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936Pennies Family Living With Intention

We Choose It For Our Child, And It Will Impact The Rest Of Their Life

March 3, 2017

My teeth clench and my foot braces hard against the floor of this shaking machine. All at once the conversations surrounding us are hushed by the droning of the wind against metal. My heart beats harder. I have always been a nervous flyer.

My stomach drops as the aircraft lifts sharply, wheels bidding farewell to the airstrip. The plane tilts left, and I see them like never before. “We’re going to fly right over our house.” My husband leans over me to glimpse what I cannot take my eyes off of: our mountains.

They stretch out before us without end, an infinite expanse of wilderness and wonder. I have never seen them like this before. At least, not since they became our own. Within minutes he spots it. “There! Do you see that curve in the road? Right next to it, there is our neighborhood.” And I do see it. I picture at once our three boys running across the living room, keeping my brave mom, who flew in the night before to stay with them, on her feet. They are a stone throw away, but 10,000 feet out of reach.

My husband points out rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, and canyons. I know them all by name, by smell, by tastes of picnic lunches, and hikes along their trails. I see day drives, afternoons spent tossing rocks into riverbeds, and where we hiked into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. All of these places—our places— are laid out as if bark on a tree, rising and falling, with lines of river and trail snaking their way throughout. Home. And it is. We have made it to be, and we know it intimately.

Not a half hour later, the summits calm and taper into flatter land, then rise steep again into a wilderness I do not know. Our boys are now a range away. I turn to my husband, “Hey, happy One Year In Colorado.”

We are flying away from the new backdrop of our lives, and toward the backdrop of my husband’s childhood. For four years of his boyhood he called the moss-covered trees and cloud-covered mountains of Washington “Home”. And I could hardly wait to see these places that I had pictured so many times from his stories.

That week I would stand in awe of the 286-foot Snoqualmie Waterfall, maze my way through forests of 100-foot trees and beds of ferns, and see the creek where my husband and his brother used to spend entire days rope swinging and creek jumping. And as I did, I could picture our own boys, and it made me wonder about the backdrop we are choosing for their own childhood.

It’s incredible just how much the backdrop that we choose for our kids shapes their futures. It is something that our kids get little to no say in. We choose it, and it will shape them profoundly. This was a realization that weighed heavily into our decision to move to Colorado one year ago. However, it doesn’t take the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to color a beautiful backdrop. Nor does it require sandy beaches with ocean breeze, or a quaint farmhouse among golden fields. The backdrop of our child’s life is made up of so many details.

A backdrop is made up not only of the things that we see day-to-day. It is pace, and flavor, and music, and scent, and words, and embrace. It is the tiniest of details that make all of the difference in a home.

Our move to the mountains was not a fix-all. I would be naive, and sorely disappointed, if I expected it to produce the perfect pace of life. Yes, it has helped us to embrace wonder. But it did little to slow us down. That takes more than a move; it takes intentional choices every single day. Even among all of this awe and wonder, we can still become lost in the rush of life, and we often do. We still find harsh words on our lips, and our minds too busy to offer a listening ear.

Location does not change these things.

Choosing a backdrop is not often a dramatic move, but a continuous string of small, intentional moves; moves we make every single day. Moves like these:

  • Reserving a campsite for a few weekends throughout the summer
  • Looking up nearby nature trails, and choosing one to explore each weekend
  • Playing music throughout the day in your home. (Our favorite Pandora stations are Caedmon’s Call, JJ Heller, Nickel Creek, and Rend Collective Experiment)
  • Lighting candles in the house
  • Diffusing lavender oil
  • Sitting down (with your spouse if you are married), looking over your calendar for the month, and choosing two activities to cross off. Go on a family date instead.
  • Choosing books, crafts, play, and time outside over screens in the morning hours
  • Reserving one evening a week for Family Game Night
  • Packing sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the park
  • Visiting the library once a week, and coming home with a new stack of books
  • Sitting to enjoy a cup of tea with a book, or just while sitting with your kids

These small moves add up quickly. They hold the power to change the whole culture of a home, and the backdrop of our children’s lives.

