Tag Archives: harmony

Contrasts

Last week began with a two-day stay at the hospital with my son for an unexpected procedure following a dramatic  ER visit. This week started out with lovely spring weather and the chance to play in the dirt, planting pretty flowers. 

From one week to the next it was quite a contrast and, boy, am I grateful to have it moving in a positive direction! blossom

One end of my garden zone is full of shriveled plants, brittle vines, and cracked, dusty pots that have been neglected during the winter. The other end of my garden is beginning to show splashes of color amidst freshly turned soil and vibrant green starter veggies.

It’s a contrast between what has faded away and what is blossoming with hopeful growth.

adolescent turtle emerging
adolescent turtle emerging

Last fall we were eager to get the school routine in full swing again, fresh school supplies nestled into tidy backpacks. As the school year is now dwindling into mere weeks, the energy level for it is more sludgy than springy.

Final exams and long-term project deadlines loom overhead and students are slinking out the door as late as possible, ripped backpacks slung quickly over their shoulders.

The end of something is strikingly different from its fresh beginning.

Nature is full of contrasts and what pulls us in to wander about in different environments, stretching us beyond our familiar.climatis

Life is punctuated with peaks and valleys; our energy levels ebb and flow throughout the various seasons of family life.

These contrasts give us dimension and help strengthen our resolve to push onward. Contrasting experiences help us see deeper perspectives, softening our rough edges. We have the opportunity to adjust our outlook throughout the intensity of  the highs and lows, transforming ourselves in the gritty middle. 

lambs earContrast draws us in closer in our relationships. It adds texture and intrigue.

Contrasting opinions broaden our discussions, widening our cultural lens.

Contrast keeps boring at a distance.

Photographers seek it; architects nurture it.

When we pause to appreciate the contrasts of the human experience, our inward reflections deepen and our connections with others can become more fully saturated as we see richer hues in those around us.

Perhaps we can glimpse a sparkle of hope where we had only previously seen darkness.

The raggedness of grief may slowly slip into sweet reminiscence.

Maybe we  see the blossoming of a child as they overcome a personal struggle.

flowering in a crackAs graduation looms around the corner for many families, we’ll be struck by the contrast of our young, confident adults tackling their last days of school while we’re remembering their little faces on the first day of school.

They will be on the tippy toes of a new adventure while we’re clinging to their childhood for just a sliver longer. We’ll walk through the contrasting emotions of pride and loss; hope and disbelief . . . letting go and hugging just a little bit tighter. Parents will ponder, “how did this happen so fast?” while their kiddos wonder “will the last day evvver get here?”

Contrast highlights what’s important.

It sharpens our focus on details that matter.

It awakens our souls to pay attention.

Let’s embrace the contrasts that enrich our lives and weave us together ~~ God’s beautiful tapestry unfolding around us.



“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8



 

Family Fusion

Traditions sometimes sneak up on you. A thrown-together event one year can evoke strong reactions that develop into expectations for a repeat the following year.
That’s how our annual Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza emerged…Easter eggs

Someone asked me last week “when are we getting together to dye Easter eggs?” 

Oops! I hadn’t cracked out of our spring break recovery mode yet.

I quickly sent out some FB invites for  our “2nd annual” Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza and later realized it was actually our 3rd. April Fools!

(How can it already be our 3rd one?)

Each year it’s been a different mix of family and friends. Everyone wanders around loosely from one activity to another. dyeing Easter eggs
Egg-dyeing was interspersed with kids taking turns climbing up the rope as adults cheered them on.

We paused our egg decorating when the fire reached its prime for roasting hot dogs. The crowd meandered toward the food…

Dinner was interrupted when large raindrops beckoned the abrupt beginning of the Easter egg hunt as kids scrambled for buckets and I corralled the dog so she wouldn’t steal our hot dogs.

Cousins did a version of “hot and cold” egg hunting at the Turquoise Table

The ebb and flow of a family gathering takes on a life of its own.

Cool Whip egg-dyeing

March Madness lured some to stay inside and chat over the games.

Egg dyeing experiments continued outside. Have you tried it with Cool Whip? Messy Fun!

Pockets of conversation occurred in passing as people came and went.

Local family fused with family visiting from out of town.

Family lines blurred as a grandma from one side of the family connected with a granddaughter from another side, 

roasting smoresMemories of loved ones were discussed as we lingered in front of the fire, acknowledging those that weren’t with us this year but would have added their own personal spark to the occasion.

s'mores

 

 

As I watched this eclectic mix of family gather around to do their own special version of s’mores, I observed the  sweet fusion of family blending into their own unique flavor, too.

Simple hospitality…charred hot dogs, sticky marshmallows, plastic eggs strewn about the yard, and the love of Christ ebbing through our various interactions.

That’s how simple moments become shared traditions, intended or not!


“We love because HE first loved us.” I John 4:9


egg hunt dash

Lessons in the Mess of Life

In this brief lull of the Holiday Hustle, I’m catching my breath after a delightful Christmas before we gear up for another round of family gatherings coming up this weekend.

