Tag Archives: family

Fruits of the Spirit

Sometimes you don’t know when a simple craft activity is going to have a big impact. You’re just trying to keep those little people in your house engaged in something productive so they aren’t tearing the house apart!

Several years ago I led my boys through one of those Make-a-Plate kit projects and then actually managed to get it mailed. Some days the simple completion of a task is a major accomplishment, right, busy Mommas?” Since we were working on table manners and talking about how the kids could show kindness at school, I chose the Fruits of the Spirit verse and let them pick which concept they wanted to illustrate. Rainbows, trees, and stick figures emerged as those wriggling bodies slowed down to color and carefully write out these powerful words.



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Fruit of the Spirit plate

We were all excited to receive the package of our completed plates! Each week we would choose one Fruit of the Spirit  to be our focus. We set that plate on a stand as a colorful reminder as we passed by it throughout the day. At dinnertime we enjoyed hearing about the gestures the boys made with friends, teachers, and soccer teammates to show that particular character trait. As parents, we shared examples from our workdays or stories from our childhood. Sometimes we used the plates as ice breakers for teaching moments as we redirected boyish antics at the table. When setting the table, we often shared knowing looks with each other as we placed a certain plate in front of a specific person, acknowledging “he sure needs a little extra self-control tonight” or “she needs some PEACE today.”

Fruits of the Spirit plates - devotional

When we signed up to go on a mission trip with our church and were asked to share a family devotion, we took our plates on the road — literally traveling 2,000 miles roundtrip to visit a children’s home in Mexico. We used the plates to illustrate our story of trying to put the Fruits of the Spirit into action in our daily family life. We helped lead the craft activity for those children to make their own plates. Many kids chose the phrase “Dios es Amor” = “God is love.”

Although we weren’t present when the Children’s Home received their shipment of plates, we Fruits of the Spirit platesheard it was a time of great JOY as these children received something tangible with their names and drawings featured. The following year our family returned to the same Children’s Home and we saw how much these plates were being used and treasured by children who had little of their own.

When we returned home from the mission trip, we made a poster to share at our local school and had another chance to share the Fruits of the Spirit in the context of a mission trip report. Several of the students were unfamiliar with the verse, but it became “real” to them when they passed the plates around during show-and-tell.
Fruits of the Spirit - sharing at schoolI was humbled as I realized how God had created an outreach of ministry from one small family project. Our family’s craft activity was shared with our church’s mission team families, about 100 Mexican children separated from their own families and then again locally with children at our sons’ classes at school. God is faithful. He reveals His GOODNESS to us through our small actions that He uses in big ways for His glory.

Fruits of the Spirit plates - missionsFruits of the Spirit plates - loveFruits of the Spirit plate - Jesus me ama

White Noise

chillThere is an unconventional layer to a home that you may have never considered. It is the White Noise that plays as the background music to our lives. It is usually unspoken, but for our memories it is SO powerful. It’s worth taking a look at.

Songs have a way of mentally dropping you back to a certain event and time; so do the sounds of a home, and they are a layer to each of our lives.

Definition of White Noise: random frequencies with equal intensity

Here are a few of our families’ favorites:

A football game on TV Sunday afternoon signals that Dad is home; the best naps come with the low steady rhythm of a football game on.

Pots and pans clanking in the kitchen entice you to expect something delicious soon.

Children giggling in another room as they play are branding brotherhood onto their hearts.

The hum of the washer and dryer in the evening at bedtime lulls you to sleep and secures your spaces.

Lullabies and music calm children and invite them to linger longer.

Basketball games in the driveway are a beautiful noise to neighbors that are empty nesters.

The rustling of pages during family reading sessions…Everyone is absorbed in their own books yet this shared time itself is becoming a beloved chapter in the family’s own storyline.

The panting and giggling interwoven into the beat of “Just Dance” tunes during family Wii competitions evokes a sense of spirited togetherness.

The jingle of the dog’s collar rushing to greet the kids coming home from school is a joyous welcome.

The creaky sound of the garage door going up signifies family members returning home.

A Dad’s chuckle and a boy’s snort as they read the comics together is a bond of humor.

An instrument being practiced in a particularly diligent way just before a recital adds a vibrant undertone to other activities.

The loud clatter of Legos tumbling out of a bin and then the quieter clinks as little hands search for “just the right” pieces are echoes of boy happiness.

The signature clap of Papa’s hands as he greets his grandsons at the door provides a generational connection.

white noise

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. Psalm 98:4tulips

God interweaves some beautiful White Noise into our settings as well. Just stop and quiet yourself to listen: the melody of a bird song, the katydids and tree frogs on a hot summer night, the wind that whips through the trees, the waves that crash to the shore, the rain that drizzles and sometimes pours, the crackling leaves underfoot a child that enjoys the “stomp”; all so intrinsic and beautiful.

