Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Heart Full Of Thanks

It’s the THANKFUL month! We normally think more about what we’re thankful for in November because, well, we’re supposed to.  But truly thanksgiving is a heart issue that we should practice year-round. 

Opportunities to be thankful are in the mundane things of life.  And by expressing those things to each other, we’re encouraged to be thankful in our hearts day to day. 

When I was in high school, I had several cars.  I started with a great car I bought for $800 cash and wrecked it 5 months later. The car situation took a drastic downward turn after that!  In fact, my younger sisters passed on driving anywhere with me.  That experience led me to car thankfulness.  Still to this day, I’ll be driving down the road and thank the Lord for a car that runs. 

Our experiences in life drive us towards thankfulness.  And it’s also modeled.  A thankful heart is contagious.  Saying “thank you” breeds thankfulness.  Stopping and saying “thanks” turns an ordinary moment into a God moment.  Because we honor the Creator of all things and give Him glory by simply saying “thank you.”

As you look at the beautiful, changing leaves, mutter, “Thank you, Lord!” When your fireplace provides heat and beauty to your family sitting around the den, “Thank you, Lord.” As you gather with friends, eat good food, watch football, dress in layers, and meet new neighbors, “Thank you, Lord.  You are good!”

Thankfulness is a heart issue.  And God’s in the heart changing business.  Thank you, Lord!

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life!”   
Proverbs 4:23

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

If Satan Loves To Isolate, Then God Is In Community

Are you in community? It’s an IN word right now, isn’t it? It just rolls off your tongue...

It’s biblical.  Did you know that? We are to be IN fellowship with other believers.  It’s good for us.  We were created FOR community. 

Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

All of this took place after the church was established, and THEN what happened as a result of their obedience? Shock and awe.  That’s right.  They were AWED by the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  (Acts 2:43)

So we (the church) have these marching orders:  Study the word.  Fellowship together as believers, break bread, and pray. 
Our marching orders are COMMUNITY. 

October is such a great month for community.  It’s chilly outside, there’s chili inside, and our hearts are full. 

And yet when we experience heartache or trouble, we lean towards isolation. 

Isolation makes us a sitting duck for the enemy’s attacks.  And he will pounce.
When we’re down and out, feeling less than, hurting, needing help, we MUST reach out to our people.  We need them, and they need us.  We were created for each other.   

Do you have community? Do you have a body of believers with whom you fellowship? If the answer is no, then do something about it.  Pray for God to bring you to a place (church body) for you and your family.  There’s a place for everyone.  And there’s no perfect place.  We were created for community.  Not for isolation. 

I heard it said recently, “When things are going bad, God is up to something good.”  I like that perspective.  God cares.  And He gives us each other to remind us. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sometimes Community Means Making The First Move

Something a bit unusual happened to me today. I received an invitation to coffee from a new mom at our school. We’ve attended this school for five years, her kids have been there for a hot 30 minutes, and she invited me to coffee, though we’ve never met. Something seems backwards here.
She wants to connect though. So she is willing to make the first move. There aren’t enough words to express how much I love this.

My husband and I are both connectors of people. We’re always planning, initiating, inviting, hosting, introducing, and glad-handing, everywhere we go. Often when we’re guests at an event, people mistake us for the hosts. It’s just the way God made us, and it serves us well in ministry. A few years ago, though, I honestly began to resent this aspect of God’s design for our lives.

Instead of being the pursuer, I wanted to be pursued.
Instead of being the inviter, I wanted to be invited.

Instead of being the planner, I wanted to be the guest.
I was lonely. In need of community. And feeling sorry for myself. But then I recalled Paul’s words in Romans 12:6:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

I may have wished to be pursued, but God made me a pursuer. If I wasn’t willing to lean into this gift and practice hospitality, wasn’t I missing an opportunity to be a reflection of God’s image in the world?
Now fall is upon us. And with it, comes so many opportunities to practice hospitality and build community.

So we can do one of two things.
We can sit around waiting for an invitation, or we can be bold enough to make the first move.

