What I Learned From the Dairy Queen Ball Pit

The Dairy Queen ball pit and the Chick-Fil-A playroom are a right of childhood. I have been known to choose one of those two restaurants for the very fact that they have a play area! I try not to think about the germs, wash Henry’s hands before and after playing, and just let him have fun being a four-year-old.

One day this summer, as we were enjoying all that the Dairy Queen playground has to offer, Henry got a rude awakening to the inherent sin nature that is a part of humanity. Another little kid – and I mean LITTLE – was being a bully.

“You don’t belong here. You can’t play here. You need to go somewhere else,” whispered softly enough that parents could not hear.

I was very tempted to wring the neck of this kid, but with an enormous amount of self-control, I did not.

It starts early, this need to see ourselves as better than others. Preschoolers do it, older kids do it, adults do it. We put someone else down to try to lift ourselves up.

We ignore the new woman who walks in the room because she’s not part of our circle of friends

You don’t belong here.

We intentionally exclude people because we are threatened by their gifts and abilities.

You can’t play here.

We try to orchestrate events to put ourselves above others.

You need to go somewhere else.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve both done these things and had them done to me.

What a different world this would be if we could all just enjoy the ball pit together, jumping and laughing and bouncing. The truth is, we are all a mess, and we need grace to deal with one another daily.

Can I offer you a challenge today? Find someone who has bought they lie that they don’t belong and include them today – have a conversation, share a coffee, give a compliment. Let’s change the lie to truth. You are welcome here. You do belong.

How My Garden Grew

10489094_10154256165385244_1045837776_n[1]If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that my garden was a major – MAJOR – part of my summer. Yet again, my sidekick Jill and I, along with a few other people, grew a garden that was entirely too big and too complicated and was ever so much fun.

In May, we were full of hope. We would keep all the weeds at bay, we would not give up come August, we could handle this.

Yeah, right.

We planted all manner of delicious vegetables – a wide variety of peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes (more about those later), and tomatoes. Back in April, we had a wonderful morning at our local Rural King choosing seeds and plants. We were picking out things like purple bell peppers and saying, “Let’s try it! What can go wrong?”

The optimism, it runs wild and deep.

Let’s start with the cucumbers. They died. One plant came up, produced maybe two pitiful little cucumbers, and then it just died.

Bugs ate the cabbage, and worms were in the broccoli (after much gagging upon this discovery as I was blanching a batch to freeze, I found this method for ferreting out those little critters).

We don’t know what happened to the zucchini. It’s like it was never there. The squash produced beautiful large plants with lots of blooms, but very little vegetable.

10588638_10154394333485244_1628052983_n[1]But let me tell you … if the apocalypse comes, we will live off of green beans and potatoes. I’m not kidding. We planted SEVEN LONG ROWS of potatoes. Seven. Long rows. Of potatoes. And we dug up all of those stupid plants.

About halfway through the summer, Henry announced he doesn’t like potatoes. Tough luck, kid. You’ll be eating them twice weekly all winter.

That garden means a lot of things to us. First, it fills our freezer. If I can freeze it, I will do so until my little freezer is full. Food prices are atrocious, and I am determined to do everything I can to help out our grocery budget.

Second, it teaches Henry that food does not come from cans or bags that are bought at WalMart. Food is actually grown. It has also taught him that growing food is a lot of work and you get dirty doing it.

Third, that garden has become our little sanctuary from the world. It is about as isolated as you can get, and those few hours of quiet each week are something we look forward to.

So even with some disappointments, we’re already thinking about next year – what we will do again and what we will do differently.

10586827_10154441010270244_1225416444_o[1]I don’t know exactly how it will all play out next year, but I can tell you this – we most certainly will not plan that many potatoes again.

Do you have a garden? I’d love to hear about it! Gardeners unite!

My Summer Break

Summer BreakRemember the quintessential back-to-school essay – What I Did This Summer? Well this is it, but I promise to just give the highlights!

When I left you in May, I told you that I needed to take some time off from writing, cut down on my responsibilities, and find time to clear my head. That’s sort of what happened, but it didn’t look exactly like what I imagined.

Here’s what I planned – long stretches of summer days to work in the garden, play at the park, enjoy the outdoors, swim – basically just do nothing but play.

