Tag Archives: belonging

Road Trips: Family, Friends and the Wild Weiner Dogs of Yellowstone

“Back in the day, when the Bison and Bear roamed freely on the natural landscape of Yellowstone, there was another animal that leapt through the reeds down by the lake… the Wild Weiner Dogs of Yellowstone frolicked with their long coats dancing in the wind…or so the story goes in the active imaginations of brothers having an adventure together.”

 

Our family set out on an adventure this summer. The Boys are 11, 10, 8 and 5, so we decided it was about time to give them a true taste of a road trip across country.  We packed bags, pillows, books and games and then fueled it with coffee, chocolate and sunflower seeds to head out!

Our first 2 stops were with Friends that have become as Family to our lives. The Boys hunted license plates as we drove in to Colorado and then Oregon. Our 3rd stop was to see Family that we had told 6 years ago that we would visit…surprise, we made it!!Better late then never! And then on to Yellowstone and Mt Rushmore, (which are not even close to one another but our Boys had hearts set on both).

 

The car rides were long and the sleep was minimal. The views were spectacular and the conversations sweet. The bond of shared memories made was hands-down worth any effort involved. 

This is what happened: 

We shared Bible Quilting with Friends and Family.

We created art on a Oregon deck with Family after collecting huge pinecones on a nature walk.

We visited our Friends Church and walked a day in their footprint.

We played card games by the light of the Colorado sunset and our Friends fire pit.

We rallied a Family Kickball game in the fields that will be our Friends new school this year.

We picked Blackberries and Wild Flowers in unexplored fields and then enjoyed them at a dinner table with Friends.

We ate PBJ”s by a bubbling creek that we found under a beautiful bridge.

We taught our Boys how to be photographers and enjoy the view through a lens.

We showed our kids how to read a map and count the anticipated hours in the car for the next destination.

We celebrated special days with special people.

We shared more, hugged more, held hands and enjoyed one another’s company MORE  in the closeness of a Road Trip.

As a girl, I rode many summers across country in my Grandparents Cadillac headed to Family Reunions. The memories are a treasure to my heart. And now another Layer has been added with the laughter of Brothers by a lake in Wyoming at the end of a day of Family hiking. The innocence of pure life and silliness enjoyed together.  Enjoy A Road Trip with Loved Ones if you have the chance!

Give THANKS  To The Lord And Proclaim His Greatness. Let The Whole World Know What He Has Done! Psalm 105:1

Fathering Footholds

Last week while dropping my son off at camp, I was directed to park in my “place” amidst the caravan of cars parading in to deposit youngsters for the week. Unfortunately, my “place” was in 6+ inches of meddlesome mud. My son & I rallied to embrace this unexpected mire. We changed our shoes and soldiered onward. The mud slowed our pace as we took methodical steps to release the suction clinging to the bottom of our soles.
Ssschhhhmucckkkk!”  “Ssschhhhmucckk!” hissed each shoe, flinging droplets of mud up the back of our legs. As we plowed our way through the sloshy mud, we grinned at each other and aligned ourselves shoulder to shoulder as we arrived at the check-in corral.  My son’s eyes sparkled as if to say, “I’ve got this.”toe to toe in the mud

Ok, so there was a little grumbling involved on my part as I had to McGyver my way back to the car & magically transform my mud-encrusted feet back into drivable footwear, but I sensed we had made a memory…and something more.

In the minutes before exiting the dry refuge of the car, we rallied to problem-solve and put our heads together on how to get ourselves and his belongings to his cabin relatively dry (aka: not dropping anything into the mud along the way). These little moments are ways we teach boys how to remain calm, to access resources, and to think quickly about their next choice. It’s an opportunity to establish a confidence foothold…a tiny nudge to show this excited 11-year-old boy a glimpse into being a resourceful adult in a sticky situation.

mini me
mini-me

Each time  we are able to model confidence and grace in a stressful moment, we reflect those abilities back to our children so they can see themselves as confident and capable.

As Father’s day approaches, I’ve been thinking about experiences that have been fathering footholds for my boys. 

We want our boys to mature into capable adults, faithful  husbands, and loving fathers. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but in the minutia of daily life with an added layer of thoughtfulness woven in. If we don’t nudge, cajole, and shape these boys in social courtesy and “gentlemanly” prowess, how do they develop these skills so they’re finely honed and naturally expressed when these young men are adulting out there on their own?

boy in tieI appreciate the “expectations” certain extracurricular groups set to reinforce these niceties. Learning to tolerate the discomfort of formal concert attire for orchestra performances or wearing business clothes all day for a key club convention is a good life lesson. Learning how to present themselves, make eye contact, and endure public speaking contributes to that young boy “trying on” the weight of adult responsibility in a supportive environment.

teen drivingAs parents we also have snippets of training time throughout our daily activities:

