Tag Archives: parenting

My #onelittleword …a year later

My #onelittleword for 2018 was RELEASE.

graduation nightLast year my son was a senior and I needed some focused attention toward launching him well, so I settled on this RELEASE target, hoping to bypass a potential “momma meltdown” as our first son left home for college.

During a busy spring semester, we forged through each senior activity and marched toward our celebration of his graduation. Then we careened toward the milestone of his college move-in day.

Throughout this season, my son and I did this awkward little push-pull dance of me nudging him to stay on track and him side-stepping around me with his own confident stride. Slowly, the Lord allowed me to recognize the small ways I needed to let go so that he could propel forward into his new world.

#wordfortheyear 2018

I learned that when exploring your #wordfortheyear, it’s helpful to consider all of its various meanings and usages. You may discover some you didn’t anticipate!

Bible Quilt® JournalSomewhere along in March when I was knee-deep in the final editing phases before submitting the Bible Quilt® journal to our printer, it dawned on me that this, too, was a RELEASE. It was a culmination of two years of integrating this journaling technique into my personal devotions and then developing it into a workshop format with my sister-in-law to share it with other women.

Transforming the journal into a publication allowed us to release it to a wider circle. By holding it loosely in our hands, other women were empowered to share the #biblequiltjournal with their friends, sisters, and church families. Simply through this heart-to-heart sharing, the Bible Quilt journal has trickled its way into 28 states and we’re blessed by each story we hear!Bible Quilt map, Oct 2018

It’s true that the Lord’s purpose for our lives is on a scale drastically larger than our own. Although we can attempt to narrow our focus and plod along in our devotional time to pursue a particular theme for the year, God orchestrates the details in His own intricate way.

#wordfortheyear ReleaseI thought I had this whole #wordfortheyear perspective unfolding nicely, then I had a significant realization that the Lord had been preparing my heart for something dramatically different all along.

Last summer my mother was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and she passed away within 6 months. The big RELEASE for the year was actually letting go of my precious Mom – – – my prayer warrior and constant encourager.Mom at Christmas

During the last month of her life, I slipped out for neighborhood walks as much as I could and prayed tearfully over this final “release.” Some days I would pray for God to help me release my childhood Mom – the one who took my brother and me to the zoo; the nurturing Mom who made me gooey grilled cheese and steamy chicken noodle soup when I was sick; the adventurous one who ate my questionable concoctions from my Easy-Bake oven.

On other walks I’d pray to God for help releasing the mother of my teenaged and college self – – the one who struggled as a single mother and was emotionally tapped out, but allowed me to carve out my own path even though it was so very different from hers.

Some days I’d barely make it out for a walk due to the relentless pressures of caring for Mom’s increasing needs while trying to maintain my own household. I’d pray with gratitude that I was able to provide for her and surrendered to put her needs first as she had done for us kids for so many years.

These were some of the hardest days, releasing her from the role as a my maternal advocate and letting go of her future presence in my life as a cherished confidante and friend.

beloved Bible

We are still very fresh in our grief and I’ve released to the point of feeling untethered, but I’m trusting God with the timing of Mom’s homecoming and His continued Presence in each of our lives as we lean into His grace and mercy for comfort.flowers from friends

#wordfortheyear template for Bible Quilt journalMeanwhile, I’m tucking into my new #wordfortheyear with renewed intention and, hopefully, a touch of Mom’s grit!

For those of you joining us in Bible Quilting, I added a #wordfortheyear template into our shop to help further your own personal journey.

Have a blessed 2019, friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple & Sweet

How’s your holiday wind-up going? OR, are you more of a holiday wind-down person?

poinsettiaSome days it feels as if we’re productive little elves tackling our lists and everything is falling into place.

Other days we’re sluggish and want to binge-watch all the familiar holiday shows with predictable endings.

It’s dizzying to be cast us into these extremes, yet it’s probably familiar territory to most of us.

Family Christmas card albumYesterday as I was shifting from a morning full of appointments to an afternoon at home facing a lengthy to-do list, I caught myself pausing to browse our family album of Christmas photo cards.

I smiled as I remembered the angst of assembling  outfits for professional photos at my son’s preschool. I  reflected on the fun trips that wedged their way into the Christmas card highlight for the many years we didn’t do portraits.

Snapshots in time…18 years of family life flipped through in a few quick minutes.

