Tag Archives: belonging

Closing the Gap

When generations come together, beautiful connections are made.

In the small Kansas town we moved from last year, we left a web of connections in our wake. During our 16 years in that community, we started our own little family and also “grew” an extended family. Although we still didn’t have relatives within 200 miles, we felt like we were severing family ties when we pulled out of town with Uhaul trailers dangling behind us.

soccer sidelineThese bonds didn’t occur overnight. We wove them over time through snatches of conversation on soccer sidelines, volunteering at school events, working in the community, visiting with neighbors, and serving alongside others at church. Since our children didn’t have grandparents nearby, we crafted some of our own through repeat connections with people in our community.

A dear lady in our church always greeted us with a warm smile and thoughtful questions about our family’s activities. Typically I’d have one child on my hip and another boy tugging on my arm, but slowing down to visit with this generous lady gave me an internal boost. We exchanged notes in the mail occasionally and she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner one year — a special treat for all of us without our “other” family around.

Thanksgiving guest

Another year we incorporated Acts of Kindness into our advent activities and serenaded a neighbor lady down the street. She reciprocated with holiday goodies and a beaming smile.

Christmas carol

She added a watchful gaze and a friendly wave as my boys trudged  by her house to school day after day, year after busy year. My youngest son developed a special connection with her, becoming her handy helper for various little tasks she needed from time to time. She got to share her stories with an enthusiastic listener who wore curiosity on his sleeve like a badge of honor.

These interactions unfolded naturally over time; they weren’t forced or felt like an obligation. Typically they occurred through seasonal shifts or holiday overflow of family activities. Somehow these brief interludes closed a gap for us. They weren’t quite a substitution for our “Family Tree” people, but offered a soft tether of connection in our chosen community.

Often I was the one behind the camera, orchestrating the logistics, yet I got to observe the faces of the young and old. I witnessed an echo of mutual admiration pass between them. Simple gestures –young hands carrying small treasures for elderly neighbors or weathered hands offering treats to eager boys — bridged the generational gap, pulling each closer. Something quietly slipped into place during these encounters; a sense of belonging and purpose emerged that wasn’t present before.

Now we’re on the lookout for potential opportunities in our new neighborhood, trying to be open to possibilities around us. Meanwhile we’re enjoying increased contact with our own extended family once again, knitting ourselves into deeper family grooves.
two generations' hands

We dabbled a bit recently by participating in a craft activity with a small group of seniors. Hands of different generations joined together in common purpose reflects such a beautiful collaboration, closing the gap of all the years in between.


“Live in harmony with one another…” Romans 12:16


A brief visit here or a quick craft there…you never know where you’ll discover a new “family member” to add to your nest.

Hints of hospitality

Throughout the year we have houseguests and like to welcome them in small ways so that they feel special.

hydrangea blossoms– Cutting some flowers from the garden and plunking them into an empty garden pot on an outdoor table

– Jotting a welcome note onto the dry erase board propped on the kitchen counter.

– Stacking some magazines on the guest’s bed

-Setting out a try of cold drinks

– Baking some cookies..and perhaps adding some bonus chocolate chips 🙂bonus chocolate chips

– Leaving a stack of freshly laundered towels and new body wash in the guest bathroom

– Providing an empty basket for their family to use as a catch-all for their traveling items

– Writing out our network name and WiFi password so it’s easily accessible

welcome sign in garden


hospitality = the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers

hello door and rainbow wreath

Hospitality is easily nurtured by including everyone in your family. Encourage your children to greet guests at the door and invite kids into their activities.

Set out some fidget toys or old-fashioned games to help get them started.

A family pet can be a great distraction to push through any awkward getting-to-know-you jitters.doggy welcomeSometimes hospitality is welcoming your own people back home after summer camp…welcome home goodie bag

Or perhaps your spouse knows you’ve had a long day and provides you with a fruity drink in a fun souvenir glass…then joins you for a few quiet moments.

boat drink

All of these little touches communicate “you are known” and “you are welcome here.” We are ambassadors of our families and can minister Christ’s love to others through simple gestures. So, put out that welcome mat and open your hearts for whoever may cross your threshold today!

welcome mat



“…seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13


If you are new to our site, Welcome! If you’re a continuing reader, notice we’ve made some changes to freshen up virtually for you. We’re still tweaking some of the format, so it may be a little messy — just like our houses when we’re in the midst of a good visit.

A Place to Dream

old playset

 

As I looked at a tired part of a swing set at a friend’s house that had been relegated to the back corner of the yard, a moment of inspiration hit me… Their daughter, who is in middle school, walked with me, and I heard the combination of grown-up banter mingled with sweet innocence of youth still on the outskirts of our conversation. Every age should have a place to dream their dreams; and at every age that place looks different. She no longer went out to swing from monkey bars anymore, but that set was not quite finished; repurposing is always fun!  We began to devise a plan and take this summertime to dream.

pails and twine   pinwheels  pails

 

She listed her favorite things: colors, twinkle lights, soft spots to linger, seashells, bunting, art supplies…

( the list itself was fun to dream!)

We kept the budget friendly, and made several things, which was more fun then buying them anyway!!

Let me show you what we created with a bit of dreams:

 

place to dream

oh so fun!

ribbon bunting

We made ribbon bunting with scrap pieces she had collected.                                                                             By tying them to some twine it made a whimsical addition to                                                                           string across the front entry.  

 

umbrella

She had a faded umbrella that was headed to the trash, but we saved it and placed it inside for a dreamy ceiling.

