The Hope Chain: RECLAIMING ADVENT with FREE PRINTABLES!

 

NewBloggerCollageBW Yesterday marked the official start of  Advent – the countdown to Christmas, the day we will celebrate the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ: our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I admit that many years I’ve spent this season wrapped up in the ‘stuff’ of the holiday. The busyness. The stress. The shopping. The things. (Don’t you get exhausted just thinking about it?)

This year, however, a group of sweet gals and I have joined together to go against the grain and RECLAIM ADVENT.

As my beautiful friend, Krista Gilbert, author of Reclaiming Home, says, “Traditions matter, no matter the age. They provide a strong anchor of family identity and also make the season special. They offer a chance for us to break up the monotony of everyday life and infuse fun, connection, and meaning into Christmas.”

Amen.

With fostering tradition and building memories in mind, the 8 of us created the THE HOPE CHAIN – an old-school link chain made up of daily activities that will help us build fun, connection and faith in 15 minutes or less.

25AdventActivities_Feature

Here’s the scoop:

The Hope Chain

What it is: An Advent chain with one activity for each day of December leading up to Christmas that promotes fun, connection, and faith.

How to use it: Print + cut the activities into strips. Form strips into a chain in order (they are numbered). Each day (carefully) tear off the bottom chain as a family and do the activity listed when you have a 15 min. window. Start on Dec 1st for 25 Days of Advent, ending on Christmas day.

You will need: Printer, Paper, Stapler / Tape

Hashtag: We’d love for you to hashtag your family doing the advent activities throughout the season. Use the hashtag #thehopechain

Because these bloggers are so much fun, each one has a different design of The Hope Chain. You can choose the one that fits your home décor and colors best!

Here’s my styled Hope Chain:

EJ_BlogPost

Download it here.

EJ_BlogCollage

 

Take your pick and HAVE FUN celebrating
this most wonderful time of the year!

**All links will open in a new tab. Pick the best to match your decor.**
KG_BlogPost

Krista Gilbert
kristagilbert.com

Alexandra Kuykendall
alexandrakuykendall.com

TS_BlogPost

Tammy Strait
graceuncommon.com

AH_BlogPost

Allison Hendrix
thehouseofhendrix.com

JI_BlogPost

Jamie Ivey
jamieivey.com

EJ_BlogPost

Elisha Joyce
rebelgrain.com

JW_BlogPost

Jessica Wolstenholm
graceformoms.com

KK_BlogPost

Positive Message Tees w/a Purpose
asyouwishdesignjewelry.com

I hope you’ll join me – and us! I’ll be looking for your on Instagram – so connect with me @rebelgrain and share how The Hope Chain is brining FUN, CONNECTION and FAITH into your Advent season.

Much love to you… and looking forward to watching this journey unfold 🙂

ENTER TO WIN: Reclaiming Home, A Book By My Friend Krista Gilbert

IMG_1240

Today I’m joining in celebration with my friend Krista over at Meaning In A Minute. It’s the official day of her book launch… and peeps, let me tell you: this is a book I encourage every crazy busy mama out there will buy, read, and savor.

Krista sent me an early copy of her book several weeks ago – just as we were settling into our new house. It arrived in an oversized hand-addressed envelope; I wasn’t expecting anything and I must say: I was pretty giddy thinking something good may be hiding inside. As I reached in and pulled out the goodies, I was in awe by what I was holding: a handwritten note, her book, glittery things, an encouraging calendar… it was like an envelope of love and I could feel Krista’s sweetness pouring into my frazzled and overwhelmed spirit.

“Reclaiming Home: A Family’s Guide for Life, Love & Legacy” on the front… and, on the back the truth of my life in that very moment: “Are you watching as your family spins out of control?”

IMG_1241

Yes. There it was. My truth in a headline.

Krista’s care package met me right where I was. Wires hanging from the ceiling where fixtures should be; kids bickering; groceries waiting to be unloaded; laundry taunting me from the other room; long, long lists of ‘to-dos’ I had to do to get us settled into our new space; and, an overwhelmed heart from recognizing this fact: I only have four more years with my oldest girl before she’s on her own and my day-to-day with her is gone.