Christmas card Blessing Ring

None of our own Christmas cards have been addressed yet this year, but we’re enjoying the trickle of cards arriving from family and friends. As we read each one, we hole-punch it and add it to our Holiday Blessing Ring.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a trick to manage the influx of holiday cards, and it’s become a tradition of sorts. We keep a small collection of cards from previous years in a cheery red box. As the current year’s batch of cards goes in, a previous year goes out. (I think we’re saying farewell to our 2011 bunch this year.) It’s an intentional way to honor the sentiment yet manage the clutter. 

Simple activities strung together year after year build some family cohesiveness during the busy season.

Our advent countdown certainly has varied throughout the years as the boys have gotten older. We keep using the same scraps of folded paper that we did a decade ago, notes scrawled quickly then yet  holding treasured memories now.

The unique clanky notes of a musical snow globe call us together…another “tradition” that just sort of happened, but has become a sweet way to remember the grandmother who gave it to us years ago.Advent box This year another grandma is living with us and is part of our cobbled-together advent time.

When we engage in silly games we played with the boys when they were little, we’re drawn closer to one another through those collective memories etched into our hearts.Christmas bingo

The other night’s advent box prompt was “find Christmas bingo and play it.” We joked about the age of the macaroni we continue to use as bingo markers, a throwback to elementary art projects.

Some evenings we double up for previous nights we’ve missed. We share memories of past Christmas shenanigans: the Christmas Eve when our oven shorted out and shot sparks across the kitchen, torching our special dinner inside as it went out in a blaze of glory ...last year’s Christmas tree falling over and crushing ornaments in its wake …the year 9 out of 10 family members got the stomach flu. Each memory is strengthened as it’s shared again with a slightly enhanced perspective.childhood Christmas books

Simply reading a childhood Christmas book together slows us down and lures us into family snuggle time.

Some of the books are traditional, a couple are written by childhood friends, and others reflect the quirky sense of humor of our extended family.a child's letter to Santa

Occasionally we’ll find a sweet surprise tucked into one of the books.

Recently we discovered our son’s 2007 letter to Santa. This simple wide-lined page of his careful 1st-grade handwriting sparked a host of memories and launched a discussion about other wish-filled magical letters.

As Decembers pile up on one another, we’re often left with a beautifully  compressed memory of home and family. When the hustle feels like it’s too much, I turn to these small reminders of treasured ordinary moments that are Simple and Sweet.

handmade snowflake


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17


Love Is A Language

To that gentle, weary woman I stood behind in the grocery line this morning:

I saw you. I heard you in your “resolved calm” as your 3 babies in the cart made their presence known. I watched one make faces with me while you unloaded your cart to the conveyor belt, (I made faces back). I watched you gently put the second one’s leg back into the cart from the side as he tried to attempt a bailout. I listened to the cries of the one in the baby carrier; screaming for release. I observed your presence of peace.
“How PEACE in the midst of such a crazy season???” (I remember that season so clearly; not always peaceful.))
muddy warriors
I watched the looks of irritation, and I heard the huffs of disapproval from some…I could sense the judgments that you were surrounded by.  And yet, you were CALM. Your demeanor was Peace and Calm; that is a beautiful reflection of Christ. That is what I saw. Some may have thought you and your cartload a nuisance, but I saw an example of LOVE. Thank you for sharing that treasure.
The 5 Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell is a well-known book that I have loved from the first reading of it. I read through and could identify various people with this or that attribute. I found the main  Love Language in myself, my husband, Mom, Dad, etc…
My heart was really stirred to pick the book up a month before school began and read it again; this time with 4 different colored pens for each of my 4 sons.
The knowledge of the Language types intertwined with the heart-connect for loved ones is a phenomenal thing to unfold! I just can’t recommend it enough!!
Understanding that all 5 types of Love are important to all of us is one thing…but then matching someones personality and character to 1 or 2 Languages…and then seeking out what that looks like in tangible Love for them is exciting!!!
I have 2 sons that relate the most to Physical Touch. Through the book, I learned that they really love gifts like cozy pjs or soft blankets; a flannel shirt is epic to them.
Another son gravitates toward Gifts. I never truly understood this language; since we all love getting gifts… but now I see that the package, presentation, etc. of the “gift” is treasured and noticed more by this personality type. Something that is made special or personalized; a favorite meal…all go a loooong ways for this one.
And so, after reading The 5 Love Languages for Children again, I made a little list that has become my go-to sheet when trying to relate to one of my children the best way I can. I highly recommend doing this for your family! I wrote down each child’s name, and then put their main Love Languages beside them, while writing out ideas to do with or for each son. I refer to it a lot; especially on hectic days when my brain needs a little reminder and I’m grasping for Peace. I found myself reflecting, praying and loving each child much more intentionally since this book. Go get a copy, read it, ask the Lord to show you your loved ones through His eyes, and be blessed while blessing them.  