What we can’t do is listen to the voice of Satan telling us no one invites us because no one likes us. It’s not true! Despite the fact that my husband and I are rarely invited by others, when we invite them, they most always say yes!
So if we’re wanting to connect with our neighbors…If we’re feeling isolated from friends…If we need a Girls Night Out, or we’re just wishing for a coffee date to connect at the new school, are we going to sit around a whine about it? Or are we willing to make the first move?

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:13

Monday, October 2, 2017

Do You Need To Kick-Start Your Community?

October is the beginning of the holiday season. Pumpkins, lattes, gatherings ‘round the fire…aaaahhhhhh. It seriously is MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR.  I love FALL so much that when Brad and I got engaged in December 1985, I begged him to wait until the FALL to get married! And he said apprehensively, “okay.” October 4th will be our 31st anniversary!
Yea US!

With the coming of the holiday season comes opportunities to gather, reflect, celebrate and open OUR doors. 

In Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” he devotes an entire section to COMMUNITY.  We were created for each other.  We need each other. 

         "We discover our role in life through our relationships
with others."
Rick Warren
Community.  It’s vital. But it’s not always pretty.  And it takes work. 

Why does community take work? Relationships are hard.  And when we do community right, the masks come off, and we discover that no one has it all together, that no one has a perfect life, and that no one doesn’t have baggage. 

But that’s the good stuff.  We are more alike than we think we are.  Relationships are messy.  But they're OUR mess! Let’s get messy!
Here are some ideas to get you started:

Invite someone over today.  Put a pumpkin on the front porch.  BAM! You’ve decorated for FALL! Put a pot of coffee on and serve it with PUMPKIN SPICE creamer! BAM! A FALL LATTE is served! See? That was so easy! Don’t try to be THE PIONEER WOMAN overnight.  Just invite.  Open your doors.  And fellowship.

Get involved in your church home group, Bible fellowship class, or small group.  Don’t just sit back and WAIT for someone to call you! Call them! Plan a get together.  Most likely, everyone is looking for friends but everyone is waiting on a call.  Be proactive!

Plan a get together for your kids and their friends.  Buy a dozen pumpkins and host a pumpkin carving party! Serve cider and a place for fellowship.  This shows your kiddos how to be hospitable and form community.  My friend, Sara, hosts one every year for her kids and their friends.  It’s become a tradition! I love it.

Bake some pumpkin bread and bless your neighbors.  Our Bible fellowship class is learning how to be a good neighbor right now, and Becky is leading the way.  Her blog is full of “good neighboring” ideas.  Check it out, here! 

Enjoy this month of cooler weather, sweaters, s’mores and more…and be a blessing!

"A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree." 
Proverbs 11:28 (MSG)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Teaching Contentment At The American Girl Store

As a little girl, our daughter was never really into dolls. She was more of the tree climbing, dirt wearing, always up for an adventure type. Different from most of her friends, she spent the bulk of her free time outside, climbing to heights unknown and rolling in whatever dirt she could find.
So when she was invited to the American Girl Doll store for a birthday party, I was curious to see how she would respond. All the little girls had their American Girl Dolls in tow, sidling them up to the table in high-chairs, combing their hair, and introducing them to one another. And our daughter brought “Diamond,” her one and only doll that she dug out from the depths of her toy box. Hair amuck and half-dressed, it was obvious how long it had been since Diamond had seen the light of day.

The party rooms at American Girl Doll are in the back of the store.

Making it past all of the merchandise and to the party room was a non-event. But after sitting with 15 little girls who were doting on their American Girl Dolls for 90 minutes, getting back out to the car was an entirely different story.
Suddenly, our daughter wanted what she did not have. Sage, the American Girl Doll who was the star of her favorite movie at the time.

When she asked me if we could buy it, my first instinct was to say yes. She rarely asked for anything, we never bought her toys, and she was a good kid. But then, my common sense returned.
I knew our daughter.

