Tag Archives: refocus

Saying Yes

As parents, we set limits and boundaries for our children every day and throughout the day. Saying “no” can be tough on both sides. Redirecting and reframing takes more effort, especially on sticky summer days.purple flowersToday I said “yes” to boys asking for a donut stop in between morning activities. I observed how each of them made their unique choice of  glazed gooeyness. Amidst their boy chatter I heard about a high school teacher who likes maple bacon donuts. I learned that two of my sons pass this particular shop every day on their way to school, casting a yearning peek out the schoolbus window yet never mentioning it. As crumbs fell during a flurry of eating, they also dropped little tidbits of experiences they’ve had at their new schools this past year. They showed me a new videogame as they teased each other about milk mustaches and amateur frisbee skills. I soaked up these bonus glimpses into boyworld as they gobbled up their donuts.donuts

Later in the day I got to say “yes” to a request for a movie night. I wasn’t thrilled about the specific movie, so I dabbled in new territory…the kids going to their movie while my hubby and I went to another. [Win-win, people. If you still have preschoolers, hang on. Your time will come!] Since our movie finished early, we slipped into their show to catch its flavor. I watched the boys’ faces as they reacted to the movie, their expressions more animated than the movie itself. Slumped down in their seats and leaning in toward each other unaware, they were mesmerized by the colorful characters on the big screen while we were captivated by their shared brotherhood.

twinkle lightsMy last “yes” of the day was to rootbeer floats when we got home from the movie. I propelled my tired momself out on the dark patio and sat with them under the twinkly lights, listening to their happy slurping. A contented sigh escaped from my blue-eyed boy as he cradled his sticky cup, savoring the last drop of this hot summer day.

All these little moments crept into my heart, softening the grumpy interactions about delayed chores earlier in the day and pushing the agenda of tomorrow a little further out of mind, all because I took the chance to say “yes.”
sun peeking through tree

What can YOUR “yes” be tomorrow?


“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” –Ecclesiastes 11:8

 


Goodness

Goodness plate

Sometimes we just have to keep it simple. We have to whittle out all the excess to get to a nugget of truth and hold it in our grubby hands.

As I pondered this week’s Fruit of the Spirit “goodness,” I waited for an inspirational story or illustration to plop into my head.

(nothing)

I sat with my laptop, fingers poised to type some witty examples of Goodness.

(nothing)

Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t force this topic?

Where to begin?

good morning

“In the beginning…” God created it ALL. From nothing He created ALL kinds of things, then stepped back to view his work each day and declared “it was good.”

Then that special day came when he created man and woman, blessing them and giving them all that He had created.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

That’s it in a nutsell: we don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be Good as God intended. Out of all that He made, we are the part of His creation he determined was very good. We need to give ourselves the grace to dwell in that, to rest in it and not stress ourselves out.

Somehow we’ve over-inflated our expectations and expect “the best” performance of ourselves each and every day, then face disappointment and shame when we feel we don’t “measure up.” We tend to respond to a genuine compliment with a dismissive “well, I guess it was good enough.”

Good IS enough.

In each moment, each day…if our focus is to align with God’s purpose for our lives, then that is Good. And it is satisfyingly enough. Isn’t that refreshing to take the pressure off a bit?

Take a moment to celebrate your Goodness today.
breathe

Thresholds

“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14



When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.

bridge

A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?

rock art

Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.

Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.

As a parent  it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.

So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…

pathThese last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!holding hands


“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:5

 


 

 

 

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.” 

Beauty in Brokenness

fallen tree in woodsWe often shy away from others when we feel broken, less than our usual self. We hide away, tucking into those potent negative thoughts and allowing them to fester. What if this brokenness, though, is what allows us to draw closer to God? What if it’s part of God’s design to allow this reminder of our humanness and our lack of control over our earthly circumstances? That sounds deep, doesn’t it? Yet it has a genius simplicity to it — a simple message to return to God for His guidance in our daily walk…on our good days and our not-so-good days.

“Abide in Me, as I also will abide in you.” John 15:4

Throughout His Word, God sends us messages of assurance, encouraging us to turn to Him. He wants us to start fresh with Him each day, to give us “daily bread” — relying on Him for what the day holds for us, allowing Him to unfold His beauty and bounty in HIS way. To focus on today, not tomorrow — this surrender is so hard because we have to admit that we cannot do it alone.tree fallenSometimes we have to experience brokenness to become stronger. We have to acknowledge our weakness and examine our inner self to get through a rough patch. We have to hunker down and figure out how to cling to God’s mercy in difficult times. In the midst of burrowing into our brokenness, we can discover His truths for us and also the grace to accept help out of our mess.

There’s a poignant beauty in brokenness. A fallen tree provides a glimpse of what’s inside — the intricacy within, the striations in the bark, the growth patterns…just as a time of brokenness in our lives prompts us to slow down, to look at where we’ve been, and how we’ve grown or gone astray. Sometimes we have to pass through the grit of brokenness to find the hope of healing.fallen tree

A fallen tree provides us with a fresh perspective. It is no longer towering above where we can’t reach, but it’s now able to be climbed and investigated in minute detail. What was once unattainable is now conquerable…we are able to overcome it because of its brokenness. This hulking timber that was once so majestically tall is now accessible to all the critters on the ground below, providing shelter, refuge, and even entertainment. Squirrels scamper. Children delighfallen logt in walking down the strong trunk, balancing their little bodies and feeling empowered when they make it across. In its fallen state, the broken tree can provide a quiet interlude for families to stop and rest, for parents to lean in together while children explore.

We can sometimes overlook beauty in the Fallen because of our hurry to move on, to get ahead. A pile of fallen leaves is a collection of color and texture, a crunchy sound on a morning walk yet also softening of the ground after a harsh summer. In our own fallen state we come together as we hafallen leavesven’t ever before because we are all grounded. Like leaves that were so majestic and upright on branches waving in the breeze independently, we are now at rest together in a mixed jumble. Whatever heights had previously been achieved, now we are all on the same level. It’s in this groundedness that we can relate to one another, to see our similarities and admit our shared vulnerabilities.

As Fall surrounds us and scatters leaves all around, let’s consider how we can connect with one another in our brokenness. Let’s reach out to others who have fallen, offering a gracious hand because we know the depth of strength it takes to get up again. Let’s embrace the splendor of the foliage around us, resting in the assurance of God’s design for us in our highs and lows. Abide in Him. He never leaves us.

fall - golden tree