Tag Archives: attunement

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 4 Simple Tips

It’s that time of year when the fresh, green growth outside our windows beckons us to come out and play.  As I’m running yet another errand, I catch myself rubbernecking as I pass busy garden centers bursting with colorful potential.

Spring gets us all stirred up in ways that other seasons don’t.
delphiniums
Spring jostles us awake in some quiet inner places that we didn’t even realize were dormant.

PhloxWith the renewed energy that the change of seasons brings, we often find ourselves fervently clearing our closets, deep-cleaning our kitchens or tackling those mysterious piles in our garages in an attempt to dive into warm-weather activities with a clean slate.

spring flowers

In this fervor of spring cleaning and new growth, I find myself wondering how some intentional spring cleaning for my soul would help clear my perspective, too.


a time to keep and a time to throw away” Ecclesiastes 3:6


Just as we discard worn-out clothes or reluctantly admit that those jeans really don’t fit well anymore, we can also benefit from casting aside our disappointments, any unmet expectations from last season, and the lingering irritation of minor grudges that don’t fit well on us today.
dogwood

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 4 Simple Tips

1. Be open-handed. I realize that I have to be available for opportunities the Lord places before me each day, but I’m unable to do this if I’m carrying too many weighty burdens in my tightly clenched fists. I need to hold my daily intentions and plans loosely so that I have an open hand free to help someone God places in my path today.

2. Face forward. When my mind is rehashing what happened yesterday or my spirit feels bruised from an interaction that didn’t go so well, this keeps me from embracing the joy of what God has in store for me today. I need to lean in and face forward to see the beauty He’s about to reveal to me today.

spring rose3. Pack lightly. My husband and I joke that the hardest part of a trip is getting out the door because we’re so focused on packing all the things “just in case.”

If we allow ourselves to load up on worry and fret about what might happen with so-and-so or let our minds race about all the “what if” scenarios that could go wrong, we get bogged down. On days that I truly cast my cares into the Lord’s hands, my perspective is clearer and my spirit lighter. It’s easier to “stop and smell the roses” if our pack is light.

jonquil4. Pray for a stranger. We walk past people each day that may need a kind word or gesture. We may not know their names, but God does. A simple, brief prayer to bless someone’s day is manageable despite the “busy” in our day…and may blossom in unexpected ways for you, too.

We donate our used clothing and household goods to strangers when we’re spring cleaning our houses. Why not donate a prayer as well?

With a few minor adjustments to our daily maintenance routine, we can be proactive in cleaning up our perspectives and dusting off our attitudes.

Underneath that grimy layer of stress & worry we  may discover a bright shine in our spirits that will add a vibrant reflection to all those around us.  (That will certainly put a spring in our step!)

neighborhood pond

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Giving Joy & Gentleness

Christmas conversation promptsOur family has a Christmas activity we weave into our mealtime hubbub: answering questions from a tin of Christmas-focused conversation prompts. Even though we’ve been through these questions several times over the years, the answers vary as children get older and more introspective.

JoyOne of the recent questions was about the reason behind gift-giving during this season. The discussion included the gifts of the wise men and our gift of a Savior, then narrowed down to the mere joy of giving to others.

Probably one of the main stressors of the busy holiday season revolves around gift-giving: the generation of ideas, the investment of time and money, last-minute shopping, and eventually the late-night wrapping.

teacher giftsWhen we find something “just right” for a special person on our list and see genuine delight spread across her face as she opens her gift, we experience the joy of giving.

It’s in this moment of giving that we turn toward each other, share eye contact, and feel a closer connection to one another…we share a mutual tug on our hearts.

Imagine how much love God had for each of us as He gave His One True Gift to us by sending us Jesus. Through Christ we are pulled closer to God and may dwell in His Presence.post office drop

As I trudge through these last days before Christmas, grocery shopping and dropping cards into the mail,  I’m trying to hold onto this image of the Ultimate Giver offering His most precious gift.

