Be Ready to Notice Your Unique Sacred Gesture This Holiday Season

My hand smoothed warm cheeks before I bent down and kissed my sons’ goodnight. The stairs creaked as I tiptoed down them to settle comfortably in my favorite zebra fabric chair at our dining room table. I felt my body relax into writing, the keys of my laptop feeling good against my fingers. The lights flickered on the Christmas tree. Out the window, I could see more lights dancing across my neighbor’s house. With a gentle click, I heard the heat click on warming the air around me. 



Then, my husband popped into the room, pausing in front of me… 

We exchanged a smile. 

It was a “we’re getting there, friend” smile. One of our sons was presented with a huge challenge that week. (The friend in me wants to hash out details, but the mom side of me wants my son to come home for Christmas as an adult, so I’ll refrain.) We didn’t solve his problems, we still weren’t confident how the situation would turn out, and we certainly didn’t have the kind of control we wish we did. But...we had a plan. Well, not really even a plan, more of a next step… Getting to the next step took lots of conversation, thought and prayer – but, we finally felt good about a direction. 

Then, I noticed – a hovering of warmth in the air. (And not just from the heating system.) It felt peaceful, nurturing…loving, even. It felt like the Holy Spirit. My heart heard, “Be still and know, that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

It was my Sacred Gesture for the day. See, I think our Creator daily extends each one of us a Sacred Gesture. This just-for-us, unique gesture reminds us of both His presence and His gifts to us. 

God reminded me of my gift of a great man to walk through life with. He also reminded me that all the answers don’t need to be laid out clearly in front of me…just the next right step. And seeing that step is a huge gift. 

This holiday season, when we have some time off of work and the routine to enjoy some slower days, I hope you see your sacred gesture. Actually…I hope you see all kinds of sacred gestures.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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A Lesson to Increase You & Your Kids' Happiness

(Inside: A simple lesson with big results.)

“Mom, I hid in the bathroom because I was scared my teacher would make me read my paragraph in front of the whole class,” my son whispered in the safety of the dimly lit room as I tucked him into bed. He’s confident – where’s this terror-so-I-must-hide coming from?

{Deep breath.}

There are so many issues “out there” that seem to find us and stick, no matter who we are. For example, your daughter is consistently anxious, paralyzed by the thought of making a wrong move that will cause unhappiness – you’re not putting this pressure on her, what’s going on? Or you son brushes off his girlfriend’s birthday – way to make your best girl feel important, son. Ugh, you’ve raised him better.


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Between the issues and/or poor choices I see made by my students at the high school where I teach and my own elementary/middle-school-age kids, I wonder – If our kids could better understand what’s really important, would that eliminate some of their challenges? (Or at least take the edge off.) If my son realized failure to speak eloquently in front of his peers is not the end of the world, would he have shown up to class? If the daughter rocked by decision-paralysis realized perfect choices don’t guarantee happiness, could she more confidently move forward? If the boyfriend understood the importance of encouragement in building a relationship, would he have chosen a more thoughtful path?

Look.

I know struggle is normal. And God can shape us in beautiful ways through pain. (A fact I love…and hate.) I also know perfectionism is a cruel illusion that always disappoints. So, I’m not trying to skirt around the realities of life.

Instead, I’m simply wondering how often kids make decisions based on a limited understanding of what makes them happy. And are adults deliberate enough in talking about real happiness with the next generation? My heart nudged me to put on my Mom Psychologist Hat and research what makes people happy. (I had some time between Taxi-Driver Hat and Dinner Cook Hat.)



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Family Games are also a GREAT WAY to build connection. 
Here are a few favorites:


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I kept coming back to a TED Talk I’d seen. Listening to all the good insight Emily Esfahani Smith shares, my brain started stirring. I decided, my kids need to see this Ted Talk too. I’m making a lesson out of this for family time. (One to two times a month, we deliberately teach a life-lesson to our kids. I’m going to start including the lessons on my blog because this is totally my thing. Sign up for my emails so you don’t miss any. Also, to be noted – if our month is slammed and we don’t get to the family lesson, totally fine. This WILL NOT stress me out and you shouldn’t let it either. Because we resolved our mind to think this way. La-te-da. But, I digress…)

The best part of teaching our kids this kind of life lessons (especially when we throw in research) is…

…beware, selfish thought coming...

