Treasuring time and setting traditions

If you know me you know how much I genuinely love every season of the year. Like, when someone says “okay but say you had to choose a place to live in that only has one season” nope nope nope. Not playing your game. I choose every season. More accurately, I kind of choose the changing of seasons. Sorry. I’m a total game ruiner with this one.

Seriously though, I love seeing a backpack-swallowed kid get on the bus for the first day of school just as much as I love seeing kids who have gained a year’s worth of knowledge jump off the bus and run towards the first day of summer break. I love the first snow fall and the last snow melt. I love the smell of the first spring rain and the fresh feel in the air that means autumn is upon us.

So as the days of tan lines, sunglasses, and lake hair come to a close I start anticipating the days of scarves, crunchy leaves, and salted caramel lattes. I enjoy the spontaneity of summer yet crave the formality of the fall.

To me, the coming of fall means a new pace. It motivates me to connect the underlying things: our family values and the home-culture we hope to create to the practical things: our day to day life which includes our own set of work schedules, priorities, and preferences. The coming of the fall season gives new opportunity to practically and creatively carve into our lives what we hope marks our family and not just our calendar. From annual traditions, to weekly celebrations, to daily disciplines.

It could be family oriented, like pizza night (I lived with a family in Africa who made pizza every Friday night, did a fun story time around the table, and watched a movie together) or devotions when you wake up and books before you go to bed. Or it could be individual based, like playing ultimate frisbee once a week or plopping down every night after the kids go to sleep and gulping that long-awaited- frosted-over glass of milk. I think staples in life give us simple joys to look forward to and create special memories to look back on.

Some of these routines and responsibilities have already begun to play out in every day things like chore charts and check lists, craft time and chill time, daddy’s days off and doctors appointments. And then there is the (extra) fun stuff. The traditions and celebrations and simple joys.

So— as Fall 2018 approaches, I wanted to share a few things we have started to/plan to include into our weekly lives:

Tuesday- TUTU Tuesday!

Reese is a long standing member of the tutu craze club. It got to the point where she was begging to wear one every.single.day. There was no real reason to say no except for “we don’t just get to wear tutus every day of life.” So, we chose a special day for it! And boy does she look forward to it, every single week. And I must admit, it’s a lot more fun for me this way too.

This is also now a day that we specifically talk about/think about/pray for Reese’s cousin and her family all throughout the day. Tuesday’s are her hospital day.

Wednesday- World Wednesday!

This is one I’m hoping to dig a lot deeper into and get a lot more creative with. The idea is to teach the kids about about rest of the world— other counties, cultures, and colors. To educate on differences and celebrate diversity.

Practically this may look like going to a park or grocery store that is in a different part of town. Or spending the whole day learning about people with differing disabilities. Or making and eating food from a different country. Or learning about and praying for missionaries.

Christian Resource: “Gods Very God Idea” -Trillia Newbell

Kids YouTube: “PK Words From Around the World” and “Baby Language Song ASL”

Friday— fun Friday!

The goal is to do something FUN every Friday. Maybe going to a park or play place or something special that goes along with that season (eg pool in summer). Then Friday nights are designated family nights. This could be anything from building a fort, to game night, to a movie, to making calzones together.

Sunday- r e s t & r e s e t

…So there you have it. A sampling of small and simple Lewis traditions.

The fun thing about traditions are that they are yours. You can create them, morph them, dispose of them, and sometimes they happen into being all on their own.

For more: 10 family-fun-hacks that I’ve most likely either stolen or just heard of–

  1. Breakfast for dinner night
  2. Picking a primary family hobby and investing time/resources here
  3. Picking a life skill to hone in on with a child for chunks at a time
  4. Clean up house day
  5. Visit parent at work day
  6. Holiday traditions: sibling sleepover on Christmas Eve, annual hay ride at pumpkin patch, new outfits on Easter
  7. After school tea time
  8. Serve somebody else day: visit nursing home, cook someone a meal, send a card
  9. Jammie day
  10. Celebration dinners: starting something new or completing something old; major and minor mile stones

Sally Clarkson

Grief: the uninvited friend

“Mama come see! Come see!” I hear exclaimed from the bathroom.

