Tag Archives: refocus

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

 

 

 

Harvesting Moments

It’s here: that awkward time of year when you run into the store for a gallon of milk and you’re suddenly faced with the jumbled mix of sparkly Christmas decor clashing with the remains of ghoulish Halloween costumes. I cringe as I hurry past, adding eggs to my mental list…and, if I’m feeling generous toward my meat-eaters at home, maybe even some bacon.
Leaf fallenInstead of being drawn into the quickening pulse of the holiday push, I’d rather harvest some quiet moments now. On my morning walks I savor the blush of color in the trees and admire the neighbors’  scarecrow nestled in with piles of pumpkins.
PumpkinsPumpkins just make me smile and slow down my pace. Pumpkins are eye-catching, a pop of color against all the muted greens and autumn browns. I’ve heard that some people actually use pumpkins for baking purposes (like from scratch!?!), but most of us just adopt them and plop them onto our porches.
What other veggie/fruit gets that kind of recognition? Pumpkins are the rockstars of the harvest season.
Pumpkins are just downright pleasant. They exude a glow of plump contentment. And we can all use a little power boost of their orangey cheer.

stack of pumpkins

mumsI’m trying to remind myself during this pre-holiday season to harvest some moments of Quiet. I’m giving myself permission to enjoy the slow transition of the trees releasing their colorful leaves and dropping acorns in my path. I breathe in air scented with hints of applewood and lingering crepe myrtle blossoms. I halt my walk briefly to admire cheerful mums moving in next door. I pursue the Quiet tucked in amidst this fall glory.

— I invite you to Chase Quiet with us. 

Chasing Quiet pumpkin

Pause when you see those happy pumpkins stacked atop each other on porches.

Slow down when you see a lone pumpkin sentry at a mailbox.

Take a deep breath and allow some stillness to fall into you. I’m pretty sure all that  hustle stuff can wait a little longer…

Fall-ish trees

31 days of Quiet     #chasingquiet     #pumpkinpause

 

Margins

the bookAre you a bookworm like me?  Our family is full of avid readers and books populate every region of our house. Books have even inspired some Halloween costumes. We devour books of every flavor and struggle to put them down for mealtimes or to turn out the lights at night. When we settle into the couch together with our favorite books, we focus on the words. We dive into plot lines, soaking up the 12-point font as quickly as we can.

What if we paid attention to the margins as much as the parade of words lining themselves into sentences and adorning themselves with perky punctuation? What if we tuned into the space surrounding those sentences that are building themselves into paragraph blocks?

Our eyes fly from the bottom of one page over the valley of the spine and onto the top of the following page without a second glance. We turn page after page to catch the next stream of letters without appreciation for the blank space that provides a landing spot for our greedy fingers.

Yet…what if that margin was not there? Letters would fuse into unintelligible gobbledygook. We wouldn’t know where one word stops and another launches. Clever ideas and witty phrases would merge into an alphabet hodgepodge, lost in a sea of black type. That overlooked w h i t e s p a c e provides a backdrop for those colorful characters that tell our beloved stories. Without margins and whitespace, it’s just a blur of ink on some crisp paper bound together and tucked into a colorful jacket.

Children's books

Margin is important. We need it to make sense of our stories… to give us a border between things.



Margin is

the whitespace that frames

the text of our lives.



Without margin we would merge into each other and all over the place. Margin helps provide boundaries in the messiness of life. Margin gives us a defined perimeter — a pause before we turn toward our next activity. We often don’t stop to consider how much —or how little— margin we actually have. Our borders get blurry sometimes.

Margin is the “amount by which a thing is won or falls short” or the “amount of something included so as to be sure of success or safety.” It’s a cushion to lean into. How often do we hurtle from one thing to another with little margin for error? Margin can make the difference between success or failure. It can tip the balance toward a more favorable outcome.

Margin matters. 

Our personal margin varies throughout different phases of our lives. In some busy seasons, our lives might feel like a well-worn novel full of adventure and action. The pace is fast and furious. We’re caught up in drama and focused on the end result. Our margins feel cramped and narrow.

Fox in Socks

During slower seasons or treasured vacation getaways, we may have more “picture book” moments. We have time to enjoy the artistic balance between witty rhymes and colorful illustrations in our stories. In  the lull of leisure, our margin expands and the beat of our storyline becomes more vibrant.

Later in  life, we may develop a large-print perspective:  we discover more space around  words and appreciate the friendliness of a wider margin that gives us more time to reflect on our story…or to listen more closely to someone else’s.

reflection

Whatever our season, can we pause to embrace margin — to acknowledge its protective features?

Margin provides us with a soft buffer against the significant events and plot twists of life. It gives us some recovery time to process our stories.

boy reading on bench

 

Every little bookworm could benefit from that, don’t you think?

 

 

a handful

Mom, you’re talking too fast. You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

Guilty as charged.

I was in my son’s bedroom, navigating through piles of balled-up socks, damp clothes and boy gadgets he had dumped onto his floor after a scout campout. I knew that we had limited time before we would be leaving for a youth group activity. My mind was a whirlwind of details in order to have him “ready” for his first full school week. My goal was for my new sixth grader to come home from youth group and transition smoothly into his bedtime “routine” (not that we’re back to that yet, but I’m hopeful). An inner voice from past experience prodded me to push him through all this prep work, knowing that he would be exhausted and we would both be cranky if we faced all of this in the bedtime prelude.

growing boyI was acutely aware of the various tasks my son needed to accomplish in the time available. I was also keenly attuned to his need for a chunk of downtime. I had even asked him what his preference would be: rest before or after the tasks at hand? He said after. We both heard it. We moved forward with this “plan.” I followed his little body as he dragged himself lethargically up the stairs. Quietly I reminded myself to only give him one-step directions. We crossed the threshold of his room and targeted the campfire-smoked clothes pile first.

Within minutes I could tell that his sleep-deprived, camped-out body disagreed with his verbal agreement to this plan. His sluggish synapses had apparently voted “no,” too. Staying on task was not happening. Patience was squirmy to hold onto for both of us.boy in afghan

That would have been a REALLY good moment to recognize the realities at hand and revert to the “take a break first” option. I didn’t. I pressed on, trying to engage him in chatting about his first float trip — a flimsy attempt to boost the we’re-in-this-together morale. It’s possible that I quickened my pace and was doing more for him that he would typically do for himself. Our momentum ground to a halt when I heard,

Mom, you’re talking too fast! You’re moving like you’re in a hurry.”

 

Yep. I was. I looked down at my hands heaped high with boy stuff and glanced over at his slumped posture. Busted. I dropped the pile on his bed and we talked it through. We reconnected and evened out our pace. He did get a recharge break and had a delightful time later that evening, exuding energy and laughter.

boy swinging

This brief interaction was a poignant reminder of how easily we impact our children in those hurried moments of life. I’m grateful my son  was able to speak up and that I was finally able to hear him. I’m thankful for God’s grace which allows us to keep practicing at this parenting stuff.

My devotional the very next morning reinforced this lesson:


“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

handful of quietBoy, did that hit home! I’ll be pondering this one a while. Quieting our multi-tasking momma brains is so hard and our busy hands tend to come with the territory of motherhood, right?

May each of us discover a little quietness in ourselves so we can reflect a bit more calmness to those around us. Amen?

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