We chose these mountains because they remind us every day to slow down and listen. They challenge us to this, but they don’t do it for us. We must heed their reminder to keep our hearts focused on beauty, and living a life in line with our values. That is what creating a backdrop is made of: intentional choices that line up with our values in life. Choices to take walks and pursue wonder and create beauty and speak kindness until all of these things engrain themselves into the culture of our home. Until they all add their own color to the backdrop of our kids’ childhoods.

Living With Intention Motherhood

The Day I Nearly Killed My Son’s Compassion

February 17, 2017

Each cry from the back seat added another layer of tension to my shoulders as they hunched up closer and closer to my neck. My toddler was long overdue for a nap after a morning of running errands. Running errands is one thing. Running errands with three small children in car seats, who cannot buckle or unbuckle themselves, is a whole different thing. I was long overdue for a nap, too.

But that is when my middle boy spoke up softly. “Mom, look at that man. He does not have any food. We should give him some food.” This child, all of three years old with his soft voice and strong words knows exactly how to put a halt to the rush of our days.

I had seen the man too, of course, out of the corner of my eye. The toddler wailing and my blood pressure rising, I had hoped silently that the boys would not see him—would not suggest that we stop to help. Not today. Not now, when there is so much to be done. But then my boy reminded me that there was only one thing to be done, actually—and that was to help.

My boy’s words on that day, and his older brother’s exclamation of, “Wow, I feel great now!” after we rolled down the window and handed the man a gift card to a sub shop across the street—their words have stuck with me all these months later. Words that unearth the roots of your selfishness often do that. They stick. Not only did they show me a hard place in my heart, but they showed me a soft, strong place in my son’s heart; one bent on helping those in need. And I’ve come to see now that children are born with this bent within them.

Yes—kids are born selfish at their very nature; entering the earth with only needs of their own. But I believe that they are also born in the image of God; a God of great compassion towards those in need. And that compassion must be nurtured and encouraged, lest it be snuffed out by society.

Lest it be snuffed out by a mother in the thick of a rushed day, just trying to get home so the toddler can nap.

Last week at church we were given a bottle. Along with it, we were given the challenge of filling this bottle with change over the next few weeks. Then, with the bottle full, we’ll return it to church, where the money will be given to a local organization with a mission to help mothers and unborn babies.

As I picked up that bottle in my hand, it did not escape me that this is not the first time we have been given a container for change in church. Immediately I was brought back to that little stage, our toddler boy in my arms, the glass jar full of 936 pennies. I thought of the challenge we were given, to remove one penny every week; a poignant reminder of time being spent, and how are we spending it?

I stare now, these years later, at this bottle in my hands, ready to be filled for hurting mothers and endangered babies. I think of the organization helping mothers, and making sure that their babies will have a chance at their own 936 pennies. Their own 936 weeks with a family who loves them. And so we take our bottle home—three actually—to be filled.

Our boys have been doing just that. Day by day they ask for jobs to earn money. They’ve had their little hearts set on remote control cars for weeks, and have been working hard towards filling their own change jars, envisioning that trip to the store, and the picking out of their prized cars.

This week has been different, ever since bringing those bottles home. Now each day, after their hard work is done and it comes time to be paid, they divvy out their coins. One for their own jar, one for the moms and babies who need help. My second boy, the one who stopped us to help that homeless man on the side of the street months ago—he puts the majority of his change in the bottle for the moms and babies.

I count it grace that this comes so easy for them. It’s not always the case for me—take the example of the day I tried to drive by the homeless man. I see inconvenience. My sons see a Good Samaritan moment.

These Good Samaritan moments, and the conversations surrounding them, they teach our children, in a soft manner, the hard things of this world. As we talk about homelessness, moms who are frightened, babies without parents, and children without food—we coat the conversations with How Can We Help? And in doing so, our children grow up with an understanding that yes—this world is hard. It can be lonely and evil and scary and it is most definitely hurting. But—we can help. And this plants within them a sense of hope and purpose. It preserves that compassion engrained in their young hearts, so that it can outlast the hardship they will see and face as they grow. 

