3 Ways to Inspire Creativity in the Home

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Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day.  It is a day that gives global attention to the importance of sharing stories and reading together.  Some of the best conversations, ideas, and work come out of reading and discussing great books with others, especially with our children.  It does not require much except an ability to read and the time to read (if we make it) to, in the words of Jim Trelease, “light a fire.”  That spark.  That inspiration that motivates action in our children to discover the world, consider the wonder and beauty of creation, and what role they play in God’s grand story is a marvelous thing to behold.

There are many ways to inspire our children to be as they are, which is creative, for we are all creative beings made in the image of our Creator.  Sometimes, though, we parents get in the way of our children by placing obstacles and distractions that disrupt the flow of creativity.  Things like screens, extra-curricular, managed activities, overly scheduled calendars, etc. can impede learning and opportunities for creativity.  So, how do we in an overly distracting, noisy, Age of Information and busyness craft space and time for our children to be as they are- creative?  There are several ways I am sure, but I will list three simple ways we as parents can inspire creativity in our homes.

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3 Ways to Inspire Creativity in the Home

  1.  Read Aloud.  As mentioned, reading together incites the mind to marvel at story, language, and character.  Rich interactions between parent and child and with a book itself not only strengthens literacy, but builds the parent-child relationship as well.
  2. Get Outside.   Exploring nature and the wonders of God’s creation draws our children’s attention to the life, science, and beauty of the outdoors.  Grab a sketchbook, some colored pencils, pens, or some water colors and watch nature’s performance.  John James Audobon did this and because of his observations and sketches we have a wealth of information on birds today.
  3. Play Music.  Exposing our children to a variety of musical styles- of the best of the genres- builds their appreciation and understanding of music’s form and structure. Playing some classical or jazz while eating dinner, hymns during the morning routine, or some bluegrass while completing chores are some ways we can incorporate music into the normal flow of life at home.

These are just three simple ways we can all encourage creativity in our children.  It is not so much that we need to include “another thing” into our daily schedules, but that we may need to eliminate or re-locate something else so that we are giving our children ample space and time to be still, pay attention, and absorb what is of worth.  We may not see the product or benefit of reading aloud, nature, or music in the immediate, but over time we will see our children build upon the feast that we faithfully spread before them as they engage with true, good, and beautiful things.

My Five Favorites 2.6

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Well, hello February.  I knew you were coming.  My calendar prepped me for your arrival.  I can’t really complain, though, because January was sublime.  Sunny days and seventy degrees never bothers me!  This mid-Tennessee weather fools me on some days to believe I am back in a South Florida winter.  But today, it is a February day.  Cloudy, a bit rainy, and cool, though not cold.  It is an indoor day, begging for lit candles, soft music, and a roast in a slow cooker on low all day.

There is apparently a trendy danish word, “hygge” pronounced hue-gah that “is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.”  I never heard this word, and did not know it was a thing until  I listened to Tsh Oxenreider’s latest podcast , which is all about hygee.  I think I get it.  Today, for instance, instead of reading aloud to my girls at our dining room table we all curled up in a soft, knitted blanket on our daybed as I read to them.  There was even classical music playing in the background.  Total hygee.  The cloudy sky outside our playroom window served as a pleasant backdrop to our story.

So for my five favorites I’m including some hygge-like things as well as a few simple favorites.

My Five Favorites for February

  1. IF Gathering 2017.  What an incredible weekend with women in my Gallatin community!  We livestreamed the conference set in Austin, TX led by Jennie Allen.  Jill Briscoe was my favorite speaker by far, though there were a few others who challenged me as well.  I enjoyed meeting other women, and building community with women from my church.  And getting away from the regular grind was not a bad thing either.  You can learn more about IF here- IF Gathering.

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2. Ellie Holcomb’s new album, Red Sea Road.  I love her songs.  The writing, the folksy, melodic tunes, all of it.  This may be my favorite of hers thus far.  It may be just that I need these songs right now in this season.  I love Ellie’s heart for the Lord and how she shepherds others with her songs.

3. My $5 Walmart Fern.  This is in the “hygee” catergory.  I got a $2 tin pail in the craft section to use as a planter.  Live plants in February is a must.  Now let’s see if I can keep my little fern alive until spring.

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4.  Organix Renewing, Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner  You can find this stuff anywhere.  I just grabbed it one day because what I normally use was out of stock.  My hair stylist recommended Moroccan Argan oil for a while back, but I am just now getting around to trying it out.  I notice a difference in my hair’s texture, smoothness and overall health.  Great stuff!

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5.  My kids playing together.  I love it when I walk in on my kids playing well together, because there are the times when I walk in to break up fights, settle disputes, and put everyone in separate rooms because mommy needs a time out.  But then there are moments when they share and take turns and heaven meets earth for a few brief moments, and I breathe it all in.

