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?

katie in carWe can feel worn out just by meeting the kids’ needs 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?

reflecting pondWe’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.

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 games.sky - 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.

 

 

Stand In

Sometimes in friendship we are called to Stand In.

When we see a friend struggling, we pause what we’re doing and step into her situation with her. However messy it is, we Stand In beside her. We join her in her moment of distress, coming alongside and being present. Sometimes we Stand In quietly, providing gentle comfort in a time of loss. Other circumstances may call for us to step in with purpose, to take the reins for a while and let her get her bearings. She may need a hug; or she may need space. She may need alone time; or she may need a humorous distraction. When initially faced with a friend’s crisis, we may feel highly uncertain about how to help. This is when we dig deeply into our friendship history, courageously following our instincts and praying for Gprayod’s direction to offer what we can that can help her through this particular difficulty. We cannot take on her struggle or fix it for her, but we can Stand In to help hold her loose threads, supporting her as she gathers herself. Our mere presence states, “I am here with you. You are not alone.”

When we Stand In with a friend, this encourages her to slow down and process what challenge she is facing. She may be grieving a loss that’s expected after a loved one’s illness or she may be facing an unexpected loss that has shaken her foundation. She may be overwhelmed by her own health diagnosis she has just been given. She may be grieving the loss of frayed threads, such as the severing of a marital knot that she thought she would always have, but that came unraveled and can’t be tied back together. She may be grieving the connection that she had with a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; that bond now seems shaky and unpredictable. She may be struggling with a teenager’s rebellious and troublesome choices. Pain and grief have many faces and storylines. We can relate to some situations better than others because we have a common thread in our own personal stories. When friends are in distress, we don’t unload our stories onto them. We can empathize with the feelings they’ve shared. We Stand In; we do not take over.

flowers in the cracksA friend’s struggle is a reminder that we are all vulnerable to disappointment, grief, and despair. It can feel very close and intense, particularly if it mirrors some of our own struggles. Yet it is also an opportunity to love on that friend, to nurture her in ways that help her through her pain. God can use these tender moments to weave friendships even tighter and create beauty where so much anger and doubt has been. He can show us beauty in the cracks of life. It’s not easy to Stand In — to have a magnified view of someone else’s hurt. It’s uncomfortable and messy. It may feel like we “aren’t doing much to help,” but sometimes providing that steadfast presence of authentic support can make it possible for your friend to grasp those loose threads and regain her strength.


 “Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


How you Stand In will look different from how I do it or how someone else might. Be real. Be yourself. Being authentic will ring true to your friend when you make your gesture of support. Many of us have difficulty accepting help during stressful times, but the genuine specific gestures are somehow easier to accept.

How we Stand In may also look very different from friend to friend. You may be led to send a card or care package to one, but feel compelled to visit another one face to face. Some friends may benefit from long phone calls, thoughtful emails, or encouraging texts. Sometimes you show up and do laundry, bring a meal, or provide rides for her kids to their activities. Other times you lend support by providing a buffer, perhaps being the contact person for a meal train or coordinating outreach from different sources (church, neighbors, work) so that your friend doesn’t have to manage these. Sometimes you sit beside her as she cries and sobs, providing silent solace. You remind her that she is loved; that she is a child of God. You offer tissues…and chocolate (or whatever her go-to comfort is). Essentially, Stand In when she needs you the most — when she’s not even sure herself what she needs. Embrace the relationship. Relinquish your to-do list and act on those intentions of caring for your friend. Those “good intentions” may just be a whisper from the Holy Spirit sharing insight into what she needs.

Feathers, Rocks, and Walking Sticks

Every one of us collects something — it may be a knickknacks or a journal of memories; it could be a shoe obsession or a box of treasured cards. flowers and burlap bottleOur children are no exception to this desire and are always bringing treasures into our homes. A smooth rock, a ruffled feather, a yarn necklace. What do we do with these things? Some are just passing through; headed quickly out the door, but others become cherished and meaningful. What looks like debris to one, may actually be the prized token in your child’s day. So how do we differentiate the useless from the priceless?

The artist side of me loves this layer in a home. But I also love order, so…I have given a patch of the kitchen counter over to our collections. Right as you walk in the door, where everyone can see, I’ve created a rotating gallery.

There is an unspoken love that radiates from a child seeing that you have highlighted what’s meaningful to them.

