Tag Archives: connection

Simply Gratitude

Sometimes family traditions can be simple and not take much time, yet still foster a strong connection between family members.

starting gratitude pumpkinThe Gratitude Pumpkin is super easy. All you do is select one of your pumpkins that wasn’t sacrificed into a jack-o-lantern and grab a sharpie marker.

Then simply take turns writing a word or phrase of gratitude.

I love the unfolding of different colors and handwriting scrawls as the words of gratitude wind themselves around and around the pumpkin. As the pumpkin fills with gratitude messages, we realize that our gratitude is wide, ranging from Legos to forgiveness. We see a mutual appreciation for family, friends, and a safe country.

gratitude pumpkin signingLast year we did this activity on our front porch, adding a gratitude in the morning while we waited for the bus …or in the evening as we enjoyed impromptu frisbee or football out in our front yard.

It’s very casual, not structured at all.

gratitude pumpkin signing

We didn’t realize until later that our little pumpkin was blessing whoever came to our door. In a season of frequent deliveries from Amazon or having family over for holiday events, it became a special welcome moment as people paused to read about our thankfulness.

gratitude pumpkin (cont)
Gratitude pumpkin

 

Simply Gratitude.

Now that’s a tradition that we can get behind.

Join us?

 

 

 

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.

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?

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

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