“Looook!”

I see her ducks, all varying in size, lined up along the edge of the bath. I force my face to light up in surprise as if I had never seen her do this before. And of course she would do it at least a dozen more times after this in the coming weeks.

And as the scenario always goes.. “this is Reesey, Decwin, Daddy, and Mama,” she says pointing to each of them. But this time was a little different. There was an extra duck she had put up there (yes she somehow accumulated at least 5 rubber duckies). She pauses at the last one, so I light heartedly ask her who the other duck is.

Then it hits me.

Maybe someday I’ll tell her. Tell her about her other little brother or sister. The one that the “extra ducky” so abruptly reminded me of. But, for now, I will just look into her big innocent eyes and tell her that I love our little ducky family.

Right there in the middle of my daughters bath time. Grief happened.

Grief…

Here is what I have learned and observed about it:

1. Grief is unapologetic

It barges in on us. It’s the guest who makes their way into every party yet didn’t get an invite. It is oblivious to time and surroundings. Sometimes it sticks with us like a deep and dull pain, other times it pricks us like a sharp sting, and then there are times that it completely rushes over us like a wave. Grief can just feel plain, well, mean.

2. Grief can be sort of kind

But I have found the sneaky soft side of grief. It has, at least for me, brought some sense of comfort. It reminds me that they (the one I’m grieving over) were real and that they are worthy. So worthy and impactful that there will always be a lasting them-shaped hole that gets filled up with sorrow. For me, grief allows my heart to hold on to what my hands never got to.

3. Grief is confusing

It warps time in a paradoxical way. It can feel so familiar that it makes us wonder if we really ever knew life without it yet it feels so fresh that it makes us wonder how so much time has already passed. Eventually, it can also cause us to be genuinely thankful for the newness that has come of it. Maybe it’s new love (like in remarriage or friendship), maybe it’s new lessons (like learning that time is so very precious and fragile), or maybe it’s new life (like a little boy who that sudsy girl lining up her duckies now calls brother). Yet we simultaneously wish with all of our hearts that it never had to happen this way.

4. Grief is worth grieving

I believe it’s good to keep perspective and to fight off a “woe is me” mentality. Or as I have heard it called “navel gazing.” But I also think we can wrongly dismiss the legitimacy of what we, or others, are going through by always adding qualifiers like “at least….” One simple and comforting thing someone once said to me in response to me sharing something I was going through was “man Nat, that sucks.” They genuinely meant it. We don’t need to or get to hear that every time. But maybe sometimes we should. We don’t have to justify or dismiss grief based off of comparison. It’s not always about better or worse. Sometimes it is just about, different. And grief is worth grieving. Because it’s real, and it’s yours.

5. Grief produces empathy… or can

Ray Ortland says “Suffering is not meant to get me thinking, ‘Nobody can understand me.’ It’s meant to get me thinking, ‘Now I can understand others’.” It’s hard to put into words but suffering and sadness really do have a way of connecting us to others. Of making us more raw and relatable. Of helping us not just feel things for people, but with them. It has the potential to make us more soft and less hard, more careful with our words and less careless with them, and more understanding and less assuming.

6. Grief reminds us there is more.

As Christians we believe that pain “reminds the heart that this is not our home.” Because Christ chose to become a man acquainted with grief and loss and longing, through Him (his life, death, and resurrection), we now get to know a future life without it. Here, grief will have to knock at the door. And it will not be allowed in. But until that day, we are given comfort and hope. And a God who is both sovereign and kind.

“O Church of Christ upon that day,
When all are gathered in,
When every tear is wiped away
With every trace of sin;

Where justice, truth, and beauty shine, And death has passed away;

Where God and man will dwell as one, For all eternity!”

A letter to my son

A little over two years ago I wrote a letter to my daughter (linked at bottom). While it also reflects my hopes and prayers for my son, I wanted to write a specific one for just him.

Dear Declan,

Eyes: I pray that your eyes see, really see, every humans worth. That they will not be used for the exploitation or denigration of others. That they wouldn’t be afraid to cry.. like at Remember The Titans. That they would reflect depth. That above all, they would gaze into the glory and grace of Jesus and everything else would grow strangely dim.

