Let the Autumn Crafts Begin: #1 Painting Acorns

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We gather all the old nail polish and our bowl of gathered acorns. We have the best afternoon just painting them! We even share the craft time with some friends.

We’ll scatter beautiful little acorns on a side table or place them in a decorative bowl for our autumn decorations. We love sitting down amid the rush of homework and football games and work and cooking to just paint little acorns.

It’s so sweet and peaceful.

Next, we’re going to try “Twine Hanging Lanterns” using all beautiful autumn colors like burnt orange, burgundy, and gold. In a few weeks when the leaves change colors, my daughters want to make “Autumn Leaf Bowls.” I will share pictures and instructions!

Are you laughing or so curious about these new crafts with teenagers? I am too! I thought my crafting days were over. I had finally cleaned my kitchen from years of glitter and glue and sprinkles. Aren’t we too old for crafts?

Never.

And it’s more fun with these older daughters:  they’re sitting with you, listening to music, chatting all about the day’s events, and just being there. Try it! Pour a fresh cup of coffee, listen to their music with them, and invite them to paint acorns.

For this mom who hated crafts and was never any good at creative projects, I’m so thankful I never gave up on letting children make things at the kitchen table with me.

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In Step

This morning I’m driving on a little two-lane road that’s a 25 MPH zone. A police officer drives up right beside me. I immediately slow down from 30 MPH to the legal limit. We’re keeping pace exactly with each other. I know I can’t drive faster or slower than him; I don’t want a ticket! I don’t want any trouble.

But it’s so hard–surprisingly hard–to match that legal speed limit. Driving 25 MPH feels so slow. There we are, driving together head to head, at the legal and good limit. This is where I confess I have a tendency to drive over the speed limit. I’m learning! Oh, I’m learning!

This police office situation seems to goes on forever. And I’m getting annoyed at how hard it is to not drive faster than him.

I remember the verse in Galatians and “keeping in step” with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). I never thought of what it takes to look so intently to match someone else’s pace. It takes all my attention. I’m resisting so many impulses to drive on ahead at least at 30 MPH to get home and enjoy this drive.

Attention, resistance. Attention, resistance. I consider the active process of staying aligned with the Holy Spirit. I don’t run ahead into my own plans and dreams, and I don’t lag behind either.

I keep in step.

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Each Day’s Harvest

We gather the afternoon harvest. We don’t fret about tomorrow’s supply because we know how nature works. We trust the process. 

God reminds me that each day provides its own harvest of joy and whatever I need for this day. It’s often more than I need!

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Sometimes It’s For You, For Right Now

I stand in front of the ripe raspberries with my bowl in hand. I fully intend to pick all the berries and deliver them to my children, or, better, to freeze them away for the winter. I love opening the freezer door to find those neat piles of bright red berries ready for pies and smoothies months from now.

And I love blessing my children with all the berries.

That’s me at my best: thinking ahead, blessing the children, and tending to the harvest. Right? This is what’s supposed to happen.

But for the last three days, I stand before the raspberries, starving and greedy. I’m tired. So, for once, I don’t gather them; I gobble them all up right there. Warm from the sun and fresh from the stem, the raspberries taste better than anything I can imagine. I throw the bowl onto the grass to free both hands. It’s embarrassing how fast I’m eating berries.

What’s strange is that nobody seems bothered by this or cries out about the lack of berries in the berry bowl. No child complains. There’s actually more room in the freezer without all those berries. In fact, yesterday, my daughter seems happy to see this greedy mother stuffing her face with berries. She joins me as we just stand there, popping the berries into our mouths until not one ripe one dangles. I push her hand away to get the good ones. She laughs and fights back.

Sometimes, you don’t store things away for later. Sometimes, you don’t even save a special thing for someone else. Sometimes, you take it yourself because maybe it was for you all along. Sometimes I wonder if God shakes His head at all my storing and giving away and says, “Wait! That one was for just you, for right now.”

Besides, by late afternoon, another round of berries was ready for picking. This time, I had all the energy I needed to give every last one away.

 

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Ready for Autumn

My youngest daughter, now in middle school, reminds me that we must paint acorns again! For the past six years, we’ve gathered acorns. We bring out all the old nail polish in the house, and we spend an afternoon painting acorns with beautiful patterns and bright colors to display in a bowl in the kitchen.

I’ll post pictures when we actually begin painting.