Our move was more disruptive than I could have ever imagined – and, honestly, the first weeks after moving in I was filled with anxious thoughts. How the heck do I reign our lives back in and get things back in order? What can I do to get technology use under control – the devices have taken over?! How do I bring joy and peace and connection and play back into our seriously ‘busied’ family… and, Lord, show me how to fill our home with so much love and warmth so that, while my kids my leave someday, they will always long to come home?

I was praying for wisdom… praying for clarity… praying for practical advice. Then, out of the blue, Krista showed up on my doorstep and invited me to do what I was struggling to do: RECLAIM MY HOME.

THIS BOOK IS ANSWER TO MY PRAYERS.

Just check out the titles of her chapters:

Reclaiming Your Foundation
Reclaiming Time
Reclaiming Ordinary
Reclaiming Marriage
Reclaiming Childhood
Reclaiming Play
Reclaiming Imperfection
Reclaiming the Table
Reclaiming Traditions
Reclaiming Legacy
Reclaiming Faith

At the end of each chapter Krista has little checklists, worksheets, dares (the dares are awesome)… all kinds of things that have helped me pause, intentionally think through specifics of my situation, and be encouraged in the midst of the crazy, busy season our family is in right now.

IMG_1239

There’s so much I could tell you about it… so many nuggets of wisdom I could share. But, instead of being long winded, and because Krista is so dang cool, I figured I wouldn’t just tell you about it – instead, Krista said I could give you a chance to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY.

All you have to do to enter is this: leave a comment to this post stating the ONE chapter from the chapter list above that is speaking loudest to you. That’s it!  (I also hope you’ll subscribe to my blog in the sidebar… but I won’t make it a requirement for winning 🙂 )

I’ll announce THREE random winners on my Facebook  Page this Friday, September 18th, at 12pm PST. So, after you leave a comment, be sure you follow me on Facebook so you’ll know if you’ve won!

Ok, now go for it. I really want to give you a copy… it will bless your socks off.

And There She Goes Again

139_3902_r1         IMG_6024

Outdoor school is here once again… only this time, for my Kenna girl.

She’s quiet, yet incredibly strong. She’s organized, flexible, and filled with kindness. She’s the one I’ve always described as Snow White – the one that wakes up filled with so much brightness and joy that, if she opened her windows and began to sing in the morning, the birds and squirrels and deer would swarm just to be near her pure sweetness.

131_3148_r1    IMG_6550    133_3398_r1

She’s my tender one… my baby girl. And, right now as I write this, she’s on a bus and headed away from me for three nights with hundreds of other 6th graders.

We worked together last night to pack her bags. We went item by item down the list – if it was recommended, it was packed safely into the duffle.

Extra shoes? Check.

At least three pairs of pants? Check.

Towel and toiletries? Check.

Sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight? Check, check, check.

So when we woke up this morning to get her out the door, while I was sad she was leaving, I was confident I was sending her out as prepared as possible for the week ahead.

I stayed with her at school til it was time for her group to go. While I spoke excitement for her with my words and face, I think she could sense my heart was aching while I watched her inch to the edge of the nest. She giggled with friends and owned her space, but never overlooked I was still there. She’d turn every few minutes, to smile at me – her secret language of “Mom, I love you… don’t worry – I’ll be okay.”  While I took dozens of photos, she indulged me. When I hugged and kissed her for the umpteenth time, she hugged and kissed me right back; and, after she sat down on the bus and I knocked on her window to wave and take just one more photo, she smiled big and blew me a kiss.

IMG_6034

That’s my girl. Precious. Kind. Confident. L.O.V.E.

This is the business of parenthood, no? I must raise… and release. Raise… and release. Raise… and release.  I must take the moments we have together and intentionally help my little ones ‘pack their bags’ with all the things I’ve been instructed, things like Truth, Wisdom, courtesy, kindness, humility, empathy. And then, at various times – ready, or not – I must step back, let them take the bags I helped them pack, and watch them fly with their own wings – wings, I can only pray, are unburdened and lifted by His grace.

I will miss her this week, but I know she’s written on the palm of His hand and He won’t overlook her for one second. I’m struggling with the distance we’ll have between us, but I trust He goes before her and will be her rear guard.

