Thursday, January 29, 2015

Creative Play

Want a fun way to stretch imagination and encourage creativity? Oh, and you don't want to spend any money or have to leave the house? Done! 

Choose any household item, and then come up with as many different games or activities as possible using that item. I do this with my two and three-year-olds regularly, and it is something that can genuinely hold all of our attentions for an hour or more (which, frankly, is rare!) 

This week we chose a box of penne pasta from our pantry. Over the course of an hour, we came up with and played nine different activities using penne, and really only stopped at that because we had a playdate to get to. 

Here's what we did: 

1)  Transferring - this is a Montessori early-learning activity that my kids love! Grab measuring cups, tupperware & spoons in a variety of sizes and let the kids transfer from one container to the next. 

2) Measuring - we very naturally transitioned into measuring & counting, using the same items from our time with transferring. I gave the kids simple instructions like, "Add 1 cup of pasta to the big bowl" and "Put 7 pieces of penne in this cup." 

3) Noodle Letters & Spelling - Ask the kid to create letters and write their names, using only the pasta. If your kids are ready for it, elaborate with spelling and phonics practice. 

4) Noodle Necklaces - This activity is great for developing fine motor skills! My kids love beading necklaces, so we grabbed a couple pipe cleaners and found a few spare bells for them to use in their custom necklace creations. 

5) Noodle Crowns - My son wasn't happy with his noodle necklace, but lit up when he realized he could turn it into a crown, grab his sword and pretend to be a king. Add a few more noodles & pipe cleaners bent like triangles, and you can create a wonderful tiara as well!

6) Noodle People - Once we had the pipe cleaners out, the kids started to notice how they could manipulate the noodles & pipe cleaners to create various shapes and animals. Their favorite creations were little noodle people. 

7) Noodle Mouth-darts - Eventually, the kids couldn't resist finding ways to put the penne in their mouths. Their first idea was to use them as darts, blowing them at one another. I added the element of a bowl, which then turned it into a competition to see who could shoot the most pasta pieces into their bowl. 

8) Noodle Marching Band - We marched all around the house using our penne as various instruments, mostly horns.

9) Look & Find - My kids are obsessed with look & finds and treasure hunts, so our last game was for one person to hide a set number of noodles around the house and then the other two had to go look for them. We did several rounds of this! 


Have a fun way your family stays creative together? 
Share with us! 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Looking Back

Last week, our inaugural group of hope-holders & truth-tellers began our 30 Day Writing Challenge together. We wrote toward a prompt about our earliest childhood memories. It's been a joy and an honor to watch stories pour out of those participating - so many stories to be told! I wanted to share a few excerpts from their pieces with you today. I've kept all the quotes anonymous, since some memories are particularly personal. 


"I am not sure if any of these things were really as I recall. At times they are a vague feeling and sense, and at others, very clear and certain. For a time I did not cherish them. I did not think they were unique. Now I know. I know they are different from others childhoods. I had a wildness that is not found everywhere. A chance to be barefoot. A chance to be innocent. A chance to listen to raindrops."  


"I watch them argue, my mother trying to placate his demands, trying to reason with him, he who is completely incomprehensible, unpredictable. He reaches for me and I turn further into my mother's shoulder, hiding my face in her blouse. She refuses again and he retaliates, not with words, but with fists. He shoves her out of his way, knocking us both into the metal air conditioning unit a few steps from our doorway. My mother falls against the corner hard and again, I am afraid, confused. Here my memory fades...

Days later, we are at our community swimming pool. I watch my mother shed her clothes, revealing her one piece bathing suit. Revealing her bruised thigh. I see the large blueish-green markings on her leg and somehow, at two, I know. I know it was him, that night. I know it was the weight of us falling against the metal. I connect her pain and his anger and me in the middle, threading a broken tale of fault. I believe it is because of me."


"Life is all about relationships.  Material items only fulfill you for so long, adventures alone only satisfy the soul temporarily, but add a friend, or a sibling, or a partner and the moments, adventures, and places become more meaningful, leaving a deep impact on our hearts.  As soon as I had my first baby I knew there had to be a second.  I may mess up half of parenting, but to give my daughter a brother was the best gift I could offer her." 


Every little girl adores their dad - I did too. It isn't surprising that my earliest childhood memory includes my dad. A moment in time so long ago, perched in his arms as he carried me out of the woods. Being chosen is what stands out in my mind as I recall this memory from my childhood. A moment in time when my dad was present and choosing to be near. It's just that, a moment, because the reality is, He wasn't always present in my life in a real way.

