If your last few weeks have seemed like a whirlwind and the sound of Christmas music makes you feel a little edgy, you’re in good company. I’ve been trying to gather up my thoughts about the upcoming holidays and can’t quite get there. I really want to enjoy the Fall, to bask in the beautiful colors outside my window.
I want to marvel at the leaves piling up under the trees and remember how my boys relished rolling around in leaf piles until they had leaf dust ground into every inch of their clothing and they had begun to sneeze/wheeze with the overpowering earthiness of Fall.
– – – Gather in – – –
We’ve had a few brisk days and I’ve enjoyed gathering in, cozying up with my flannel-clad boys and enjoying the aroma of simmering cider in the trusty crockpot.
Slowly, we’re rummaging around in the depths of our closets to pull out our favorite layers and then second-guessing the weather to see if we’re on track for those surprising temperature flip-flops this season brings.
We gather in closer as we shift to more indoor activities, putting away the toys of summer and lean expectantly toward more family time lounging with favorite books and taking turns adoring the family dog who just can’t seem to get enough affection from her people.
– – – Gather round – – –
Our family goes through phases (depending on the sports of the season) of consistently making it to the dinner table together.
I love the nights when we can settle in and banter conversation about without the pressure of the eat-and-run.
Gathering around our table & exchanging tidbits about our days (often sprinkled with witty humor and gentle teasing) binds us together a little tighter.
Even if we scatter afterward to accomplish our various things, the hum of togetherness lingers a little longer because we’ve had that connection at the table.
– – – Gather deep – – –
I’m not a “social butterfly,” flitting about the crowd and seeking to make contact with a wide variety of people. (My heart races a bit just thinking about it. gulp!)
I tend to drift toward people with intention, preferring to sink a little deeper into conversation, wading into the grit of life as I talk with a friend or two at a time.
Since we’ve been hosting Bible Quilt™ sessions, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to gather deep with friends, new and old, sharing our walks of faith and pursuit of scripture for life.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I encourage you to SIMPLY GATHER with the people you love and cherish.
GATHER SIMPLY, minimizing the “fuss” and slowing down to enjoy this season before we’re jolted to the next.
Our mother-in-law, Kitty, was a go-getter. When she saw something that needed done, she marched out boldly and did it… sometimes with an unexpected ending. In remembrance of her birthday today, we’ll share one of her acts of boldness with you:
Kitty once saw a dog running loose in a busy neighborhood in Houston, so she picked it up and took it home with her. She gave him some food and water, soothing him with comforting words. Then she called the number on the dog’s collar. The grateful owner gave Kitty their address. Kitty loaded up the now very content dog back into her car. As she approached the address, houses on the street began to look familiar. She arrived at the destination and suddenly realized it was the EXACT address where she had originally picked up this “stray.” Yep, she had “rescued” this dog from its own yard! She handled this somewhat awkward moment gracefully and told this story to us several times over the years, embellishing it and laughing at herself as much as we did!
After the laughter subsided, what struck me was the boldness that Kitty displayed. She boldly stopped what she was doing to take care of a need that she saw in her community. She called a complete stranger to return a dog to its owner. And, once she realized she had snatched this “lost” dog from its very own home, she still boldly marched up to that house and ADMITTED what she had done.
As we celebrate our two-year blogiversary (is this really a thing, we wonder?), we have been praying some BOLD PRAYERS over this little business/ministry that the Lord has unfolded for us. We’re learning a lot about accounting, graphic design, logos, links, trademarks, inventory and event planning. Our backgrounds in psychology and education didn’t necessarily prepare us for this new territory, yet the Lord has provided the foundation of skills we need, the strength to lean on Him, and the openness to seek from others what is needed to fill in the gaps.
We’ve been stretched out of our comfort zones in many ways, over and over again, since starting our blog 2 years ago. Last weekend I had the opportunity to be the speaker at a women’s retreat – to share not once, but three times. I leaned heavily on prayers of strength from my support team to get me through my public-speaking jitters. (Those retreat ladies were beyond gracious to me!)
One of the illustrations I shared with the group was about how I incorporate the Bible QuiltTMinto my Bible study and devotions. I wanted to give them a visual about how I’ve rediscovered my strength and closeness with the Lord using this devotional technique, so I stood in the center of a hula hoop.
I shared that when I’m in this familiar sphere of comfort with the Lord, I get grounded in the Word and feel more secure. After I’ve refueled in my “circle” of Quiet Time, then I feel more confident to pick up my “hula hoop” of faith and share with others.
I wiggled my way through a little demonstration of hula hooping, which brought smiles and laughter to the group. Then I let the hula hoop fall to the ground and stepped out of it.