Avocado Prayers

fresh avocado

…..And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Ephesians 6:18

I had a rough week last week and had a great talk with my daddy in the midst of my angst.

He listened… he sympathized… and then he said, “Honey, I know it’s hard, but you’re right where God wants you to be – you just have to give it all to Him and trust He will see you through.”

As he said that to me, I was reminded of something I wrote years ago about a lesson I learned from my little guy when he was only 4. Today I want to share it with you because, if I need an occassional reminder of how to pray, I bet you could use the reminder, too.

Here it goes:

_______________________

The other day my kiddos and I were eating lunch. I cut up a fresh avocado, squeezed a little lemon juice over the top, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and then laid it out for them to dig in. My big girl ate some, my middle girl ate some… but my 4-year old little guy said, “Oh, no thanks mommy.”

“Seb, you have to eat some, honey. Just a piece. I promise you’ll love it.”

Not quite believing my promise, my boy stuck a slice of avocado with his fork, cautiously brought it to his mouth and barely stuck out the tip of his tongue to “taste” it.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

“Seb, you haven’t even really tried it yet. You’ve got to put the whole thing in your mouth to really get the taste of it – and you’ll love the lemon and the salt and pepper on it.”

His entire body slumped over towards the counter as he closed his eyes, squinched his face and quietly fake-cried at my request.

“Come on, just one piece,” I encouraged. “It’s so healthy for you – and you know mommy wants you to be super strong and super smart. Right? So, just take a bite! You know I only give you what’s good for you.”

I let the conversation end there and turned my back to wash the dishes so he could have privacy in his anguish over the avocado. A couple of minutes later I turned back around and he was sitting there with the avocado on his fork about three inches from his face. “Well, are you gonna eat it?” I asked.

“I will, I will,” he said with a concentrated look on his face. “I just need to wait because I prayed God would make  it taste good, okay?”

My heart melted as I silently watched. Three seconds… four seconds…

“Wait… wait…,” he said. Then his eyes popped open, “Okay, it’s ready!”  As the taste hit his mouth he closed his eyes tight; I watched and waited trying read the expression. The second the avocado crushed between his teeth, he eyes shot open and he busted out with, “Mommy – He did it! God made it taste good!” His face was lit up; he eyes were gleeming with excitement His prayer had been answered; and, he swallowed the avocado down and headed outside to play.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” And, Phillipians 4:6 instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  These are just two of the many examples from the Word instructing us to bring EVERYTHING to God… and I have no doubt “everything” includes our simple avocado prayers. Why? Because it’s in the mundane, unsavory parts of our day where a small whisper seeking help from our Father can turn something unappealing into something savory for our soul.

Now, did God actually transform the taste of the avocado from between his first tongue-touch and his actual bite? Maybe… maybe not! But, here’s the deal: even if the avocado itself didn’t change, my boy’s heart changed – it changed from being focused on the ‘problem’, to being focused on the One with the power to make all things better.

Dear Sweet Father – oh, how I love you! Thank you for my precious boy’s heart that is a perfect example of the innocence and humility you call us all to have. Thank you for the reminder that everything matters to you – everything. From heartaches that are about to burst us open, to the minor irritations that simply give us pause in our fast-paced days. Thank you that Your ears are open to our whispers for help, and thank you that Your eyes search throughout the earth to strengthen those of us whose hearts are truly fixed on You. You are a great and mighty God and I jump for joy in all things – in everything! – knowing that you have plans to prosper me through every one of my avocado moments.  May our prayers keep our hearts and minds fixed on you. I love you. In the precious name of your Son Jesus, Amen.

Think On These Things

A good memory from a warm summer day years ago… I wonder what caught our attention?

Last night the kids and I ended up at my computer watching videos from when they were little.

Yes, it was bedtime; and, no, I didn’t plan to make it a hang out time with the kids… I was simply on a mission to find a photo one of the kids has asked me for.

But all of a sudden, there we were: my boy on my lap, my girls leaning on each of my shoulders. We were scrunched into a 2×2 foot space, bodies touching, breaths warm… and we were laughing.

Laughing! Free!

Closeness and kindness and joy was filling us up and overflowing and we were swimming in good memories and sweet thoughts.