Yet it's a very symbolic memory for me, reminding me I'm chosen every day by my Creator and Heavenly Father. Although my dad didn't always choose to make me a priority, I've always been a priority in the eyes of my Creator and it's in God that I find my identity, significance, and worth. The perfect image of a father that God portrays allows me to have grace and look beyond my dads failures. 

Realizing my dad didn't always chose to be present and outwardly express his love provides clarity. Clarity to my story because not always being chosen by my dad impacted where I looked for significance and worth. As I dig deep and attempt to put my story into words, I'm discovering freedom and redemption and that is enough to keep me writing.


Aren't these lovely? Personal stories are such beautiful treasures, to both the writer and the reader. What would your story look like in words? Join me for our next 30 Day Writing Challenge (starting in April) and find out! 

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Again & Again

I'm reading a wonderful book right now and have been moved by some powerful lines within. I want to share one of these quotes this morning - about new beginnings - and also give you this free printable. Let me know if you have any trouble getting it.  

Hoping we find our way back to new beginnings today!

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hope is an Act of Rebellion

If you've never tuned in to Krista Tippet's weekly radio show, On Being, you really must. I'm a new listener myself, but already a huge fan. 

I nearly wrecked the car when I first tuned in a few weeks ago, as Tippet's guest, Parker Palmer, read a brief excerpt from author Reverend Victoria Safford's piece, Hope. Riveted by the language, I found myself deeply stirred by the message, the lesson that hope is something fierce, something courageous. I sensed this truth months ago as I watched friends hold on to hope and press in to faith, despite all the mess telling them to do otherwise. I knew then, and know still today, that my soul longs to be called amongst those that have the audacity to hope

With one hand on the wheel, I rustled around for pen and paper, desperate to record the whereabouts of Safford's words. I found them in Brain Pickings recent article, What Hope Really Meansand want to share them with you today. If you are interested in hearing Palmer's reading of these words (which you should be), you can listen here

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see.

A group of audacious hope-holders join me every quarter for a 30 Day Writing Challenge. We gather to voice our stories - the pain, the struggle, the joy and the light - and we invite you to join us!

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Sacred Tale

A couple months ago I read a fabulous book by one of my all-time favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd. It's a fairly quick read, with lots of simple, yet profound stories - I devoured it in one weekend! 

Most profound to me was her introductory chapter on the power of, hello?!  This theme had already been on my heart at the time, and as I sat and read Kidd's words, I felt a strong sense of the Divine speaking directly to me, encouraging me, pushing me on. 

As I read, I found myself writing out every other line of her first chapter in my journal, filling several pages with quotes and reflections about writing our stories and its power in our lives. I'm a firm believer: You have a story to tell. And so do I. 

Are you grappling with the question, Who am I? Wrestling with an urge to tell your story? Do you need some direction or structure on your journey right now? I encourage you to join me and fellow brave-souls in writing your story this year. 

If you're struggling to take the leap, here are a few of the Kidd quotes that spoke to me most profoundly. I hope they'll find a home in your soul as well. Have a lovely Saturday, friend! 

My story became bread through which God mediated grace. 
Through story we catch God suddenly in the thick of our days, disclosures unraveling out of the mundane. Such awareness transforms life from a series of random events to the poetic realm of a sacred tale.
When we enter our personal story, we embark on an odyssey of reconciliation, of reclaiming more and more of who we truly are, the selves that are dark and light, redeemed and unredeemed.
Through the lens of story we see the mystery of ourselves more clearly. 
Discovering our personal stories is a spiritual quest. Without such stories we cannot be fully human, for without them we are unable to articulate or even understand our deepest experiences. 
In the act of creating story there is always an event of coming to know.
Through story we draw connections between the happenings of life and the lessons of God. 

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Journey of Surrender

Several brave souls joined me this week for a 30 Day Writing Challenge. As I've wrestle through my own journey of questioning and becoming, I have found writing to be an invaluable tool in gaining perspective and hope, and I have longed to invite others into their own journey of storytelling. This is our chance!

We’re writing about early childhood memories this week. It’s work to look back, as far back as my mind will wander, searching for the first moment when a living memory appears. I get glimpses of my past, still images flashing through my mind, but soon cannot determine whether these "memories" are a result of old photos I have seen or complete figments of my imagination. To come upon my first truly living memory, one that allows for some digging and unearthing of details, can be tedious and unnerving. 

As a parent, I find the hardest part of this whole process is the lack of memories available to my adult mind. It baffles me that I cannot recall a single birthday before age nine, or remember a family vacation before age eight. What about all those early years? What about the second and third and fourth birthday parties? What about the family vacation to Disney World when I was two? Or the trip to Florida to visit cousins when I was six? Not to mention the day-to-day moments - playing with siblings, bedtime routines, cuddles with mommy - I cannot bring any of this back to life. Other than snapshots, literal photographs, that remind me I existed at one and three and five, I am left to wonder. 