– mentioning a few pointers re:  driving  etiquette as our teens chauffeur us around on errands

– encouraging them to hold open doors or to return grocery carts for the elderly or frazzled mothers with toddlers

– sitting patiently in the passenger seat, awaiting one of the guys to open your door (and being gracious when it’s clear that you can do it yourself yet patiently allowing your young man to demonstrate this gesture of kindness)

Family vacations that broaden children’s perspectives and enhance an appreciation for things outside their “normal” have long-lasting impact.

yellowstone

I’m thankful for the encouragement and support that my boys have gotten along the way to offer them some fatherly footholds. Each of these positive contacts contributes to these young boys developing a foundation of manly self-confidence.

mentorteachers that have gone beyond the classroom to challenge and mentor them in positive ways

a father that lets them lead, but is available with the backup map when needed

passing on a legacy pin

the grandfather that passed along his National Honor Society legacy pin to his grandson being inducted 60 years later

 aunts that have repeatedly purchased popcorn and household gadgets through a variety of  fundraisers

outgrowing unclesuncles that have teased and talked sports with the boys, making a big deal of the ones gradually outgrowing them

the kind elementary school principal that greeted each student by name at the door  each day

a youth group pastor that meets them for donuts and reinforces their brotherly bonds

work crews that enthusiastically help on Eagle Scout projectseagle scout work crew

father's day a Grandpa that drives long distances to join in Father’s Day activities and tease them about girls…and the whole nine yards

grandmas that have cheered for them on the sidelines of their chosen sports or clapped enthusiastically after a musical performance

Each time someone SHOWS UP and demonstrates interest in what a young boy is striving toward, that boy gains confidence about the young man he is becoming. It fuels his drive and motivates him along his path.  It strengthens his armor, readying him in unseen ways for his future role of husband, worker, or father.
Baylor familySo, we wade through the mud with our children. We engage them in face-to-face conversation. We cultivate a love of our own alma mater, yet also release them to choose their own school that fits them best. We celebrate their wins and comfort them in their losses.

 

"Father" Bible Quilt page
Bible Quilt: Father page

Each day in small, ordinary ways, we offer our boys little fathering footholds and entrust them to their ultimate Father figure, praying for guidance and growth.

As we celebrate the Dads around us this weekend, let us also be mindful of the young boys observing the fatherly traits all around them. Each interaction matters.

Grandpa and me
Grandpa and me

 

In honor of Father’s day, here’s to my grandfather who was a “gentle man and a gentleman.”

You shepherded us well, Grandpa. We love you!

 

 

 

The Story Teller

Tell Them Their Story 

 

   We all love a good story. It doesn’t matter your age. It’s even better if there are hidden gems of laughter, harrowing moments and happy endings. We just love getting lost in the detailed threads that tug at our hearts.

 

Our children love to hear “their stories”. They ask to hear them over and over. We laugh and gasp at all the same parts every time. And I realize that we add chapters to their stories with each day, each vacation, each experience, family event, tradition, hug and “I love you”. It’s in every ordinary and extraordinary day that we have.

The stories help cement it into each of our minds  when we re-tell them; it’s something  for all us.  

Pictures and albums help with that too. The time spent in conversation is a layer of warmth for the soul that is something extra special. Face-to-face conversation is becoming less and less in our society; everyone wants the short and condensed version of events.  But when you give some time to sharing, you will hear: 

“Read it again, please!” and “Can you tell it again?” and then it turns into, “Remember, Mom and Dad, when I did this,  and when that happened?”…  It’s such a rich layer to a person. 

When you have  many children, this helps in giving that individual their unique identity. In a group setting,  you can easily speak each child’s love language by reminiscing of a fond time together.  It’s so easy to add this layer to your home, but it is becoming lost in our digital agendas. Fill your child up with words that champion them; show their hearts how spectacular they are. Hand them their legacy as your family shares past generations stories too. All of these conversations  combined are a treasure, not bought. The value is priceless for our hearts. 

 

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.   -Philippians 1:3

 

Snuggle-in, hug them, laugh with them, and reminisce—again and again.

ONE letter matters

When I was in 6th grade, I competed in the district spelling bee and lost because I added one  letter to a word. My 6th-grade son recently competed in his school’s spelling bee and missed a word by forgetting one letter.spelling bee word list

One letter matters.

In the world of spelling, one letter means the difference of staying “in” the competition or being “out.”

For enthusiastic writers who are vulnerably casting out their manuscripts only to be met with a flood of rejection letters, ONE letter of acceptance matters. One letter shifts the novice writer from being an amateur to being “in” as a published author. This inclusion is savored.

encouragement cardsFor the widow that spends many hours and even days alone, receiving a single handwritten note makes a meaningful difference. One letter can change her perspective from feeling lonely to loved. She feels remembered.