As we teach our kids these concepts – we’re strengthened in empowering ways we don’t expect. “It’s cold,” as my high school students say. (Which means, that’s great/awesome/amazing for those like me who grew up wearing tube socks, home perms and bangs shaped like a tidal wave.)

Here’s also what’s enlightening about studying the words of psychologists, researchers and other experts – their findings most often supports what God already told us in scripture. Based on this idea, I came up with a lesson for my family to help us better understand ourselves, figure out this world and grow in faith. Through these discussions, families get to know each other better and build connection.

With the holiday break coming, there will be hopefully some down time to connect through this lesson as a family...I mean, after all the "hosting" is done. And we all recover for a day... 

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There is More to Life than Being Happy
(A Secret to Happiness)

Introduction: 

Favorite little people, I’ve got a lesson for you. Before we start, let’s talk about things you think make you happy. Tell me what pops into your head.

{Allow some conversation around this.}

We’re going to learn about one expert's findings on what makes people happy. (Let’s see how high video games and new toys are on that list. I mean seriously, it could be number one and two...you never know.) Let’s watch Emily Esfahani Smith’s insightful TED Talk. Emily studied in grad school positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. She spent five years researching and interviewing hundreds of people to come to the conclusion she shares. She knows her stuff.

(Note to parents: Before you watch the clip as a family know, in the intro she talks about suicide. Not a topic I am discussing with my 7-year-old. 
I always recommend parents watch any videos before they show them to their children. We’ll skip the intro and only watched the middle - concise and effective.)

Watch seconds 2:16 to 9:02 of this video: There's More to Life Than Being Happy | Emily Esfahani Smith


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If you enjoyed this article, check out: One Way to Learn How Your Kids Feel Loved
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Fun Materials For Family Learning Time
(This blog post contains affiliate links.)

Look Stylish and Keep Up with Your Kids


Are you also in the phase of life where everyone else (kids, mortgage, car, Target...) takes ALL YOUR MONEY? (Help us, Dave Ramsay.) That's our current season. This fact has shaped how my husband and I exchange Christmas gifts.

We've decided...We buy our own presents.


It's fun to have an excuse to spend some money on something we want. (Because, kids, mortgage, car, Target...) But we can't bring ourselves to buy each other something, just to buy something. Even if we 80% like the gift, it's still not enough. We have to be ALL IN or we don't want one more thing we don't love cluttering our house. So we look forward to sitting side-by-side on our laptops shopping for OURSELVES. (Quality date night.)


A few years ago I discovered yoga pants. Sweet, sweet yoga pants. Now, I've heard some criticism of "leggings as pants," but whatever people, you not trying to keep up with my three kinetic-energy-driven sons. I move quicker in my yoga pants. I'm like Flash. But this Flash wants to look cute, so a comfy but stylish mom t-shirt
 is what my family "got me" for Christmas.


Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

I ordered the top-left shirt below, but it was hard to choose. Click on the link to see a clearer picture. You'll also see a price that will allow you to purchase the shirt and still have money to spend on the materials your kid needs for his science project, due tomorrow. (Affiliate links.)



                   


   


                   

    

When it comes to accent jewelry, I've fallen in love with the beautiful companies that provide people in vulnerable situations with jobs. A young woman from an impoverished community in Ethiopia now has an avenue through a company to sell her jewelry and support her family. A woman who has broken out of a red light district – known for sex trafficking – in Kolkata, India finds safety under the wings of an organization that helps her learn how to craft beautiful blankets, stylish bags, and a better life. 

Food on the table, a roof over a family’s head, a woman with pride in her business, and companies that make this happen. 

Yes, please.





Both of my bracelets pictured above would look great with my outfit. They're from Noonday Collection (not an affiliate link).

I've also bought trendy, stackable brackets from Better Way Imports (also not an affiliate link).

