Tag Archives: kindness

What’s your fulcrum?

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a teeter-totter, but I have fond childhood memories spending time with a special friend, seesawing and giggling as we soared up and down on that creaky teeter-totter.

The seesaw is an example of one of the  6 simple machines that we learned about way back in elementary science class. The  integral piece of a teeter totter is the fulcrum, the point on which a lever rests or is supported and on which it pivots.

solo seesawA teeter-totter is one of those playground structures that requires a friend. It’s rather pointless to sit on a teeter-totter by yourself. It doesn’t get you anywhere. As soon as you’re joined by a friend, however, it becomes an interactive piece of equipment with “fun” potential.

Friends share each other’s ups and owns, balancing each other out. When one friend is down, the other often has a clearer perspective of the situation. You can help a friend shift back into neutral by leaning in or adjusting your own position.

Reciprocity is a beautiful part of friendship. This give-and-take between friends strengthens the relationship as friends buffer each other in the ups and downs of life.

We can soften the landing if we see a friend heading for a hard fall.teeter-totter

We can slow down the pace when the momentum gets too frenetic.

We can offset the load by grounding ourselves for a moment, standing firm to steady our friend.

To manage our end of the teeter totter, we need to maintain contact, being aware of our friend’s level of readiness for impact.

Most importantly we need to have a shared fulcrum that allows us to have some leverage when we need it. The fulcrum plays an essential role. We depend on it for support and stability. It bears our combined weight even as we gain momentum together.

When we lean on the Lord as the fulcrum in our relationships, we depend on Him for support to bear our emotional weight and to dissipate our shared burdens.

loaf of bread in mailbox
Special delivery: a fresh loaf of homemade bread from a friend

We all have a turn at the downs of life and may find ourselves on the receiving end of a friend’s kind gesture. During these tender times, we’re challenged to be open and receptive even though it feels a little vulnerable.

sliced homemade breadWhen we hear struggles that our friends are facing, sometimes it’s unclear how we can help. Although we can always offer to pray, sometimes we want to put our support into more tangible action.

It can be tricky knowing when to offer a word of encouragement or figuring out an action step to support a friend. We have some social norms that guide us in some situations, but otherwise this helping gig can seem pretty murky.

Moving day - bunch of fun
Moving day: Have a BUNCH of fun in your new home!

This year I’ve been working on releasing expectations and praying that I follow the Lord’s leading in each day as it unfolds. I’ve tried to be more intentional when I feel a #Godnudge to do an act of support for a friend. Sometimes these nudges seem small or random, but the obedience to follow through on them allows the Lord to do His work.

To connect with long-distance friends, sometimes I’ll call them while I’m taking a walk to catch up. It’s a double stress reliever…often for both of us.

walking the dogRecently when I was chatting with  an out-of-state friend, she offered prayer support for a family situation. Then she commented that she wished she could help me out in some way. I had a #Godnudge to ask her if she had some simple recipes she could send me to take the brainwork out of menu planning. Having something new to try helped me regain some momentum in the kitchen.

Last Tuesday, I stepped out of my comfort zone to reach out to someone I didn’t know concerning a sweet girl and a group of her friends. Within 24 hours, this same girl was acting on a #Godnudge to do something for me.

These little interactions reminded me that when we connect through Him and utilize Him as the pivot point in our relationship, He can bless us in many different ways.

Lean in.

Reach out.

Listen for that #Godnudge.

Be brave as you act on it…and gracious receiving.



“God is our REFUGE and STRENGTH, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Bible Quilt: refuge and strength
#biblequiltjournal God is our Refuge and Strength
Whatever you may be facing today, may the Lord be your fulcrum, resting in Him for your strength.

For you locals ready to gear up for some more Bible Quilting, we resume our Weekly Wednesday sessions next Wednesday evening. Come join us!

Winner, winner: chicken packets for dinner!

Sometimes you accidentally stumble onto a family favorite without realizing you have a winner at your messy fingertips. If you need a simple “tried and true” recipe to perk things up this summer, let me introduce you to the wonders of Chicken Packets!chicken packets

The first time I tried this recipe was way back in our “early married” days when the budget was perpetually tight and our arsenal of recipes was woefully limited. This little gem was hidden deep within my first experience of batch cooking and I didn’t recognize its potential for greatness at the time. (Everything got a little hazy after the vat of spaghetti sauce simmered its tantalizing vapors throughout the kitchen.)

