Managing the Messy Middle

Our family almost always has a project going on.  Please tell me we’re not the only ones?

Currently, we’re in the midst of a storage room expansion. We’ve all adjusted to the perpetual whining of saws, staccato of hammering, and swooshing of sanders. Even our dog has adapted to the workers and extra activity, preferring to hide out in their space filled with the familiar drone of power tools rather than the unpredictable rumble of thunder last week.

Starting a construction project is exciting. Expectations and hopes are high.

Finishing a project is thrilling.  Moving into a new space is fun!

sheetrock dusty footprintLet’s be real, though. The bulk of any project is the Middle.

It’s where all the gritty work and dedication to the task happen. It’s the messiest part and often goes on longer than planned. Sometimes we face challenges in the Middle that we weren’t expecting. Footprints suddenly appear on countertops and construction nails are discovered in a car tire …or two! 

For any construction project, we prepare for the noise and surge of activity. Big movements mean change is coming. We brace ourselves and dive in to the adventure.

Somehow we forget about the quieter aspects of construction upheaval. (Is there such a thing as Home Improvement Amnesia??) We forget about that sneaky sheetrock dust and its magical pervasiveness — even if doors have been closed and precautions have been taken. It seeps in EVERYWHERE, mysteriously settling in place overnight, greeting us each morning like a dusting of frost.sheetrock dust

I keep reminding myself that we’re almost there. Sanding signifies the painting phase is coming soon, which means the final stages are around the corner. We just need  to persevere a little longer.

When we’re at the starting line of a race or a project, we’re hyped up with anticipation and energy to begin. It’s a very tangible place. Our senses are all perked up in awareness of the task ahead.

Somewhere in the middle, though, things tend to get a little blurry and uncertain. We don’t have the finish line in sight yet, and we have to  face the realities of this murky Middle part.

Our initial energy has waned yet we have to persevere through the barriers of change.construction zone

Perseverance is an important life skill often learned through struggle and the shedding of a few tears.

Ironically, my Community Bible Study group is reading through the book of Acts and we’ve just gotten to the passage about Paul striving to finish his Course well.


“If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24


Paul’s story is filled with tenacious boldness despite all the opposition he faces, yet also demonstrates his gifts of encouragement and grace throughout his trials.

These are all wonderful attributes to adopt in the Middle of a long-term project or a particular life struggle. We are all under construction in some way or another, muddling through the messy Middle.

Persevere page in Bible Quilt®️ journal

Some of our struggles might be obvious and expected, but others will be quietly devastating in their unexpected ripple effects.

May we each be able to lean on one another with grace and encouragement during  our earnest efforts  to maintain our course. Much growth can occur in that Messy Middle, depending on how we adapt and respond.

Whatever rebuilding process you may be in, here’s to finishing well,  friends!

What’s Your Weather Today?

I noticed this while driving down the street  one day and I bet you can relate:
Gray Day, Gray Skies, Driving a Gray Car, the streets are Gray, Weariness even feels like the Color. I looked down and I am wearing all Gray!! Did I fall into this day?!

Gray does not have to be bad.

There will always be a scattering of gray days for all of us. Wouldn’t the enemy love to take those gray days and pin us down, entangle us, or spiral us deeper and deeper into lost hope and despair…forlorn when the sunshine seems no more.  What if we look at those gray days not as a detriment to our living, but as an opportunity to get tighter to the Lord? To cling to Him on the gray, windy days, and then learn how to infuse color into them.  What if we take those gray days and ask the Lord to bubble up Joy from within us, and show us others that are immersed too deep in the gray day…

Gray days can teach us many things.

So here I am, driving the boys to school on another random gray day, and my nine-year old makes a statement that I think is quite profound: 

“No matter the weather, we get to choose the forecast of each day.”

I was speechless for a moment as I thought about those words. He threw them out so loosely, but I found myself grasping  for them to digest further. How many gray days of my life have I tossed to the side of the road trying just to get them over with?  My son’s statement snapped me back to a reality that each day is a precious gift; none are a waste. We might have to search a little more for the Joy in our gray days; but lessons taught to us like: perseverance, resilience, overcoming, speaking Life over a situation…all end up breaking through those gray days and eventually shine light onto them. We can take the darkest day, or the sunniest, and choose to fill it with the most potential possible for us and those around us. Attitude really is everything sometimes. Beautiful things can transpire out of the Gray. 
Gray will never probably be one of my favorite colors, but I’m learning the use of it when it shows up in the weather forecast now…

“So we do not lose heart… our inner self is being renewed day by day. For the light momentary affliction is preparing for us eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison , as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”   2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

 

Servant Warriors

We have all pitched in to help here and there, but we probably all know someone who is the ultimate helper in a given situation. Who comes to mind?

A coach? A teacher? A parent or sibling? A mentor? A friend who conquers all the PTA duties and classroom parties with remarkable ease?

orchid

 

Someone who is truly servant-minded sees a need and tackles the tasks to get the need met.

It’s a beautiful process to watch unfold.