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When life is complicated, busy, and fast, sometimes it is the little things that reminds us of grace in the midst of it all.  Sometimes I make mental lists of all that is going wrong, of all that is undone, but then I forget to give thanks for all that God has done or is doing.  Even in the valley there can be praise because God meets us there.  And when God meets us, He graces us, not with the things He gives us, but with His presence.  That is my favorite thing of all, in February, and all year long.

The Finished Work in Motherhood

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The weight that bears heavy most on moms of all sorts is this feeling like so much is left undone.  Sure there are the endless tasks to be completed, but then there are also relationships to nurture, personal goals to reach, and the like.  For those of us who feel like we have to hold it all together, and something fails or is unfinished in some way then the guilt sets in.  If only we had_____(fill in the blank).  It is our fault this or that did not get done, or this or that person is not pleased, or our marriage is struggling.  We could have done better.  We could have prevented this.

I don’t know.  Maybe we allow the pressure, or expect it in some way.  But if everything really depends on us- on us showing up, showing out, and getting “it” done- it all done, then someone will need to redefine what “it” is, because it all just ain’t gonna get done!  The guilt weighs heavy, and it is completely unnecessary and unmerited.  We own too much and try to be Jesus for everything and everybody, when Jesus is the only and best Jesus.

Even Jesus Himself did not heal everybody (and He could have), or visit everybody, or have lengthy conversations with everybody.  From what we know His most intimate talks were with twelve unlikely men who went on to share and record those conversations in what we now have as the New Testament.  He had one mission and everything he did in His earthly life centered around that one mission- to lead sinners to the cross where He would suffer and die in their place.  And when He did that- when He endured the cross and scorned its shame- He said, “It is finished.”  What was true then, is true now, and will ever be is contained in those three words.

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So, when it feels like so much is undone, and the mom-guilt sets in, instead of saying, “It is my fault,” we can say, “It is finished.”  When we fail with projects and with people, and the enemy tries to condemn us, we say, “It is finished.”  When we feel pressure to perform- to appear like we have it all together when we are tired and worn, we say, “It is finished.”  Because the power of the cross is not only for the past and the future, but it is for today.  And it is for us every. single. day.  

When we exalt Jesus for who He is in our lives and in our homes, then the important work will get done- like loving others.  The other stuff may or may not get done on time, if at all, but in the grand scheme of God’s economy it probably doesn’t matter a hill of beans anyway.  We have to trust that it is all really going to be okay.  We’re going to be okay.  It may be hard, painful even, but when we rest in Christ’s finished work, we can rest in ours.

Creating in a #trending Culture

 

trendingI finally saw La La Land over the weekend, and loved it!  It was fantastical, imaginative, and complex.  Creativity at its finest.  In fact, the overall tone, theme, and message involved creativity- daring to follow your
dreams as an original patiently braving failure and the unknown.  I am not going to give away the ending…not even a hint.  But I will say that there is this idea that some will be brave and original, and some will follow mass marketing trends.  Some will want to make a true difference, and some will just want to be liked.

Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling at one point in the film says regarding Hollywood and the LA scene, “They worship everything and they value nothing.”  I think this could be a description of the pervading culture at large.  Media, technology, fashion, art…the definitions and ideals of the various systems in our culture are obscure.  It is as if it is new and it spreads then it must be good.  And everyone runs to the altar of #trending.

I listened to an excellent interview today of writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin.  He said, “Don’t try to be the next J.K. Rowling.  We already have one of those.”  In other words, be original.  Be you!  But if you are bowing at the altar of #trending then you won’t look up long enough to see beyond the present idols.

I think a lot about this stuff.  I am a mom, creative type, who not only wants to value the true, good, and beautiful, but wants to help my kids navigate the murky waters of a #trending culture.  I am not anti-fashion, anti-contemporary, or anti-trends necessarily.  I listen to new music and older music, I read newly published books and classics, I try and learn from history while creating history in my small plot of land for such a time as this.  I just have to be brave enough to do the next thing.  As a Christian, I seek to follow God’s will for my life, and what some may call risk, I like to call faith.  The cost of discipleship is not a call to play it safe, but as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”  I am convinced that faithful living is risky.  I see art as a ministry.  At least it can be.  It should be.  But if Christian creatives (finger pointing at self) keep looking at the #trending culture to decide what to do next then we are already out of touch before we begin, and we lose our voice.

With the book I am writing I feel this tension between letting the book get written and waiting for permission from #trending to write it.  (By the way, #trending exists even in the Christian subculture.  Not a shocker, I know.)  If art is to speak then it should be clear and distinct.  But if it sounds or looks like everything else, or a inferior version of everything else, then will it be heard?

