Tag Archives: transitions

Exhale

Whoosh!

balloonsAs we pushed through the last week of school and immediately catapulted into the first two scheduled summer activities, I found myself feeling a bit like a deflated party balloon. My outward self was still trying to celebrate my boys’ last day of school yet my inner self was no longer floating high with anticipation just wearily hovering low and fading into smallness.

Summer and all its sunny expectations of FUN was here, but I wasn’t feeling it. I kept waiting for the bright mantle of “summer” to fall upon me, but found myself struggling to muster up excitement for the usual burst of summer activities. “What’s the deal with me?” I wondered.

– – – I forgot to exhale. – – –

The fullness of the school year had pressed in hard from all sides, nudging us along from one end-of-the-year culminating event to the next and sweeping us through finals week. Although I hadn’t taken a single exam or given any oral presentations, I had buffered and nourished these souls that were putting their all into their last school days. The truth was that we were all tired as we approached the finish line of another academic year.

Even if we aren’t the main player on the field, the sidelines are a busy place of support and encouragement as we prepare our players to get out there to do their best. As parents we’ve put in hours of training, too, but may not recognize the toll it’s taken on us. We may not be aware of  the moments we’ve been holding our breath as the next play unfolds before our eyes yet just beyond our grasp.

heart puzzleOn the last day of school, I awoke each of my sons and celebrated the moment of transition into their next grade level. As I looked into each sleepy face, something slipped inside me. A gear subtly shifted inside this mother’s heart and I paused to absorb its impact.

While each of my boys  is excited to move on to the next phase  of school, this promotion  also means a natural step closer to their independence. Celebrating their growth this year also means recognizing their progress toward stepping out on their own one day in the future, slipping away from our home and my dinner table. These were some heavy thoughts to bear in those first hazy moments of “the last day,” so I tucked them back in and moved toward a celebratory breakfast, focusing on their joy.

climatis openingLater that day as I added another envelope to the growing stack of graduation announcements, engagement party/wedding reception invitations, and college brochures, I realized we’re all in the metamorphosis of May. These transformations elicit all the feelings and soak up all the energy. As we dive in to celebrate each milestone, we want to savor each moment.

We also need to remember in each one to breathe . . . to embrace this shift of change in our loved ones and loosen our hold just a bit. (It’s good practice for the next “biggie” after all.)

– – – We need to remember to exhale. – – –

It’s in this exhale, where we can discover the joy of letting go…

to blow out the candles
to blow a kiss to a sweetheart
to blow that dandelion fluff as far as it will fly
to blow a pinwheel just for the delight on a toddler’s face
to release tension that has been building within us
to watch our children soar
Psalm 105:4
Bible Quilt – Psalm 105:4

 

As we celebrate these changes and allow ourselves a moment to exhale, we’ll realize the sunshine is a little brighter and our hearts a little fuller.

We may even discover that we’re ready for the longer days of summer after all. 

 

 

Now AND later

geranium, vincaEvery spring my green thumb gets  revved up to plant ALL the pretty flowers, but by the end of the summer I find myself wondering why I planted ALL these flowers that I have to keep watering?  

Sometimes in my experimental gardening, I stumble upon some tricks to keep the “chore” level down and the “joy” level up. 

coreopsis and petuniaThe past few years I’ve tried to resist the colorful array of annuals prominently placed at the front of every garden center and I’ve foraged a little deeper back into the section of sturdy perennials.

I’ve adopted a few that have done really well in containers and I rejoice each spring when there’s something GREEN already hard at work so that I have less to  spruce up. I’ll often add a cheerful geranium or a go-getter petunia for a bonus splash of instant color, but I feel like my perennial friends have my back both now AND later.coreopsis

In much the same way we are planted in each other’s lives. Sometimes we are casual acquaintances, exchanging cheerful greetings as we pass at common places in the midst of school activities or day-to-day errands. These interactions are brief and pleasant interludes but may not have lasting impact.
With other people, our connections go deeper and we find ourselves establishing tender roots to stabilize our friendship now yet also hold firm for us later on when we may need support. It takes time to develop and nurture these roots, but the rewards later are priceless.

Perennial friends will blossom through multiple seasons together and withstand the turbulent or bleak periods of life.

plant medleyThroughout our lives we will have a variety of friendships, some temporary & bright in certain seasons and others that continue to thrive year after year. The beauty is in the MIX as these connections complement each other and fulfill different aspects of our lives.

A Sweet Friendship
Katie Doucette: “Friend”

 

When a flowerbed of loyal perennials is brightened with fresh annuals, the whole garden becomes a lovely array of color. We appreciate the varied textures and expansion of hues in this broader collection of flowers.