I dare say I was a bit intimidated at the whole prospect of a WHOLE DAY of cooking. My dear friend, Melanie (who also just happened to be a registered dietician), coached me through the marathon cooking day and our husbands were delighted with a freezer full of goodness as the end result.

Once-a-Month Cooking bookSince then, I’ve made Chicken Packets for many occasions (the arrival of newborns, moving days, condolence meals, neighbor farewells, family get-togethers, and welcome dinners for visiting friends) yet these tasty chicken packets are treasured for their simple everyday heartiness.

My tattered copy of Once-a-Month Cooking* is a testament to the versatility of Chicken Packets. The original version was for 4-6 servings. I’ve adjusted for our family’s preferences and cranked the amounts up to have plenty for dinner and some for the freezer.

dinner prep for Monday
Dinner prep: Monday

Gather up this cast of characters and let’s get started:

10 cups of cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (a 5-lb bag of frozen chicken breasts, boiled until fully cooked is about the right amount)
3 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (reduced fat works fine)
4 Tbs of chives (fresh or dried)
2/3 cup milk
salt & pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 packages of crescent rolls
4 packages of seasoned croutons, finely crushed
1 1/2 sticks of butter (melt when ready to assemble)

cream cheese in large bowlIn a large bowl, stir the cream cheese until its texture is smooth. Add chives, milk, and parmesan cheese, then sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

Add chopped chicken and mix thoroughly.chicken mixture The batter is stiff, so use a sturdy spoon (and perhaps enlist a helper to strong-arm it a bit!) and keep stirring until ingredients are well combined.

Set bowl of chicken & cream cheese  mixture aside (or refrigerate,  covered, if baking Chicken Packets at another time).

When you’re ready to begin the assembly process, preheat the oven to 350 and get out several baking sheets.

crescent roll prepOpen crescent rolls and unroll gently onto greased cookie sheets or directly onto a silpat liner. Instead of separating into triangles, pinch the seams to form a rectangle with each pair of triangles. You will get 4 rectangles out of each can of crescent rolls.

Place a scoop of the chicken-cream cheese mixture into the center of each rectangle.
chicken packet fillingFold up sides and pinch the edges together.
folding up chicken packetscrushed croutons & melted butterBaste each packet with melted butter, then roll gently through the crushed croutons until generously coated.
chicken packets, ready to bakePlace packets onto cookie sheets and bake 20 minutes in preheated 350 oven. Bake until the packets are golden brown (if lifted with spatula, the bottom of the packet is firm rather than soft).chicken packets, fresh out of oven

– – – Ring that dinner bell and get to devouring some yummy goodness! 

 



The great thing about Chicken Packets is that they can be eaten immediately or stockpiled for later in your freezer!



crushed croutons (freezer)Two options for freezing:
  1. Freeze the chicken-cream cheese mixture and crushed croutons in separate freezer bags. Thaw & assemble later with the remaining ingredients per instructions. Bake, then serve.
  2. ORbake chicken packets fully as instructed above, allow to cool, and freeze packets for later. On the day you’re planning to serve them, pull the desired number of chicken packets out of the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator all day. Microwave 1-2 minutes until heated through. Bonus touch: put in 350-degree oven for a few minutes to restore the crispiness of the croutons.


The beauty of this winner recipe is its versatility for baking when it’s best for your dinner schedule.

**Individually, they also make substantial after-school snacks or for a quick on-the-go meal for busy family members.



If you’d like to try a smaller serving size, simply use the triangle of the crescent roll & repeat the same assembly process. (My boys like to experiment with the ratio of filling to crescent roll.)single chicken packetson-the-go chicken packets

I hope you enjoy adding this recipe to your Family Favorites!

*this post contains affiliate links

 

______ is patient, _____ is kind.

We have a chance to love those around us each day, but today especially the expectation is high. (Do you feel it?)