This layer of White Noise has so much richness to it; it is a constant, steady rhythm in our days, wherever we go and whatever lies ahead of us, there is a steady beat in our background, a soundtrack that keeps our pace. I ask our Lord for forgiveness on the days that I have created the Noise that can be  ugly. My heart is sad on the close of a day that I may have produced sounds of irritation to a loved one, or harshness and impatience to a stranger, not knowing their story, and now considering the impact.

crackling fire

I relish the days that my ears hear the sweet sounds of a happy home, the gentle sway of nature and it’s seasons. These are the days that I am grounded in God; embracing His plans for the day ahead. There is peace that surrounds those day even in the midst of Noise. Stop and listen; not just with your ears, but also with your heart and soul. The White Noise is no accidental occurrence in our lives. We produce it and blend our sounds with the amazing soundtrack of the Lord. White Noise is an incredible layer to a home if you are aware of its presence. Enjoy the melody.childhood

A Quiet Life

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life.”  I Thessalonians 4:11

This verse got me the other day. My first reaction was “that sounds lovely…sign me up!” Reality closed in shortly thereafter with a text message chiming and a kid calling “hey mom…. “

So, what does living a “quiet life” even mean for us today?” Is it to be content in your day-to-day life? To engage calmly with those around you? To live simply?

In our modern day western culture, we live with a lot of clutter: media, clothes, household items, toys, gadgets, sports equipment, dawn-to-dusk activities, etc. Each item or activity may have started with a pure motive – a kitchen gadget to make cooking more efficient, a garden tool to complete a yard project, a new golf club to improve our swing, each child choosing a sport or instrument to play.backpacks Taken individually, these separate choices seem simple and uncomplicated. Added up together over time, however, all of these “simple” choices lead to excess in our houses, garages, and yards. The electrical devices originally intended to make things more accessible and portable become ever-present and we feel tied down to them, trained to respond immediately. Our minds are perpetually racing to manage all the stimuli and sensory inputs bombarding us. Each family member’s single activity has a cumulative impact on the family schedule. We spend so much time scheduling our family calendars that this becomes its own activity. I love my big white board to keep it all straight, but it in itself is a reflection of the Busy in our lives. large calendar board

How do we turn down the volume “to live a quiet life?” Many books, blogs and ads direct us to streamline and declutter. We have garage sales, participate in donation drives, recycle, pass along, and repurpose yet Stuff creeps back in with a vengeance. We are bombarded by social media, news, and music constantly. The Noise is everywhere we go. What do we have to release to edge a little closer to the Quiet Life?

I’m wondering if it’s possible to make a purposeful return to the Basics. That sounds a little retro,  a bit old-fashioned…maybe even naive.  How do we even determine this “Basics” level for our families? I’ve often reframed conversations with my children regarding their spoken wants vs. needs. Standing together in the toy aisle may involve a discussion such as “you want that cool Lego set, you don’t need it.” Yet my Target run for groceries almost always yields something from the household section or those tempting colorful container aisles. And it’s so easy to rationalize those little exfull carttras in seasonal clearance. As I near the checkout stand, though, I do a little rethinking as I’m reviewing my full cart…who put ALL this stuff in here anyway? ? Sometimes I’m able to remove a few items with a quick sweep; sometimes not.

What if we had a daily goal of “one less?” Maybe “one less” item in the grocery cart or “one less” book at the bookstore? It could be “one less” visit to a favorite coffee shop or “one less” just-let-me-run-in-here-for-a-minute stop. “One less” show on TV or Netflix? “One less” hour of device usage each evening? Limiting activities at the beginning of the school year — a goal of  “one less” for each child? We noticed a vast difference just by dropping one music lesson per week.

Reality check: We knew we’d grown accustomed to an over-scheduled life when we reclaimed a couple weeknights as Family Nights and it felt “weird” to have a choice of what to do in thOutdoor gamese evening rather than running to the next activity on the agenda. It’s a “good weird,” though. I’m embracing it as one way to subdue the hectic pace. On occasion I even take a risk and turn off the radio in the car, allowing the silence to invite conversation back in. That sure gets a response from my teen passengers, but they’re gradually getting used to it…and I get a little bolder each time.

If “one less” feels punitive or too hard to maintain as a discipline, how about “one more” of those interactions we value? We could offer “one more” round of cards, “one more” story at bedtime, “one more” walk around the block…Perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the foundation of living a Quiet Life after all: “Less IS more.” 

Tuned In

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.red barn in ColoradoLast 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.walk in the snowOur 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.snow on pine tree

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



Family plate

Feathers, Rocks, and Walking Sticks

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. flowers and burlap bottleOur 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.

painted handsEach 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 bobelieve - acornswls 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

 

Words in our Home

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.

there's no place like home
“there’s no place like home”

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 #nofilteroldest 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?