Ears: I pray that your ears will never stop hearing the simple things like planes soaring or birds chirping or your sister laughing. That your ears will be quicker to act than your mouth is. That they would be open to hear talks with your dad. That above all, at the end of your life, you would hear your Father say “well done.”

Mouth: I pray that your words would be gentle and courageous; and that they would protect and defend. That its favorite shape would be a genuine smile. That you would use it to enjoy and appreciate good food. Above all that I would hear it loudly sing the praises of your King in the back seat of our car, in the shower, down the aisle from me, and in a village half way across the world.

Hands: That your hands would work hard at whatever they do. That they would help others up when they fall down and reach out to be grabbed when you yourself fall down. That they would firmly shake the hand of both the executive and the man with a sign on the street corner. Above all, that they would be open to receive grace and forgiveness in Christ.

Mind: I pray that your mind would grow in knowledge but even more so, in wisdom. That your mind would be a battle ground against destructive thoughts and a factory for growth, creativity, and reflection. Above all, that your mind would constantly mull over the Words of God.

Feet: I pray that they would jump and run and kick and climb. That they would bring you to the tops of mountains and feel the edge of the ocean wash over them. Above all, that they would go wherever God would lead you.

Heart: Lastly, I pray for your precious heart. That your heart would feel deeply and love fiercely. That it would be big and be brave. That it would have an evident connection to your words and actions. Above all, that it would rest secure and strong; not just as a servant of God but a son of God. A fully known, accepted, held, and loved- son.

No matter where you go, what you do, or who you become, our love for you is settled. And our arms are always an open place for you to run.

I’m glad you’re my boy.

Love, Mom

https://lewisvillelife.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/a-letter-to-my-daughter/

Postpartum hacks

As of today my baby boy is two weeks old. It’s been two weeks of short nights, curious little eyes, body pains, therapeutic snuggles, moments of utter chaos and so so much sweetness.

While having my second go-around on this new born thing doesn’t at all make me a pro, I decided to compile a list of what I’m calling “postpartum hacks” that have mostly been passed along to me and that I hope to implement during these days.

So to you mamas whose trash is full of diapers, sink is full of bottles, and shirt is full of stains; this ones for you. For us.

1. Read a book or binge watch a show while feeding baby. It’s enjoyable and its effortless, and it will always be a sentimental connection to the new born days.

2. Hide some chocolate… or any treat of choice. When you need a quick pick me up, whip that delicious chocolate (dark for me!) out of your hidden stash and treat yo self. Tastes like deliciousness and adulthood.

3. Be easy on your body. Instead of focusing so much on how your body looks focus more on what your body can do. Remember your body brought forth life and continues to give it daily. Consider the messages your body sends to your baby like warmth, love, safety, and provision.

4. Sleeeep! Every chance you get when you need it.. which is every chance you get.

5. Adjust quiet times. As a Christian these demanding days honestly make “quiet times” with God feel a little daunting. A friend once encouraged me that this season is an okay one to set aside our bible reading plan that has us in Leviticus and instead spend 15 spare minutes in the Pslams. Even if we don’t have the same emotional and mental capacity, our souls need Gods Word. So keep feeding on it, even if it is more like small snacks. *also fill your mind with good music and podcasts.

6. GO! When given the opportunity… get out for bit! Leave the baby for a few minutes with someone you trust and sit at a coffee shop, go on a walk, or just drive around the block with the windows down.

7. Identify energy drains. A podcast I was recently listening to suggested identifying our typical “drain times” during the day. With my first child I discovered quickly that one of mine was during the time between dinner and when Dad gets home (for us about 5:30 to 7:30) This is ironically the time when I’m building an imaginary wall and my daughter, and now son, are simultaneously determined to knock it down and be as close to me as humanly possible.

8. Apply energy fills. Instead of resorting to checking out during this time, though, we should follow up by identifying our energy fills. It might be sneaking away for 3 minutes to lay on our bed and stare at the ceiling, or stepping outside and breathing in fresh air, or closing our eyes and imagining bed time. But it’s finding, and applying, that little something to give us an extra push to get through the day more faithfully and fully.