The hula hoop, although still colorful and sparkly, did not have the same impact when it just laid on the floor. It wasn’t being used to its full potential of joy. I encouraged the ladies to think about our Quiet Time with the Lord in the same way.
If we get ourselves all filled up on God’s promises and strength but do not share our faith with others, we are not engaging the full potential of joy we have in Him. I challenged them to consider ways they could step out of their comfort zones — to pick up their hula hoops — and invite others to share their joy in Christ.
A couple days after the retreat, I received a text from one of the women. She said, “I’m working on my ‘hula hoop space’ to hear God and how to work more on my Bible Quilt.” I dearly appreciated her response and thought I might share this idea with our readers, too.
In the past 10 days of actually owning a hula hoop again and inviting others to play with it, I’ve noticed that it brings a smile to each face: the one trying to hula hoop AND everyone watching. Hula hooping involves some vulnerability — throwing your hands up and surrendering to what happens, reminding ourselves it’s okay to feel a little awkward sometimes. When we let our guard down, we connect a little more…we let others see us being a little silly and perhaps more approachable in a playful posture. To stretch this analogy a little fuller, maybe we need a reminder that we are children of God. He delights in us.
“For the Lord delights in His people…” Psalm 149:4
As we offer up “hula hoop prayers” to be bold and step out of our comfort zones to share our faith or to make a closer connection with someone, we’re more able to join together in community, capitalizing on our full potential the Lord has designed for each of us uniquely.
How can YOU be bold today?
Who might YOU invite to share in the joy of your hula hoop?
I used to be afraid to pray bold prayers. I thought that if I prayed bold prayers I would have persecution come my way. And then one day I read that it doesn’t matter how intense ,or not, your prayer time is, persecution will still come your way. And so that is how I came to be a prayer warrior.
Now the Armor of God is an invaluable gift to us, and I used to also think that I had to ask God for it each day or else I didn’t have that spiritual protection. It wasn’t until I was considerably older that I came to understand that the armor was a gift that is never taken back. The importance of praying for it daily is truly for us to remember in thanks that we wear it all the time, and can use it in times of need.
One of the things that our family does on the drive to school each day is to take turns and thank the Lord for His armor that He custom made for us. I started that prayer time to teach my children about the armor of God…but every day is a reminder to me as well, and it fortifies us in our day. We are all prayer warriors.
When we pray, it diffuses the enemies schemes. We then get the privilege of watching God move through our lives. I’m not fearfulanymore of prayer.
When War Room came out in the theaters, many people set up places in their homes to pray bold prayers. Whether they taped cards on their closet walls or wrote them in journals…bold prayers came out of that movie. The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer also was written alongside War Room. She walks us through a simple way of writing out a bold prayer. At first, I wasn’t going to try the technique…but I’m so grateful that I went ahead and tried it. These are the prayers I cling to in peace and persecution. The prayers I have taken the time to write out, are the ones the Lord uses the most with me.
.Again, I never wrote out a prayer before I read this book. But by taking a few moments to construct a specific prayer over a topic, and then surrounding that prayer with thanksgiving, praise, repentance and scripture…whoa. Game changer for me.
So okay, it feels slightly vulnerable, but I’m going to share a few of my bold prayers because my heart feels a heaviness to do that. There is power in prayer; it does all our hearts good. My bold prayerright now, is that your heart is encouraged to either begin or carry on in a prayer time. I’ll never regret praying bold prayers.
A Prayer For Passion
Lord, Your loving-kindness never ceases. Your compassion never fails. Thank You, Jesus! Lord, please take my heart and renew it; make me a holy vessel for You. Lord, refresh my spirit, search my heart, show me how to be a prayer warrior for my loved ones. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (psalm 51:10) Amen.
A Prayer For Focus
Lord, You are far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else, (not only in this world but also in the world to come. Ephesians 1:21). I lose sight of where the attacks that come at me originate. I lose my cool, temper and self-control. Please keep me continually aware. Open my spiritual eyes; strengthen me with Your Armor, God, so that you can cut the enemy off from his plots and destruction. This battle is not mine, but Yours, God. Station me where I see Your salvation. I will not fear because You are with me.
A Prayer For Fears
Thank You, God, that You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, (2 Timothy 1:7). Forgive me, Lord, when I start listening to the voice of fear and stray from Your destiny for me. Help me, please, to step boldly in my faith with You by my side. Make me fearless because You are fearless! Remind me of Your promises. Thank You for Your instruction and teaching in the way I should go.; Your counsel and Your eye always upon me, (Psalm 32:8).