Moms, in this season, when you are thinking of everyone else, don't forget yourself. Because you are doing amazing things. And it's good for you to occasionally be spoiled.

One more thing, I mentioned Dave Ramsay above. His book The Total Money Makeover made a huge impact on us. Learning how to stretch your dollar is a nice gift too.

Merry Christmas and happy shopping, dear friends.


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(Blog post contains affiliate links.)

To The Working Mom

I lingered a few feet outside the main doors of the gym where my son was playing in his final weekend basketball tournament. Phone to my ear, I discussed work with my colleague. When I hung up, I instantly felt guilty. I should be more helpful to my coworker - she has a lot on her plate. That thought had barely passed when I felt guilty for stepping away from family time to take a work call.

The working-mom/stay-at-home-mom debate stirs up big emotions. I've done both and they're equally hard in different ways. Right now, in this life stage, I am called to work and called to be a great mom. I love both roles.



Yet sometimes I shortchange each – work gets busy and home life suffers, or family is demanding and I wish I were a better employee. Here's what I've found though: Every mom feels this way. We want to excel at our crafts and we also know the season of raising kids is sacred and fleeting. We tug-of-war between the two. 

But when I'm struggling with prioritizing, here's what I remind myself:

1. Be fully present where you are. When you're at home, be at home. When you're at work, be at work. Offer each place the best of you while you're there. You don't need to stress about one when you're focused on the other. News to me. Somewhere in my career, I told myself work needed to be my life. Recently, I began collaborating with a successful coworker who rarely checks her emails at home. Gasp. Can. Not. Even. Process. This. I don't have to work until I burn out? I can fully enjoy my home life and come to work refreshed? (All the praise hands.)

2. Examine what's most important to your family and make it happen.
My family values unpacking our thoughts together. So, dinner, old-fashioned card games, evening prayers, or other activities that promote communication are a must. Even if my day is slammed, if we've had time to talk as a family, I feel good. How can you prioritize the things that connect your family?

3. Reduce commitments. If you don't, you will crash. I promise you, it happened to me. Break the news: Sorry, I can't commit. People will get over it. And don't sign your kids up for everything. Look at your calendar and create margin. Your sanity will thank you.



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Grab your free printable here on 8 Ways to Make the Everyday Easier.


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4. When you don't have time, collect moments.
Sometimes busy is best; everyone is involved in beloved activities and the schedule is held together by a thread. At those times, collect moments. Watch in slow motion as your son walks into practice. Linger in that hug with your daughter. Pause in your day and collect the blessing of the moment. It'll fill your heart in ways you didn't expect.

5. When your kids are communicating, stop and listen. Look up from the phone, quit chopping the vegetables, turn off the vacuum. The to-do list will always be there, your kids won't. And know they always feel the need to unload their hearts at the most inconvenient times. Roll with the waves on this one.

6. Take time off from work. I remember stressing about the number of sick days I used. A wiser coworker said, "That's what they're for. You have kids. They need you. Take more days if you must." We get time off for a reason. Use it. The world will not stop. Life is happening right now, not tomorrow – live that way.

7. Be kind to yourself. We are our toughest critics, but we deserve the same grace we give other people. When you need time for you, take it. Create quiet moments to listen to your heart. Do whatever refuels and inspires you. Your household and workplace will benefit from it.


As I took my seat at the basketball game, I reminded myself: now is family time. I hushed the guilt for abandoning my coworker. Instead, I focused on cheering from the sidelines. And I felt motherhood be the sacred role that it is. When I walk into work on Monday, I'll be ready to give my all there, too.

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me? Sign up for my email and I'll send you 8 Ways to Make the Everyday Easier plus more Freebies.(I'm also on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.)

PS - Books get me through life. Especially, encouraging books. As a working mom, these books have strengthened me in different ways (affiliate links):



The Ministry of Motherhood: This book made me want to have 125 more children because Sally Clarkson left me feeling inspired as a mom. 

Settle For More: I am addicted to reading people's stories. Megyn Kelly's a strong woman whose determination is empowering.  

Own Your Life: I love Sally Clarkson.  She shares her wealth of knowledge in loving and inspiring ways. She's every mom's cheerleader.