The kids were saying things to each other like “you were so cute when you were little!” and “oh my gosh, you still make that face!”; and, they find lots of opportunities to mock my ‘mom voice’ (you know, the voice that comes out when we moms take videos of cute things are kids are doing).

We laughed until we were literally crying.

Honestly, though, it was an experience I don’t get much of these days. Yes, we love each other. Yes, we’re close and bonded and thankful to be a family. But here’s the reality: family life can be tough.

There’s bickering and fighting. There’s complaining for space, lots of ‘leave me alones’, and a struggle for independence that comes harder and faster each day the kids get older. There are things to do, places to go, responsibilities to be responsible with. There are stresses, and tears over homework, and yelling, and door slamming. And, while we don’t mean it to, all the day to day messiness often blurs our minds to the truth.

What truth?

The truth that we are human and broken… and all in need of grace….

The truth that we love each other madly and deeply…

The truth that we are who we are because we are together…

The truth that we couldn’t get through life without one another…

The truth that we are each God’s greatest gift to each other…and

The truth that sometimes renewing our joy in the journey begins with stopping to remember where we’ve come from.

Going through the photos and the videos of the ‘good days’ reminded us of where we’ve been: we’ve shared pillows for naps, had dance parties in PJs, made up songs about hot sauce, and taken baths with so many bubbles we thought we’d lose each other. We’ve kissed at monuments, had soggy diapers, cried when we dropped cookies, and helped each other up when we’ve fallen. We’ve made forts out of flowered sheets, set out buffets for stuffed animal families, and squished into beds together because being alone in our own was way more uncomfortable.

We’ve cried… but we’ve also laughed our way through our lives together.

One of my favorite verses in the bible says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is TRUE, and HONORABLE, and RIGHT, and PURE, and LOVELY, and ADMIRABLE. Think about things that are EXCELLENT and WORTHY OF PRAISE. (Philippians 4:8).

Let’s do that today. Let’s rebel from the thoughts that tempt us to bitterness and let’s fill our minds with GOOD things. Let’s go through old photos and videos, put new pictures in our frames… let’s surround ourselves with the TRUTH about our lives: we are blessed.

We are blessed. We are needed. We are right where we are supposed to be.

When I Grow Up…

courage quoteYet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter;

we are all the work of Your hand.

Isaiah 64:8

I was unloading groceries, thinking through the week ahead, struggling with my helmet hair, and wishing the kids would find the hooks on the wall instead of dropping things in the walkway, when my sweet little guy came riding in on a burst of energy and asked, “Hey mom, so what do you want to be when you grow up?”

He caught me off guard. I stopped unloading, thinking, struggling, and wishing and looked at his glowing, innocent face waiting seriously for my answer.

“What do want to be when I grow up?” I repeated with a little chuckle. “But, I am grown up, honey.”

“I know, mom. I know. But what do you want to beee? You can always be something.”

_____

Really? Can I always be something? Is there really an opportunity to ‘be’ something instead of just a woman standing knee-deep in momminess?

I’ve thought so much about this through the years. There have been seasons where I’ve agonized with the Lord over all I ‘gave-up’ to stay home with my babies. I’ve thought about what I ‘could have been’ or ‘should have been’… and every time I pay a student loan bill I think, “Me? Really? Did I really go to law school?”

The funny thing is that as I’ve wrestled with Him, He’s opened my eyes to the Truth: ‘giving up’ and ‘could have been’ and ‘should have been’ are all nonsense. Those are terms of culture, and societal pressure, and newspaper articles; and, they are terms that do nothing but plant little bitter roots in a spirit – roots with a tendency to spring up and contaminate all the goodness and joy of a simple life.

What is true, however, is exactly what my little guy pointed: I can always be something.

Me. Mommy.

No, it may not be the ‘something’ of my young dreams and expectations. It may not be ‘something’ others see as important, or  ‘something’ that our self-focused, please yourself, do-what-makes-you-happy culture says is valuable. It may not ever even be ‘something’ that I can put a term to other than ‘mommy’.

But you know what?

What to be is my choice… and what to be is YOUR choice.

As we stand in our mommy shoes, we get to choose.

Will we be gracious, or bitter?