She rises to the occasion, then fades into the background as the activity surrounding the event subsides.

Sometimes we’re faced with situations in which we are called to become more servant-oriented than what we feel comes naturally.
We have to draw upon our inner strength.

 

Serve page in Bible Quilt® journal
SERVE page in Bible Quilt®
Mothers of young children often step into this role when illness strikes, putting their own agendas aside while they provide a gentle buffer around their child. They power through all the care-taking tasks and offer nursing care graciously until their little one is well again.

holding hands

Spouses who have partners that are struggling with Alzheimers, cancer, or another chronic illness discover themselves transitioning into a phase of being a Servant Warrior.

They serve out of love, opening their  hearts more deeply than ever before.

When I see the tenacity of spiritual mentors shepherding others year after year, I am grateful for the kingdom work being done so tirelessly.
When I see news reports of teachers shielding students from bullies and even armed threats, I am humbled. You put others first and leave a lasting impact on those you protected.

 

scoutsAs my boys navigate through all the rigors of Boy Scout campouts and  numerous  merit badges, I appreciate the solid groundwork laid by faithful men in leadership who have served many young boys throughout the years…leaders showing future leaders how to serve others well.

 



“Serve wholeheartedly…” Ephesians 6:7



Wherever we are, the opportunity for serving others is there. We can pitch in to help…a little or a lot, depending on our particular season of life.
hands reaching
Even if the tasks seem small or mundane, the end result benefits our greater community.
We stand a little taller when we are shoulder to shoulder helping someone else. Our children are emboldened with empathy when they are involved in outreach to others.
We are all stronger when we are serving in some way.

Soldier bear

 


A special tribute goes out to all of our military families who demonstrate daily what it means to be Servant Warriors…thank you!


 

Have A Favorite Things Party!!!

Happy Valentines Day!!!

I hope you’re eating dark chocolate and have a view of flowers today! And I hope you have opportunity to hug loved ones in your life and shower smiles wherever you are. Love is contagious.

But if your glum for some reason, then I have a great idea for you!! (Even if you’re not glum at all, this is a good idea!)

Plan a Favorite Things Party!

This is such a fun girl party to put together. It’s not complicated, and it’s really sweet to grab a friend and collaborate on the cuteness! I have hosted three so far… my dear friend, Shelley, has teamed up with me twice and we combined our friends list,  and my cousin Kate and I put one together for all the women in our family.

Okay, so the guest list can be any size of your choosing. You asked each guest to bring 5 of something that they love and use a lot! Put a cap on the price tag: we have told friends to spend no more than $30 total. It can be less if their favorite thing is cheaper. The idea is to share with each other the little things that we each love and use frequently. 

The part that makes this party so easy peasy is that you also ask each guest to bring either one of their fave appetizers OR desserts!! The hosts provide a salad to balance it all out, plus drinks! Not much kitchen involvement but all the benefits of yummy treats! It really is financially easy to host a Favorite Things Party, and your guests will come and go with 5 new Favorite Things at the end of the evening! Win-Win!!

When your guests arrive, have them write their name 5 times on slips of paper for the drawing. Then ask them to place their Favorite Things in a brown bag until the “reveal”.   It was fun to prep brown grocery bags with a cute saying on the front of each. Just staple a cute  paper to it.  (This doubles as their take-home bag for all the loot they will end up with!)

As the anticipation builds and the meal is winding down…a fun icebreaker intro into the “reveal” is to play a quick round of “favorite things”questions. The guests all receive a small tablet and pen to write with, and the hostess asks the questions: Fave color, fave  season, fave  hobby, fave superpower to have …  Everyone receives a piece of chocolate as we answer them together. 

The moment all have been waiting for has come! Each gal picks 5 names out of the bowl; making sure she doesn’t have her own or duplicates. One at a time, each guest will stand and share what her favorite thing is that she brought. A quick descriptive and where you can buy it and why she loves it so. The 5 names she drew are the proud recipients of the item. After all have had their turn, then trades are totally open depending on the friendliness of the crowd! 

Shelley put together an awesome playlist for our party by using the song, “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things” and finding it in every possible genre of music you can imagine! It played as our background ambience. 

Kate and I put ribbons around all different shades of pink nail polish and set them on a silver platter for guests to pick from as a parting gift. 

Women brought everything from lotions and hand towels, to cozy socks and bath salts, to car fresheners and hot cocoa sets…oh the possibilities! 

 

Oh Happy Sweet Day To You!!!

 

Seen and heard

The other day in the midst of running typical errands, I was nearly in a head-on collision. A woman careened through the intersection making a left turn and almost hit me as I was going straight on a green light. We both slammed on our brakes and came to a screeching halt. Before I could catch my breath, she backed up and I could see the crumpled front-end of her car. Oh no!

She waved dramatically at me then pulled on around and out of the intersection, leaving me stunned in the middle of a busy intersection.

I pulled out of the way and into a parking lot to assess the damage. There was none. I was both relieved and shocked. It was such a close call, maybe an inch or two… “Did that really just happen?”

