin to neighbor's house
sneaking to neighbor's house

 

Baylor Bears pumpkinYou can use whatever craft supplies you have on hand or do a quick outdoor scavenger hunt to use some bits of nature. Keep it simple and allow your child’s creativity to guide you. You could even paint pumpkins in your neighbor’s favorite sports team colors. #SicemBears

Your child will delight in the surprise element of this unusual “gifting.” Enjoy the camaraderie that develops!

“Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” Proverb 20:11

Pause, please, not Fast-Forward

red rocking chairs

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

In the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, sometimes we need to break away by ourselves. We need some quiet space to reflect on God’s word and re-center our busy minds, allowing our spirits to refresh. We drink in the solitude and feel our burdens ease. You may have a favorite park bench or a quiet corner at home where you can tuck in with a cup of coffee and have some quiet time. You may have to steal away a bit more stealthily if you have little ones trailing after you, capitalizing on their attention diverted to something else for a few minutes.

I like to slow down and have a few moments on my porch after a long walk, soaking in the stillness around me before the bustle on the other side of the door greets me. I may just sit and absorb the muted sounds of the neighborhood for a while. I mside porch looking outay listen to an uplifting podcast or a cheerful vox message from a close friend. A few minutes on “pause” does me a world of good. Sometimes I’m able to stretch this into devotion time and can then feel the quiet settle deeply within me, nudging my soul.


“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14


Other times I feel like I’m playing tag with His Presence! It feels more like “catch me if you can!” all day long rather than being able to have that Quiet Time sanctuary.

Some days I’m more mindful of choosing to be IN his Presence in each thing I do, prolonging that sense of peace in my spirit. More often, though, the distractions of life interfere. These don’t even necessarily have to be problems, just daily hassles we all face. Are you weary doing the “good” things in life? We can feel worn out just by meeting the kids’ needkatie in cars day after day, keeping the household afloat, and managing our workload. In the rush of a typical day, sometimes we hope for a moment to catch a deep breath as we’re zipping around in the car between activities. We just need a pause to be able to move on to the next activity a little more intact.

If we are FEELING the fast-forward pace, our children are experiencing the rush also and probably even more intensely. What life marathon are we really training them for? How can we incorporate a little positive self-talk, a moment of silence, AND model some “balance” for our kiddos?

We’ve all heard about “attitude adjustments” and “reframing,” but what about a “soul break?” What if we had a chance for some restoration and a shift in our focus to tap back into God’s presence so we can continue on with our day a little more graciously? What if we took a few moments to reflect on our blessings rather than our obligations? I’d cherish a break like that and know my family would reap the benefits, particularly at the end of a long day. If we can’t bring back the afternoon nap for adults, then maybe we can achieve a few minutes to pause for a “soul break?” I’d like some dark chocolate with mine, please. ?

reflecting pond

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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