And she didn’t play with dolls.
“Yes, you can have Sage,” I said. “If you pay for it with your own money.”

“How much money do I have?” she asked.
It just so happened that a few months prior, we had opened a bank account for her. She had accumulated some birthday and allowance money, and we wanted to begin teaching her some very basic things about personal finance.

So I pulled up her balance on my bank app and used my calculator to subtract the amount of money it would take for her to purchase Sage. And then I explained:
“You have ________ money now. If you buy Sage, you’ll spend ________. And that will leave you with ___________.”

I could see her wheels spinning as she thought about it for a few minutes. And then she decided she didn’t need Sage after all.
No fit, no fight.

We left the American Girl Doll store without Sage, and Diamond went right back to the depths of the toy box!
I don’t think it’s wrong to buy things for our children, nor do I think it would have been wrong for me to have purchased a doll for our daughter under these circumstances. But I do think I would have missed an opportunity to teach her a valuable lesson regarding contentment.

She wouldn’t have given contentment a moment’s thought if Sage had been purchased on mommy’s dime. But by allowing her the freedom to make the purchase with her own money, she began to ask herself an important question:
Do I need or want this doll badly enough to use my own money to get it?

By allowing her the freedom to answer this question for herself, I gave her the opportunity to choose contentment. Contentment is a choice, after all, and it's a life skill we must all learn.
And if she had decided to purchase the doll with her own money? I'm guessing there would have been lessons of a different kind in that too!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

An Alternative To The "Life Isn't Fair" Lecture

I often describe our children as characters from Winnie The Pooh. We have two Tiggers and one Eyore. Each of them uniquely made in the image of God with their own sets of strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. They’re as different as the colors of hair upon their heads!
With our Tiggers, there’s boundless amounts of energy, which means they’re always up for an adventure, but they also have trouble sitting still. They’re everywhere, all the time.

With our Eyore, there’s a need for lots of downtime, which means I always have a snuggle buddy, but the motivation to stay active is harder to capture. We have to drag this kid outside if it’s the least bit warm.
The differences exist in the emotional realm too. Our Tiggers tend to be optimists, and our Eyore tends to be a pessimist. And though our culture would likely place more value on being an optimist, rest assured both tendencies bring opportunities and challenges to the table.

I recall a season not too long ago when our Eyore was in a constant state of discontent. It was score keeping at its finest, and the number of times I heard the phrase, “that’s not fair,” I don’t even know. We’re talking about injustices like the size of a dessert serving, the number of pages read from a bedtime story, the amount of free time given between homework and dinner.
You get the picture.

My frustration was at an all-time high one evening, when this kid bounded down the stairs to report yet another injustice in the story of life.
I took a deep breath as I prepared to launch into a speech about life and fairness, when I had a Holy Spirit moment.

In a parenting class my husband and I took years ago, we spent some time discussing how to deal with the hard days. You know the kind. The kind when our children wake up, saying to themselves, “I think today is a good day to die!”
And they fight us at every turn.
He suggested that on these very hard days we take a time out to be still and to meditate on all the things we’re thankful for about the children we’re struggling with. He proposed that engaging in this exercise would lead to a deeper sense of gratitude, help us channel our frustration, and address the issues with our children in more positive ways.

I’ve done this exercise a thousand times, and it works like a charm.
As I stood face-to-face with our Eyore at the bottom of the stairs, it occurred to me that if this exercise can work for parents, why wouldn’t it work for kids?

So instead of launching into a speech about life and fairness, I went to our office and came back with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. I instructed our Eyore to find a quiet place to sit and to write ten statements of gratitude.

“I am thankful for …”
Our Eyore was gone for a long, long while. But by the completion of this task, this kid’s disposition had completely changed! Because we took the focus off of what we didn’t have and redirected it towards our blessings, we created an opportunity for this kid to discover that the purported "injustice" was really no big deal.
And that made all the difference.
A good exercise to do any day of the week, and certainly more productive than listening to a lecture from mommy!