When a spouse is deployed overseas and is feeling the weight of isolation and homesickness, one letter from a loved one back home draws him a little closer to family. A familiar scrawl or silly doodle on the envelope tugs those hearts together a little tighter. He feels connected.

In a world of digital pictures and casual greetings available through Facebook and texts, even one handwritten letter delivered by snail mail on your birthday can transform all those virtual well wishes into a tangible token of love. There’s something special about holding a letter in your own hand that was in your friend’s hand just a few days ago. One letter can ground you, reminding you of a precious friendship. You feel known.

So last week when I was fighting a head cold and clutching my kleenex box, I hunkered down and wrote some letters:

  • to my son traveling on an exchange trip to China, hiding one in his suitcase under a box of Thin Mints and giving another letter to a friend to deliver to him midway through their trip (the potential embarrassment, I think, is worth a little sneakiness!)
  • to a Chinese couple whom I may never meet, but I’m entrusting the care of my 16-year-old son to them for 3 weeks while they generously host him in their home (sigh)
  • to a nephew, apologizing for belated birthday wishes
  • to an aunt undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, offering hope and encouragement while also recognizing her strengthBaylor pillows
  • a “thank you” to a loved one who sewed some pillows for me that I’ve been “planning” for years. Confession: I cheated on this one. I took a picture of the pillows tucked into their new nook and a sent her a text of gratitude. (Go Bears!)
  • to a college friend, wishing her the joys of another birthday

Throughout the week as I wrote to each person, I focused on the recipient. I considered their particular situation, reflecting on the connection between us and conjuring up some words to send their way. Before long, I was no longer aware of my stuffy head and my pesky cough. My mood improved as I redirected my attention to a loved one or reminisced about a dear friend.

Aligning letters on paper to transform them into a message to someone else is a magical thing, something we often taken for granted.vocab

Words are used a lot of different ways in our home. We are seekers of knowlLatin conjugationsedge and explorers of the written word. Our bookshelves are weighed down with words.

The boys are always working on a vocabulary list or conjugating verbs in a language I don’t understand.

Words surround us.

Letters weave in and out of our home daily, an endless merry-go-round of giving and receiving. Some of them we glance over; some of them stop us in our tracks. One letter can shift the atmosphere around us, crackling with anticipation or casting a somber chill.

Which letter do you cling to most?
Bible - I Cor 13
The letter that I’m drawn back to again and again is the Word of God. Each time I read it, I gain a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of something bigger than me. It stirs my soul.
I’m grateful for this ultimate gift. The holy Word is God’s letter to us.
It’s full of wisdom and adventure, heartbreak and triumph, joy and strength, loss and redemption, strife and struggle…but most of all,  its message is love. It offers us hope.

——->>>>>  THIS one letter makes all the difference to me

Phlox

“Every word of God is flawless.” Proverbs 30:5a

 

 

 

planting seeds

Tis the season of Girl Scout cookies and the first blossoms of spring.

Is it just me or does every home improvement store have an over-abundance of shiny lawn mowers on display and flocks of Girl Scouts grinning their gap-toothed smiles, asking if you’d like to buy some cookies?

Although I only had a brief venture into the world of Girl Scouts, I learned a couple important things I tucked into my bag of tricks:

Girl Scout thin mint cookies1) The first lesson, of course, was that Thin Mints cookies could pretty much sell themselves and that diehard fans put them in their freezers to “save them for later” (translation: hide them from the kids).

2) The other key thing I learned as a Brownie was the song “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” At the time I thought this meant I would have a treasure trove of sparkly friends to last me all my days. It took a few more years for me to understand that meeting new friends was fun, but maintaining friendships for the long haul was just as vital and full of its own sweet reward. What a great life lesson for a young pig-tailed girl to carry along with her even though her Girl Scout days were few!

Now as an adult, I have the opportunity to gather up boxes of Thin Mints from bright-eyed eager girls as easy as a brief stop while running errands. The friendship piece, though…that’s even trickier now than it was when I was the new student almost every year in grade school. Then I had the structure of school activities and the dubious recognition of always being the last person in every line since my last name started with a Z.

As busy mommas it’s hard to cultivate friendships anew and hold on to the wisps of friendships past. At the same time we’re trying to build our own network of relationships, we’re also nurturing our children’s friendships, helping negotiate playdates and shepherding our kiddos to make good choices in their interactions with others. Their world is so much different than our school days in which “social media” was passing notes without getting caught by the teacher.childhood notes

Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone and plant a seed of friendship, then patiently wait while the hectic pace of daily life churns on around us. It may take weeks or even months to get a glimpse of that friendship blossoming a little more. We may have to keep being the one to introduce ourselves at parent meetings, join a new Bible study, or volunteer for something that puts us closer to the action. In these awkward situations, I remind myself  “baby steps, Dianna” and take encouragement from the fact that my boys have been steadily surging forward in their new relationships, too.

