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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sleeping in on Sunday

It feels weird to sleep in on Sundays.  It feels like I'm cheating.  Saturday evening worship is new to our family.  We've long attended weekly church services on Sunday morning.  This year brought the beginning of Youth Group activities for our oldest child.  

Our church holds the youth service on Sunday evenings and they take over all the rooms where the elementary kids usually meet. This means, our younger children cannot have their lesson at the same time our older child has his lesson.  Saturday evening has been our answer.  Our oldest attends the regular church service with us on Saturday night while the younger two head off to their worship service/lesson.  This allows our oldest to break up his time at church - and alleviates Mom & Dad from the back and forth shuffle on Sundays.

This new worship time has been a great blessing to our family that we wouldn't have made a priority if it weren't for the Youth Group meeting time.  This season, our children are involved in sports that take place most of the day on Sundays - none of which are at the same locations or close by.  Each location is an hour away.  None of the game times overlap, so we really do spend the entire day driving or at these events.  But, with the advent of Saturday Evening Worship, we aren't missing time to worship with a body of believers!

As a result, the time we're spending 
 on Saturday at church gives us time 
 on Sunday to reflect 
on the message we've heard.  
It's time we didn't have before to unpack the sermon.  It's one of those happy accidents that's been a huge blessing to our family on many levels.
Do you need to shake up your worship routine for your family?  Has it become routine?  Encountering Christ should be a regular part of your life, but should never feel routine.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Praying for One More

Recently I posted about praying for and with the kids each morning before they head out to school.  We pray for someone else each time we circle up, too.  We pray for Tamimy.  Tamimy is our adopted child through Compassion International.  Tamimy joined our family about two years ago and we've been praying for him, writing to him, and supporting him financially ever since.

How do I remember to pray for him?  Whenever I pray for my own children, about anything, I pray for Tamimy.  I don't have to know exactly what's going on with him and his life to offer him up to God.  God already knows!  I pray for his safety, his family, his schooling, his health, his spiritual walk.  I pray that he and his family have enough to eat; that he has time to play; that he has friends.  I pray that his teachers are kind and he likes school.  I pray all sorts of things for this little boy.

I admit, I wasn't faithful about writing to him like I should.  And if you know me, you know I'm worse at using the postal service than I am about returning phone calls - and I'm terrible at returning phone calls!! One day I was visiting the Compassion website to learn more when I found out that sponsored children have a chance to write to their sponsor every Saturday.  If they hadn't received a letter - they were "left out."  I was crushed with guilt.

I could only imagine my little guy saddened that other children were receiving and reading great blessings from their sponsor family while he sat by idly.  Crushed, I tell you!  Then I saw it ... I the link to send a letter ONLINE.  Now, that's something I could get onboard with!  I bookmarked the page, set up an online account, and put a reminder on my Google calendar.  Now, every Wednesday, I type up a letter to Tamimy.  The online feature even lets me upload a picture, if I want.  My children will often wander by while I'm writing to him and ask to send him a letter.  Now, he's getting lots of mail from us - along with our daily prayers.

Learn about how Compassion works today!
Sponsor a Child

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Self-Imposed Exile

Do you ever periodically become overwhelmed with life that you retreat for a while?  You know, where you pull back from as much as possible and just surround yourself with the solace of family or work or cooking - that which feeds your soul.  A place that is safe and devoid of conflict or drama.  I find I do this self-imposed exile a couple times a year.  I retreat to the confines of my home surrounded by my family for refreshment.  I take time to watch movies and read with my kids.  I sit and talk with the hubs.  We figure things out together.  I organize rooms, clean closets, put things in order.

Any good shrink will tell you, that you put things in order in your home when things are "out of order" in your life. My mom used to re-arrange the house all the time!  Ha!

So, while I'm entrenched in family or accomplishing tasks, I'm thinking about the situations in life I'm retreating from.  You might read this as running away.  You'd probably be right!  I recently heard a sermon on how Moses ran away to the middle of the dessert after committing murder.  He had this self-appointed exile for 40+ years.  Now, I'm not that extreme - and I haven't committed murder, so my brief retreats to restore my mind/body/spirit seem appropriate to my suburban-homemaker life.

The thing about exile is that something has to change if you plan on returning.  A change in perspective, a shift in values, cutting things out of the schedule, removing yourself from other peoples' lives.  Or maybe you need to start something: intentionally investing in relationships around you, exercise, healthy eating, getting a pet, volunteering, writing, reading, daily time with God.  Your lists on either side, pairing down or adding value could go on ad nauseam.

What needs to change?  Since, I continue to indulge in these extended retreats, I'm not sure I've figured out the answer - or what needs to change isn't truly within my realm of control - or what needs to change, keeps evolving (life is a journey, you know!).  If it's not within my realm of control or keeps changing, I have to just figure out how to deal with my circumstances along the way.  Roll with it.  Continually realign my perspective with what's right and true.  If I'm just putting myself in the same situations again and again - that's a different story:  if you keep doing things the same way, you'll continue getting the same results - which, by the way, is defined as insanity.