Then we took a nine-day vacation … with a four-year-old … that also included a short conference. And we had Vacation Bible School, where I directed the preschoolers. And we had birthdays to celebrate. And we had a few other things come up here and there.

And now I’m sitting at the end of summer so thankful that we didn’t take on any new responsibilities because we certainly didn’t have room for them.

We did do the other things, but the time for spontaneity that I had hoped for just wasn’t there.

Intention – my word for the year. Yep. It made a comeback.

So here I am, staring down the beginning of the school year, and I want to make sure I am intentional about the fall. As someone once said, “The days are long but the years are short.” The older I get, the more I find this to be true.

I’ve kept a running list through the summer of things that I want to share with you, so you’ll be seeing some of these pop up in the coming weeks. I’m doing some housekeeping around the blog, tweaking things here and there, and maybe adding a few new things. I hope you’ll keep coming back, and maybe ask your friends to join in the conversation.

That’s the biggest change I’d like to make here. I want this to be an ongoing conversation about life. We are all constantly learning and changing, and I want this to be a safe place where we can share our journeys together.

So, let’s start here. How was your summer? Was it all you hoped it would be? Did you take a great vacation, or learn something new?

I Want to Hear from You!

Happy July 28th! This has been a great summer break, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But first, I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks cleaning up some things around here and planning out the fall (I’ve never had a real plan for this blog before, which is strange, since I thrive on planning.), and I want your input. I have a couple of questions for you below, but if you have any other suggestions for me, or other topics you would like me to cover, please put them in the comments.

Basically, what do you, dear reader, want from this space?


Taking a Short Break

Last week, I shared on Facebook that I would not be around those parts quite as often during the summer months, and the same is going to be true of this blog. I love writing here, but I need to take a few weeks off – maybe a couple months off – to gain some perspective, spend time in the great outdoors, and figure out where this blog needs to go next.

I will have articles popping up in other places around the Internet, and I’ll be sure to let you know about those. And, if something happens that I need to share with you – if we have a bumper crop of tomatoes or peas or sunflowers in our garden – I’ll pop back in here.

So, the best way to stay in touch with my erratic posting schedule for the summer is to subscribe. There’s a little box in the left hand column that will let you enter your email address, and the elves who work their magic behind the scenes will send you an email the next time I post something new.

Have a great summer!

You can also follow me on Instagram, especially if you are interested in the ongoing saga of our garden.

It All Starts With a Seed


Baby zinnias!

We finally finished planting our garden this week, a few days later than we had hoped, but it is done. We leave the seeds in the soil, walk away thanking God for a day without rain, and pray for the harvest.

Life is much the same.

We try to instill in our children a sense of right and wrong. We teach them stories from the Bible, and pray that God will bring a harvest of righteousness from their lives.

We work hard at whatever tasks are at hand, and pray that God will bless them – our careers, our families, our hobbies.

But it all starts with that little seed – the small beginning of something, filled with possibilities. We plant it in faith, knowing that the Maker of the Universe controls the weather, the seasons, the growing conditions.

Whether it’s a garden or a life, God asks us to trust Him. He asks us to give sacrificially, to follow in obedience, to walk in His guidance. He asks for our trust and our faith, even when we cannot see the harvest. We step out in faith – we accept the responsibilities He gives us, however inadequate we may feel, however underprepared we are.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

What area is God asking you to trust Him with today? In what ways do you need to obey Him in faith?


The Unofficial Beginning of Summer

gardenAlthough the calendar says that summer begins on June 21, and school isn’t out here for a couple more weeks, summer unofficially began in our house today with the planting of our garden.

If you were reading here last year, you know that we worked together with several other families to grow what turned into a rather large garden {an understatement!} that we used to feed ourselves and to supply our church’s food pantry.

We had no idea what we were doing.

We plunged headlong into gardening, and with the help of Mr. Don who owns the land, and through God’s gracious providence, we actually grew things that people could eat. We were amazed.

This year, we know a little more about what we are doing. We have come to the season with a better game-plan for what to grow, how much to grow, and how to freeze and preserve our goodies to use throughout the year.

