Tag Archives: attunement

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.


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.


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


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


“…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.


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





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