It teaches them that whenever within our power, we are never to just keep on driving. Because this world needs more people whose sense of compassion was never snuffed out as a child. This world needs more difference makers.

Life Seasons Living With Intention

Why My Favorite Part Of The New Year Is Not The New Year At All

January 1, 2017

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We are driving along a road in the Northwoods. We’ve wound our way along Lake Superior, glassy at the edges with ice creeping towards its center. Now a vast expanse of pine trees frame us in on each side. I look out into the depths of the woods, and I wonder just how many there are. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, an eternity of trees all stretching tall and reaching for the sun. As we pass each one, they seem as a blur of pine needle and bark.

They play out before me like one of those flip books I played with as a child. The ones where you place your thumb across the edge of the pages, all stacked side by side, then slowly release them and watch as  each page turned adds a tiny piece to the scene. These pines do the same. And if I look hard, I see the intricate, beautiful details making up their story. I see one felled pine, arching high like a bridge, dipping its tip into the blanket of snow below. And then a white-tailed doe, gently nosing at that same carpet of white, in search of breakfast buried beneath. The pines tell of time’s passing. For years they have stood here doing their job of drinking in the snow melt and sunshine, growing ever so methodically in tune with the passing of hours. They grow slow, we pass fast. And only when I stare deep and focus my attention do I see the beauty of their work, and the treasures lying within their forest.

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I think of these things a week later, as my husband and I sit on our living room floor, surrounded by journals, notebooks, and mugs of hot tea. The steam dances above our mugs and we write, pausing every few moments to think and talk and dream. We do it every year, this planning and goal setting and dreaming of what 365 days can hold.

And although I love the excitement of looking ahead, my favorite part is actually found not at all in the New Year, but the Old Year. Before we look ahead, we first take time to look back. It is another sort of Time Counting, but in retrospect. We think back on twelve months and we pick them apart, searching hard around every corner of them for those treasures within. Just as on that day with snow flakes falling big and pine trees stretched out on either side of me. I had to look hard beyond the eclipsing trees to find the further beauty within them. And now I do the same, looking beyond time’s passing over 365 days, to discover just what they held for us. We start to write.

Moved to Colorado!

Vast mountain explorations

Gray’s smooth transition into a new job

Signed contract for 936 Pennies book

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It begins slowly and then like an avalanche. And as we remember each of these gifts, our hearts lighten. The year behind us takes on a whole new look, one covered in grace and abundance, despite any heartache and struggle.

3 Family vacations

My family came out to Colorado

Paid off loan

Did fine owning only one vehicle, and had no issues with it

Gray built us a beautiful work desk where we can work side by side

Many family picnics

Met new friends

Found a church family

Sold a house

Bought a house

Spoke at a conference

Joined a wonderful Bible study

Good news from doctors

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And of course, this list is one sided. It is supposed to be. It does not tell of the loneliness and struggle woven throughout our move to Colorado. It does not hint at the emotional, exhausting process that buying our house was. It does not tell of our fourth child, lost in a miscarriage. It does not tell of the fear wrapped up in those doctor’s tests, a year after they hinted at cancer. Some of those gifts on our list could have never come to be, had it not been for the hardship.

Three hundred and sixty-five days can hold a lot within them. 

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It is a peculiar thing, looking back and realizing that this was both the most difficult and most wonderful year of my life. Maybe you feel the same way today. Or maybe you look back, and you only see the hard, the hurt, the ugly, the disappointment. Maybe you see very little, and you wonder just what good your 365 days did. Whatever you feel looking back on last year, now is the time to count. Search long and hard and in between every crevice of those days, and find the beauty. Find those moments that redeem the hurt, heal the wounds, and shine brighter than the dark.

Look beyond time’s passing, and find the treasures within. If you struggle hard and come up with five things, cling hard to those five gifts. And give thanks for this New Year in which twelve months lay before us, promising of beauty to be found, if only we’ll open our eyes to it.

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Before beginning our list of 2016 Thanks Givings, I looked back in my journal to find our 2015 list. It was good. But it was short. This year, as we wrote down gifts, the list was over twice as long. Perhaps the blessings were more abundant. God gave us a good year. But also I believe that the length of the list has something to do with our journey of Time Counting.