This is all part of my plan for our summer. Although we live in a subdivision with pavement and sidewalks, we need to have an outlet to get our hands dirty. We need to remember where our food comes from. Gardening takes time and care, and we need to remember the slow path of doing things. Cell phones barely work at our garden, and that’s not a bad thing. We are so connected all the time, I like having a few minutes of “disconnectedness.”

While I love the hustle and bustle of the city, and I am never happier than sipping coffee in a coffee shop while people-watching, I am learning that I need this. As we were leaving the garden this morning, my friend Jill called it “therapeutic.” And while my muscles may not agree in the morning, my soul certainly does.

Do you garden? Have you planned to spend some time this summer unplugged? How will you make it happen?

A Heart to Serve Others

prov 1125Last week, I shared that we are stopping the busyness, adding some margins to our life. I am asking God to speak in the open spaces and clearly show me how He wants to use me in His Kingdom. The last time I found myself waiting on God’s direction, He led me to more focused outreach in the community around my church. As I am waiting for Him now, I am drawn to this verse in Proverbs:

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

I believe that when I am in a season of needing fresh direction from God, the best way to get it is to give more of myself to others.

I want the margins I have created for the next few months to be opportunities to spend more time with the people God has placed in my life. Certainly, that starts with my family. But we can’t be responsible to the calling of God and stay hidden away in our own little retreat for the next three months. We have to extend ourselves to our church family, our neighbors, and others in the community.

We have to be generous with our time.

We have to step out of our comfort zones.

We have to lend a helping hand.

We have to give of ourselves.

Even when it is inconvenient, even when we are tired, even when we have something else to do, if God puts someone in our path, I hope that this will be the summer we learn to stop, change direction, and allow God to use us.

What about you? Have you found this truth to be true? How can you give refreshment to someone else today?

Life with Margins

Matt1128I am so tired this morning, and would like nothing better than just crawling back under my soft covers. But moms can’t often do that, so I continue on with the to-do list, slowly checking off each item, and hoping that the three-year-old has a good nap this afternoon so that I can catch a few minutes on the couch before we are off and running again.

Our calendar has been absolutely full for the past several months, forcing me to do that hard thing – saying no. We’re saying no to fun events, no to good opportunities, no to anything that is not essential.

As I get older, I see how hard it is to keep us this frantic pace that seemed so easy in my 20s. We have very little margin in our lives – very little time to do spontaneous things, time in the sun, time for hobbies, time for friends and neighbors, time for living. Too often our time is spent hurrying from one event to the next.

So, as summer approaches, I’m putting my foot down, drawing a line in the sand, stopping the bus. We are accepting no new commitments until August. I want to be able to spend time in the sun working our garden. I want to find days to borrow a friend’s swimming pool. I want to read books. I want to lay in the grass. I want to play at the park with my son. I want to get to know my neighbors again after the longest winter. I want to have lunch with friends. I want to rest.

So, that’s it. I’ve already had to say no to some things (mostly just to myself). But I already feel a freedom in that – the freedom to embrace the life that’s right in front of me and enjoy the moments.

Do you need to build margin in your life? How do you decide when to say no and when to say yes?

Share Your Story

Eph 4At a neighborhood block party last weekend, I sat and talked with a young woman who has been blind since she was 15. She was asking about my writing and my blog, and said she has thought of starting her own blog. Fear, procrastination, and busyness were holding her back – would anyone even want to read what she has to say?

Friend, let me tell you what I told her – the world needs your story.

Whatever your life is like, whatever you have faced in the past or are facing now, someone else out there needs to know that they are not alone. If you have felt it and lived it, someone else has too.

In recent days, I have meditated on the later half of Ephesians 4:29 – “…as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Your words, your art, your music, however you share your story, may come at just the right time to help someone else. If God is calling you to share, all He asks from you is obedience. He will provide the audience, whether that be one or one million.

Maybe you will share your story by mentoring or befriending someone who is lonely. Perhaps God has given you musical talents, and you deliver your message through song. Maybe you write, speak, scrapbook, garden, or do 1,000 other things that give glory to God. Whatever God is asking you to do, do it in such a way that gives grace to someone else.

What story is God writing in your life? How can you share that story with someone else?



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,050 other followers