Thursday, February 21, 2013

Connection: Chaos and Calm

Calm. Serene. Controlled. These types of environments appeal to me.

Of course, I am a loud, lively extrovert so...there's that.

Life contains moments of chaos and calm.  Learning to connect with my family no matter which of those is happening at the moment is essential.  I thrive on the one-on-one time I get to spend with my husband and kids. I thoroughly enjoy the structured time of school work and projects.  I love sitting and reading, coloring or conversing.  Adversely I enjoy leading  kids in exciting and energetic worship, visiting with my loud and crazy extended family (I say that in the most loving way!), I enjoy jumping, dancing and goofing around.  It is a combination of these that make me feel truly alive.

Our family switches regularly between the moments of chaos and calm. We strive to include enough quiet and rest into our lives so as not to burn out. A key concept we want our children to understand is that Sabbath rest, contemplation and getting alone with ourselves is an important part of living life to the full.  A schedule that is too full and a mind that does not know how to be quiet leaves less room to hear and perceive, to learn and to grow.  We also want to instill in our children the idea that God is writing a story in our lives and that story is a great adventure.  Risks along with failures are the good stuff of life, so enjoy them and participate fully in life.

Capturing the moments as they come, whether chaotic or calm, is essential to understanding how to connect. I am guilty of missing opportunities to connect because I refused to allow my life to calm down, to take a break or to restore the rest I so desperately needed.  I have also missed opportunities to connect because I have clung so tightly to the calm and control I believed necessary. As a parent who desires to stay connected I need to build both rest and recreation into my life.  I can't become so caught up in calm & control. Nor can I give into every activity and spontaneous idea that comes my way. 

The only solution to living in correct proportions is to yield.  To daily yield my desires, my activities, my schedule and my attitude to Christ.  I must submit to His will for me and allow Him to direct my paths.  I am diligently trying to teach my children the same lessons I am learning.

As far as connection, here are some random pictures of connection in both the calm and the chaos. I will let you decide whether they were moments of chaos or calm. Either way, for our family they spell connection.

Daddy is a huge giant caterpillar!

Yes, mommy's head is sticking out.


A tank for Winter the dolphin

Summer library book rewards at Taco Bell

When it's too cold to play in the snow

Meltdown at Walmart

Cow appreciation day at Chic Fil A (with friends)

A spider web in the living room? Why not!

The girls version of "homeschool"

First taste or real all-natural Ginger ale

Lydia's favorite Christmas reading nook

More ginger ale

Aunt Mala

Emma in Aunt Mala's big boots

Still just ginger ale

Reading Magic Treehouse


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Connection through Big Picture Living

What kind of story am I living? 

What dreams am I pursuing? 

In what ways am I living beyond myself?  

Those are questions that I wrestle through.  I wrestle through them because I believe they hold valuable insight into who I am and who I am becoming. I also wrestle through them because each and every day I have little eyes watching me.  Minds and hearts that are being shaped by the life I am living in front of them.  Dreams and pursuits are forming that will hopefully outlive my own. Living a life of legacy and connection is not optional. It's happening whether I am aware of it or not.  The only thing that remains is deciding what legacy, what story I am living.

I have a dream that some day I can go to Africa. - Lydia

Lydia brought home these words written on a cloud a couple weeks ago.  Having traveled to Africa 4 times myself, I couldn't help but smile at her desire to follow in her mama's footsteps. Pursing a far off, crazy, life changing dream.  I would like nothing better than to travel the world with her someday and be part of her adventures.  I want to encourage her and Emma to dream, to live beyond themselves and to make a difference. I believe and want to teach them that our lives are part of a bigger story.  I deeply desire that my girls begin to find the story God wants them to live. A story that is meant for them and them alone. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end." (HCSB) Eternity has been put into man's heart.  If I really take time to consider that eternity is written on my children's hearts, then I need to nurture that.  I need to make room for life beyond just the here and now.  I must consider the possibility that God has plans for them that I cannot imagine or conceive of. And maybe, just maybe, that would be true for my own life.

 Big picture living is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Exciting because God has a great story, a great adventure for our family to live. Of course I know that there are parts of that story that will scare the pants right off of me.  Being a control freak, learning to trust God as sovereign in reality rather than just thought, is terribly difficult and produces uncertainty.  However, if I really want my family to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep God's love for us is, we must not be afraid to live big.  Pursue big. Dream big.

Our family is certainly still a work in progress.  Like all families we struggle to live a life that is outside of our own selfish wants and desires.  We constantly need to refocus on our purpose to live to the glory of God and to love others.  Self-centered living feels far more natural than self-less pursuits.  That said, here are a few ways our family is seeking God in trying to live out a big picture life.

We mutually support each others dreams. For 2 weeks this summer, instead of being with my husband and kids, I was in Kenya. I had the opportunity to share Christ and encourage leaders.  And while it was not easy for us to be apart from one another, there is no doubt that God had His hand in orchestrating this time.

We are crazy in love with and involved in our church.  It is our desire that our family interacts with the people of this community and that together with our local church we would be able to change the spiritual landscape of Fairmont WV. 

We desire to put our feet and our hands into action. The girls and I help prepare and serve meals at our local Union Mission.  Seeing them learning to serve those less fortunate and do so with joy and enthusiasm is priceless. Developing a heart to serve and care for others is of great importance. 

We encourage and serve one another. The first lessons in service should always come from learning to sever those you live with each day.  Sure, we can go the extra mile and help someone in need, but can we do simple tasks for our family members without complaint or grumbling?  What about the the things we do that will never receive public praise? Yep, those things count to.  Learning to serve our very own family members is a huge part of a story well lived.

There are so many dreams I dream for my family.  I want us to remain close and to have firm foundations in the love of God.  I want us to live life to the fullest and live beyond ourselves. Connecting through a mutual understanding that, "It's not about me, and it's not about now." (Max Lucado)

What dreams do you have for your family? How can you pursue big picture living as a family?

We are THAT Family never ceases to inspire me to live beyond myself. Check out this post which show 100 ways for your family to make a difference.

And if you need some personal encouragement as to why you should pursue your own dreams, check out what Stacey has to say about it.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Snow Fun for the Housebound

My girls love playing in the snow. No matter how long they actually play in the snow or how deep it is, they love it.  On occasion though, I have been known to say "no" to playing in the snow.  When there is sickness or it's just that cold outside. Yes, I'm a meanie.  I have come up with a few good compromises.  Here are a few examples of what to do when going outside for snow fun just isn't gonna work.

Snow Art -

The Supplies - medicine droppers, food coloring diluted with water, tray of snow, water for rinsing droppers and lots of imagination!

Using only 3 primary colors makes mixing colors so much more fun.

Snow play -

Simply fill a large tub or bowl with snow and have fun. Simple yet satisfying for those who are housebound.

Hope this provides some inspiration.  Thanks for reading!
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