We are learning to look beyond the pines; beyond the ticking of the clock, and deep within to count those moments. The tree arching over white ground, the doe gracefully walking below the forest canopy. Our boys venturing into the forest in search of adventure, good news from doctors, friendships forged, picnic lunches between mountains towering. This is Time Counting. And perhaps it is the secret. Maybe our greatest chance at our best year yet in 2017 is not found in creating the perfect scenario, but in finding the beauty that is already waiting for us in these next 365 days. May we walk into this year with our eyes open wide to see it.

Book Review Living With Intention

Say Goodbye To Survival Mode And Yes To Your Purpose!

May 10, 2016

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I was sitting at a table of strangers, sipping on chicken soup, my nerves still dancing over a promising meeting I’d had with an Author Agent that morning. Next to me sat fellow writers, their minds and hearts abuzz with all the information we were taking in over the weekend at a writers’ conference.

We were discussing, as many writers do at these gatherings, the frustrations of spreading our messages in an already (very) loud online world. In this industry, it’s imperative that you have an audience, and growing that audience is tough business.

The woman two seats to my left was all ears as I shared about my desire to merge my love for writing with my passion for web design and marketing. I explained my plans for growing my business by working directly with authors, and helping them spread the reach of their messages online.

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When I told her that I would love to help her with her website, she could hardly contain her gratitude. She was not the only one I offered to help that weekend. I was excited to help fellow writers, and to begin this new chapter for my business. However, and perhaps you can relate to this, in my excitement to help somebody or pursue a dream, I can be quick to say “Yes”, before stopping to consider how well that new project will fit into my current season of life.

In the following weeks I met with a couple of new friends from the conference to discuss their websites. I drafted plans, chose color schemes, and began designing these beautiful new online platforms—I was very excited to finally develop this part of my business I had been dreaming of for some time.

That was, until the baby stopped sleeping through the night.

And until that promising meeting with an agent turned into many new drafts of my book’s first chapters needing to be written.

And until the date for our move to a new state began rapidly approaching, and boxes were strewn across our house, waiting to be filled.

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I was quickly slipping into survival mode, suffocating under the weight of the tasks I had piled onto my plate. Crystal Paine says in her book, Say Goodbye To Survival Mode, (win a free copy here!“Living with purpose means wisely choosing and committing to a few of the best things for the season of life you’re in.” I had chosen good things, but it was quickly becoming apparent that they were not a good fit for my current season of life.

It was this realization that led me to crawl out of bed late one sleepless night, and write an email of apology to the writers I had promised to build websites for. I explained my current commitments, and that I had simply bitten off more than I could chew. Typing out the words felt like a step backwards for my business. But as I hit “Send”, peace overcame me, and I crawled back into bed and fell fast asleep.

Sometimes it is those steps that seem backwards, that actually free us to move forward. Sometimes it is those steps that redirect us to the path that our hearts really want to go.

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Crystal says in her book, “Saying yes to the best means focusing and streamlining your time, energy, and efforts on what matters most at the time.”

She walks readers through how to create their “Best Stuff” list. It is an exercise in courageously unearthing and embracing what you are most passionate about, what your long-term values are, and what will produce the most fulfillment and purpose in your days. It is invigorating!

Setting those writers’ websites aside allowed me to focus my mental and physical energy on our move. I discovered room to breathe, think, and sift through my own emotions, as well as help my boys sort through theirs. I found time to rest between nights of interrupted sleep with our new little guy, as well as time and mental space to pour into my book.

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Setting aside the projects we are excited about does not necessarily mean saying “No” forever. Several months after I sent those apology emails, the opportunity arose to pick one of those website projects back up. After a week of praying and thinking through the commitment, I realized that my season had some extra space now to accommodate the commitment. I took it back on, and it felt a whole lot lighter this time!

That one website helped pave the way for a seminar I would teach a few months later, walking 50 writers through how to set up their online platforms, and better spread the messages that God has laid on their hearts. That path also opened up the opportunity to work with several other writers on their websites. The plan that had hatched in my heart to work with writers was blossoming into a beautiful part of my business—a place where I have discovered a whole new sense of passion and purpose.