As my heartbeat thudded in my ears and I looked about for the other woman, I stood in disbelief as I realized she was long gone. Hadn’t she seen me? Shouldn’t we check on each other? Nobody else had stopped either. I didn’t have anyone to corroborate what had just happened, to validate what I had seen and heard.

– – – To be seen and heard – – –
We navigate our lives in and around people all day long, often on autopilot. How much do we REALLY see and hear about those around us?
How much are WE seen and heard?

Sometimes we have to be still ourselves to be able to tune in to others more fully. We think we’re paying attention, but we’re really not.

As I’ve tried attending a yoga class more regularly, I’m realizing how busy my brain is despite my body being in a relaxed posture. I’m learning to redirect my attention through the simple act of counting my breaths, in and out…in and out. (and starting over when I notice I’m adding something else to my grocery list!)

Be Still

Slowing down allows us to take in what’s going on around us in this busy daily life of ours.

Noticing details is a way to show others we care, that we acknowledge them for what is unique about them. To act on one of these observed details takes it a step further.

It can be the little things on an ordinary day that make a big difference.

  • a  word of encouragement
  • a smile from a stranger as you pass by on a brisk winter day
  • providing an unexpected snack for your kids
  • picking up your husband’s dry-cleaning to remove it from his to-do list and ease his transition home a little soonermailbox
  • sending a card to a grandma far away to remind her that she’s always being held close to her family’s heart
  • flowers celebrating a special occasion – or just becausebirthday flowers

When someone does something out of their “ordinary” for us, we feel noticed.  We feel loved.

gifts from sons

 

I smiled the other night as I prepared a bubble bath, playfully tossing in the rubber duckies my son gave me at Christmas and unwrapping a bath bomb labeled “monkey farts” = gifts of love with a boy twist!

Some of my most treasured gifts have an underlying message of “I see you…I hear you.”
All of my guys have witnessed my journey with the Bible Quilt®️ journal, supporting me in various ways as they see the ebb and flow of a fledgling business. They pitch in to do a quick pick-up before a home session then swiftly disappear when they sense an incoming flux of women and girls.
My youngest surprised me at Christmas with his version of a Bible Quilted dinosaur. It was his unique way of showing me “I see you; I hear you, Mom.”
Be still my heart. ❤️
Bible Quilt®️ dinosaur
Brachio Quiltus
Tis the season for gestures of love for our assorted valentines, but we don’t have to feel pressured to do  something grand or typical.
Just be you.
Show your loved ones what YOU see and hear about them on any regular day.

valentines



“Let all that you do be done in love.”

I Corinthians 16:14



 

My Warriors With Pool Noodles

 

A Back-pack, a Bull Whip, A Pool Noodle and a Sword is what I saw traveling down the street along with my boys each holding their “weapon” of choice… my Motley Crew has found contentment in a neighborhood strewn with boys to have outdoor adventures with.

Being a girl, my” outdoor adventures” at that age, consisted of laying on a blanket under a weeping willow tree and drawing and dreaming while sipping on lemonade; maybe a cart-wheel or two. However, with boys, I can assure you there are no parallels to be seen!

I love my current view and am soaking it up for the memory banks. I hear warrior cries, I see charging “knights”, I watch “battles and duels” unfold in the yard. I have lost many things in the kitchen for the cause of bartering and trading at their various posts that resemble an odd little village across the back yard.

It is a sweet spot for a boy to be carefree and able to let his imagination soar. And a band of brothers is that much richer for the opportunity to absorb all boyhood. I feel like a spectator, getting rare glimpses into this foreign territory to a girl. I recognize that I am only privy to it because I am “Mom”.  I have watched a few neighbor girls approach our lawn timidly, taking in the sights and then retreating home; can’t say I blame them, it is a lot to take in when boys are in adventure mode.

When Summer comes, I will have to buy new pool noodles because I have watched them slowly be grabbed one at a time and transformed into dueling sticks. We have no more duct-tape in the house because that is “boy glue” for everything! And with  Pinterest, they have figured out how to braid duct-tape and create bull-whips…

They have decided it is manly to down hot cocoa packets( dry!)  while they are in survival mode and traveling from camp to camp in the yard. Our printer is out of color toner but there are these amazing tribal flags waving on large sticks at the top of the tree fort. And the backdoor has a loud creak to it now because it has become a revolving door as they run in for bandanas, snacks, drinks, scissors(?!!), and such oddities. I had to ask them to return the PVC pipes from the garage that are actually part of the pool equipment!!

They are now saving allowance for PVC pipes…

This is a rich season for them in childhood, and also for me in parenthood. With them gaining more independence daily, I will still grab my laptop or project or book and sink in somewhere close where I can take in the sights of this wonderful childhood unfolding. If you are in this stretch of life too, you can relate. If this chunk of time has passed in your life, I would encourage you to journal your memories of it… there is so much that time will fade. But there are beautiful smiles in remembering;  and the details are the gems in your story.

The JOY of the Lord is your Strength!  Nehemiah 8:10

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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