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.Last 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.Our 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.
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
Every one of us collects something — it may be a knickknacks or a journal of memories; it could be a shoe obsession or a box of treasured cards. Our children are no exception to this desire and are always bringing treasures into our homes. A smooth rock, a ruffled feather, a yarn necklace. What do we do with these things? Some are just passing through; headed quickly out the door, but others become cherished and meaningful. What looks like debris to one, may actually be the prized token in your child’s day. So how do we differentiate the useless from the priceless?
The artist side of me loves this layer in a home. But I also love order, so…I have given a patch of the kitchen counter over to our collections. Right as you walk in the door, where everyone can see, I’ve created a rotating gallery.
There is an unspoken love that radiates from a child seeing that you have highlighted what’s meaningful to them.
I may keep a leaf, an acorn or a feather for a while. But I know it’s all right to send it out as well. The object is not the main point of interest; it is that child who felt secure enough to share the beauty or awe and wonder with you. I don’t want to miss out on the blessings because they aren’t packaged the way I might expect.
We encounter God’s presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of justice and compassion, in loving relationships and in the experiences of everyday living.
Each Fall, my boys and I go on a nature walk. I adore this tradition that I stumbled into a few years back. What began as a walk to get some energy out of rambunctious boys, is now requested unanimously by all of us. On our way, we collect walking sticks: big, small, crooked and all! We spread newspaper on the patio table and paint them as many colors as we can find; with patterns galore. We laugh at all the paint we get on us in the process, and I snap pictures for our memory bank. Once we’ve had our fun, I collect them and bundle them somewhere in our home for the winter months to come.
Just when I think that I’m doing all this for the children, it dawns on me that it is also for me. Because later in those moments when I’m tired, impatient, thread-bare… I walk past those brilliant colors of sticks, and it grounds me again. My focus is restored in that moment; the importance of my family is in front of me. These sticks have become treasures in our home, and when they are broken and gone, those beautiful colors will still be bold in my heart.
There are little bowls tucked into table groupings for a child’s treasure to be showcased in our home. We have precious yarn weavings strung across a lamp or curtain rod from time-to-time. I will tape that picture on the hall mirror for all to see for a week or two. I will leave the birthday balloons hanging by their bed the whole month to remember the celebration of that child.
Take interest in the details of the heart when it comes to your family for this is a richly woven layer that they will carry with them forever.
“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of YOUR heart.” Psalm 37:4
The words we speak in our homes are so powerful. Words can be spoken in a way that edify and result in strengthening the connections we have with one another. Or our words can tear down and fray those tender threads that link us to our loved ones.
Words within a family carry underlying messages:
“I know you.”“You are meaningful to me.” “I want to continue our story together.” “We have something shared that’s unique to us.”
Not only the content, but the tone conveys so much….are we communicating warmth? criticism? rejection? belonging? This is a daily struggle. I have to be intentional DAILY in my choice of words, my timing, and especially my tone of voice. The words we have posted throughout our homes are as much for us as parents as they are for our children. They are reminders to maintain the peace, to speak truth, to be kind.
When we think about the “tapes” in our heads from our own childhood, what do we hear? Think back to those tender junior high lunch encounters, those rowdy high school band trips, those tension-filled college interviews. How many of those events had a word or phrase etched into the memory? How many of these were more negative than positive because it felt seared into us at the time?
The lines repeated to us the most and grooved into us are most likely from our closest family members and carved in deeply during intense interactions filled with highly charged emotions. What are we as parents instilling in our children’s heads? What tracks are we laying down? When our child is in a tough spot, does our voice pop in with an encouraging tone “you’ve got this!” or a negative tug “what did you do NOW?” Home is where we practice our words and reactions with one another. It’s where the training ground is for communication.