So if you have an Eyore in your family, or if you find yourself in an Eyore kind of moment for that matter, consider taking a stab at this exercise. It’s never a waste of time to count our blessings, and I’ve found it to leads to a greater state of contentment every time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

To Moms Who Can't Wait For This Season To Pass

A mother's thoughts...
0 – 3 months:  I can’t wait until he sleeps through the night.

6 – 9 months:  I can’t wait until she starts crawling.

9 – 12 months:  I can wait until he starts climbing up the stairs.

2 – 3 years old:  I can’t wait until she starts preschool. 

3 years old:  I can’t wait until he is potty trained.

5 years old:  I can wait until he starts kindergarten.

8 years old:  I can’t wait until she can do her own math homework.

12 years old:  I can wait until she’s a teenager.

15 years old:  I can’t wait until she can drive herself.

16 years old:  I can wait until he graduates high school.

19 years old:  I can’t wait until she comes home for the summer.

25 years old:  I can’t wait until I’m a grandmother.

It seems we’re always in the I Can/I Can’t Wait time of life. I can’t imagine this is what God had in mind when He gave us life.

What we don’t see while we’re wishing away each stage is the days releasing from our grip at lightning speed. 
Tick tock. 
Tick tock. 

We have today.  We don’t know what tomorrow holds. 
So rest easy sweet mama.  Today is your day to love and be loved.  Today is your day to kiss a boo boo and read a bedtime story.  Today is your day to hug a middle school-er who didn’t get invited to the party.  Today is your day to remind a 6 year old that Jesus loves her.  Today is your day to take a Big Gulp to a high school-er who didn’t make the A Team.  Today is your day to help finish a project that should have been started weeks ago.  Today is your day to skip a GNO because your hubby got looked over for a promotion.  Today is your day to celebrate a 100 on a spelling test. 
Today is your day.

Live today.  Love today.  Choose contentment.  Tomorrow will be here before you know it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Is The Secret To Contentment?

Two years ago, our family took a sabbatical from extra-curricular activities. Yes. You heard that right. From August 15, 2015 to January 4, 2016, our children participated in zero activities outside of school. No baseball. No music lessons. No activities at the church we serve.
My husband was going back to school to get his doctorate, and we were in the middle of a busy time in ministry. Staring that in the face, and wanting to protect our family time, we decided it would serve our family best to eliminate all non-mandatory commitments.

When I look back on that bit of decision-making, I remember being scared to take the plunge. It sounds silly, but “Fear Of Missing Out” is a real thing, and I suffer from it. It wasn’t that I was concerned our kids would fall behind but that we would miss out on the fun. I’m hard-wired for connection, and connection happens when get out into the world and spend time with other people.
And yet deep within my soul, I knew we were entering a hard season, and I knew it was going to take everything we had to get through it.

Baseball could wait.
Our sanity could not.

Recently, I listened to a podcast about the secret to happiness. In one segment, the host interviewed a man who was conducting a science experiment on happiness, using an app to gather data.

It works like this:
App subscribers receive several texts each day, asking them to rate their happiness at that very moment.

Next, they are asked what they were doing immediately prior to receiving the text.
Then they are asked if they were thinking about something else while doing that activity.

And finally, through a series of follow-up questions, the app compares the overall happiness of people who were present in the moment with people who were mind wandering.
The results were striking.
The people who engaged in mind wandering were significantly less happy than those who lived in the moment, even if the people living in the moment were doing something they didn’t enjoy.

The conclusion?
Being present leads to contentment and happiness.

If this is true moment-to-moment, then might it also be true season-to-season? Might we all be more content if we assess the season we’re in, accept it for what it is, and live fully into it until the season changes?
When our kids were all under the age of seven, we didn’t eat out much. I, for one, am not a big fan of paying money to eat a cold meal, and that’s precisely what happens when you take three little kids out for dinner.