Love is a Language, the greatest is Love!

How to Make the Most of Lasts & Firsts

“Big Transitions” has been the name of the game around here the past few weeks…

  • world travelerlaunching our oldest son to college
  • welcoming our Chinese exchange student back, tossing him into our busy family life, then sending him off to college too
  • preparing our other two sons for their return to middle school and high school

Throw in ongoing AC problems for a sweltering month, persistent internet malfunctions and a significant health diagnosis for a parent, and it has been a downright whirlwind.

end-of-summer flowersAs we’ve celebrated the Lasts of the Summer and stepped into the First inklings of Fall, I’ve been trying to hunker down and just breathe.

I’ve journaled and I’ve taken some fervently brisk walks around the neighborhood in an effort to soothe the restless yammerings inside my head.

Here’s a few things I’ve sifted out:

~ ~ Acknowledge all the shifting feelings. Edit later.

I told a friend recently I felt like a human pinball machine, ricocheting off one thing after another, alarms and dings constantly beeping around me.

Although I felt like I was managing pretty well with the expected parts of multiple transitions, I realized I was “emotionally leaky” when unexpected challenges arose again and again.

I might have been the tearfully quiet woman on the phone, trying not to sob out loud when the air conditioning company informed me that they would NOT be able to work us into their schedule the night before an event at my house!

Acknowledge the wide mix of feelings and their varying intensity as you’re caught up in a time of upheaval, yet give yourself grace to sift through them later.

~ ~ Savor one moment at a time

root beer floatsIt’s hard to have your feet in two worlds at one time.

Absorbing the current moment with both feet solidly planted in the Now helps you focus and soak in the atmosphere around you and connect with the person beside you.

Rootbeer floats on a hot afternoon with your favorite middle schooler is a double treat!

Then you take a deep breath and step forward into the next moment.

~ ~ Keep it Simple

Pray over the small details in a health crisis and identify snatches of gratitude along the way (e.g. timeliness of reports, an extra kindness of the receptionist, or the gesture of a physician providing his own cell phone number to you.)

odometer readingTackle the little things that you can accomplish during a whirlwind season of change. Match up the single socks floating around the laundry room. Clean out the refrigerator. Get your car washed. Lie back in that hammock a few minutes and allow the perspective shift to settle into your bones. Chase the Quiet in the midst of the chaos.

The long-term Big Picture can feel overwhelming. Keep focused on the tangibles of today rather than wallowing in the haze of tomorrow’s worries.

When my permit-only son drove me around on errands, I felt more grounded because my attention was on him and his experience…like watching the odometer roll 123,456 miles as he drove over the bridge to his cross country practice!

Times of crisis don’t have to steal our joy. We can lean into each other to appreciate these little moments shared in this particular season.

~ ~ Release

As parents we can’t hold too tightly to our children. We have to release them when they’re ready to spread their wings. As we celebrate each milestone, our momma’s hearts soar. Yet when we see them take flight, it’s a tender time for all of us. Embrace it all!

Bear Hug sandwich!

As we prepared for our firstborn to head off to college, I kept focusing on the simple phrase #launchwell to ground me during the flurry of sorting, packing, and loading.

As we neared the Countdown, I had a heightened awareness of Lasts with our son in our daily family life. Our last time at church together as a family. Our last meal together. Each day poignantly echoed the reality impending upon us. His spot at the dinner table would be empty. The light tread of his feet down the stairs would be absent.

I had to recognize that many of our Lasts transformed quickly into his Firsts. Our Release became his time to Shine.

Big Transitions are messy and emotional yet they transform us in remarkable ways we cannot glimpse yet. We press on, standing firm in our faith. We move forward, knowing we are not alone.


“...those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”        Isaiah 40:31


What Do You Do When A Unicorn Arrives In The Pool?

As a certified “Boymom”, I have expertise in many things: preparing large quantities of food, all the top jokes on belching and farting, the technique of spitting and all the ways Nerf darts can get wedged in things.

I have lost touch with “cute and dainty” and colors like pink and purple faded out of my color palette long ago. Boymom’s know about Nerf Guns, Lego’s, Cars and games like Battleship, Risk, Monopoly, (with LOTS of Uno in-between). So when I had an opportunity to host a pool party for my cousin’s two girls, I of course said, “YES!” The theme was Unicorns, the colors were pink and turquoise…sounds simple, but then I remembered I live in a world of camo colors!!