Sometimes we  just need to reflect on words of  Truth…

Love is patient

pine needle quiet

Love is kindThanksgiving flowers

 

It does not envy or boast

boys goofing around

Love is not proud, rude, or self-seekingFlorida blooming

It is not easily angeredstorm cloud

It keeps no record of wrongsgreen grass

Love does not delight in evil

lily pads

Love rejoices with the truthmountain stream

 

Love always protects

Love always trusts

mom tackle

Love always hopesholding hands

 

Love always perseveresgrowth despite hardship

Love never failsrainbow in storm

I Corinthians 13:4-8  “the Love chapter”

Love is patient...I remember an activity we did in a junior high Sunday School class long ago. We had to read these verses to ourselves but replace “Love” with our own name:

Dianna is patient…

Dianna is kind…”

THAT puts a whole new spin on this passage and reminds me of how much I’ve fallen short of loving others authentically. so.many.times. I’m grateful for God’s grace and mercy to keep trying to love as He would like us to.

However your Valentine’s day unfolds, may you experience His love, the ultimate valentine. ❤️

 

 

Blending

Crater Lake picToday was one of those mornings that I found myself hunting for cold-weather running layers for my son’s first winter cross country practice, rounding up loose change for a fundraiser this evening, and helping my youngest print out last-minute pictures of Crater Lake for a poster project. During the typical breakfast hustle, I found myself searching for this random mix of items reminiscent of a junior high scavenger hunt, trying to beat the clock before the bus came.
Next, in a clean-up pass through the house, I dropped a water bottle which rolled under my son’s bed. On my knees peering warily underneath his bed, I discovered some books, a camping chair, several balled-up socks, pages of sheet music, lego bits, a broken pencil, a soccer ball, multiple candy wrappers from a Halloween stash, a sleeping bag, a couple charger cords, and two dimes amidst all the dust jackrabbits (mysterious fluff too big to be labeled mere dust bunnies). Between a sigh of exasperation and a sudden gouge in my knee from a sharp Lego, I tried to remind myself that this was just the hodgepodge of boyhood.
Our lives are a blend of things, experiences and people, intersecting all the time in a tangle of unique ways. Sometimes we get a glimpse of how these daily artifacts blend together by facing what’s under the bed, clearing out a closet, or sorting through what’s landed in our garage.
Blending traditions can be tricky. As young married couples put up their first Christmas trees, they may find themselves negotiating all-white lights  vs. colored lights, opening presents Christmas Eve vs. Christmas morning, turkey vs. ham, etc. None of this is in the wedding vows, folks. Tread lightly and listen wisely.

mixing coffee cake batterAs I start my holiday baking season, I add ingredients into my mixer and watch it all blend together into golden batter. I pour it into pans and sprinkle it with a sugared pecan mix, remembering how my mother-in-law’s hands did this for so many years. Her handwritten recipe is the one I follow now, a tradition I treasure. My husband’s memories of Christmas coffee cake now blend into my children’s taste of Christmas morning.

Holidays are a time of blending…families from her side and his; families from in-town and out-of-state; recipes from generations past and new ones beckoning from Pinterest; traditions old and spontaneously new. Each year the blending may have a different flavor depending on who is gathered around your table or who may no longer be in  pictures with you Christmas morning. A natural blending over time allows things to settle in gradually, highlighting what experiences are important to the family storyline and are carving deeply into tradition.

coffee cake overflowingSome holiday activities we’ve  incorporated over time in an intentional way, such as an evening family advent activity.

Other traditions have erupted from spontaneous fun, like marshmallow tag that leaves us all giggling and breathless, overflowing with a sense of family connectedness.

Blending all of our usual family activities in with those of the holiday can be a challenge. I have to remind myself of a few things to navigate this season well:

Proceed at a moderate pace. (maintain own pace, not others’)

Enjoy the distinct parts of the season.

Cherish the beautiful outcomes; laugh at the jumbled messes that also come along naturally.

Treasure the history that has gotten us to this point.

Allow dreams of the future to unfold under the golden lights of the Christmas tree.

Savor slowness.

Loosen grudges; tighten hugs.

Encourage others in their way of celebrating; leave competition on the sports field.

Reach out.  (Repeat often.)

Hum with the Christmas music; sparkle with the lights.

Take a brisk walk to re-energize and re-focus.

Surprise someone with an act of kindness.

Make more eye contact in the hustle.

Let the to-do list marinate overnight.