 

We suspended one piece of art in a window opening with twine to create an outdoor room.  enjoy moments

 

The time we spent putting this together was sweet in itself, but the opportunities for quiet moments, chats with her mom, a special place as friendships unite… such a treasure. A place to dream comes in every shape and size; the imagination is limitless! Take time this summer to set up a dream spot for a child, a loved one and absolutely for yourself! (Its more fun and less expensive than all those stress relievers out there.)

 

rainbow

Little hitchhikers

After a very fun-filled weekend road trip, I managed to get my weary self out the door for a walk. Within a few moments of dragging myself down the street, a little baby caterpillar landed on me. I considered taking him home to show my kiddos, but opted to set him free in the fresh spring grass so he could continue on his way. After all, didn’t our mothers tell us not to pick up hitchhikers?

I reflected on how this bright green caterpillar had clung so tightly to me until I released him. In much the same way, don’t we allow others’ words and comments stick to us? Maybe a taunt from an elementary school classmate still clings to us after all these years? (All of us “Four Eyes” unite!) Perhaps a harsh remark from a spouse or family member lingers even after apologies have been said? These verbal hitchhikers don’t have to come home with us. We can release them.

What if instead we carry compliments or words of encouragement as welcome travelers? Words have lasting power.
All you have to do is observe a woman be told she is strong, brave, kind, a warrior, a truth teller, capable, a shepherd, a gatherer, an encourager, poetic, worthy, loyal, precious, or genuine. Watch the emotion wash over her as her eyes sparkle or tear up. Let the moment sink in so she can absorb this new identity into her repertoire of names she’s collected during her lifetime. Transformation can occur in a few syllables spoken earnestly.

So, my friend, choose your traveling companion wisely. Be wary of little hitchhikers that may weigh you down or cause you harm. Release those names that you have been carrying for too long.

Share your words with othEncourageers with good intention and thoughtful purpose. We never know what word is going to cling to a neighbor, friend, or our own child. One remark can make a huge difference. It can tear down or build up. Choose to edify.

~~Speak with grace~~

Now I’ll be watching for beautiful butterflies that are flying freely because they weren’t hindered in their caterpillar youth.

 

Doors

door with leaf wreathDoors are a means of access to our homes, the entry point for family, friends, and neighbors. Often a front door is the first glimpse of the household it represents. Sometimes it’s worn and well-loved. Little nose smudges and fingerprint smears on the door panes greet you. Remnants of the previous holiday’s decorations may linger, left in the midst of more pressing activities. The raucous sounds of children’s voices and footsteps are heard before you even ring the doorbell. Lively interactions await you here.

Sometimes the front door is new and fresh, accompanied by a bright welcome mat placed just so. Potted plants sit flanking the door. This may be the “starter home” of a young couple who is quick to answer the door, eager to welcome their first housegudoor - magnoliaests.

Another door may seem utilitarian and sturdy, only a security peephole is visible. A small dog yaps to warn its older owner of someone at the threshold. Your visit here may be the highlight of this person’s day since this door no longer gets the traffic it once did in its younger days.

Doors are made of simple building materials yet represent so much more to those that live behind them. Doors offer security, a sense of protection from the outside world.

When you are invited through a door, there’s any underlying message of welcome. An open door communicates that you are sharing yourself with others: “this is us, you’re welcome here.”

door - give thanks

Doors within our homes provide privacy as well as define our individual spaces. The more doors between you and the outside world, the more you feel “tucked in.” Doors provide comfort, a sense of belonging: “this is our space.” Sometimes a door can provide a boundary between you and another family member if you need an additional buffer. Family members communicate their level of openness in how they leave their doors – wide open, ajar, or closed? doorknob

Much can also be communicated by how you leave a room. Do we close the door gently, sealing in those sweet experiences just shared? Or do we leave with a harsh slam – “I can’t handle you right now!” type of gesture? This may ebb and flow through different developmental phases of our family life.

As parents we decide who comes in and out of our doors, showing our children how to develop discernment regarding who gains entrance into our homes and preparing them for having doors of their own one day. Parents help set healthy limits and reasonable levels of accessibility. During the toddler years, doors open and shut a lot, but under our supervision. School-aged children may have friends drop by, knocking eagerly to see if someone can come out to play. Later on, the doors are often closing behind teens as they go off with friends.

morning hug

A door also represents the launching of our family each day. With my oldest it’s a quick hug as he heads out the door on his own. Few words are exchanged early in the morning with this one, but the hug at the door is a brief connection. With my middle son I step out on the porch with him, sharing a few quiet moments sitting together on the bench before he gets on the bus. Lately we’ve been talking about how my head can now rest easily on his shoulder when not so long ago his head rested on my shoulder. Lastly, my youngest and I play a little catch with his football, often including neighbor kids as they wait for the bus. I’ve noticed the bus driver’s wave is a bit more enthusiastic on the days the boys are huffing and puffing as they climb aboard.?

Each of these small moments is a way to open the doors of children’s hearts, to help them be a little more steady as they venture into their school day. Perhaps this extra boost will allow them to impact someone else’s day in a positive way.


“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep…I am the door, whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:7

open door with doorstop


Jesus is THE DOOR and is open for all of us. All of the time.

Finding “pasture” is discovering our sphere of influence in our families and community — one person at a time; one moment at a time.

How well are we showing our accessibility to others? In this season of holiday bustle, who can we welcome through our doors? Whose door do we need to visit to extend a special, much-needed blessing?