We discovered that little gestures can go a long way. A few months ago, we put a bike rack by our garage and invited boys that lived farther from the bus stop to park their bikes there. My son is now having more contact with neighborhood kids because we made ourselves just a little more accessible — a little more transparent to those around us.

Adults (or at least us introverted ones) seem to have a harder time showing this transparency. It takes courage for us to show our vulnerability, having outgrown that marvelous age where we could simply ask, “Will you be my friend?

Bible Quilt friendship page
Bible Quilt friendship page

Friendship is a lovely gift from God. Many verses reflect this truth of connectedness.

Are you missing a friend connection? Would you like to have some more friends in your inner circle? Hang tough. There’s more to your friendship song and to mine:

“Silver is precious, Gold is too. I am precious, and so are you. You help me, and I’ll help you and together we will see it through…” 

Since I’ve experienced the heartfelt joys of long-term friendships and have been fortunate to have seen best friends from high school and college in the last month, I know it’s worth it to invest in these friends of silver and of gold…and whatever lies between. I cling to the  threads of my dear close friends through texts, phone calls, emails and Voxer to hold me over until our next face-to-face gatherings.

blossoming pear treeIn the meantime, I’m tentatively testing the soil of potential friendships in my new surroundings. We just have to keep planting seeds in our interactions and step out of our comfort zones…who knows, we might bump into someone who is seeking the same sweet connection. And, if we get to share Thin Mints in the process?? That’s a win-win in my book!

 

Diverted

Recently I was on a flight that tried to land in heavy Dallas fog twice, the second attempt within 100 yards of the ground, then abruptly aborting due to minimal visibility.  An exuberant redheaded flight attendant provided what limited information she had available and a calm pilot reassured us the aircraft was sound,  but the weather conditions were untenable for landing.  A collective sigh of disappointment arose as the announcement came we were being diverted to another airport.

cheerful flight attendantThe full plane of early-morning passengers transformed from a sleepy bunch of travelers into nervous camaraderie as conversations erupted throughout the plane, speculations about deboarding and re-routing sprinkled throughout spirited dialogue. Perhaps the happiest person was a woman two rows back that cheerfully announced this unplanned stop was her home destination and she was getting off as soon as the doorway was clear.😊 Amidst the grumbles of frustration about the delay and forced change of flight times causing a ripple effect of inconvenience, there were also spontaneous plans to grab some Texas BBQ if everyone had to deplane.

cloudy skiesIt’s in these tricky situations that one can see the range of human emotions and observe a wide range of attitude on display. Mothers patiently tended to children, providing distraction and encouragement. Level-headed flight attendants offered additional support to some elderly passengers.

luggageProblem-solvers sprang into action, procuring snacks for sustenance and making calls to rebook flights. 

Some people bailed immediately, asserting they would not get back on the same aircraft. Others made complaints aloud and responded grumpily after each delay update, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

A 15-minute delay bloomed into a 2 1/2 hour wait. People plugged into their devices, shifting from brief anxiety to resigned waiting.

Although there was a wide variety of individual responses, it seemed like we had developed some group solidarity in our waiting. More eye contact was made and conversations were deeper within the boarding area than usual because we had a shared experience of landing someplace unexpected. None of us planned to be in this particular spot, but we were pulled together by this disruption in our schedules.

An airport therapy dog was a welcome distraction and introduced a new common focal point for some positive interactions.airport therapy dog

Then relief pushed through the boarding area as our flight was called to board. For real this time. Reboarding was surprisingly upbeat as if we were reuniting with friends rather than the strangers we all had been just a few hours ago. Our numbers had diminished yet our remaining subgroup seemed undaunted in the collective hope that our flight would make it this time.

It didn’t.

After 45 minutes, we disembarked from the same plane again and started another round of problem-solving…and more people-watching in the process.

flight towerLife often unfolds this way, nudging us off our familiar paths and throwing us into a tailspin, doesn’t it?

We all encounter delays at one time or another. We each get diverted from our original plans. All of us receive unwanted news that changes our course. It may be relocating for a job, dealing with a medical crisis, or experiencing  the loss of a loved one.

How we face these challenges is a reflection of our personality and character. And, oh, how one person’s demeanor can impact the rest! We saw both positive and negative extremes of this during our 8-hour flight delay. 

The perspective we choose to cling to can make a huge difference when we are re-routed unexpectedly in life. Waiting for clarity requires tenacity.  Seeking guidance from those in our trusted watch tower requires humility. Sitting amidst uncertainty requires patience and perseverance.

(And don’t even get me started on lost luggage! )

However your life may be diverted, how will you choose to wait?

 

Proverbs 16:9