Your meal is cold by the time you get to eat it.
On occasional Friday nights at home, my mind would wander, wishing for different circumstances that would allow us more freedom. Circumstances in which our kids were old enough to handle their own plates, behave at the table for extended periods of time, stay out late, and engage in stimulating dinner conversation. These mind-wandering thoughts cast a shadow over what should have been sweet nights at home with young children.

But over time, I learned to treasure Friday night pizza deliveries, movies on the playroom sofa, and game night, realizing that all too soon, memories of Friday nights at home would be fleeting.
I chose to be present in the season we were in. And my contentment increased dramatically.

The same was true for this exceptionally busy season in which my husband was returning to school and burning the candle at both ends in ministry. We could engage in “business as usual,” enrolling our kids in a slew of extra-curricular activities and die while trying, or we could acknowledge the season we were in and adapt accordingly.
After handing my FOMO over to the Lord, it was one of the sweetest fall seasons we’ve experienced as a family. Weeknights were easier, and Saturday mornings became a welcome respite after a grueling work week. Our family functioned well during a time we had anticipated to be more difficult than most.

We chose to be present in the season we were in and experienced a heightened sense of contentment and happiness.
So with school less than four weeks into session, and the sign-up opportunities coming in day after day, slow down. Take a deep breath. Pray about the season your family is in and consider how you can best adapt to thrive within your context. I’m not suggesting complacency, but rather flexibility.
Contentment is a choice. 
Resisting the waves of changing seasons can bowl us over. But riding the waves of change can lead to growth and contentment.

 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Monday, September 4, 2017

Is It Possible To Be Content In 2017?

a state of happiness and satisfaction.

It’s an interesting word in 2017.  Contentment.  Is it just me or do we not use this word much any more?  Being content today seems to paint a picture of an under-achiever or one who is lazy.  And yet by definition, contentment is a “state of happiness and satisfaction.” 

Isn’t that what we want in our lives and for our families?

Contentment certainly isn’t synonymous with September and the start of school.  We are all too eager to get back in the swing of things and bring on the activity!!! Games, practices, homework, lessons, meetings, luncheons, extracurricular, and the list goes on!

A collective sigh of relief that “we’re back to normal!”

But I learned a great lesson from my friend, Anne, one day as I was going from lesson to lesson and practice to practice with my eldest daughter and baby on board, along for the ride.  We dropped by Anne’s house to hang out for a few minutes while we had a break between guitar practice and gymnastics, and the strangest thing was happening. 

She and her kiddos were playing a game in the middle of the living room floor.

What? Why weren’t they out and about pursing their dreams? For heaven’s sake, her children were 8 and 5! It was go time!

“Anne, Is this your daily afternoon routine? Or is this just an off day?” I asked.

She replied in the softest voice ever, “You know, Lisa, I choose to cherish the days.  There will be plenty of time to do all those things when my children are older and can choose for themselves what they’d like to pursue.  I choose today to enjoy our little family and make memories together.  I just don’t think the rush is right for us.  We’re choosing contentment.” 

It’s a choice.  We have a choice.

Consider this:  Pray.  Pray over your schedule.  Pray over your family’s schedule.  Pray over all those activities.  Pray over the teams you join.  Pray over what you say YES to and what you say NO to.  It’s all a choice. 

Choosing to be content isn’t choosing for mediocrity.  It’s choosing joy.  It’s choosing happiness.  It might not look like your neighbor’s choice.  But it might be right for your family.

"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content
 with whatever I have.” 

 Philippians 4:11


Thursday, August 24, 2017

When The Interruptions Are Our Ministry

I’m often the last one to the party. I don’t know if it’s because my eyes are moving faster than my brain has the capacity to process. Or if I’m so overwhelmed with the pace of life that I’m hesitant to add new things to my plate. Or if I’m more of a follower than a leader with regard to all things “trending.”
Maybe it’s a little of all three.