So we put a Unicorn Float in the pool and I hunted, (to no avail), for pink decor in my home; why I don’t know, just ever hopeful. I imagine that girls would probably “float” on a Unicorn Float.  Boys “ride” a Unicorn Float. And by “ride”, I definitely mean “grab it by its rainbow wings and yell”. So hence, this is how our first Unicorn Float lost its “float”, all before the girl’s themed party.

My sons, ever resourceful, spent two hours and half a roll of duct tape trying to find the leak. The bigger problem arose when they realized it was not just a one leak issue.

Let it be noted that when you leap with wild abandon onto a Unicorn Float all afternoon and scream at the top of your lungs,”giddy-up go, go, go!”, this is the end result.

By the time I saw all the tape around the Unicorns wing and neck, I said “enough”. This meant I had to get another Unicorn. And this is how the original float became just a Unicorn Head. The boys salvaged the head that had its own air supply. My first thought was, “well, alrighty we have the makings of a Halloween costume”, but my boys first thought was not even on the same level. I did not discover their grand plan until the night before the girl’s party…

Once we had another Unicorn Float in our possession that we deemed “Unicorn Island” because of its massive dominance over the pool, it was well-known to the boys that it was off-limits! They were told to not even walk near it. It must stay intact for the party.

The day of the party arrived and as I walked outside to survey our Unicorn,  I gasped as I looked up in the tree fort and saw the Unicorn Head tied on a rope hanging off the decking! The boys thought this was hilarious; I imagined the horror that girls would have on sight. And so another difference in boys and girls!!

The Unicorn Party was a huge success in the end, and I must say the memories made in the process are priceless to me. I love the vast differences in boys and girls; and I now have a fun connection with Unicorns! (Ours is going to be spoiled, I can see it now…)

Happy Summering!

Squished In: Family Vacations for the Long Haul

Who remembers those long summer road trips when you were a kid, squished in beside your siblings and marking out your territory with imaginary lines? What memories are sharpest for you? What senses were most heightened?

flower marketWe rattled around in the backseat without seatbelts (gasp!) & looked forward to an ice cold Orange Crush from a pop machine at a gas station somewhere along the way. We often had to stop to clarify directions to supplement our well-worn, wrinkled state map that never seemed to fold back into its original shape. If we missed a turn, we could drive for miles completely unaware of our error because we didn’t have a computerized voice perkily “re-calculating” for us.

Recently, we logged hundreds of miles on a family vacation.  At the end of a busy day of touristing, we squished in tight into our hotel room each evening. Our boys had their nightly discussion re: who was sharing the foldout couch and who was bunking on the floor.

family selfie

Somewhere in the midst of traveling, we are reminded about our nucleus as a family. We make frequent eye contact as we’re plotting our course for the day. We track one another through noisy crowds. We squish in closely together in various modes of public transportation. During all these bumps and nudges, we’re reminded of our belongingness in this rugged little family of ours.

brothersWe amuse ourselves waiting in lines by messing with each other, cracking jokes that don’t make any sense to those around us.

We smooth out each other’s rough edges and finish each other’s sentences.

Although we’re out exploring new territory and mingling among strangers, we’re drawn back to one another to circle up for the next transition.

We move on together as a pack.

My husband and I are not big fans of selfies…and certainly don’t have “the knack” for taking them, especially if we’re trying to capture some scenic background, too. Something happens, though, when we huddle in together, squishing in to fit all of our faces into that little square. We claim each other. fam picWe recognize ourselves in each other’s expressions and features.

We identify as a unit, a lifelong team. famWe validate our sense of belonging to one another. We catch a glimpse of who we are together in this snap of time. This is Family.

In this moment, this is Us. familyWe reconnect in ways on trips that we don’t in our everyday routine. We aren’t distracted by our daily chores and pressing schedules. We focus in on one another.

coffee in the parkAs parents trailing along behind our children, we see with fresh eyes the ways they have grown since our last vacation. We observe how they assert themselves in new situations.

Independence lurks at this one’s fingertips and we feel a click of confirmation that he is ready to launch. I’m reminded that we have to hold him loosely, allowing him to stretch forward toward his new adventures.

treeSummer vacations are full of potential and opportunity. It’s a time to explore and be curious, lingering over new discoveries.

We can be carefree and silly with one another as we share new experiences. frisbee fun

We play frisbee in different parks and walk miles on unfamiliar streets, soaking in the sights and sounds.

We cultivate as many family memories as we can into these precious summer moments, unifying together for the long haul of our family story. . . SQUISHING IN for all we’re worth!



“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1