As generations of women come together in friendship, roots are stronger and the variety of blooms is richer. We savor the depth and substance cultivated in these multi-tiered relationships.

women's handsThis past year, I participated in a multi-generational Bible study with a lovely group of women. With a widespread collection of ages and family backgrounds, perspectives were broadened and wisdom flowed each Wednesday morning. Every week we experienced beauty in the “now” of the current discussion and sharing of life stories. During our farewells in the closing session last week, it was sweet to reflect upon new friendships taking root and look forward to how they will develop later.

strawberry plants

As the school year draws to a close, many families are in the transition of closure activities and celebrating graduations. 

Hopefully each of us has nurtured some perennial friendships along the way which will  bear fruit for many more seasons to come.

 



“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9



 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 4 Simple Tips

It’s that time of year when the fresh, green growth outside our windows beckons us to come out and play.  As I’m running yet another errand, I catch myself rubbernecking as I pass busy garden centers bursting with colorful potential.

Spring gets us all stirred up in ways that other seasons don’t.
delphiniums
Spring jostles us awake in some quiet inner places that we didn’t even realize were dormant.

PhloxWith the renewed energy that the change of seasons brings, we often find ourselves fervently clearing our closets, deep-cleaning our kitchens or tackling those mysterious piles in our garages in an attempt to dive into warm-weather activities with a clean slate.

spring flowers

In this fervor of spring cleaning and new growth, I find myself wondering how some intentional spring cleaning for my soul would help clear my perspective, too.


a time to keep and a time to throw away” Ecclesiastes 3:6


Just as we discard worn-out clothes or reluctantly admit that those jeans really don’t fit well anymore, we can also benefit from casting aside our disappointments, any unmet expectations from last season, and the lingering irritation of minor grudges that don’t fit well on us today.
dogwood

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 4 Simple Tips

1. Be open-handed. I realize that I have to be available for opportunities the Lord places before me each day, but I’m unable to do this if I’m carrying too many weighty burdens in my tightly clenched fists. I need to hold my daily intentions and plans loosely so that I have an open hand free to help someone God places in my path today.

2. Face forward. When my mind is rehashing what happened yesterday or my spirit feels bruised from an interaction that didn’t go so well, this keeps me from embracing the joy of what God has in store for me today. I need to lean in and face forward to see the beauty He’s about to reveal to me today.

spring rose3. Pack lightly. My husband and I joke that the hardest part of a trip is getting out the door because we’re so focused on packing all the things “just in case.”

If we allow ourselves to load up on worry and fret about what might happen with so-and-so or let our minds race about all the “what if” scenarios that could go wrong, we get bogged down. On days that I truly cast my cares into the Lord’s hands, my perspective is clearer and my spirit lighter. It’s easier to “stop and smell the roses” if our pack is light.

jonquil4. Pray for a stranger. We walk past people each day that may need a kind word or gesture. We may not know their names, but God does. A simple, brief prayer to bless someone’s day is manageable despite the “busy” in our day…and may blossom in unexpected ways for you, too.

We donate our used clothing and household goods to strangers when we’re spring cleaning our houses. Why not donate a prayer as well?

With a few minor adjustments to our daily maintenance routine, we can be proactive in cleaning up our perspectives and dusting off our attitudes.

Underneath that grimy layer of stress & worry we  may discover a bright shine in our spirits that will add a vibrant reflection to all those around us.  (That will certainly put a spring in our step!)

neighborhood pond

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

ONE letter matters

When I was in 6th grade, I competed in the district spelling bee and lost because I added one  letter to a word. My 6th-grade son recently competed in his school’s spelling bee and missed a word by forgetting one letter.spelling bee word list

One letter matters.

In the world of spelling, one letter means the difference of staying “in” the competition or being “out.”

For enthusiastic writers who are vulnerably casting out their manuscripts only to be met with a flood of rejection letters, ONE letter of acceptance matters. One letter shifts the novice writer from being an amateur to being “in” as a published author. This inclusion is savored.

encouragement cardsFor the widow that spends many hours and even days alone, receiving a single handwritten note makes a meaningful difference. One letter can change her perspective from feeling lonely to loved. She feels remembered.

When a spouse is deployed overseas and is feeling the weight of isolation and homesickness, one letter from a loved one back home draws him a little closer to family. A familiar scrawl or silly doodle on the envelope tugs those hearts together a little tighter. He feels connected.

In a world of digital pictures and casual greetings available through Facebook and texts, even one handwritten letter delivered by snail mail on your birthday can transform all those virtual well wishes into a tangible token of love. There’s something special about holding a letter in your own hand that was in your friend’s hand just a few days ago. One letter can ground you, reminding you of a precious friendship. You feel known.