If I linger with this reality, letting it translate into my own kiddo’s lives, I am soon discouraged, if not despondent. How can it be that all these hours of cuddling on the couch and singing before bed will be completely lost? How can it be that days at COSI and trips to the zoo and vacations to visit family will fade into still images, held inside an old, dusty scrapbook? How can it be that all the moments of spontaneous laughter and dance parties, all the fun and all the effort, will be buried in the past of my children's lives?

I have stopped at these thoughts many times before and, disconcerted by them, rallied all my energies toward helping my children capture and keep their memories. I have created photobooks for them every year, regularly looking back through old photos together and sharing stories about each moment. I started keepsake chests for both kids, already full of outgrown clothes and first pieces of art and favorite baby blankets, each item neatly tied with notes about what made that piece so precious. I’ve written letters to the kids on their birthdays and kept journals of anecdotal stories from our days - all beautiful practices, all unable to keep my children from growing up. 

And maybe that’s just it: That each day is a million moments gone forever. 

If I check in with the realities of my own life, my own memories, I am forced to face the hard truth that I cannot keep each moment of my children's lives alive forever. I cannot control their forgetting or ensure their remembering. I cannot get this moment back ever again. I find myself standing face-to-face with their mortality, with how absolutely out of control I am in the grand plan of their lives. And I hate it. I am reminded of these words by author Charles Whitfield, "It is hard to learn that life cannot be controlled. Life's powerful and mysterious process goes on, no matter what we do. Life cannot be controlled because it is far too rich, spontaneous and rambunctious to be fully understood, much less controlled by our thinking, controlling false self." 

But who wants to be out of control in their own child's life? Who willingly surrenders them to the whims of a Universe that feels far too dangerous and flippant and downright evil to handle their precious souls? Who can birth such beauty and not be captivated by the urge to protect and spare? 

I am not sure I am capable of this. And this - this resistance, this fear, this urge to control and to protect - this I now see is the place where I must stop, where I must sit and breathe a while. "In the act of creating story, there is always an event of coming to know,” says author Sue Monk Kidd. And tonight, I am coming to know again. 

From my own hands, I hear a whispering, “You are not in control." Not grave and grim and ominous as I have always received this thought before, but rather gentle, tender, kind. More of a, “You are not in control. And it is okay.


Okay, okay, I repeat, willing myself to believe. Okay, okay, I question, wondering how I could ever surrender my own children. Okay, okay, I argue, my fear fighting for stable ground. Okay, okay, I sigh, releasing myself into the unknowing. 

Because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and maybe it will be really bad news. But maybe it won’t. In the end, I cannot control it either way. All I have is this moment. And maybe rather than scurrying about with fear of each second that is gone and lost forever, I could press into something equally true: That every second is a gift.

please feel free to print & use this printable & share with friends! Personal use only.


I copied this quote from Kidd into my journal a few months ago: “So much of parenthood is negotiating endings, the unceasing process of disconnecting the strings that tie our children to us, preparing them for life on their own. That has always been the ache and the beauty of it for me - taking the deep breath and trusting somehow in the goodness of life, in God, in something beyond myself.”

Right below this quote, I wrote: I am terrified to let my kids go. The weekend I wrote it, I wrestled with my fear, felt the Divine speaking to me and encouraging me to let go. I memorialized my letting go with a self-made ceremony on the beach, writing fear in the sand and letting the waves sweep it away. But I learned then, and coming to know again, that letting go happens over and over and over again. That standing with our fear and pressing into the discomfort of hard things is a choice we make repeatedly - that it takes time and courage. 

Today I sat down intending to write about an early childhood memory, but my writing had something else to say. As I tried to add details to those early images of my childhood self, I found myself walking instead down a road of fear for the future and control of my children’s lives. I found myself confronted, again, with the bittersweet beauty of getting to be a part of these little lives. I found myself forced to face each fleeting moment, forced to press into the discomfort of trusting Goodness and letting go. 

I will surrender today, and let go again tomorrow. But I will forget and fail and forever be in need of the Divine’s proddings. Somedays I will see and know and breathe into all that knowing with great courage. Other days I will scurry about, running from the truth that each new second is a gift as I make vain attempts to immortalize our lives. Somedays I will resist, and others I will release. This is my journey of surrender. 

