Honesty, HOPE, Parenting, Raising Warriors, Self-Care, Simplifying

The Gift of Observation

As I look back on photos and google/social media memories from 2020, I see a theme. It helps to look back over a year and see it from a slightly distant perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, I never seem to notice my kids growing until I get away from them for a weekend and I return to notice all the little changes that take place with a few extra inches, but this past year that changed for me.

Looking at all the photo reminders, I notice how much time we spent outdoors & deep in creation over the last 12 months and I’m so thankful! It may just be viewing our own highlights without showing all of the nitty gritty in-between moments, but as I look back at 2020 in history books someday, I want to remember these times above anything else. I want to remember that we took the time to observe everything!

I see the family walks and trips to Lake Michigan and working in the garden. I see so many trees, trails, flowers and sunsets, I see smiles and goofy faces {and a few angry glares from those not wanting to be photographed}. It takes me back to all those times that our family walked and talked and made memories out of the stillness – the unforeseen lack of structure, schedule and hurriedness that we experienced. Sure, it originally came as a shock, but as we settled, we spent hours and hours watching spring arrive, then burst into summer and fade into fall. I appreciate that our lives slowed down enough to notice the little things and I don’t want that to end.

My photos seem to transform from taking in the larger view of each hiking experience to focusing in on snapshots of tiny changes. We walked the same trails almost weekly for a season and happened to notice when the moss actually bloomed {did you know it does that!?}. We saw every leaf bud on it’s branch, grow into a vibrant green canopy and eventually burst into colors with time. It takes focused, detail-oriented observation to see all of that – no cell phone scrolling or daydreaming, just being present and observing. That practice was a true gift.

*little sprouting moss before it flowers*

It was a gift for me to notice the things my kids noticed. I am not usually very focused and I tend to want to get things done, so it took some intentionality for me to slow down my walk and stop thinking about raising my hear rate. I had to practice listening when the kids chatted on and on about another brown stick but then I noticed they’re not actually all the same. I don’t mind stopping to wait for a child, but entering in with them when they observed water trickling over rocks was a bit more difficult. I’ll tell you it helped when I crouched down to their eye level to see what they were pointing at. Sometimes I asked them a question to encourage them to keep talking and they started to light up. I learned a little bit more about what makes them tick as pre-adults forming their own opinions.

It was a gift to me to notice the little things God thought of when creating this planet. I marveled at God’s creativity when I finally noticed new little nuances that make nature so unique. Did you know worms don’t have lungs or stomachs, they have a gizzard and breathe through their skin! Did you know Cow Birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and let them raise their young until they can fly off? I wouldn’t have known if we didn’t keep finding nests with an odd colored egg inside. Did you know there are over 20 types of Pine cones, but only 5 types can be found in Michigan? That’s all so seriously creative.

It was a gift to me to see my husband flourish in teaching us all the things about the trails and the trees and the animals that come and go. It blessed my heart to join him in his hobbies, not just our family’s. One aspect I am still working on is entering into my husband’s world and considering WITH HIM all the things he is thinking about and learning. I appreciate my husband so much, but I tend to get wrapped up in the busyness of responsibility and trading off parental duties. If we sit down, it’s to talk strategy or even dream, but seldom is it me entering into the conversation just to listen. The kids do it so well, and I’m learning.

So I did a little search in the Bible for the word OBSERVE and I love how it’s paired with other actions:

  • Observe and have reverence {Leviticus 19:30/26:2}
  • Observe and obey {Deuteronomy 5:12, 8:6}
  • Consider and observe {Psalm 37:37}
  • Observe and you will see {Psalm 91:8}
  • Observe and celebrate {Exodus 31:16, Deuteronomy 16:1}

Seems like a mixture of instruction and promise, am I right?

I love Deuteronomy 26 which describes the Old Testament laws of being a good neighbor and putting others before ourselves. Then verse 16 says: “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; CAREFULLY OBSERVE THEM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL.” Can you imagine what it takes to observe ANYthing with ALL of your heart and soul? That’s a lot of intentionality, a lot of slowing down and getting on the right eye-level to truly see what’s before you. And then a few verses later is one of my all-time favorite promises which I read over my children again and again: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised…” When we pay attention to God’s instruction, we are promised He will treasure us, His children. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but that’s a beautiful gift!

You are treasured.

As the good Dad that he is, he sets this amazing example for us:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 {MSG}

I don’t know about you, but I want to love like that. Love is what this life is about. We are here to love God and love others and I want to love extravagantly, not in order to get something but to GIVE. I’m spending time each day with my Father so I can observe and practice receiving his love… it’s so much better than my own!

There are so many valuable things to notice in this world, it’s worth every possible repercussion to slow down and practice observing it all. I promise, it’s absolutely worth the later bedtime to walk the neighborhood after dinner. It’s worth losing sleep to get up while it’s quiet and sit in God’s company. It’s worth the drive to find a good trail. It’s worth pursuing the ones you love even if they’re difficult to be with. It’s worth the sacrifice of the first few family walks full of poking and prodding and arguing to get to the fun ones of connecting, noticing and playing TOGETHER.