But regardless, over the last few weeks, my eyes have seen a lot of hype about Monday’s eclipse on social media. But my head didn’t process it until Monday morning, when I woke up, and was all, “I think we’re having an eclipse today…”
Two of our three kids were super-excited about it. Their teachers were taking them outside to watch it with protective eye wear. Little Bit was downright mad because the school had decided first graders don’t have the needed self-control to not stare at the sun. Thus, no eclipse viewing for him.

I had taken some personal time resulting in a five-day weekend to catch up around the house from the fallout of summer, and Monday was my last day off.
I had big plans.

And I had exactly zero intention of taking time out of my schedule to watch the eclipse since I had no eclipse glasses and the idea of burning my retinas sounded flat-out awful.
But at the breakfast table, my oldest son turned to me and said:

“Mommy, are you going to come up to school and watch the eclipse with me? They invited all the parents…”
His words sucked the air out of the room, as all eyes turned to me, waiting for a response. My to-do list flooded through my mind. My heartbeat increased to a rapid pace. And I actually began to sweat. My husband stood in the kitchen, trying not to laugh. He knew all about my big plans for the day.

I had a split-second to construct my response.
Would I duck and cover? Or would I step out into the sun?

More times than I can count, I’ve heard my pastor husband remind himself and his staff that “the interruptions are the ministry.” It’s true in church work, and it’s certainly true in parenting. But truth doesn’t mean easy, and this isn’t an easy motto to adopt.
At least not for me.

Head down, nose to the grindstone, I feel focused, successful, and in control. I often fool myself into thinking that finishing my task list will lead to some level of eternal joy or satisfaction. But at the end of this task list lies another. And another after that. If I’m not careful, I’ll work my task list to the exclusion of missed ministry opportunities arising all around me.
I knew this was a ministry moment. I also knew that the days of my oldest son inviting me to the school to spend time with him weren’t as countless as the hairs upon his head. So I put my plans on the shelf I’d intended to de-clutter and headed to the school.

There’s no question that the structure and routine of the school year is good for all of us. We should embrace it.
But schedules and routine can become domineering if we’re not mindful of the needed ebb and flow between work and play.

So as your family settles into the rhythm of a new school year, my prayer is that my husband’s words might ring as true for you as they did for me. May we all remember that the interruptions are our ministry, and sometimes, we just need to step out into the sun!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Five Tips To Help Families Ease Into School

School has been back in session for 36 hours. Although I was resistant to the return of structure and routine, I can already see how it will serve our family well.
We let it all go during the summer.

But with the return of school, I dust off some disciplines we’ve implemented to help us manage the stress of school and love each other well in the process.
Since I’m fairly certain we started school before everyone under the sun, I thought I’d share these disciplines here for you to consider as you plan for your family’s first day. You are in my prayers as you embark upon a new journey this school year!

1.      Start Each Morning With Family Devotion
We started doing family devotions after breakfast when our kids were little. That worked for years, but when all our kids began school, our devotions became less hit and more miss. For an entire year, I beat my head against the wall, wondering why we couldn’t get this right.

And then I heard a speaker talk about putting God first. Not a unique idea, but I had considered “after getting ready and after eating breakfast” to be close enough. The problem was that these activities always took more time than we budgeted, and devotion time was snuffed out.
A simple shift of the schedule changed everything.

Now, we do our devotional before we do anything else. We rarely miss! Not only does our time with the Lord bless us in the moment, but also our mornings are more peaceful, our days run more smoothly! And guess what? Everything else miraculously gets done.
2.         Do Everything Possible The Night Before

Learning the beauty and wisdom of margin has been a theme for our family the last four years. If we don’t have margin, we don’t have room to be flexible, and seemingly small things can become not so small.
If this is true for life in general, then it’s also true for families on school mornings! If we wait until the morning to pack lunches and gather belongings, then we leave no space for the unexpected, like:

“I forgot that I’m supposed to bring cookies for the band party today!”
If we’ve prepped the night before, however, there’s space for us to tackle these issues with grace and composure. Our kids know they earn the freedom to play after school by taking care of their responsibilities ahead of time.