Will we be thankful, or regretful.

Will we be present, or detached?

Will we see our mommy-lives as full of possibility… or see it as passing us by?

Because what I’ve learned is this: when we are knee-deep in service, and dishes, and laundry, and bickering, and tears… real growth happens. It’s where we learn humility, and service, and hospitality; where we discover surrender, and patience, and unconditional love; it’s where, through our willing sacrifices, His beauty is born in us. (Notice, none of that is past tense… we are ongoing works in progress!) It’s where we get to dig, and till, and continually discover new things about this lot He has graced us with… and uncover the good stuff He knew would only come from this path – from this ‘something’ He is forming us into.

So, what do YOU want to be when you grow up… as you grow up?

For me, I just want to be WILLING.

That’s it.

Willing to serve.

Willing to love.

Willing to be molded by the Potter…

I hope you are willing, too. Because you know what? There is GREATNESS standing in your kitchen – in your laundry room – in the grocery store line. GREATNESS, sister.

Choose it.

Be it.

Choose to be who He’s calling you to be… right there where you stand.

PRAYER: Father, You are so good, and so kind. You gently and carefully lead us to places that our humanness might never choose because You know it is where true life, and growth, and wonder will take place. I pray for the heart of every woman who might read this… and that you will meet her right where she is – whether that is in her career out of the home, or in her career in the home –  and give her comfort in where You’ve called her to. You know it gets tough in the day-to-day, and that often our hearts long for more. I pray that we see YOU as our all in all. May we look to YOU for security, for our worth, for our safety. Thank you that you are faithful and true. Lift us up, Father, and make us bright lights for these little ones you have entrusted to us for Your glory. In Your sweet name, Amen.

 

Mamas On the Narrow Road

IMG_0698

“Self-control” seems to be the topic of the day around our house.

I’m constantly telling my kids: control your urge to talk back… control your urge to be selfish…control your urge to focus on what you don’t have, and instead focus on what you do have.

All the same while the words come out of my mouth to my kids, the same words come out of my Father’s mouth to me: Elisha, control your urge to fight back… control your urge to be impatient… control your urge to be fearful, to be offended, to be defeated.

I tell my kids, and my Father tells me: Control… control… control.

Self-control is a very rebellious quality these days, isn’t it? I mean, who needs self-control when our bad choices are labeled as ‘diseases’ or ‘addictions’ – and, if we have a ‘disease’ or an ‘addiction’, we, therefore, have no fault. And, if we really have no fault, our choices don’t really matter. And, if our choices don’t really matter, why should we care about self-control at all?

But I have no desire to raise children who are always looking for the ‘out’, or who don’t understand the power of choice. I want to raise kids the way my Father is raising me: with a spirit of love, and power and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7); to understand that every choice has a consequence; and, that pain comes from bad choices, and goodness comes from good choices.

Because the Truth of life is this: we can travel on the wide road, or the narrow road.

The wide road is easy to find – and it’s where we find lots of people to journey with. Everything is okay on the wide road… and, as one of my favorite songs says, “the crowd is quick to push [us] along”. The problem with the wide road, however, is that it leads to heartache. Why? Because the wide road doesn’t require anything from us! It requires no self-control, no discipline; there is no thoughtfulness, wisdom, or moral compass. We do what we want, how we want, according to our own ideas – and that means there is no ‘right’, there is no ‘wrong’, there is no ‘truth’, there is no ‘lie’.  It’s all about us and no one else on the wide road… and no one really knows where they’re going or the ‘right’ way to go because there is no ‘there’ to get to. (I know because I stumbled down this road for far to many years of my life…)

The narrow road, on the other hand, is hard to get to and even harder to navigate successfully. It requires everything from us. It requires we think before we step; it requires we be fully awake, alert, and prepared. It is vigorous, and it requires total dedication and attention. On the narrow road we must pay attention to the One in front of us calling us to follow, but be especially mindful of those that are behind us because they depend on our example to show them the way.  The narrow road requires we sweat, and work, and have a plan; it requires we endure, and persevere, and have a sober mind. Most importantly, the narrow road requires we have our mind set on our final destination because it is knowing where we’re going (and the joy we anticipate once we arrive) that makes the difficult journey worth the effort.