So is there something you wish you had time to observe? How can you slow down? What needs to be cleared off the schedule so there’s room to take a drive or walk? What can we do to change our perspective and see from someone else point of view? Perhaps from God’s point of view? How do you already take time for observation? What’s the best thing you’ve noticed lately?

Parenting, Raising Warriors

Speaking My Kids ACTUAL Love Languages (Not Quite As Lovely As Gary Chapman’s!)

I don’t know about you folks, but my kids don’t quite fit the categories often given by authors of well-meaning books for parenting. Now I love to read parenting books because there is ALWAYS something I can take away. Quite often it’s a train of thought that began with their writing, but many times it’s a tool or story that they shared that gets rolling inside of my brain and won’t get out.

The 5 Love Languages is definitely one of those books. I’ve read the original, the marriage version, the parenting version and the kid version. They have certainly shaped the relationships in my life to be more others-focused and SO much more understanding of how people give and receive love. If you haven’t read anything by Gary Chapman, his idea is that people have a universal 5 “languages” that they give and receive love with. Often times we get our wires crossed and express love to others in our own language and therefore are often misunderstood or left feeling unappreciated. The five languages he explains in great detail but the quick list is: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Giving/Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

Your mind will present such a lovely picture as you read through Gary’s wise words and stories of success. It really is a great theory, and I do use this information in my every day life… it’s just that things get a little warped in our family… slightly left of the pretty pictures I hear others live. I’m sure it’s just us. There’s no way other people are this wierd, right!?

Ok, so in reality here is what I have discovered with my kiddos: Carter’s love language is physical touch. I could scratch his back allllllll day and when I say goodnight, he needs a full body dog-pile from myself , Collin, AND a dog to feel at rest. Well, somehow I don’t get back scratches when he’s feeling love toward me. And his sisters sure do not get loving hugs with a pat on the back. No way! They get poked and prodded and chased around the kitchen with shoes he stole right off their feet. When I experience love from my boy, it means I get absolutely ZERO personal space and our best conversations happen when we are nose to nose and he is grabbing my hand or stealing MY shoe. Now that’s real love.

Makenna is full of powerful words and powerful thoughts, so words of affirmation would be her love language. One time we made a name acrostic at a mother/daughter bible study. Well she has had it posted on her door for YEARS and loves to read it to me while I’m cooking dinner. (I don’t need to think about measuring, I’ve got brainspace to spare, right!?) Well when she’s got *feelings* for me, more signs appear on her door – and not always happy feelings… Please notice below that I was allowed in her room ONLY for my craft bin (at least I had that!) but after another few hours of stewing, even my name got crossed out. Ouch!

Well my girlie with the words also has unspoken words of affirmation and these hold so much value for her. It took me a while to realize the importance of them, and then even longer to figure them out! Just the other day I had a mind-blowing moment: I looked around for my fave water cup. When I finally found it, it was empty…AGAIN. This {obviously} isn’t a big issue but I knew why it was moved and empty: Makenna. She will choose my water glass over hers any day of the week. If both cups are placed equally *within reach* for her, she will grab mine when she’s thirsty. It irks me. But then I had this thought: Maybe it’s a little way they she feels connected to me. Maybe it’s a way that she feels we have a little something between the two of us that we share even when ALL my attention is going elsewhere. Makenna is not the kid who will ever ask for attention or time or help, she is the one always giving as much or MORE than I am to everyone else! So my water is a connection that she treasures. It’s her own secret love language. And she’s even become to bold as to ask me not to ever put coffee in my new water glass because it “ruins it for the rest of us!”

I love becoming a student of the people I love. Ya’ll know my new year’s resolution to LISTEN. By listening to my family, I get to understand them in such deep, lovely ways that no one else does! The things I hear become a gift that I treasure often – knowing my people and being known by them! It really works both ways.

This practice almost our own family language that only we understand about each other and the meaning of these occurrences becomes so precious. We can communicate in ways others won’t understand unless they live in our house. {Genesis 10 actually says that as Noah’s sons dispersed after the flood, they “developed each in it’s own place by family, each with its own language”. So it’s biblical. How cool!?}

So I just got away for a weekend of refreshing at the Woven Conference (Foster/Adoptive momma’s you have GOT TO KNOW about this! Find Woven By Love on IG or Facebook and FOLLOW❤). Well before I took off, I left notes around the house for my people to find. I laughed a lot as I wrote jokes and movie quotes and love notes and stuck them in strange spots hoping someone would discover them soon. Unbeknownst to me, it became a treasure hunt that the whole family got in on! They LoVeD it! And when I returned home, the house was decorated like a birthday party (which is my FAVORITE thing). My stash of streamers had been ransacked and pretty colors were everywhere. Fresh flowers were in all of my water pitchers and the girls had even made me some homemade “Christmas lights” (seriously, Christmas lights are a love language all their own!). I have never felt so welcomed or missed.

Very Christmassy indeed! Wouldn’t you say!?

Now I could go on and on because I’ve got a variety of kids with quirks. (Not me, just them…I’m so normal.) I bet your families have quirks too. But I also know we’ve got limited time here together, so I want to hear from you! What things happen in your house that seem strange or meaningless- even annoying!? And what could they really mean? Do you havce a family love language? What ways do you show love to your family/kiddos that might encourage others to try something new?

Seriously, who else has to share their water glass and overcome a little germ-phobia!?