And, always, always save room for coffee cake.

coffee cake

 

 

 

Kindness

Kindness plateHolding the door open for a stranger

Picking up a piece of trash off the floor and throwing it away as you head into a meeting

Returning a grocery cart to the store for a young mother with toddlers in tow

Reaching an item off of a high shelf for a person in a motorized chair

 

These are all acts of kindness, many of which we do each day out of instinct or because these little gestures were drilled into us as children. Now as parents we encourage our children to be kind to each other — to share, to take turns, to do something nice for a friend or neighbor, to be helpful to their teachers.

When we made our Fruits of the Spirit plates several years ago, my son drew over-sized Helping Hands. In fact, we do typically view Kindness as an action, something we do with our hands.



“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32



What if we take kindness a little deeper?

This verse in Ephesians clearly links kindness and forgiveness. I hadn’t thought about this connection before. Stick with me here…this verse stretches our usual idea of Kindness a bit.

Forgiveness is an internal act of kindness that’s verbally expressed and offered to another person to accept or reject. That has a lot more at stake than offering a helping hand, but potentially can be so beneficial.

As children we’re told  “Say you’re sorry” when we’ve said or done something to hurt someone else, but we weren’t necessarily taught how to respond to an apology or how to forgive that other person (especially if it’s a pesky sibling!) for whatever slight we experienced. It’s awkward. It’s messy. We try to push through and move on without trying to still look grumpy.

Forgive

Forgiveness involves softening our hearts toward someone who has hurt us in some way. We may bristle at a half-hearted apology or one that comes too soon that we aren’t ready to accept yet. Forgiveness involves mutual discomfort and vulnerability. This reciprocity is delicate.

When we have said or done something gut-wrenching that hurts a loved one and then offered a sincere apology, the sweet relief of receiving forgiveness is very healing. Forgiveness restores closeness; it preserves the relationship. Forgiveness puts us back at ease with one another, even offering a deeper connection that we’ve had before. It is kind.

Forgiveness is an Act of Kindness for the soul.

At this point in my life, I think I’ve got the simple acts of kindness pretty well in place and see multiple opportunities to offer kind gestures to others I encounter in my daily activities. Now the challenge is to move Kindness deeper within my relationships. Join me?

snow on pine tree

Lost Kindness

Ever lose something that is valuable to you? Your heart rate quickens, your breathing gets shallow, your mind starts racing as you try to figure out when you last had the item. So very quickly your day suddenly seems to be unraveling as you are overcome with the potential consequences of the Lost possession.

lost debit cardThis happened to me recently when I got to the checkout line and realized my debit card was not in my wallet. I retraced my steps, fervently praying “please let me find it here, Lord” yet my mind was already playing the “what if…?” game, wondering who had found it and what they may have done with it. As I turned the corner, there was my debit card laying smack dab in the middle of the aisle where I had inadvertently dropped it.  I said a quick prayer of thanks, then retrieved my purchases and went on my way. Although I had avoided a negative “what if…” scenario,  it still took a while for my anxiety response to simmer down. Sound familiar?

Today I got a message from my sister-in-law who had been called by our dentist’s office that they had received a call about my lost purse and phone that had been found by a stranger. This was news to me since I hadn’t left the house in a few hours and my purse was on my kitchen desk. hmmm…It turned out to be my mom’s purse which had fallen out of her car door while she was on an errand. She didn’t yet know it was missing. It had been found before she even realized it was Lost.

Instead of having all the anxious responses of “what if…” scenarios, we were able to retrace the Kindness trail of the lost item. We were grateful to the stranger who had picked up the purse and turned it in to the storage office. We were thankful for the lady at the storage office who made several phone calls in an attempt to reach the owner of the lost purse, including a call to my dentist office because there was a reminder card in it.  We were grateful for the dental office staff taking the time to call and email. When Mom retrieved her purse, everything was intact, including her wallet and phone.

So many times we have to experience the anxiety of what’s Lost and wrestle with the angst of being in limbo about a missing possession. Today was a nice reminder of the Kindness of strangers to return something Lost to its rightful owner even before she knew it was missing. A few minutes of Kindness made all the difference…we were filled with thoughts of positive actions and gratitude rather than negative worrying.

In this busy holiday season, may each of us invest a few minutes of Kindness in a stranger’s day, reminding each other that Kindness is not Lost.



“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” II Corinthians 4:6



rainbow in the clouds