3.      Follow An Afternoon Checklist
To help us execute Tip No. 2, we follow an afternoon checklist, which hangs on our refrigerator. It’s not Pinterest worthy (I broke up with Pinterest long ago…OK, let’s be honest…I never dated Pinterest in the first place), but it’s functional. And it saves me at least 50 million words a day. A request to go outside and play is met with a gesture towards the checklist, and everyone knows exactly what I mean:

When it’s done.
This has helped set expectations, reduce conflict, and allow the kids to take responsibility for their tasks.

4.      Create A Meal Plan
I love to cook! But last Spring, I fell into a rut. To dig me out, I discovered Prep Dish.

Prep Dish provides a menu of gluten-free and paleo meals to save time and money. Along with the menu, Prep Dish sends a printable grocery list and instructions for prep day. Two hours in the kitchen yields meals for a week that get from oven to table in minutes, with little mess!
With the help of Prep Dish, I put healthy, home-cooked meals on the table again and simplified our evening routine. In addition, we were stretching our taste buds, using ingredients outside my home-cook comfort zone.

Who knew my kids liked lamb and bok choy?
Whether it’s Prep Dish, Hello Fresh, or your own slow cooker rotation, developing a meal plan will save your family money and time, improve your health, and make evenings more enjoyable.

5.      Create Space For Downtime
We’ve implemented each tip referenced in this post with one goal in mind:

To create a life-giving home environment that includes sufficient measures of work, play,
and family time.
This is easier in the summer, much harder during the school year. Because there are days when I pick the kids up from school, drive straight to activities, and pull into our driveway near bedtime.

We do the best we can on those days.
But on slower days, these tips help us manage our home more intentionally. The result is that we have some measure of downtime to enjoy each other’s company and take deep breaths. We don’t always nail it, but we’re trying!

My prayer is that these tips might bless your family as you embark upon a new school year too!


Friday, August 11, 2017

A Prayer For Moms These Last Summer Days

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach. Not the kind I used to get before performing on stage. For some strange reason, I enjoyed those.
These were of a different kind. The kind that result from the smorgasbord of emotions I’m feeling as we march ever-closer to the beginning of a new school year. We go back in five days.

I’m not ready.
And yet I am ready.

Because as much as I love having our kids at home in the nest, I know the return of structure and routine will serve us well.
On Monday, I took the kids to Hawaiian Falls, for what I was certain would be our last visit together. Watching my children play in the waves, the familiar waves of sadness began to roll over me. It happens to me every summer. Exactly one week before school starts.

I begin to regret all the things we didn’t do instead of celebrating all the things that we did. And I begin to wish for just a few more days.
And yet at the same time, the fit of my swimsuit is proof that I’ve indulged just a little too much in popsicles, kid-friendly affair, and pool-side sodas, and that I’ve been a less-than-stellar companion to my yoga mat these last few months. I don’t feel well, I’m not sleeping, and it shows.

The same can be said for the condition of our house. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting go of perfection when it comes to chores, but there’s a fine line between letting go and giving up, and I’m teetering towards the wrong side of that line.
Paperwork is stacking.

Dust is collecting.
Laundry is piling.

And my kitchen is beckoning me to prepare just one home-cooked meal.
I think the anxiety comes from standing in the middle of transition. Summer isn’t yet over. And yet school is coming. I haven’t quite figured out where to put my focus, right here in the middle of it all.

I’m sure you can relate.
And yet we know better. Regarding worry, Jesus said:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:31-34.

A few years ago, I was particularly overwhelmed with my to-do list. This is usually not an issue for me, but my list was long, and my brain space was limited. A wise friend suggested that I use my task list to make a list of everything that had to be done that day, plus one thing I would like to get done, but wasn’t necessary.
When I engaged in this exercise, I felt the pressure release, the clouds part, and the peace come. Because I chose to focus on the day at hand, rather than worry about every nook and cranny of my entire universe, my task list became much less daunting, and my focus returned. I allowed myself to live fully in the present, and I actually had a great day!