Breaking Up with Perfect: Amy Carroll helps us let go of perfect and reach for joy.

Let. It. Go.: The title says it all. It's a great read for all the type A's out there. Plus, Karen Ehman is just fun.

Unglued: That's how I felt for an entire year...okay maybe 2 years. Lysa Terkeurst helps us make "wise choices in the midst of raw emotions."

Savor: If you're a tired mama - Shauna Niequest is your girl. I love her inspirational words that deepen our faith and help us live every day abundantly. 

If you have great reads for me, I'd love to see your recommendations in the comments. 


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One Way to Learn How Your Kids Feel Loved

(Inside: Create family-connection by learning how you and your family members feel loved.)

You dropped one kid off at voice lessons, picked another up from swim team and the third you wrangled through homework with a few tears...from you. Do you get stuck in the busyness of life and occasionally find yourself wondering: Do I really know these people I live with?

I asked my dad if he could go back in time and redo one aspect of parenting what would it be? He answered: “I would focus on getting to know my kids more.” (This is coming from a man who slayed fatherhood.)

His words ring in my ears.


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I want to know my family. In these fleeting years when my kids are at home – I want to learn about what makes them tick, what their interests are and how they feel loved. I want us all to learn this about each other.

I read Gary Chapman’s best-selling book The 5 Love Languages® and loved it. Then, I found the resources on his 5 Love Languages Website powerful. I wanted to use these tools to create family-connection by learning more about how my people feel loved. 

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Here are the steps our family took to utilize the 5 Love Languages Website and build our family connection. (I explain what we did below, but we also used a worksheet I made. Click here and I'll email it to you for free.)


STEP 1: FIND THE TIME
Dinner is the magic hour for us - everyone likes to gather and eat. However, perhaps because I’m the only female in my family, the conversation can be...well, hard to get going. (“Oldest son, how was your day?” *Fine.* “Middle son, tell me something funny that happened at school.” *I can’t think of anything.* Fifty questions later and I’ve finally sparked a conversation, but am too mentally exhausted to participate. Okay kidding - I love words.) I like that dinner means my family is trapped by hungry tummies and food, so their ears are all mine.

STEP 2: DEFINE EACH LOVE LANGUAGE
My husband and I asked our kids what they thought each love language meant, then went over the definitions after we heard their answers.
  • Word of Affirmation(You’re doing a great job, I like you…etc…)
  • Physical Touch(Hugs, snuggles…etc.)
  • Quality Time(Going to the movies together, a family basketball game…etc.)
  • Acts of Service(Someone making your lunch, doing your laundry…etc.)
  • Receiving Gifts(Picking up your favorite snack at the store, a birthday present…etc.)

STEP 2: HAVE EACH FAMILY MEMBER TAKE THE "LEARN YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE" ASSESSMENT

During dinner, each person took the assessment on the 5 Love Languages Website’s main page. (Click the big purple button that says, “Learn Your Love Language” and follow the prompts.)


STEP 3: EACH FAMILY MEMBER BRAINSTORMS HOW THEY FEEL LOVED
1. Then, each family member recorded the order of their love languages on this worksheet.

2. Each person wrote down ways/acts/actions/words…etc…that make him/her feel loved. (Bonus, the back of this worksheet can be used to draw pictures for the speedy kid waiting on his/her siblings to finish. Mine choose to draw monsters with vicious teeth. See what your kids come up with as they are pondering love.)


STEP 5: BRAINSTORM HOW OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS FEEL LOVED
Next, we brainstormed how our acts/actions/words make other family members feel loved and recorded it on our worksheet.

STEP 6: SHARING
1. We started with our oldest son, and each family member shared what acts/actions/words we thought made him feel loved. (Kind of like a guessing game.)

2. Our oldest son then told us his love language and shared what actions made him feel loved.

3. Repeat for every family member.





Friends, my non-sappy family members enjoyed this activity. We each learned something new about each other. But, what I didn’t expect is that it helped us all better understand the power of our everyday actions.