“…if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?  For you will be speaking into the air.” 1 Corinthians 14:9

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I’ve come to understand three things regarding art as a ministry ⇒

#1 Be original.  Make great art.

#2 Be clear. Let the art communicate truth in a way that is understood.

#3 Be brave. Seek God’s will as you create and take steps of faith to share your work as a ministry to others.

The call of the Christian is not to follow #trending, but to follow Christ.  We seek not to build our platform, but to build the Kingdom of God.  As we create, produce, nurture, prune, develop, lead, and teach, we look to the original Creator not only as our example, but as the One we both value and worship.

Winter Doldrums and Gameschooling

 

We are back in the swing of things now that the holidays are over.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I am thankful for the warmer weather we’ve had for January.  Getting some outdoor playtime helps balance our day img_5835between lessons and unstructured free time.  One thing we are enjoying lately no matter the weather is what is called “gameschooling.”

Many board games are educational in purpose and use, and we are finding some that we especially like to play.  The company Learning Resources puts out a lot of educational board games, and I try and grab one here and there for birthdays, Christmas, or for a special treat.  In the picture above is the game “Money Bags,” which teaches kids how to count and redistribute money.  It is math in action.  Speaking of math, “Sum Swamp” is another math board game that we enjoy.  It teaches addition, subtraction, and odd versus even numbers.  Also, the girls are learning chess with a fun, easy to follow game called “No Stress Chess.”  Before they play an actual game of chess, time is spent on learning the pieces and how they move around the board so that players can begin to develop strategies.  It’s a lot of fun, and as the name states- no stress!  Mental Blox is a critical thinking game that is not as much of a favorite yet, but it may grow on us.  If anything, the girls like to play with the different blocks and build their own patterns.

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There are other ways we “gameschool.”  We enjoy Monopoly Jr., Dominoes, Uno, Banagrams, Life Jr., Connect Four, and even Candyland.  Not only do the kids learn about subjects, strategies, and critical thinking, but they also learn cooperation, and how to win or lose with maturity.  I personally love board games, so even though this season requires a lot of patience, I am banking on a day when my kids will outwit me with these games.  They already are with some of them.  Analise earned more money with money bags this morning, so she won that game and beamed with pride. 🙂

If you are looking for something indoors to do this winter, might I suggest a little gameschooling.  The worksheets can wait- they will be completed.  Sometimes playing is learning.  As Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of the child.”  I wholeheartedly agree!

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My Five Favorites 1.16

Every once in awhile I like to post fun finds, interesting links, books, movies, new discoveries, or recent enjoyments to the blog.  I usually tagged miscellaneous stuff like this at the end of my “Weekend Wrap-Up” posts, but some things need to be shared on any given day, and what better day to share some simple pleasures than Monday?  Right?!

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So, for now I am calling this “My Five Favorites.”  I am limiting myself to share five things that I am favoring right now.  These can be silly, inspirational, recreational, educational, edible, anything goes. Here are my five favorites as of late…

 

My Five Favorites

  1.  The Crown.  Yes I am on that bandwagon and I don’t think I am getting off anytime soon.  The kids are in bed.  The lights are low.  A cup of tea in hand.  And it is me and the Queen.  Such a good show!
  2. Micron Pens.  I originally bought these back in the summer for the girls to use for nature journaling, but I began to use them just as much as they did.  I am not an artist, but I do enjoy writing- not just the process of writing, but the actual physical act of writing.  Dorky, but true.  I also draw some in my journals and with the girls during nature study.  Anyway, these pens come in a pack with different line widths allowing smooth lettering and writing.  Love!
  3. The Commons: On Building Sturdy Children.  This podcast is so rich with biblical wisdom and insights into the culture of parenting today.  Brian Phillips of CIRCE interviews Dr. Keith McCurdy from Total Life Counseling who makes the point that parents need to build sturdy children- people of character, who do not shirk from responsibility, and who learn what it means to do what is necessary not what is desired.  Here is an overall description of this outstanding interview: “Topics include our culture’s over-consideration of emotion, what it means to be sturdy, expectations and responsibilities, increased rates of anxiety in our children, dealing with teenagers, the influence of technology on kids, and how to help kids be contributing members of a family.” I came away with a renewed sense of purpose- to really consider what my children are capable of and if I am expecting enough of them, to train my children to discipline the will and order their affections properly, and to sit down with Travis and discuss our family culture and who we are as a family, namely, what are our expectations, boundaries, and values.  This podcast is worth the time and attention- have a notebook handy!
  4. Simple Green Smoothie.  There are a million and one smoothie recipes.  My simple green smoothie is just as it sounds, and the kids drink them with me.  Lately, I’ve been grabbing the big bags of Kale from Aldi, but you can use spinach also.  I toss in about 2 cups of Kale, 10-12 ounces of frozen berries, a banana, 2-4 tablespoons of yogurt (I use a little bit of plain and a little bit of vanilla yogurt for sweetness), throw it all into a blender, and blend away.  I don’t add honey or sugar, and this smoothie is sweet as is.
  5. The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the PsalmsI’m reading through this devotional this year, and already I am being blessed by Tim and Kathy Keller’s concise insights from the Psalms.  I love how it gives the text beginning with Psalm 1 and continuing through each day with a short devotional thought followed by a prayer based on the day’s reading.  I look forward to cracking this open every morning!