I may keep a leaf, an acorn or a feather for a while. But I know it’s all right to send it out as well. The object is not the main point of interest; it is that child who felt secure enough to share the beauty or awe and wonder with you. I don’t want to miss out on the blessings because they aren’t packaged the way I might expect.

We encounter God’s presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of justice and compassion, in loving relationships and in the experiences of everyday living.

painted handsEach Fall, my boys and I go on a nature walk. I adore this tradition that I stumbled into a few years back. What began as a walk to get some energy out of rambunctious boys, is now requested unanimously by all of us. On our way, we collect walking sticks: big, small, crooked and all! We spread newspaper on the patio table and paint them as many colors as we can find; with patterns galore. We laugh at all the paint we get on us in the process, and I snap pictures for our memory bank. Once we’ve had our fun, I collect them and bundle them somewhere in our home for the winter months to come.

Just when I think that I’m doing all this for the children, it dawns on me that it is also for me. Because later in those moments when I’m tired, impatient, thread-bare… I walk past those brilliant colors of sticks,  and it grounds me again. My focus is restored in that moment; the importance of my family is in front of me. These sticks have become treasures in our home, and when they are broken and gone, those beautiful colors will still be bold in my heart.

There are little bobelieve - acornswls tucked into table groupings for a child’s treasure to be showcased in our home. We have precious yarn weavings strung across a lamp or curtain rod from time-to-time. I will tape that picture on the hall mirror for all to see for a week or two. I will leave the birthday balloons hanging by their bed the whole month to remember the celebration of that child.

Take interest in the details of the heart when it comes to your family for this is a richly woven layer that they will carry with them forever.

“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of YOUR heart.” Psalm 37:4

 

The Second Mile

Reflections from a Reluctant Runner

What challenge are you facing today and who’s joining you?

I am not a runner out of strong desire or natural talent. It’s work. I like to eat, so it’s an effective calorie burner. I’ve succeeded with jogging fairly well in the past…mainly because I had a posse of friends also in the novice stages of running. We leaned on each other hard, taking turns whining and combatting each others’ excuses (“too hot,” “too cold,” “too windy,” “too early,” “too tired”…you get the gist).

running shoes-getting startedLet’s face it. Getting out of the door in the morning, preparing to go for a run, can be a monumental struggle. Drama before breakfast can undo even the most committed. Once the kiddos have left for school, the lure of a quiet house is strong.

The distractions of the to-do lists are daunting, the need “to get started” pulls hard. Unexpected delays crash in…phone calls, sick kids, the beloved family dog takes off running after a squirrel…sometimes these are, ahem, welcome distractions because the gumption just doesn’t feel like it’s there.

running shoesThen, if you’ve conquered the getting-out-of-the-house juggernaut, you face the first mile. Sometimes the morning air is crisp and welcomes you, but often the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’re still functioning too much on autopilot to take notice. That first mile is tough. You’re working out the kinks, trying to manage some gulping breaths, feeling ALL the aches of the day before. Thoughts such as “WHY am I doing this to myself?” or “I am NOT a runner. I can’t do this” rage freely. Where’s the traffic cop for negative self-talk when you need her most?

Its the second mile, though, that I begin to settle in. My body is looser, my breathing is leveling out, and I exhale heavily, letting the stress out. The second mile is when I tune in to the nature around me, tapping into my surroundings and noticing the activity around me. This is when my thoughts begin to take shape, to follow a thread…often it’s replaying something from the day before; more frequently it’s focusing on what’s on the horizon, the perpetual “nexts” that are always hovering. Some days I’m more capable of directing my thoughts in a productive way, but generally I let them float. God surprises me in the simple solutions He provides when I allow my mind to wander, to connect with the still, small voice often muffled by the jumble of noise in my head. He answers unspoken prayers and reveals insights in these moments of the second mile. I wouldn’t have received them or responded to them if I hadn’t persevered through that first mile.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… ” Hebrews 12:1-2

red leaf and running shoeIronically, we always have to plod our way through that first mile to get to the second. We have to put in the effort to get the result. When we do, there awaits a stillness in our spirit, an attunement of mind and body working together. We are His workmanship. God knows we face this struggle and perhaps the Second Mile is His gift to us for striving and persevering. For hurdling through the first mile of homework with our children to reach that “ah-ha” moment in their second round. For calming the tantruming toddler to be able to enjoy the sweetness of an impromptu snuggle later. So let’s bask in the “glow” of the Second Mile for a bit…because I don’t really want to rush to Mile Three just yet.

daily life transformed by God into extraordinary tapestries

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