So last week when I was fighting a head cold and clutching my kleenex box, I hunkered down and wrote some letters:

  • to my son traveling on an exchange trip to China, hiding one in his suitcase under a box of Thin Mints and giving another letter to a friend to deliver to him midway through their trip (the potential embarrassment, I think, is worth a little sneakiness!)
  • to a Chinese couple whom I may never meet, but I’m entrusting the care of my 16-year-old son to them for 3 weeks while they generously host him in their home (sigh)
  • to a nephew, apologizing for belated birthday wishes
  • to an aunt undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, offering hope and encouragement while also recognizing her strengthBaylor pillows
  • a “thank you” to a loved one who sewed some pillows for me that I’ve been “planning” for years. Confession: I cheated on this one. I took a picture of the pillows tucked into their new nook and a sent her a text of gratitude. (Go Bears!)
  • to a college friend, wishing her the joys of another birthday

Throughout the week as I wrote to each person, I focused on the recipient. I considered their particular situation, reflecting on the connection between us and conjuring up some words to send their way. Before long, I was no longer aware of my stuffy head and my pesky cough. My mood improved as I redirected my attention to a loved one or reminisced about a dear friend.

Aligning letters on paper to transform them into a message to someone else is a magical thing, something we often taken for granted.vocab

Words are used a lot of different ways in our home. We are seekers of knowlLatin conjugationsedge and explorers of the written word. Our bookshelves are weighed down with words.

The boys are always working on a vocabulary list or conjugating verbs in a language I don’t understand.

Words surround us.

Letters weave in and out of our home daily, an endless merry-go-round of giving and receiving. Some of them we glance over; some of them stop us in our tracks. One letter can shift the atmosphere around us, crackling with anticipation or casting a somber chill.

Which letter do you cling to most?
Bible - I Cor 13
The letter that I’m drawn back to again and again is the Word of God. Each time I read it, I gain a new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of something bigger than me. It stirs my soul.
I’m grateful for this ultimate gift. The holy Word is God’s letter to us.
It’s full of wisdom and adventure, heartbreak and triumph, joy and strength, loss and redemption, strife and struggle…but most of all,  its message is love. It offers us hope.

——->>>>>  THIS one letter makes all the difference to me

Phlox

“Every word of God is flawless.” Proverbs 30:5a

 

 

 

Diverted

Recently I was on a flight that tried to land in heavy Dallas fog twice, the second attempt within 100 yards of the ground, then abruptly aborting due to minimal visibility.  An exuberant redheaded flight attendant provided what limited information she had available and a calm pilot reassured us the aircraft was sound,  but the weather conditions were untenable for landing.  A collective sigh of disappointment arose as the announcement came we were being diverted to another airport.

cheerful flight attendantThe full plane of early-morning passengers transformed from a sleepy bunch of travelers into nervous camaraderie as conversations erupted throughout the plane, speculations about deboarding and re-routing sprinkled throughout spirited dialogue. Perhaps the happiest person was a woman two rows back that cheerfully announced this unplanned stop was her home destination and she was getting off as soon as the doorway was clear.😊 Amidst the grumbles of frustration about the delay and forced change of flight times causing a ripple effect of inconvenience, there were also spontaneous plans to grab some Texas BBQ if everyone had to deplane.

cloudy skiesIt’s in these tricky situations that one can see the range of human emotions and observe a wide range of attitude on display. Mothers patiently tended to children, providing distraction and encouragement. Level-headed flight attendants offered additional support to some elderly passengers.

luggageProblem-solvers sprang into action, procuring snacks for sustenance and making calls to rebook flights. 

Some people bailed immediately, asserting they would not get back on the same aircraft. Others made complaints aloud and responded grumpily after each delay update, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

A 15-minute delay bloomed into a 2 1/2 hour wait. People plugged into their devices, shifting from brief anxiety to resigned waiting.

Although there was a wide variety of individual responses, it seemed like we had developed some group solidarity in our waiting. More eye contact was made and conversations were deeper within the boarding area than usual because we had a shared experience of landing someplace unexpected. None of us planned to be in this particular spot, but we were pulled together by this disruption in our schedules.

An airport therapy dog was a welcome distraction and introduced a new common focal point for some positive interactions.airport therapy dog

Then relief pushed through the boarding area as our flight was called to board. For real this time. Reboarding was surprisingly upbeat as if we were reuniting with friends rather than the strangers we all had been just a few hours ago. Our numbers had diminished yet our remaining subgroup seemed undaunted in the collective hope that our flight would make it this time.

It didn’t.

After 45 minutes, we disembarked from the same plane again and started another round of problem-solving…and more people-watching in the process.

flight towerLife often unfolds this way, nudging us off our familiar paths and throwing us into a tailspin, doesn’t it?

We all encounter delays at one time or another. We each get diverted from our original plans. All of us receive unwanted news that changes our course. It may be relocating for a job, dealing with a medical crisis, or experiencing  the loss of a loved one.

How we face these challenges is a reflection of our personality and character. And, oh, how one person’s demeanor can impact the rest! We saw both positive and negative extremes of this during our 8-hour flight delay. 

The perspective we choose to cling to can make a huge difference when we are re-routed unexpectedly in life. Waiting for clarity requires tenacity.  Seeking guidance from those in our trusted watch tower requires humility. Sitting amidst uncertainty requires patience and perseverance.

(And don’t even get me started on lost luggage! )

However your life may be diverted, how will you choose to wait?

 

Proverbs 16:9

 

 

 

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