But it’s not quite autumn yet, so I tell her we can at least begin gathering the green acorns we find to get ready for the craft we’ll complete in a few weeks. I still feel amazed at these traditions that children remember and insist upon (even while I see them as just another craft). They grow into teenagers and still want to do things like paint acorns with you.

So you gather acorns in the blazing heat of this long summer.

That’s what we’ve been doing: gathering, getting ready, preparing for cooler days.

I take a little bag around with me as I walk through campus today to collect the biggest acorns I can find. It transforms an ordinary work day into something whimsical as I deliberately travel under enormous oak trees and hope they’ve dropped an offering for us.

I remember that I put beef stew in the crockpot for dinner. It’s nearly 90 degrees, but I’ve officially started my transition to another season. So have my children. They want to paint the acorns on Friday–no matter what the weather.

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Even More Fruitful

I always forget the part in John 15 where Jesus prunes fruitful parts of the vine so they become more fruitful. I only remember the part where Jesus cuts off the parts of the vine that don’t bear fruit. That’s the kind of pruning I think about: chopping off all the dead, unproductive parts.

But there’s another kind of pruning regarding fruitful parts of life. Those parts of your life that  bear fruit and flourish often undergo a pruning (a cleansing, a distilling, a streamlining) to become even better.  

It might seem painful or strange, especially when we think things are going so well. It might seem counterintuitive or a kind of sabotaging of some fruitful activity, but really, it’s a pruning to make that thing better.

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The After School Snack Platter: Yes, They Still Want it

I absolutely love after school snack time with my daughters. For the past nine years, I’ve arranged life and work to arrive home a few minutes before my daughters so I can greet them with the Warm Welcome and the Snack Platter. Some of you have teased me about my obsession with the Snack Platter, but I’m telling you, they love it.

And I love it. And their friends love it. Sometimes friends stop in because they know about the Snack Platter that appears every day at just around 3:00 PM.

The Snack Platter is my pretty little platter of snacks, and I fill it with something fun for them to find when they walk through the door: popcorn, cheese and crackers, fruit, dark chocolate, hummus and pita—anything to get them settled in, ready to talk about their day, and eager to start homework. What used to be goldfish and fruit snacks has evolved over the years into more elaborate presentations of finer cheeses and vegetables. And now, there’s a drink involved not requiring a sippy cup (maybe a chai latte, a hot cocoa in winter, or just an icy lemonade or water).

But this year, I thought the girls were getting too old for the Snack Platter. Was it silly and outdated? So I ask them: “Do y’all still want me to come home and have the Snack Platter? Yes? No? Do we still like my snacks? Where are we with the Snack Platter?”

They look at me like I’m absolutely crazy. They can’t even speak for a minute. Finally, it’s a loud proclamation of their love and delight of the Snack Platter and how they look forward to it all day long! It’s our time to connect and refresh and laugh together! Oh my goodness, they love it, and I’m about bursting inside with joy.

I must pause here and thank Italian Mamas everywhere who have trained me in the fine art of the Snack Platter. The Original Italian Mama taught me about laying out the cheese, tomatoes, and hearty breads for her older boys. Italian Mamas feed people. That’s what they do. And I’ve been well trained in this art. And now that my girls are teens, they eat. They come home like lions.

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So I grab my roasted tomatoes (the oven dried ones that I froze in little baggies) and mix up the olive oil, salt, and fresh basil. I arrange the cheeses and the bread. I get the house cozy. I light a candle. It takes 5 minutes, but the joy I get could fill 5,000 years. It’s almost time; they’re coming.

So I open the door and wait for the Snack Platter to do the rest.

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Is There Another Way to Look At It?

I love how simple questions can change any circumstance. I’ve come to learn that a great question can change your life. My favorite four hard-but-great questions from Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison were these:

  1. Is knowing Jesus better than anything?
  2. Is there anything in my life that doesn’t please God?
  3. Will I live the life God asks me to?
  4. Am I available to be God’s spokesperson?

These questions changed everything about me.

I think about asking great questions and continue to learn more about more how to ask questions that truly help people. Today I discovered another question that’s helpful in parenting:

Is there another way to look at it?

That’s it. This question helps someone reframe what’s happening to them, especially if they feel trapped in negativity, complaint, or bitterness. I think about this question in light of God’s goodness and mercy each new day. When a disappointment comes, I hold the circumstance up to the light of truth and ask, “Is there another way to look at this as God’s goodness and mercy? Have you considered every perspective and every possibility? Is there hope here at all?”

Is there another way to look at it?

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