And I don’t believe that the journey would have been quite as beautiful had I forced it into the wrong season of our life.

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Perhaps you have some of these exciting opportunities laying in your lap right now, but the weight of them is growing heavier with each passing day. Those opportunities that we are excited about—they are the most difficult ones to set aside.

But what if saying “No” for this season would prepare you to say “Yes!” in a season better suited for the task? What if “Not Now” would allow you the space to rest, reflect, and restore your vision, in order to glimpse a more fulfilling plan ahead?

Sometimes it takes a bit of saying “No”, to realize what we really want to say “Yes” to.  Let those “No” or “Not Right Now” answers be where you discover new freedom; freedom to dream and unearth what matters most to you. Freedom to rest and heal. Freedom to explore new passions and interests. Freedom to take care of you. Freedom to discover what it really is that will bring the most fulfillment and purpose to your days!

You can purchase Say Goodbye To Survival Mode here 

 

{Note:  I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement. I have greatly benefited from Crystal Paine’s book, and believe that many others can also.}

Faith Family Living With Intention

The Day We Shared Our Son’s Birthday Cake With a Homeless Man

April 25, 2016

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I pushed the knife gently down into the cake, which bounced back up around the blade; soft, moist, chocolate perfection. A first birthday cake for our youngest, who turned one year old today. Only this first slice was not for our birthday boy.

I set the oversized piece down gently onto a paper plate next to a ham sandwich. I scooted the sandwich over on the plate, making room for a pile of tortilla chips and some guacamole. I carried a second plate of sandwiches over to the picnic table, and then handed the first plate to my husband. “Do me a favor?” I asked him. He waiting for my request. “Take this to the homeless man lying over there?” I looked over to the edge of the parking lot; to a man lying on the pavement, his head resting on his meager belongings. He was high as a kite; his arms outstretched to the sky, waving back and forth as if chasing imaginary birds. My husband nodded, and walked in the man’s direction.

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I watched from afar as my husband set down the plate of food. The man continued to sway his head, hardly aware of my husband’s presence. My husband returned to our table, and we sat down to our own sandwiches as our boys leapt from rock to rock by our picnic spot.

A few minutes later I stood to get something from our car, and noticed the man, still laying on the pavement, but this time holding a sandwich to his mouth.

Here is where I must make an admission. Ever since moving to a new city a couple of months ago, and noticing right away the large population of homeless individuals, I have felt a pull to help. But I have not acted on that conviction. Until today.

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A few days ago, out of the blue, my husband had told me, “I’ve been thinking lately about how to help the homeless population here.” I found myself surprised by his comment, because it was the very thing I had been pondering for weeks. I find that when something has been on both of our hearts and minds, it’s usually best to give that thought some strong consideration. My conviction grew. But I was unsure of how to help. After all, there are so many  in need.

The picnic spot we chose today, we had driven past it a few weeks back. On that day there had been at least a dozen homeless men and women on the edge of that parking lot. Today, there had been only one. That man. And as I stood at the back of our SUV, staring at our loaf of bread, cooler of sandwich makings, and a birthday cake, I knew that we could help one. If there had been many more, like the other day we had driven by, I would not have been able to help. But today I could. 

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And here is where I make another confession. In the past, I have been one to silently question why a person ends up in homelessness, or similar situations. I have questioned their work ethic. Their priorities. Their addictions.

Today I chose not to. Today, I did not care what brought this man to that spot at the edge of the parking lot. I didn’t care that he was under the influence of drugs. I didn’t care how he had spent his time the evening before. All I cared about was that when he returned to a clear state of mind, that he would discover a meal waiting for him, and a slice of birthday cake. That he would know that someone saw him, and for more than a nuisance. I cared that he would feel cared for. Thought of. Considered.

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After all, when Jesus cared for the sick, the lonely, the destitute, the ignored, the disdained—He did not stop to question how they had ended up in their circumstances. He simply loved on them and served them. He did not stop to qualify them for His care, He just chose to notice a need and meet it.