Those are five for now.  A bonus fave for me is the spring-like conditions we are having lately in Middle Tennessee.  It rains off and on, but the temperatures have been warm enough to send the kids outside between the showers.  The kids have been outside almost every day this week.  And everyone says, “Amen!”  Hard to believe that just a little over a week ago our street looked like this

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Wherever you are and whatever the weather- be blessed today!

Love in Loss

2691174d04e2a713_1041-w233-h233-b1-p10-contemporary-mixed-media-artA few weeks ago I took a pregnancy test.  It was positive.  I was of course happy, and I shared the news with Travis who shared in my joy.  The holidays came and went and so did my pregnancy.  I was disappointed, though not completely surprised.  I’ve had several miscarriages before, and after some testing found that I have a blood clotting disorder.  My recent pregnancy loss as well as some of my others had nothing to do with my disorder, though.  We are assuming a chromosomal abnormality since my levels were tested and found to be “negative.”  The levels fluctuate- sometimes positive, sometimes negative- the doctors treat me throughout pregnancies as if they are always positive though, which is a baby aspirin a day and heparin twice a day.  I followed the same protocol when I was pregnant with Judson until we discovered a sub chorionic hemorrhage and stopped treatment completely.  That pregnancy and the baby were without any difficulties or concerns.

I was given a 50/50 chance to even have Judson.  He is my miracle baby.  But aren’t they all?  Miracle babies.

So when I got the news of another pregnancy I took it with reserved elation, and I even told my husband, parents, and in-laws (the only ones who knew of the news at the time) that I know that pregnancy doesn’t mean baby.  Yes, there is life there, but it may not be for me to hold.  Heaven may hold him/her first.  And that is okay.  I am okay.  When I knew I was going to lose the baby I was saddened, yes, of course, but I knew that this like my other three miscarriages are a part of God’s plan.  Does He take joy in my sorrow?  Of course not.  I believe He weeps with us and is especially near to the broken hearted.  I just know that this is how it is meant to be, and I accept that.  He gives and takes away.  Right now in my loss I am thinking about all that I have been given.  More than I deserve.  I’m not strong.  I’m not above grief.  I have grieved all of my losses, but this one differently.  I’m waking up to the reality that the very fact I have been given anything is grace.

I read this prayer the other day and it hit me right between the eyes.  It is from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

“I thank Thee for personal mercies, measure of health, preservation of body, comforts of house and home, sufficiency of food and clothing, continuance of mental powers, my family, their mutual help and support, the delights of domestic harmony and peace, the seats now filled that might have been vacant, my country, church, Bible, and faith…”

By the grace of God I have seats now filled that might have been vacant.  Does this minimize my pain in loss?  No.  It softens it some, though.  And more than even this I am being blessed by love through the loss.  My husband is caring for me well.  My mom calls me and texts me throughout the day with prayers and Scripture.  My church family is unbelievable in how they are loving us through this- this thing I keep minimizing and trying to keep under the rug as “no big deal.”  My church family and new friends are serving us so well- the hands and feet of Christ.

Like so much of hardship in life I want to push through it, rush beyond it, and move on.  But this miscarriage unlike my others is not allowing me to do that.  It has been almost three weeks of wondering if it is in fact a miscarriage, failed medications, and now a scheduled D&C for next Wednesday.  My body is tired, my hormones are all out of whack, and mentally I am trying to get past this while physically I am not able.  I don’t slow down.  I do rest, yes.  I enjoy “me” time, but when I am not in “me” time I am in “go” time.  And I go go go!  I like it that way, so this whole pulling the Band-Aid off slowly is not my thing.  Also, I am not really good at receiving.  I think a lot of people in ministry are that way.  If we were honest (I’m raising my hand here, peeps), our struggle with receiving stems from our pride.  We don’t need anything!  We are strong and able!  We’ve got the Lord!  Yes, we’ve got the Lord.  And the Lord uses His church– the hands and feet of Christ- to serve “one another.”  It is a “one another” thing, not a “one-to-one” thing.  Man, I struggle with this.  So, friends, family, church, here me out- I am learning to receive love even in loss.  And it is a wonderful thing to feel God’s presence through His people!

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved…” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15