So, let’s all be rebels today, shall we? Let’s rebel from the wide road and CHOOSE to be mamas on a narrow road… mamas that are loving, and powerful, and who gloriously display our super-power of self-control in the midst of a culture (and our own human tendencies) that tells us to be otherwise. And, most importanly, let’s grasp JOY in our journey, in spite of how tough it can be (and, yes! God knows it can be tough), knowing there are little feet behind us traveling our same path and depending on us to lead them to L I F E.

 

Be the Change You Want To See

I love the gym. Not the floofy classes or the cushy easy-glide equipment, but the plate weights and the dumbbells and the free bars. I love the ‘real’ stuff – the stuff that I grew up with. The stuff that I know… that I understand… that I am comfortable with.

I got out of bed early this morning and hit the gym for the first time in weeks. The reality of my life is this: if I don’t steal the time for myself before the house wakes, I don’t make it happen.

I get tired.

I get lazy.

The ‘things’ of the day begin to suck at my skin and I just can’t get my mind right to put for the energy for a workout.

So, when a morning begins like it did today… me awake, the house asleep, iPod full of the best tunes, lots of sweat, 64 ounces of water before 7:30am, and tingling in my muscles, I am sooo thankful for my early years:

  • I’m thankful that working out wasn’t an option – it just was.
  • I’m thankful that my dad didn’t talk fitness… he lived fitness.
  • I’m thankful that my parents raised me so my body would never be a burden; I was raised to be in control of my physical being.
  • I am thankful the gym was home to me and, no matter how much time passes between my visits, I always return with comfort and ease.

That’s what growing up in bodybuilding did for me: it built a foundation of health. No, I’m not a bodybuilder – and, no, I have no desire to spend four hours a day in the gym… even if I had that kind of time in my day. BUT – growing up in bodybuilding grew a foundational desire in me to never let my body get away from me.

I learned from eating and breathing bodybuilding, day in and day out, that my body will be exactly what I feed it and train it to be. Period.

The funny thing is I’m positive my dad wasn’t intentionally training me all those years. He never pulled out a notebook with goals and milestones and ‘things I must teach my daughter before she’s 18’. He never sat me down and delivered bodybuilding sermons, or pontificated on the value of multiple reps and sets for each muscle group. No – my dad just was who he was and I learned by simply walking through life by his side.

Proverbs 22:6 promises that what we teach our children in their youth is what will stay with them:

“Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” (The Message Bible)

Or, another way it’s said is: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV)

Today, just as I am reminded of the importance of the example I am living for my kids, I hope you’re reminded of the same.

Who WE are is who are children will become.

  • Our view of food will be their view of food.
  • How we handle trials will be how they handle trials.
  • How we value our bodies will be how they value their bodies.
  • How we love our spouse will be how they love their spouse.
  • How we respect ourselves will be how they respect themselves.

What WE do and who WE are matters far more than what we say.

  • We can’t preach ‘be kind’ if we ourselves are unkind.
  • We can’t preach ‘be healthy’ if we ourselves are unhealthy.
  • We can’t preach ‘be modest’ if we ourselves are immodest.
  • We can’t preach ‘be humble’ if we ourselves are full of ourselves and puffed up with pride.
  • We can’t preach ‘have faith’ if we ourselves are faith-less.

So today, mamas, let’s walk strong with eyes wide open. Let’s be the women we hope our girls will become.

Let’s be kind so they will learn kindness.

Let’s be generous so they will learn generosity.

Let’s be forgiving so they will learn forgiveness.

Let’s be patient so they will learn patience.

Let’s be bold so they will learn boldness.

Let’s be joyful so they will learn joy.

Let’s be thankful so they will learn thankfulness.

May our homes be where our children eat and breathe life and love and Truth, day in and day out…. so when they grow old, they will not depart from it.

Raise and Release, Part 2

IMG_0590

At the beginning of last school year, my 12 year old baby girl went off to outdoor school… and I thought I was going to break. Why? Because this ‘raise and release‘ thing we  do is emotionally overwhelming.