Well, now I’m going to go eat some chocolate and binge watch Parenthood. Orrrr feed my baby while my toddler is climbing on me. Whatever.

Mom life.

Let’s embrace it.

Let’s laugh.

Let’s snuggle them like we don’t have long.

Let’s count the small wins.

Let’s breath in each precious moment.

I’d love to hear your own ideas! So drop your postpartum must-haves and go-tos below.

Kids and Christmas.

Last year, on our daughter’s 1st Christmas, my husband and I started to implement the “4 gift rule”. Well, actually we added another category that we thought was a part of it and so ours is really a “5 gift rule.” Last year implementing this rule was not hard at all, considering we could have wrapped an already-owned toy and she would not have known any different. This year, however, has proven to be a little more challenging. Reese is still not yet old enough to have Christmas expectations, so the challenge was solely in the hearts and minds of her parents. I have to admit, it was tough walking around Toys R Us on Black Friday with my husband and not giving into the  “oh just one more thing…” mentality. I already had to fight off feelings of guilt and discontentment.

But, as of now we are heading into this Christmas with 5 gifts to give our daughter.

Before I move on I do want to make something clear: this blog is not at all written with the intention to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not trying to draw anyone’s line for them or even say where I think it should be drawn. Because I don’t know. While my husband and I seek to be intentional, we are naturally very spontaneous and “wing it” sort of people. So this new “tradition” is held with really open hands. We liked the idea behind it and we wanted to give it a try. So, we’ll keep re-evaluating and re-adjusting as needed. Or maybe at some point we will scrap it all together. But for now, here are the unspoken and spoken messages we want to be sent to our kids through each specific gift-

  1. Something you want: We care about your enjoyment and we want to invest in things that make you excited.
  2. Something you need: We want to be aware of and provide for your needs. Some years this might be a physical need while others it may be more spiritual, emotional, or relational.
  3. Something to read: Your brain is an invaluable gift that is worth being fed and stretched and invested in. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Suess
  4. Something to wear: We want you to know when you get dressed in the morning that you are protected and provided for, as much as it is up to us. We want you to have shoes to run in and a jacket to keep you warm. We also want you to be able to express yourself- who you are and what you like- through what you wear.
  5. Something to share: Others matter. Gifts aren’t just for or about indulgence and they aren’t just about us. Shared possessions can lead to shared enjoyment and experiences, and that is often better than the gift itself.

Even more importantly though- whatever we end up doing in the years to come- here are the underlying questions we want to ask ourselves each Christmas as we decide how to navigate things like traditions and gifts and family values-

Consistency
Overall, we want to ask ourselves what a specific gift (or the way we “do gifts”) is teaching our kids about the rest of life. Do these gifts and the way we are going about them promote what we are trying to teach them every other day of the year? Is Christmas an isolated event in our life or does it flow with what we care about every other season of the year?

Enjoyment
Something I read in a blog a while back that really struck me was the idea of setting your enjoyment bar. She talked about the need to often times set our bar lower in order to enjoy more frequently and more deeply. If our enjoyments are only found in the highest of highs, then we are always waiting around for the next big trip or gift. And then we go to the next level by trying to always top them. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy what we often dismiss as simple or mundane. Enjoyment can be guided and learned.

Contentment
We want to teach our kids, and our own hearts, that gratefulness springs from a heart of contentment and ungratefulness springs from one of comparison. Instead of looking around at what others have we want to practice looking at what we have. We want to verbally practice saying “thank you.” Our heart will get there if our mouth starts there.

Entitlement
It is so easy for the Holiday season in particular to bring a sense of entitlement. We can subtly believe that we deserve gifts because “that’s just the way it is on Christmas.” Instead, we want to remind and recognize that all gifts are, well… gifts! If we are “owed” something, it ceases to be a gift. You do not “deserve” a gift more than the kid down the street whose parents were not able to afford any this year.

Gifts are about more than just you
With every gift there is both a giver and a receiver. We want to instill eyes that see the giver behind every gift. To see an actual person who is using something of their own- likely time and money- in order to give you something. Gifts are also given to do more than just hoard and keep. The more we get the more we are able to give.