With the shift of seasons comes the inevitable wrestling with our fall wardrobes: what fits? what doesn’t? We cull out items that have lost their elastic or faded. We try to figure out if our favorite sweater is a “classic” or just plain old and out-of-date. Anybody else feel like they need to “phone a friend” just to get a more objective view of their clothing mess?
Cleaning out closets is not for the faint of heart. It requires firm decision-making and perseverance. Although we always feel better once we’ve conquered it, the process can be painful.
Each new season reminds us that we’ve changed. Sometimes our physical alteration is readily apparent while other times it’s subtle.
– – – From season to season, we shift. We settle. – – –
Many times we make it too hard. Our closets are filled with too many choices. We’re overwhelmed by all the micro-decisions we have to make about what goes together or we struggle to predict what’s the “right” dress code for a certain event.
What if we put just as much effort on our inner beauty, dressing from the INSIDE OUT?
We’ve probably all heard reference to the Proverbs 31 woman, an ideal multi-tasker and graciously competent in so many ways.“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25
In the aftermath of my closet cleanout, I did a little more digging in the Word to pull out some inspiration for this Fall season:
“clothe yourself with humility.” I Peter 1:5
To me, this is simply keeping it real.
…being genuine in our daily interactions, ponytail and all.
“clothe yourself with strength” Isaiah 52:1
Whatever workouts we’re doing to keep ourselves in healthy physical shape spills over into our emotional and spiritual health, too. Just as we strengthen our core by doing certain ab exercises, we strengthen our inner core through prayer and scripture reading, getting stronger with more and more reps.
“clothe yourself with compassion” Colossians 3:12
I love this one because it is for ALL seasons and looks good on everyone!
Compassion pairs nicely with everything and is suitable for all occasions. It can become as comfy as your favorite pair of jeans.
“clothe yourself with splendor” Psalm 45:3
Ok, so I played around a bit in my wedding dress this summer when one of my bridesmaids was in town.
In honor of our 25th anniversary, I thought it was time to pull my wedding gown out of the box and see if it still fit.
The memories rolled out amidst all the satin and beading….whoosh!
Slipping into this 25-year-old dress made me feel specialeven though I was still in my closet with ordinary, low-key makeup and messy out-of-the-pool hair.
I wonder if this is how God views us – IN SPLENDOR– while we tend to focus on our faults? Imagine if we could feel that splendor bubbling up from within us each day as we leave the house?
This last one is my favorite:
“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus.” Romans 13:14
No accessories needed. Just Jesus…from the INSIDE OUT.
Be bold as you walk into your day, friends, showing the sweet confidence you have in Christ.
How often do we get annoyed waiting for a download? As technology has advanced, we’ve gotten spoiled and increasingly more impatient with the few seconds this transformation occurs, forgetting that this process used to take minutes. (Not to mention our personal history with “dial-up” connections…we need not remind ourselves how old this makes us sound!)
. . . ___. . . Buffering . . . ___ . . .
Yep, we even have a fancy term for waiting on technology: buffering – -waiting with purpose and a heightened expectation of data coming our way. We’re paused as we wait for data or images to load, so we can proceed with our next electronic interaction. The momentary lapse in electronic connection makes us feel restless.
Software programs have even designed creative ways to give us digital “holding“ cues…a flashing line promising that progress is about to happen or a bright green line racing around a circle offering the illusion of “almost there.”
Last week when I was feeling the pressure of navigating a tight schedule while trying to accommodate the various speeds on which my children operate, it occurred to me how often I act as a buffering agent to those around me.
Like the mysterious data preloading that occurs, our buffering efforts go largely unseen but are constantly at work.
As moms, we’re often filling in the gaps between one family member to the next. We are frequently redirecting children, softening sharp edges of voice tones and harsh facial expressions. We’re constantly monitoring the goings-on in our families, serving as a hub in which each family member dives in for a brief connection then returns to their homework or computer screen.
We help modulate the buzz of activity in our households, buffering between family and houseguests or redirecting young sibling traffic to a neutral zone when teens are hanging out in another.
Even our pets use us as buffers. During yesterday’s thunderstorm, my golden retriever would not leave my side as she panted and anxiously tucked her tail, looking at me imploringly to “STOP MOVING ALREADY!” so she could settle.
As women, we probably have more buffering systems in play than men, so it’s not unusual for me to hear stories about how a friend is intervening between her husband and their realtor; or navigating details between her husband and service workers (and hoping to get the details about the roof leak, the hot water gadget, or the pool pump control panel interpreted correctly).
. . . ___ . . . We buffer between extremes.