We raise them – teach them, comfort them, coach them, guide them, nag them, feed them, remind them, stand beside them, stand over them, love them, tuck them in, and wake them up. We pour all that we are into these little ones and then, before we know it, we are standing with them at the tip of a branch surveying the field of life and, even though we want to snuggle them close sheltered from the heartache, and fear, and discomfort, and mistakes that come with walking boldly through life, there is nothing more we can do but stand behind and watch as they fly.

Because that’s life, right? Every season of life brings new ‘work’ – a new flight into new territory… a little longer, a little farther. The work of facing fears – of taking chances, overcoming obstacles, of letting go of mama’s hand and grabbing for His instead. And, without the work, we stay stagnant, wimpy, and unusable for the greatness God calls us to.

So today, in spite of the pit in my stomach and my own deep seated fears of letting go, I did it to my girl again.The branch was a little higher, the view was a little vaster, but the process was the same: I signed her up for an adventure, walked her to the edge, stood behind her with our breaths almost as one, and I said, “Okay, girl, you can do this: fly”.

She was hesitant to jump and test the strength of her wings. We stood for some time in the church parking lot and quietly watched other campers arrive and mull around. I could tell she was nervous; she didn’t know anyone and felt totally out-of-place. The one person she recognized we approached and said hello to, but the girl and her mom quickly turned to other friends and left us to fend for ourselves in the sea of giggling girls and mamas.

(It’s hard not to feel rejected, whether you’re 12 or you’re 40. We all want to be loved. We want to be brought in to the laughs and the conversations. We want to be noticed, acknowledged, desired. We want to feel special – all of us do. And yet, there I was with my girl: face to face with real life. The lot was packed with moms and kids – yet, she and I were an island. No one spoke to us. No one noticed us. Moms and kids grouped up – hugging and chatting and laughing. My girl and I? Totally alone.)

As tears welled up in her eyes over the fear of four days away and not a friend in site, I felt her pain. I remember being 12 – awkward, unsure, out-of-place. (When I signed her up I thought for sure she’d know a girl or two, but with a church our size, I’m guess I’m not surprised she didn’t.) I cut the ice with some mama-talk: “Honey, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Here I am 40 years old and I feel a little anxiety in my stomach over not having a friend in site. But you know what? This is the kind of thing that makes us stronger! This is the type of situation God uses to pull us out of our comfort zone and grow us – and new friends are often part of that journey. I know God has something so great in store for you this weekend – and I know He has a perfect friend for you, too. You’ll see.”

“Mom, stop,” she muttered through clenched teeth as she leaned in closer to my side for protection.

All of a sudden I heard His still, small voice say: This is where the rubber meets the road, Elisha. This is where your girl needs to see how to fly by YOU flying first.

The whisper of encouragement made me stand a little taller and I decided to take command of the situation.

“Okay, let’s look for someone else who is alone and we’ll go make friends with them.”

“Mom, no.”

“Seriously, honey, look around. Who looks like they could use a friend?”

Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Not a word. Finally, I heard a peep:  “Fine, mom – how about her.”

I looked in the direction she was looking and about 10 feet from us I spotted fellow wanderers:  a darling girl and two ladies looking just as lost as we felt.  I put my arm around Selah and whispered under my breath, “Okay – don’t be so obvious, but let’s work our way over there.”

We walked towards the small group and around the backside of one of the ladies and still for about thirty seconds. (It would have embarrassed my girl way too much if I would have just walked to them looking desperate. So, I had to be cool – I had to be smooooooth.)

When I sensed a break in their conversation, I went to work.

I put my palm on the arm of the gal closest to me and she turned around. “Hi – I’m Elisha. Do you all go to church her or are you just here for the camp?” Selah was about 3 feet from me, body language screaming discomfort.

“Oh hi,” the sweet mama said. “Yes, we do attend here.”

We chatted for just a couple of minutes about the services we attend, etc, etc, and then I said, “Yeah, we were nervous when we showed up because we didn’t recognize anyone and everyone seemed paired up.”

“We thought the same thing, too,” the mama said with a lighthearted laugh.

“Well, this is my girl, Selah.”

“And this is my girl, Natalie.”

Selah and Natalie looked at each other, said little girl hellos, and I could feel it: in that instant fear has lost the fight for my baby girl’s wings. (Praise God!)