My husband and I have been working toward fostering a ‘no criticism’ buffer around our dinner table, redirecting and reminding our sons to rephrase negative statements they make to one another. Recently, we capitalized on a sermon we heard about not using a filter of negativity with one another. The pastor’s message was about how much we “filter” over our interactions, not being true and genuine, often putting a negative spin on others to cast ourselves in a better light. Since we heard this message as a family, I made a #nofilter reminder sign and place it in the center of our table. When this reminder was first invoked, my oldest son was particularly quiet throughout the meal. My middle son noticed this and complimented his brother on respecting the #nofilter rather than make critical comments to correct his younger siblings’ stories. We acknowledged both of their efforts and moved on, not dwelling on it. It’s a little reminder with a powerful impact: this time and place is a protected space to be yourself
The family dinner table is a small zone to cover, but so far seems manageable. It creates a safe zone when we all come together for a meal, especially if we’ve been scattered in different directions throughout a busy day. This safety zone invites us to linger a little longer over a meal because feelings aren’t being hurt by inadvertent comments or direct put-downs. It’s slowly becoming a family norm so we as parents don’t have to police the verbal barbs quite so much.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
One night shortly after starting this new routine, I served baked apples as a fall treat. I suggested to my youngest, who was my dinner helper, to come up with a quick family game. He chose “Apples to Apples” to coincide with our dinner. We did a 10-minute round of the game, which ended in a greater sense of family closeness and much laughter at my husband’s expense. (Now we have a new family catch phrase “Glitter hands!” that we can use as a tension breaker, but that’s another story!) I think I had more energy to prolong the dinner into a family activity because we hadn’t been refereeing negativity. It’s a simple shift in a specific family routine that hopefully will gradually extend into other interactions.
Where might your #nofilter zone be? At your dinner table? In the car? At bedtime? During school drop-off? The 30-minutes right after a child’s sporting event?
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet for the soul;
healing for the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
We know that God created the universe with words, and Jesus healed with words. We learned in our upbringing that our words of prayer overcome evil. We were read scriptures about sowing words: “the seed is the Word of God” Luke 8:11. We know by experience that words build faith or doubt; they are sometimes subtle, but so powerful. And of course they can bring joy or pain to our day in a split second, changing the course of how we feel or act.
Last week we decided to walk through our homes, just out of curiosity, and write down all the words we have on our walls, tables, frames, etc. Wow! This was a great exercise: you should try it! It took just a few minutes, but it showed us something interesting. We have wall art with words painted, small rocks with words etched in, pillows with words stamped, blankets with words stitched, letters that symbolize initials in our families. Once we had our lists of words constructed, we began to see themes emerge that we never recognized! In fact, we both gravitate toward this layer of our home, and some of our rooms were missing that layer. The dining room was void of any words. This was quickly remedied as we borrowed a few items from other spaces, and now, as we are sitting at that table, we see words of hope, of family, and of love. It is subtle, but it makes us smile.
The word Peace is in a boys’ game room that is anything but peaceful!! It was hung during a season of raising 3 babies when it was desperately needed as a visual for the momma. It hangs a little crooked, yet there is no way we want it straightened. It still brings calmness to a crazy family space when we see it; and it reminds us of how faithful the Lord has been to us through thick and thin. One word can change an atmosphere. One word can adjust a momma’s attitude and that, dear friends, can make a difference for the whole family dynamic.
We build up our children each day with words of affirmation, pouring love into those sweet spirits. We sometimes have to ask our family for a “do-over” — for words that came out wrong. We pray out loud with them to etch those words on their hearts. We write them silly notes and tuck them places; only to discover they sometimes cherish them and place them under pillows or in special boxes to save and look at over and over. Words are full of Life.
If this is a layer of your home that seems meaningful to you, then take a stroll through your rooms and see what you discover. It is a thread that you weave throughout the spaces that your loved ones walk. Enjoy the journey.
We are embarking on a journey and invite you to come along. Just as you are, in the midst of your ordinary day. Walk with us as we explore the beauty in everyday moments. We may linger at some points along the way, wander around a bit, or sometimes seem to have a frenzied pace to meet a determined goal.
We have been walking life together for 17 years. God has bound us together through our marriages to two brothers and the shared experience of us both being mothers of boys. Our lives have intertwined through the course of family gatherings, holidays, vacations, and raising children. We have a lot of common threads in how we live our daily walk and share similar views of parenting. In many ways we are very different, but we have learned how our personalities complement each other in our combined families.
We are curious about how God transforms the Ordinary Threads of daily life into extraordinary tapestries of family, community, and unique individuals. We are particularly focused on how these Ordinary Threads are woven into our homes and how we as women layer these threads in the midst of all the bustling activity from day to day.
There’s a bit of mystique involved in transitioning a house into a home. God created in each of us a strong desire to provide a warm, nurturing environment for our families…to make our houses into homes that are safe havens in which to nurture our little people and to support our hard-working husbands. It’s not a simple task; it certainly doesn’t occur overnight. It’s a process we’ve shared throughout the years and want to broaden our sharing community with you.