This go 'round, I'm reminding myself of what true friendship is.  True friendship isn't self-serving and isn't limited by distance.  I'm identifying the blessings in my life - we live in a world of excess - and our family, our community has so much.  I'm finding my way back to surrender - fully leaning on God - which is exactly where He wants me.

Wondering how you retreat - how you find refreshment - what life lessons you learn along the way - and how often (like me) you might have to learn the same lesson.

Monday, September 17, 2012

No Toys at the Table

We have a standing rule in our home: no toys at the table.  Toys, in my world, is a very broad term.  It's anything that poses as a distraction during our mealtime.  It could be a stuffed animal, toy car, or doll - but it could also be a stack of papers, pencils, scissors, etc.  And parents/teens aren't off the hook either - smartphones, iPods, iAnything ... they are all off limits at our table.

Why?  I'm so glad you asked.  Like I said, it's a distraction.  When the kids were small, distractions meant messes.  Something got spilled.  The spoon missed the mouth.  Now that the family is growing older, distractions equal disengagement: not talking because the mind is elsewhere.  Tuned out, in other words.

We use every mealtime to connect.  We do our best to stay away from yes/no questions that result in a grunt of sorts from boys.  We celebrate everyday victories.  We share high points and low points.  We share other people's successes from the day.  We make plans.  We teach etiquette.  We squeeze every bit out of mealtime we possibly can.

Is this a daily thing?  As often as it can be.  I sit at the table with my coffee with each of my children before they head out the door.  "What's special for you today?"  "What did you dream about last night?"  Lunches are at school and work.  Sometimes I send a note.  I'm famous for scrawling something on the outside of an apple or banana - usually something corny!

Football season begs the question, "what about when the game is on?"  Let me ask you this question,
How long does having
a meal together really take?
10 minutes?  15 maybe.  Longer with family or friends visiting.  Shorter with infants, toddlers, preschoolers.  Surely you can switch off the game for a few minutes to truly connect with the family.

Isn't that what the DVR is for, anyway?  Pause the show.  Click the record button.  I'm forever telling my kids that they are in charge of the TV, not the other way around.  That goes for all electronics.  It's up to me (the user) to switch off volume on my phone or computer so I'm not distracted by it.

Live committed to the moments you're in.  If you're working - be working, fully focused and productive.  If you're playing - really play, have fun, let go, stop working in your mind.  When you're with family - be there, invest in those relationships.

How do you make the most out of
mealtimes with your family?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pause with Prayer

I pray for my children daily.  Each morning we circle up to pray for the day ahead.  I ask them, "What do you have going on today?" or "What do you want to pray for today?"  They often reply with special things happening that day, "I have band for the first time today.  I hope it's fun!"  "I have music today - I hope I get a music fuzzy."  "We have a math test today."  "We meet with our buddy class today."  It's a great way to hear about what they are anticipating for the day and to hit the pause button before they run down to the bus stop.

Their response always gives me a chance to respond with a question to learn a little more about their prayer request, too.  "What are you excited for about band?"  "How do you get fuzzies?"  "Are you ready for the math test?"  "Who's your buddy?"  Short, but meaningful conversations in the midst of an often busy morning routine help us really connect before we all go about the day's events.

Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch) offers a fabulous email resource to support you in praying for your child and their school.  It comes daily to your email with a prayer complete with fill-in-the-blanks.  Sometimes the email is a prayer for your child, other children, school staff, school, or yourself.  I receive the email and read it aloud, inserting my kids names into it - or whomever else it might be designated for.

This was today's email:
Add the name of a child you know in the verse below.
Lord, may _____ know that the very hairs on his/her head are all numbered. May he/she not be afraid; may _____ know that he/she is valuable to You.
From Luke 12:7 (NLT)

I love this form of prayer for me to intentionally pray for all the things surrounding my children as they move through their school-life.  You can join the Worldwide Prayer Movement at:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School - Finding Balance

You know that Staples commercial where the parent is shopping for school supplies while the Christmas tune plays merrily in the background, "It's the most wonderful time of the year ...."?  Well, that's not me this year.

This is probably the very first year I was not ready to send my children back to school.  We were busy all summer long with sports and camps that we never did really get a vacation together.  We were up early with a schedule all but the last two weeks of summer.  Did my kids squabble?  Yes.  Did they complain of boredom?  Yes.  Did they miss friends and routine?  Yes.  But we had such a great time together all summer long, none of us wanted to return to the "grind."

We longed for routine, friendships, the more fun parts of the school year, but not the homework, backpacks, locker combinations, and lunch packing.  We had enjoyed practices and games that were the main focus of the day instead of squeezed into the week.

This school year, my prayer for our family is to find balance.  We need the routine of the school year coupled with the downtime of summer.  When we work, we will focus and commit.  When we play, we will really play.  You cannot play with a smartphone in your hand, checking email.  Our adventures do not need to be instantly uploaded via Instagram.

What does "balance" mean to you and your family?