My heart is full, my house has been well used,  and my sweet tooth has been revved up on high. (Is it better just to get all the delectable goodies eaten up so they aren’t taunting me???)Christmas cookies

Our family pace has slowed a bit yet our rhythms are a little wonky due to clumsy shifting from  sluggish relaxation to the next flurry of holiday activity.
I savor our togetherness however it occurs. 
family walk in the snow
Holidays are often an eclectic mix of excited anticipation and a pinch of disappointment when things don’t go as expected, aren’t they? 
Christmas trees sometimes fall over and treasured ornaments go flying…fallen Christmas tree
Beloved coffee cakes may overflow and drip all over the oven, creating a burnt stench wafting through the house instead of filling it with the usual sweet aroma….coffee cake overflow
In these moments, frustration rises quickly and it’s so easy to feel defeated in our attempts to cultivate holiday traditions.
Moving past the initial grumbling, we tackle the messes and clean up the spills. (We are still the adults after all, right?)
coffee cake delivery
Christmas coffee cakes ready for delivery…
Sometimes we have to go back to the very beginning and try again to get the end result we’re hoping to achieve. We often learn something deeper about ourselves in this unwinding process.
Messes and mishaps remind us to keep things in perspective. Others are struggling with deeper trials and faced with tougher challenges.
None of us can do it on our own. We are small in the grand scheme of things.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,

the First and the Last,

the Beginning and the End.”

Revelation 22:12


I’m grateful we have a God that provides GRACE in all of our vulnerable mess. He is with us in our humble beginnings. He is with us in the messy middle. He is with us in the aftermath.
It’s comforting to feel His presence always available to us.  We just have to push through our distractions to realize He is the First and is the Last in all of it. 
Alpha and Omega page in Bible Quilt®
Alpha and Omega page in my Bible Quilt®
As this year draws to a close and we’re scurrying around to tie up loose ends, hopefully we’re carrying with us a little more wisdom from what we have learned about ourselves this past year. 
May we lean into the New Year with deeper insight, brighter hope, and more realistic expectations. 

– – – Here’s to a strong finish and a fresh start, friends! snow on pine tree

 

 

Gingerbread all the Way!

baking gingerbread
Some years we’ve made Gingerbread aprons…this guy has now outgrown two!

Last weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.

This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.

Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.

Jenks Gingerbread house
Jenks Trojan mascot, overlooking the fusion of campus life

The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.

Di & Audra with 1st gingerbread house
The Lone Star House – 2001 Gingerbread

We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen  kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.

We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.

Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.

the Flour KingMany versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings  just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.

gingerbread team

We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.

We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor. gingerbread in production

Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying  their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.cousins

Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.

candy-eating decorating
Eating candy is ALWAYS part of the process

As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.

Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.hospital gingerbread

Batman gingerbreadAs the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in  creating and constructing.

The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.

Sugar Cube Castle
Sugar Cube Castle 2016

generational gingerbreadseniorsGrandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.

Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true  joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.

As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles,  we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.

Superhero City
Superhero City – 2015 Gingerbread

Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.

Here’s to family and GINGERBREAD all the way!

Yay!

 

 

PEACE, not pieces

give thanks: pie for dinnerOur family has done Thanksgiving in many different ways over the years. We’ve hosted the dinners yet also driven the miles to do the rounds between all the families. We’ve squished in family projects in lieu of big family gatherings. Some years we’ve taken off for a family getaway instead of sticking with tradition.

small hands making pie crustOne of the ways we’ve reclaimed our own family connections going into the holiday season  is to share a few hours together baking pies. Several  years ago I said yes to one of my boys who asked if we could cut into one of the pies  to have a taste.  pies for dinner

So, we began having “pie for dinner” on Thanksgiving Eve, letting go of the expectation of showing up to our family gig the next day with fully intact pies. We feel a little giddy with the power of “eating dessert first” and having pie as the only thing on the dinner menu.

As we were winding down our Pie for Dinner night this year, a candle was enthusiastically blown out which splattered wax all over our white tablecloth. Although a little chagrined, we tried not to let it overshadow the scrumptious fun we had just had together. We walked away from it, piecrust crumbs and all.

waxy tableclothThe next day after returning from a festive and full family dinner, I gathered up the tablecloth and stuck it in the freezer to deal with later. (I read about this handy trick somewhere, so I gave it a whirl.) Yesterday morning I attempted to get the wax to flake off.  No luck! I threw it in the washer with mild hopes that some laundering magic might make the wax disappear. Nope! It morphed into a smooth patch of muted blue splotches…and is on the verge of being downgraded to a craft tablecloth. Oh well!

As I’ve gone round and round with this silly thing, I’ve realized I can get worked up about it or come to peace with it and move on…because we know the next season’s messes will be upon us before we know it, right?

Christmas tree pine needles

Along with the jingly bells of the season, we hear the buzzing of pressure all around us.

Sometimes our calendars fill up rather than our hearts.

We can easily get pulled into holiday stress, feeling the fractures sneaking in. Or we can remain steadfast in seeking out the joys and peace of the season, one choice at a time.Bible Quilt™ - heart at peace

When we’re tugged to get our shopping done early or to be among the first wave of holiday cards arriving in busy mailboxes, we need to intentionally slow down to pull together rather than apart.

We know we need to choose relationship over finding just the “right” gift…one heart decision at a time.


“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…” Luke 2:19


It’s okay to take a break to ponder…and perhaps reflect on the bigger picture.

People all around us are hurting. Families are facing loss. Friends are financially squeezed. We can all use a dose of PEACE rather than fall to pieces when we get overwhelmed with holiday stress or encounter another flavor of brokenness.

give thanks at #theturquoisetable
Giving Thanks at the Turquoise Table

We can strive to give thanks for the overflow of one season blurring into the next, preparing our hearts one day at a time.



PEACE, not pieces.



 

Simply Gather

– – – Gather up – – –

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.maple tree through window

trees in fall

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.

playing in leaves

– – – Gather in – – –

red leafWe’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.

katie - greeting

– – – Gather round – – –

fall tablescapeOur 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.

leaves turning yellow

– – – 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.

Gather page in Bible Quilt™
Gather page in Bible Quilt™

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.



leavesWe’re halfway through our #30daysofgratitude series in our Ordinary Threads Facebook Group.

Join us as our members share snippets of gratitude each day!

Hope all of your Thanksgiving GATHERings are blessed!