We continued to talk as the campers were rounded up. It turned out Natalie had forgotten a camp chair just like Selah, so the two girls were summoned to collect one from the church office. Off they went, chatting, smiling. Friends. They were instant friends.

Before we knew it the bus was being loaded and off  the two little birds went. Side by side on the bus, and mine totally embarrassed I was trying to take pictures through the window. But you know what? She was flying! She watched me fly before and then, with confidence, she jumped off, too… and how could I not try to snap a picture of her courage?!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for opportunities like today – opportunities that let my girl test her wings where it is safe, and where You are present. I pray your protection over her and all the campers this week. May Selah and her new friend enjoy each other’s company and may they come back stronger than they left us. Finally Lord, may we mamas never forget that our girls learn more by our example than our words, and may we – Your daughters – be women that exude kindness, gentleness, goodness, and love. Should by chance we ever feel insecure, or overlooked, or rejected, which I know You understand is common for us mamas sometimes, may we be reminded You call us by name – You call us Your Beloved; and, may we stand tall and shine brightly as your Love so the women you’ve entrusted us to raise stand tall and shine brightly as well. Thank you for loving us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

My Out-of-Character Purple Quinoa Soup

We’re officially into summer, but here in Oregon the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been dreary – just a little chilly. So, last night I decided to make soup for my family to warm us up from the inside out.

I had a beautiful head of red cabbage that I sautéed with some garlic and onions and then simmered in chicken broth. I added cooked quinoa and I seasoned the soup with cinnamon, fennel, and bay leaves. I added a little fresh lemon zest, a dash of sea salt and pepper, and served it with some fresh diced cilantro over the top. It was hearty, chalk full of nutrients, and the flavor was absolutely divine!

The one thing I didn’t bank on, however, was that my beautiful cabbage would go crazy in the pot. As it simmered, my good intentioned meal went from a pot of deliciousness to a big lavender-colored stew. The more lavender it got, the more my stomach sank. Yes, it smelled amazing – and it tasted amazing… but let’s get serious: no matter how spectacular my intentions and the flavors were, it was purple soup.

DSC06788

Even my man, who loves everything I cook, opened the pot and gave me a look like, “You serious?”

“It tastes amazing,” I said encouragingly. “I know it doesn’t look so great – but wait til you try it.”

I ladled it into bowls for everyone and, as the kids approached the table and saw servings of purple, I got one, then two, then three, “What is this?”

Again, I let out a little laugh (and a prayer they’d eat it since I had no backup plan) as I said, “You’ll love it – I promise!”

Long story short, my prayer was answered and everyone finished their dinner. Surprisingly, there was no complaining, no sounds of disgust – they just ate. Their eyes were half closed with every bite – but they ate nonetheless. (My man even went back for seconds.) Then, as they left the dinner table satisfied, and warm, and full up on nutrients, I even heard, “Gosh, mom, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.”

But, can I tell you something?

I was absolutely shocked they ate that soup. S.H.O.C.K.E.D. It was the ugliest bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed in my 40 years of life – and, hands down, it was the ugliest meal I’ve ever put in front of my family in all the years I’ve cooked for them. Maybe it’s just me – or us… but purple is not meant for soup. Purple is meant for hydrangeas, or skittles, or a snazzy handbag that gives a pop of color to a boring outfit. But soup? No thanks.

DSC06791

So, what gives then? How is it that my family got past the ugly flag that soup was waving and managed to discover it really was tasty?

I am convinced my family got past the ‘ugly’ because they know my ‘cooking character’. They enjoy my cooking night after night. They see the groceries I bring home; they know the flavors I play with; they’ve grown to trust how I put ingredients together; and, they are confident I cook, not to punish them, but to satisfy and nourish them with all things good. They’ve seen my ‘cooking character’ in the kitchen so regularly that, in spite of this total bomb, they knew they could trust I would never in a million years serve something that tasted disgusting… and that meant they simply ignored the ugly flag and dug right in.

With all that said, I turned off the kitchen lights last night with this quote floating through my mind:

My soup? It spoke really, really bad of me last night. Thankfully, though, I’ve lived out enough love in my kitchen that no one believed it to be true.