We lessen the impact of potential harsh consequences we see coming, but they may not.
. . . ___ . . . We referee between siblings.
We reframe feedback from challenging teachers and revved-up coaches in ways our children can absorb it more constructively.
All this buffering can take a toll on us, leaving us feeling battered and weary. Sometimes on a day when we’ve spent so much energy putting out other people’s fires and not gotten our own agenda accomplished, we’re left feeling unproductive with an empty tank.
This past Sunday when I was feeling off-kilter after a busy week of solo parenting, I managed to stop for a few moments and go offline.
Even though I’ve been trying to practice the art of Sabbath rest, the struggle to downshift is tricky. During waking hours my brain does not seem to have an “off” switch, so this striving to rest is a discipline I have to work at intentionally.
As I’ve recognized the draining pull of this nearly constant buffering, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances more and realize the hidden impact my unseen efforts have on those around me. Slowly, I’m giving myself permission to “power down” so I can truly recharge and be more effective as a nurturing buffer rather than an automatic boomerang.
Like it or not, mommas, this buffering stuff is part of the gig. I’m grateful God wired us to multi-task and self-regulate so we can stay on track when needed. I’m also thankful for the grace He extends to us and through us, so we can upload a positive influence on our families.
Fall is our friendly buffer between the lingering mugginess of Summer and the harsh chill of Winter.
As we transition into muted days with a crispness in the air, may we slip away for some nature walks to rebuild our inner buffering system. We’ve got this, friends!
What is YOUR recharge going to be this season?
“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” – Charles Swindoll
Some projects are worth the wait. Our ideas have to germinate and our baby steps of action often take longer than expected, but the end result allows all the effort and perseverance to slide into a happy place.
So it was with our turquoise table.
I first read about #theturquoisetable concept a couple years ago: to have a friendly painted picnic table in the front yard to draw neighbors closer together. I loved the simplicity of Kristin’s idea and how the beauty of this gesture blossomed into a hospitality movement across the country.
My brain hatched a plan: “I can do this,too.”
Later that spring when we had some landscaping done, I incorporated an area large enough to accommodate a picnic table. I settled for spray-painting a garden bench for my splash of “welcome” turquoise. We had other things going on at the time and a picnic table project was not one of them.
Fast forward two summers. My sister-in-law called to tell me they were moving —into our neighborhood, about a half-mile away.
My brain cranked up the plan another notch: we could paint TWO tables at the same time, involving all our boys, and we could gift one to them as a housewarming present. An action plan was finally taking shape!
In late June, we sprang into action by getting the tables and buying the paint. They moved and then we went on vacation. Our tables kept each other company in our garage for a month.
Busy summer schedules eventually slowed a bit and we drug the tables out for an initial priming session:
These boys tackled the painting project with gusto!
While the primer dried, the boys went off to have a nerf dart war in the front yard, complete with trashcans & moving blankets for impromptu barricades.
At least one boy was still scampering around in only his underwear.
hmmm…Do you think this is what Kristin meant by #frontyardpeople?
We ran out of time that day, so the primed tables returned to the garage. The majority of our boys were “spotted” at back-to-school events with splotches of white paint in their hair.
Another week went by before we could wrangle all the boys in for another painting session. This time the excitement cranked up a notch because the fun color, Nifty Turquoise, was revealed.
(Moms were encouraging the use of hats and gloves this time…some boys heeded the warning; some didn’t.)
The magic of the Turquoise Table took effect immediately before the tables were even fully painted.
A neighbor lady walking by gushed about the fun color…and quizzed us about the number of boys involved. “Yep, they’re ALL ours!”😉
As we were painting, the air pressure changed and storm clouds rolled in. We hustled the almost-but-not-quite painted tables back into the garage just in time to beat the large raindrops threatening our progress.
Another 10 days or so elapsed before we got a second coat of paint on the tables…and it took another week to spray them down with polyurethane, but at last they were finished!
We celebrated with oreo ice cream sundaes prepared by my youngest son way back in June when we first started the project.
Yep, they were worth the wait, too!
As fall approaches, we’re eager to move family life to these cheerful tables out front and embrace the community around us.
If YOU haven’t started one yet, go for it!
It’s a fun family project . . . and almost as easy as 1, 2, 3!! 😜
However long it takes and the messes it makes, take joy in the process.
Memories are etched in the layers of these everyday colorful moments.
(aaand…if you’ve had a kid photographer involved, then you’ve got plenty of evidence to show for it!)
In between the hustle and bustle with this crew, I’m looking forward to some quiet moments out there with my Bible Quilt™journal, too.