This helps me let the details of the hustle-bustle fade a bit and focus on the interactions around me.hot cocoa

Being gentle with those around us and being mindful that this holiday’s joy may be smudged by loss or pain is an extension of God’s love toward others.

silver conesWhen our expectations of the holidays don’t come packaged with a jaunty red bow…

When disappointment piles up like crumpled balls of wrapping paper on Christmas morning…

When loss and grief drop around us  like pine needles fall constantly off the Christmas tree…

When rough spots in our relationships are highlighted during family gatherings…

God is with us in these tender moments, offering hope.
70s childhood ornament

boy in tuxAs as we share coffee cake with neighbors on a cold wintry night…

As we gaze at each other in the warm glow during Christmas Eve candlelight service…

As we watch eager children tear into their presents Christmas morning…

As we observe grandparents smile in remembrances of the past…

God is with us in these joyous moments, embracing us in love.candlelight communion
When stress begins to creep in again, I try to remind myself:

empty gift box

It’s not what is under the tree.

It’s who is gathered around it. 

 

It’s not what is in the box,

but WHO fills our hearts.

God is with us through it all, however this season unfolds for our families this year. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas!


“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace…

-Luke 2:14



 

a handful

Mom, you’re talking too fast. You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

Guilty as charged.

I was in my son’s bedroom, navigating through piles of balled-up socks, damp clothes and boy gadgets he had dumped onto his floor after a scout campout. I knew that we had limited time before we would be leaving for a youth group activity. My mind was a whirlwind of details in order to have him “ready” for his first full school week. My goal was for my new sixth grader to come home from youth group and transition smoothly into his bedtime “routine” (not that we’re back to that yet, but I’m hopeful). An inner voice from past experience prodded me to push him through all this prep work, knowing that he would be exhausted and we would both be cranky if we faced all of this in the bedtime prelude.

growing boyI was acutely aware of the various tasks my son needed to accomplish in the time available. I was also keenly attuned to his need for a chunk of downtime. I had even asked him what his preference would be: rest before or after the tasks at hand? He said after. We both heard it. We moved forward with this “plan.” I followed his little body as he dragged himself lethargically up the stairs. Quietly I reminded myself to only give him one-step directions. We crossed the threshold of his room and targeted the campfire-smoked clothes pile first.

Within minutes I could tell that his sleep-deprived, camped-out body disagreed with his verbal agreement to this plan. His sluggish synapses had apparently voted “no,” too. Staying on task was not happening. Patience was squirmy to hold onto for both of us.boy in afghan

That would have been a REALLY good moment to recognize the realities at hand and revert to the “take a break first” option. I didn’t. I pressed on, trying to engage him in chatting about his first float trip — a flimsy attempt to boost the we’re-in-this-together morale. It’s possible that I quickened my pace and was doing more for him that he would typically do for himself. Our momentum ground to a halt when I heard,

Mom, you’re talking too fast! You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

 

Yep. I was. I looked down at my hands heaped high with boy stuff and glanced over at his slumped posture. Busted. I dropped the pile on his bed and we talked it through. We reconnected and evened out our pace. He did get a recharge break and had a delightful time later that evening, exuding energy and laughter.

boy swinging

This brief interaction was a poignant reminder of how easily we impact our children in those hurried moments of life. I’m grateful my son  was able to speak up and that I was finally able to hear him. I’m thankful for God’s grace which allows us to keep practicing at this parenting stuff.

My devotional the very next morning reinforced this lesson:


“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

handful of quietBoy, did that hit home! I’ll be pondering this one a while. Quieting our multi-tasking momma brains is so hard and our busy hands tend to come with the territory of motherhood, right?

May each of us discover a little quietness in ourselves so we can reflect a bit more calmness to those around us. Amen?

Family Motto

Getting away from home and reconnecting with everyone that lives under its roof can reveal some unexpected family insights and add some humorous depth to family lore.family dog

Some families may be very intentional about having a family motto or even a family mission statement. Perhaps a family meeting is called and potential options are discussed with great energy and passion. An artistic member of the family may even document it in some way so that it can be boldly proclaimed to visiting guests. We are not that family. Sure, we discuss a lot of things at the dinner table and share goals for different seasons of our busy family life, but we haven’t gotten our act together enough to identify “a family motto” let alone agree on one and put it into any kind of action plan.