I think that’s what God desires for us. That we live each day fully. Not that we should never look towards the future, but that we should acknowledge each day is a gift we’ve been given that should not be wasted on worry over tomorrow. That we should enjoy His presence in the present.  
So as the summer draws itself to a close and you begin planning for the return of school, my prayer is that you won’t let your mind get there too fast. Enjoy the fleeting moments of the summer glow, draw near to your Father, and savor today for today.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Do We Need Fresh Perspective Regarding Disobedience?

By: Jennifer Knott, SkyMoms Ministry Director
Yesterday was Family Mission Day at our church. My husband and I took the day off so we could serve alongside our children at Bonton Farms, an urban farm south of Dallas that's striving to transform a community from the inside out.

I'll confess that in the dark, rainy wee hour of the morning when the alarm shook me awake, I didn't want to get up. In fact, I thought about turning it off and going back to sleep.

More than once.

But the Holy Spirit kept my mind awake as I tried desperately to send myself back into RIM sleep. Begrudgingly, I finally put my feet on the floor and began to make the rounds to wake my family.

You can imagine their reaction when I did.

Within the hour, though, we were on the road in the pouring rain, like it or not.

Fun times.

When we arrived, we met a woman named Kim who has a gift for keeping little kids busy with real work. Within five minutes, we were armed with gardening scissors and gloves and off to harvest red okra.

When we arrived at the long row of plants, Kim told us to walk up one side of the row and down the other because the okra likes to "hide" among the leaves. She assured us we'd miss some if we didn't work both sides of the row.

The boys loved harvesting! I think they felt manly handling such sharp scissors -- a far cry from anything they've ever used at home!

We made it up the row fairly quickly, but when we turned the corner and began to head back, our success rate slowed way down. Within a few minutes, the boys began to complain, telling me we'd found all the okra the first time and that this job was done!

But remembering Kim's words, I suggested that maybe we ought to change our perspective. Instead of coming down the row leaning over the bushes like we'd been doing, maybe we should squat down beneath them and look up.

Within seconds, we began to find red okra hiding among the leaves, just as she'd promised. The boys squealed with delight because their adventures in cutting with manly scissors would continue!

Perspective is everything, isn't it?

It's true in life and it's no less true in parenting.

During these last days of summer, I'd be lying if I didn't admit my children are engaged in some behaviors that are about to break my spirit.

Our boys have taken "play" in the car to a whole new level. Like a level that impedes my ability to drive responsibly and puts others on the road at risk. It's so loud, and their movement is so big, I can feel them jostling the car while doing 70 down the highway!

I've asked them to stop more times than I can count. I've separated them into their own rows and put them in seats on opposite ends to deter any physical contact. I've used my best "Ursula the Sea Witch" voice. (Ugh. I have one of those.) And yet they still manage to pull off WWF-like maneuvers strapped into their seat belts while we're driving down the road.

It hurts my head. And it makes me grouchy. It's too much chaos in too little space. But it also frustrates me because I've been living with the assumption that their inappropriate play in the car is driven by nothing but disobedience.

I read an article this morning, however, that offers a new perspective. The author explained that children have a need for "tons of movement" and "fierce play". When they're -- let's say -- putting their brother in a Figure Four in the backseat -- they're channeling these developmental needs.

Does it mean their behavior is excused?
Absolutely not.

But does it help explain their behavior in such a way that my gut reaction need not be frustration?

You bet!

The real benefit, however, is that once I've identified the catalyst for the behavior, I'm positioned to find a clear path towards a solution. Because if I'm responding to a legitimate developmental need without sourcing a more appropriate channel for the need to be met, then the problem will go unsolved.
We can't cure the symptoms if we don't identify their root cause.

So the next time you're faced with a behavior you've corrected more times than you can count, stop. Take a deep breath. Go to the Lord in prayer. And ask Him to give you new perspective. Maybe you'll see something you didn't see before. And maybe that something will lead you down a path towards a real solution.

"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.  For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."
Matthew 13:16-17