Sometimes when I write I wonder whether all the nuances of emotion that I am trying to express come through. So, I decided to try something new: readings of my posts. I promise to keep working on the quality on these, but the vocalization will give you a further peer into my heart as I wrote this.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Ten things I know in my 30’s, that I wish I knew in my 20’s…

A LOT has changed in my life in the past few years. There are days I look in the mirror and am baffled by who I am, where I am and what my life entails. Not in bad ways either, just in totally surprising, "never-saw-this-coming" ways. And in these days of change and unexpected twists and turns, I am learning so much about myself and so much about life. So much that I wish I knew sooner. 

I thought it'd be fun to compile some things I'm pretty sure of now, that I wish I knew then. Here goes...

1)  Sometimes the best answer is, “I’m not sure.” I spent a year of my twenties at a Christian leadership institute designed specifically to teach youth all the “right answers”. I thought everything could be divided into one of two categories, that life was clearly defined in Scripture and that an answer to every question could reasonably be given. I didn’t realize that uncertainty and unfolding, if embraced and named, are freeing and connecting and life-giving. I finally learned that “I’m not sure” is often the truest, most whole and courageous answer we can give. 

2) Life’s failures, hurts and tragedies are not the end (or the enemy). I’ve spent a lot of life trying to safeguard myself from experiencing disappointment, and a lot of energy sitting in fear, bemoaning my struggles, and looking for someone to blame. I finally realized that I could be a victim and numb the pain, or that I could stare my shit in the eye and pursue wholeness despite it. I’ve learned that the real enemies are my numbing, my isolating, my faking perfection in place of pursuing authenticity and wholeness.    

3) A great body image has very little to do with my body. All through my teens and well into my twenties, I strove with the best of them toward impossible standards of flawless skin, glowing teeth, slender legs and a flat belly, always feeling less-than, always discontent with what I saw in the mirror. Finally, after birthing and nursing two children, I bought my first bikini ever, not because my body was finally perfect, but because I finally accepted the beauty and magic of what my body is despite the flaws. 

4) Finding and owning my unique voice in the world is a holy quest. For years, I made it my mission to learn the right answers, to speak the right way, to believe what I thought I should believe and to morph myself into the person I thought others’ expected me to be. I wanted to fit neatly and perfectly into all the right boxes. I had a lot of good intentions, but they were very misdirected. Now I’ve learned that being the unique creation God made me to be is my best gift to the world. 

5) Every story, told in truth and love, is a valuable offering to the world. In learning to find and own my unique voice, I realized that speaking my truth and telling my story is perhaps the most valuable and liberating experience a human can have. Saying the hard things out loud, allowing the questions and memories and wonderings to surface, I am learning that speaking my truth in love is a life-giving force that both feeds others and nourishes me. 

6) People aren’t looking for answers, they’re looking for meaningful connections. I was long the giver of “all the right answers”, until life threw a few curve balls my way and then I became the receiver of those answers. The messages were not the issue, as much as the fact that they were given with an agenda to prove “rightness”, often detached from a practical commitment to love. I have learned that it is far more meaningful to offer genuine, consistent friendship, than to persuade or prove or even pray. That people crave connection, and can see through the facades of love with an agenda. 

7) Mystery is beautiful. I have gained a new appreciation for the saying, “Life is not a destination, it is a journey.” I am learning in my thirties to embrace the unknowns of life – the ups and downs and twists and turns of any good journey - and am finding along the way a place of wonder and possibility. I am learning that awe and mystery have defined the beliefs of many Christians, past and present, and am finding hope in God, the Undefinable.

8) Nature is the most affordable, and often most effective, counselor there is. I used to think that sitting in silence outside was a total waste of time or that admiring a flower or a tiny insect for it's sheer beauty was somehow too carnal. I felt my religion required me to be separated from creation, focusing on "higher things." Then, I realized that creation is a higher thing. That it can teach me about surrender and vulnerability and courage. That it can calm and heal and restore a sense of awe in me that I never thought possible again. 

9) People are inherently good. We are each offspring of Goodness, created in the image of love and truth and creativity and beauty. Living with the doctrine of inherent evil limited my love and lowered my eyes, keeping me focused on the flaws of myself and others. When I realized that, despite my imperfections I am enough, I rose to the calling and became a much more whole, more loving, happier person.

10) The only guarantee is change (And that doesn't have to suck!). There were years of my life that such a thought scared the hell out of me. I needed stability and security and some guarantees in life to feel sane. But then I began to learn that change is not only inevitable, but often wonderful. Many of the things that have turned out differently in my life today from what I expected them to be five or ten years ago, are some of the greatest blessings I have. I wouldn't change all the change for the world! 

What have you learned in your thirties, or maybe your forties or fifties or whenever, that have truly revolutionized how you live? Please share below so I can gain some wisdom from you! 

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