So, we all got a good laugh last week when our youngest blurted out what sounded like a family motto. We were trouble-shooting some logistics on vacation, attempting to squeeze out the last nano-second of margin between one activity and another. Somebody pointed out how the timing would have to be just right, each person take care of their stuff, and everything else fall smoothly into place (as in no flight delays during a heavy storms). A brief stress-filled silence filled the rental van and maybe a grunt emitted from somewhere near the driver’s seat. I tentatively murmured some hopeful comment, clinging to my fervent prayers all week that this particular transition would pass without a hitch. All of a sudden our youngest announced emphatically,

“We are good at stuff!”

Everyone erupted in laughter and our joint tension released as we all chanted his slogan, “WE. ARE. GOOD. AT. STUFF.” This statement certainly is general enough to cover any situation, it’s positive, and it focuses on the “WE” our family embraces. Hmmm…a family motto in the making?

Our connecting flight was on time despite many delays and cancellations all around us. Our departure gate was only 2 down from our arrival (= time for a restroom break and a brief snack). Everything went smoothly once we hit the ground running. My mom even met us at the airport with chocolate chip cookies for the next little road trip. So, a potentially tense situation ended well. Our family did pitch in with all the “stuff” involved and our son made it to his next activity on time. It was in that moment of stress that we connected as a family, stepped up on that foundation of prayer and joined in silly laughter together…that is the stuff we are good at.

woods

All of this was a good reminder that family getaways are important to the soul of a family.

As a bonus, now we have a tension-breaker line to use the next time we need a little encouragement. As far as an “official” family motto? Let’s just say no t-shirts or bumper stickers have appeared just yet.

delphiniums



“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10



Sprintering

blossoming pear treesHeading out for my morning walk, I was besieged with the aroma of budding pear trees all over the neighborhood. I glanced down and saw all the blossoms that had been whisked out of the trees and pelted by cold rain.blossoms washed away

Spring is trying sooooo hard to break out and assert herself, then a push of winter comes back through and surprises us with its briskness.

In much the same way I often start feeling energized with the hopes of spring, trolling through garden centers and jumping into visions of green and color all around, then I’m reminded by the “helpful” cashier that there may still be a freeze which would knock out my pretties. Drat.

I may have a lot of creative energy bursting with ideas one day, then a restless night comes and the next day I’m muddling through mental fog. Or I may start the week with an ambitious gameplan, but midweek something unforeseen occurs and I’m practicing my adaptability again, forging through the weeds to find beauty in the dailyness of responsibilities. flowers vs weedsI have a hard time sorting through all the random fluctuations in my mind and body at this time of year. The mix of spring and winter features outside somehow mirrors my unsettledness…I can’t quite put my finger on how to explain it, but when I talk to others, they seem to feel IT, too. It’s like we’re Sprintering: we want to be in the robustness of spring, but winter still nudges in.

The passage in Ecclesiastes 3 about there being “a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” keeps coming to mind. It’s all about the transition — the Sprintering– between big seasons in our lives. When we are fully planted in a season, it’s easier to embrace all that particular season encompasses. Often we even have some social protocols to follow in certain seasons, clinging to these guidelines with all our might. The transitions in between are trickier, though, especially if others around you are not in your season. It’s squishy ground and we don’t like that sinking feeling of ambiguity.

So, if you’re feeling a bit unsettled or you’re having an off day, consider this: you may have a touch of Sprintering, too. Hang in there: Spring is knocking. Perhaps we have to acknowledge a few lingering lessons from Winter we still have to tuck in before we’re fully prepared to welcome Spring wholeheartedly.

blossoming redbud

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Thresholds

“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14



When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.

bridge

A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?

rock art

Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.

Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.

As a parent  it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.

So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…

pathThese last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!holding hands


“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:5