Tag Archives: seasons

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!

 

 

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! 

The Leaves Are Turning Into Turkeys!

Oh good gravy!! I just love everything about the Fall season. Even when I was young, I have always been captivated by the trees changing colors. And I have forever been picking up fallen leaves and pressing them for projects. Even in college I was home on break and scavenging for these treasures with aspirations of creating wonderful things with them.

And I did! My sweet family members were the recipients of many leaf-pressed bookmarks and animals created with leaves. The whole process was enjoyable to me. Now that I have children, it has been passed down to them too. I asked them to make me some turkeys with leaves, and look what cuteness I got!!   

As you go through this season, and are looking up into the trees with all their glory, make sure to take time to look down too.  A friend dear to my heart once said that if you slow down and really look, you will see that even God’s “litter” is so beautiful. 

When I pause to take a closer look at things in nature, it brings my focus back to God; a really great place to be!

Slow down with me, and enjoy all there is to see!


  

As our society begins its annual press-in of stress during our holidays, stay connected to the wonder and awe that is found everywhere, even in God’s “scraps”

The Harvest Is Plentiful

 

Do you see them all over town? They are not shy nor will they go unnoticed. Bright oranges and creamy whites, smooth and bumpy perched on hay bales.  Oh! The pumpkins have arrived! Fall is such a fun and flavorful season to incorporate some great Memory Makers with family and friends. So many to choose from…

This is my mom holding my first son a few Octobers ago. Going to the Pumpkin Patch is part of our family tradition. We pick carving pumpkins and dream up ideas for funny faces for them. We pet all the farm animals and walk the corn mazes; we leave itchy from crawling over hay bales, and we always feel the need for apple cider after our exploration. These are sweet memories made.

 

 

Sometimes we have been known to paint the pumpkins we bring home! What a colorful mess we make! But it’s worth it; the joy and laughter is completely contagious. We add feathers and glitter and the whole nine yards!

 

The week of Halloween, we make a pot of soup, invite grandparents over, and carve pumpkins together. The seeds get washed, seasoned, and cooked for snacking during the process. We fill our tummies and our hearts in the crisp air that usually has just begun to chill our evenings. We bust out carving knives and power drills for our pumpkins! The imaginations take flight as we all carve.

 

Ever since I have any memory, my extended family has gotten together for a Halloween supper and trick or treating together. We always have chili and fritos, and EVERYone must show up in costume; no exceptions. We have years and years of pictures of children, grandparents, friends,( pets even!) dressed in silliness. We are all in, and it is so much fun!It is always pure joy to just play for the evening. A Tradition that’s in its third generation currently.

Let the kids spread out their loot at the end of the evening. Give them permission to wallow in it for the moment…when else is it ever appropriate? Pure Bliss is in those memories. Treasures that go WAY beyond their sweet tooth.

 

One of my sons is a collector of nature. I am forever being gifted dandelions, and rocks, sticks and walnut shells that have hearts carved in them by our Magnificent God. I cherish the pictures I have taken of these perishable treasures. It is a glimpse through the eyes of a child; pure and unencumbered. And the Nature Walks!! These are requested as early as August by my crew. We make them wait till the leaves start falling. But the anticipation wraps our beautiful memories made in the Scavenger Hunts we take out on each Fall with walking sticks, paper bags, snacks and all!

We have friends that always pass through during this season and spend some nights with our family.  It is fun to set up a Blessing  Box for their room while they visit. There is something so inviting about all the rich layers of colors in the Fall. A book, magazine,  candle, flowers, bottled water and pumpkin with some hand-written greetings is simple but sweet.The boys and I love watching the foliage change and the wind stir the leaves across the yards. The ambition of raking the leaves is usually tossed quickly as we jump into them! We sometimes lay on hammocks and look up into the colorful tree tops. There are so many simple moments to be found in this season that overflow with Thankfulness. Read a book out-loud as a family, make a big pot of Apple Cider to sip on all Sunday afternoon. Bake pumpkin bread with your kids and then share it with your neighbors. Begin a Gratitude Pumpkin and take turns writing all there is to be thankful for. Snap lots of pictures, and jot down memories while they are fresh in your mind. Absorb all that Fall has waiting for you.  The Harvest is Plentiful

A Picture Worth A Thousand Memories

As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.

I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood.  It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.

And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary,  look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.

As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them.  Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived.  He lingered there for an hour! (A  looong time for a 5-year-old).  I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.

So many Saturdays are on the Soccer Fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact.  It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.

And so I have these:

Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,

A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,

A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!

Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me.  My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day!  You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord! For He is good, for His steadfast Love endures forever! Psalm 107:1