It specifically helped me better see how parents can daily strengthen connection: Taking time to tell one kid how proud you are of them for trying so hard at their voice lessons, words of affirmation – powerful. Vanilla shakes after swim practice, receiving gifts – powerful. Sitting next to your kid while he/she struggles with homework, quality time – powerful.

And getting to know our kids – priceless!

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email (Freebies)?


Other Resources: The 5 Love Languages of Children®and The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers®.


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Blog post published with permission from The 5 Love Languages® and Moody Publishers.
The blog post contains affiliate links.

Helicopter Parenting (The Good Kind)

(Inside: Why ordinary parenting has a significant impact on kids.)

I raised my head in anticipation as the hum of the helicopter grew louder. Back and forth it rocked. I knew the pilot, my dad, was saying hello from the sky. It’s one of my best childhood memories. 

It’s true.

Except it’s not totally true.

Recently, my dad and I reminisced about his days as an Air Force rescue pilot. I told him I have fond memories of moving from one military base to the next and especially of the faithful back and forth greetings. 


(My dad flying over Rejavik, Iceland. We were stationed in Keflavik, Iceland for two years.)

Dad: “Oh, yes. That only happened when we lived in Korea. We couldn’t really see anyone on the ground. When we flew over the base, we sometimes rocked our helicopter to say a general hello.”


Me: “What?” 

Me (Searching for words.): 

Me (Still confused.):

Me: “Really? You didn’t rock your helicopter at any other military bases we lived?”

Dad: “No. Just Korea.”

What, the what? He couldn’t see me? (Of course, he couldn’t see me. But, I felt like he could see me.) And only in Korea? I was pre-school age. I’m not even sure if I have any real memories from there.

So I paused and thought. 


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Nope. I couldn’t come up with one memory that wasn’t assembled from other peoples’ stories. Well, crazy bowl of inaccurate recollections…

…I had to laugh. Did I really think I was so important to my dad he thought of me while piloting? That he would rock expensive Air Force equipment just for me? But actually, I kind of did. He never made me feel any different.

Mamas we’re in the thick of it. Knee deep in peanut butter sandwiches, carpooling to kids’ activities, homework help, and daily repeating: brush your teeth, help with the dishes, pick up your clothes, time for dinner… (No, not 5 minutes from now…come now.) Then in it all we lose our cool because our kid licked the peanut butter off the knife and returned it to the jar. (Cue instant mommy guilt.) It’s easy to feel our every day isn’t impactful.

Yet, here’s what we’re really doing… 

When we pack their lunches, we’re reminding them we consistently provide for them. When we take them to their activities, we are telling them we support their growth and interests. When we call them for dinner, we are giving them a place to daily unpack their thoughts and be heard. When we make them do school work, we’re relaying their education and future are important to us. When we give them boundaries, we’re providing a sense of security. When we require they help with chores and family responsibilities, we’re cultivating a strong work ethic. When we work through family conflict, we are teaching them in a protected place to learn to deal with life’s inevitable waves. 



Dr. Leman hooked me when he said something like this not exact quote in the intro of his book, "Don't let the experts tell you how to parent. Trust yourself." (Yes, please. I'd like to hear more of what you have to say.) I loved Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.   On my shelf to read next are The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are and Have a New Kid By Friday. He gives practical, fantastic advice that will empower you.


Then, their solid home base gives them the confidence to eventually spread their wings and let them catch the wind. They’ll use what they learn from us in the real world. It’ll be passed down to their kids, grandkids, great-grandkids… And passed horizontally to their friends, relationships, co-workers… Our impact keeps rolling. A mom's ordinary love leaves an extraordinary legacy.

Stay the course, strong mamas. Your kids won’t remember the tough moments with the same type of I’m-a-failure-as-a-mother-because-(insert what gives you mommy guilt)-intensity you will. They’ll remember a mom who loved them and was there for them. They’ll remember a mom who always rocked her helicopter at them, even if in fact she did not.

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I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and the everyday sacred. Want to join me on FacebookPinterest or Email (Freebies)?


PS - I think you would also like this related article: How You Unknowingly Made a Huge Impact Today

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