I think that so many times we hold back from caring for the poor and needy because the need seems so big, so overwhelming, and so hopeless. But I wonder how different this world would look if we all began believing that we could help just one person. That we could toss our preconceptions aside, bringing love and kindness to one person’s day. That we could show one person that they are not forgotten.

It begins with each one of us. It begins with noticing. It begins with not walking on by when we know for certain that we can do one thing to help. It begins with something as simple as a ham sandwich and a slice of birthday cake.

936Pennies Family Living With Intention Parenting

What Is In Your Child’s Hands Today?

March 14, 2016

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He takes my hand in his and gives it two gentle squeezes, and I forget all else going on in that moment. I look at him quizzically; he seems to hang on to every one of my words these days. Two days before I had squeezed his own hand in mine, and he had asked me why. “It’s a way to tell someone that you love them, without using words. It shows them that you are thinking about them.”

He quickly adopts this as a new form of communication, surprising me with hand squeezes while we’re in the car, out on a walk, and running errands; a constant reminder that he’s thinking about me, his hand memorizing the feeling of my own.

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In the coming weeks I find myself more and more aware of what is occupying my boys’ hands. I read it in Rachel Macy Stafford’s book, Hands Free Life, “I want my daughters to remember holding our cat, Banjo; a wooden spoon to form cookie dough; musical instruments; books; bike handlebars; ladybugs; seashells; and especially my hand in theirs.”

I read her words as I sit out on our back deck, watching my boy, nearing five years old, practicing his grip on an old tennis racquet, maneuvering it just right to hit a plastic ball across the yard.

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Stafford continues in her book, “Because my actions greatly influence their actions, I make it a priority to exercise daily, go outside, and do things with my hands like baking and reading books.”

I’m thankful today that my boy sees my hands occupied with the pages of a book, a pen, and my journal; and in a few minutes, with a tennis ball as I join him in the yard. I know that many times—too many times—they see my hands busying themselves in a cadence across the laptop keyboard, or they watch my thumb dancing across the screen of my smart phone. And yes, the work is important, but I have to ask myself, do they see my hands wrapped around technology more than they see them fingering the pages a book, sprinkling cinnamon sugar over muffins, or wrapped around their Daddy’s hand?

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What our children observe our hands holding day in and day out will greatly determine what they decide to busy their own hands with. What might begin to change if we started taking note of what occupies our hands most?

I want my children to know well the slight cramp of thumb and wrist after gripping a marker or paintbrush, as they splash color across a blank canvas. I want them to know the feeling of both bread dough and garden soil caked underneath their fingernails. When their hands slip into mine, I want to feel their small calluses from swinging on the monkey bars and pulling each other around the yard in the wagon.

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I want them to be well acquainted with the feeling of craft glue dried onto the tips of their fingers. I want their fingertips to know the softness of bird feathers, and the prickles of pine needles. I want them to know how to hold a pea pod between their hands, and slice it open with their thumb nail to get at the peas inside. I want them to memorize the perfect hand placements, and how to grip the branches just right to scale the tree at their favorite park.

Most of all, I want my children to know the assurance found in the slight squeeze of my hand around theirs, a silent reminder that I love them, and am thinking about them right there in that moment; and that I wouldn’t rather my hand be busy with anything else.

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Today may we all pay a little more attention to what we occupy our hands with; choosing to fill them with the very things we hope our children will wrap their own hands around. May we be the ones to model what is truly important in life, by what we choose to grasp within our palms.

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As Stafford says it so well, “Today I want you to remember my open hands—not my multitasking hands, the ones too full, too busy, too pushy to gently tuck your hair behind your ear. I want to love you by opening my two empty hands.”

Empty hands are hands that are ready to receive, whether it be that craft project they are so proud of, a bouquet of wild flowers gathered from the yard, or their own little hand in yours. What will fill your hands today?

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Faith Family Living With Intention

The One List That Completely Redirected My Family’s Life

February 26, 2016

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“One, two, three, four, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…..eighteen…sixteen…twelve……………I don’t know. Ready or not, here I come!” He popped his head up from behind the large fake rock in front of the house. He looked back and forth, watching for movement, considering where to begin his search. I kept silent as I watched him search high and low throughout the cul de sac for his two new buddies.

Inside my husband and our two youngest boys napped, weary from a whirlwind three days. A half hour before, Zeke, our four-year-old had been munching on granola when I heard the boys playing outside. “Do you want to go meet some new friends?” I asked him. He had thought for a moment before replying, “Uuuuuuummm, yes.” He abandoned his snack and grabbed his shoes.
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His hand clung to mine as we made our way across the street; the boys greeted us with an eager hello. After the older one, age eight, told us of his love for shrimp, and the youngest, age 6, described every detail of the bicycle he received for Christmas, all three boys were quick to challenge each other to foot races between houses.

The sun cast a bright orange glow across the horizon as it made its descent behind the mountains. I set out a folding chair in the front lawn and took a seat. There I sat for nearly an hour, doing nothing but listening to the boys’ laughter as they raced across front lawns. It was a perfect end to our first full day home in the mountains.

A friend asked me a question recently, one that has left me thinking about my answer this past week as we packed up our life and relocated our family. As we drove West with all of our earthly belongings packed into a homemade trailer, her inquiry stuck with me. She asked me how our move to Colorado had come about.

After all, not many families who are settled into their first home with secure jobs, friendships, and a church home decide to uproot their family and start fresh in another state.

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Her question was the same one that I have been asked over and over again throughout in the recent months. Whenever it came up that we were moving from Kansas City to Colorado, the first question people asked was always, “Why?”, or, “Is it for a job?

Each time I would smile before explaining, “No. We just need the mountains.”

A year ago, I don’t think that I could have given that answer. I think I would have felt like I would have to justify such an “extreme” decision with more solid reasoning. But over the past year, God has been revealing to me a piece of His heart that I hadn’t quite understood before. He has been opening my eyes to the pleasure that He takes in His children, and His simple desire to bless them and see them thrive in His presence. This life altering lesson all began with a simple list.

I blogged about it a while back, when we first announced our intentions to move to the mountains. I shared of this simple list we wrote out almost one year ago, a list of family values—of everything we want out of life.

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It is not a bucket list. It is not a goal list. It is not a to-do list.

It is a list of all that God has set a fire in our souls for. It is a list of passions. It is a list of where we want to go in life. It is a list of what we want to mark our days with—and what we want our boys to grow up knowing intimately. It is the forces that we want them to be shaped by. It is the values we want to govern our life and family with.

The values penned on this list each act as a gear, setting into motion the life we most desire. They are strategically composed together to create a rhythm to our years, one that will make up the melody of our family’s legacy.

Our list is made up of exploration, financial stewardship, generosity, physical activity, a deep understanding of Jesus’ commands, respect for nature through travel and exploration, wonder, journaling, and a love for life-long learning. The list is rough, and still unfinished. Yet it created a framework for how we want to do life; acting as a compass pointing us towards the life God uniquely created us to live.

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The past few months have been full of arduous work and heart-wrenching goodbyes. Yet, sitting now on the other side of our decision—on the fulfilled side—I am discovering that taking big chances and making “extreme” choices is not so risky after all. Perhaps the big risk is found in not making these kinds of choices. Because never taking the risk or making the choice is a surefire way to never get to where your spirit longs to be.

Maybe you are in this place; yearning for something more, but unsure of how to get there. Perhaps you don’t know what it is that you really want in the first place. That is the first step, you have to ask the important questions, ones like, “What do I value most in life?” and, “Which values do I want my family to be governed by?” and, “What makes me feel most alive?”

At the end of your life, what would you regret not making a priority? 

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It’s not about chasing after every whim of our hearts. It’s about sitting down (with your spouse, if you’re married), and digging down deep to the roots of what God has planted in your spirit.

It’s about naming those things that light a fire within your spirit, the things that bring your family together, the things that most inspire you to worship the Creator, and bring you closer to Him—and then chasing after those things with full abandon. We only have one life on this earth. So go ahead—take the first step, begin your list. Believe in something fiercely enough to make it happen. It might just set into motion the most fulfilling life you’ve ever known.

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