Archive for the ‘Life enricher’ Category

At brunch yesterday, my friend Suzanne told me about how she is making a difference in her family this summer, and I knew we needed to share this idea. She has initiated The Kindness Challenge with her family this summer.

After a few rough first days of summer vacation, with kids (ages 10, 5 and 3) poking and picking at each other, irritating each other just because they could, Suzanne had had enough. It wasn’t going to be like this all summer. So she prayed and talked with her husband Tim to make a plan. Out of this moment of crisis came The Kindness Challenge – How 40 Days of Kindness Can Change a Family (Think of it as The Love Dare for the whole family).

Finding it easier to break the challenge into weeks, here is her plan (in Suzanne’s words):

Week 1 – Change starts at the Top. We as parents commit to always speaking kindly to the kids (and each other for that matter), to praying daily for each child’s specific needs, to having continuous daily conversations about kindness, and to doing small acts of kindness unique for each child.

Week 2 – Get big brother on board. It’s time to build kindness skills in the oldest child. Because there is an age gap between him and the other two, it is important to teach kindess lessons on his level. This includes daily one-on-one discussions on kindness, such as what the Bible says about kindness, why it’s easier to be kind to strangers than your family, and how to be kind to someone who isn’t kind back.

Week 3 – It’s a family affair. Blessed to have a full week with Dad at home, we are planning daily family activities with a focus on building family unity and encouraging kindness to one another. Activities include, picking berries (sharing in God’s delicious provision by working together), hiking (each child having a turn to lead), Lego building challenge (how big can we build if we use all of our Lego sets together), etc. Kids will each have a special one-on-one time with Dad during the week. We will also start learning Bible verses on kindness each week.

Week 4 – Kindness School. A full week of lessons and activities on kindness. Using Bible stories and other stories familiar to the kids, we will learn different ways to be kind and show kindness. Kids will work together to create a book about kindness.

Week 5 – Putting it into practice. Family members will draw a family member’s name each day and do a special act of kindness for that person. Family members will sign a Kindness Contract, committing to a lifestyle of kindness. Dinner conversations will  focus on recognizing kind moments shared that day.

Week 6 – Beyond our walls. Family will plan and perform service projects and kindness activities for others outside our family. On day 40, we will have a celebratory dinner and enjoy the fruits of our efforts – a kinder, more peaceful, loving family.

Some Bible verses on kindness: Proverbs 21:21; Proverbs 31:25-27; Micah 6:8; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12-13. 

What a great challenge to all of us to show kindness to our family members and then to reach out with kindness to others!


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Heavenly Potatoes

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.      Matthew 6:33

I glanced at my watch, realizing it was already 4 p.m. Disappointed in myself for getting so wrapped up in ministry tasks that I forgot to get to the grocery store, I sighed. Dillon doesn’t make many requests, but he had that day. He asked me to make his favorite potato soup on that cold night for dinner. In my mind I could already see the disappointment in his eyes when he would realize I didn’t fulfill my promise.

Five minutes later my daughter Karis walked in the door lugging a big bag and announced, “Potato delivery!” I ran to her to find out why she was bringing in a sack of potatoes, and she said our friend Mrs. Runyan had just given it to her.

How did Karen know? was my first thought. I then ran out to where she was parked in front of my house to find out what prompted her to bring me potatoes that afternoon (though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer to that!)

She said she had been at the grocery store buying potatoes and they were on a “buy one, get one free” special. Because she couldn’t imagine needing that many potatoes, she only picked up one bag. However, at the checkout counter the clerk convinced her that she might as well take the second bag since it was free. When unpacking the groceries at home, Karen again wondered what she would do with all the potatoes.  She was headed to our house to pick up her son Ben, so I guess it seemed like a reasonable thing to bring food to a family of seven (do you think Karen felt led by the Holy Spirit as she brought potatoes our way?)

Another Matthew 6:33 moment. They come in many ways, sometimes in the form of a gentle reminder of something that I need to do and often in the form of a gift of needed clothing or food unexpectedly coming our way. Each time one of those moments happens I feel my loving Heavenly Father smiling and reminding me that he knows me and delights in meeting my needs when I surrender full trust to Him. I felt extra joy in watching Dillon enjoy dinner that night, and it tasted especially delicious as I reflected on the Lord’s loving provision and care.

Lord, help me not to worry about my life, what I will eat or drink; or about my body, what I will wear. I recognize that life is more important than food, and the body more important that clothes. Help me to look at how you care for the birds of the air, and realize how much more valuable I am to you than they. Help me to put all my energies into seeking you and trusting you. Amen.


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Dresser Dilemma

In August, when our fifteen-year-old son Derek was away at camp, I got sneaky. I moved out the western decor that had been in his room for years and updated the look with a theme that fit his interests.  Within our 24-hour decorating time restraints, the Lord blessed us with some great finds at garage sales and store clearance shelves, and helped us see things in our own home that we could move to his room to create the new look.

The room was set except for one piece. I wanted to replace his cluttered shelves with a dresser. Chris and I visited resale furniture shops all over town and couldn’t find anything that would work.

Two months into the search, I stopped at an estate sale. They had a nice dresser that looked like it would be perfect to paint for Derek’s room. It included a mirror and side table, which I didn’t really need, but it still looked like a good possibility. I was trying to get a better look at it, but two women were standing in front of it…or maybe a better word for it would be “guarding it”. I asked them if they were buying the set, and they said they didn’t know, continuing to hold their hands out on each side of them to achieve maximum coverage. One woman feverishly pressed the buttons on her phone, then went on to describe the furniture and what a great deal it was. After learning her friend wasn’t interested, she gave a big sigh and called another number. “This dresser is incredible, and for such an unbelievable price. Do you have a place for it in your house?…No? Are you sure?”  They stood there  (yes, still in “guard mode” as they could see I was still in “wait mode”) lamenting the fact that they couldn’t believe this was such an incredible deal and they couldn’t find anyone who could use it (Hello, I’m right here!) Then they began brainstorming more friends they might call. 

In an attempt to not say or do anything that I would later regret, I took a deep breath and prayed a quick prayer for patience. Just then a table covered with stuff over in the corner caught my eye. Pulling back the table cloth, I could see it was another dresser. Solid wood. Paintable. A little shorter than the other dresser, which would be nice for Derek’s small room. Could definitely work. But it didn’t have a price, so I wasn’t sure if it was for sale. I found a salesman, and he told me to make an offer. I figured he would want a hundred dollars for it, and was just about to say, “Would you take seventy-five for it?” when I remembered my garage-sale-shopping rule about letting the other person be the first to state the amount. When I hesitated, he said, “How about forty?” Fighting the urge to jump up and down, I did my best to calmly reply that I would take it.

It was an easy paint job – one coat of black spray primer, then two coats of black spray paint.  It dried outside on the back patio and was ready to be moved to Derek’s room when I came across another can of black spray paint in the garage paint closet. It read “high lustre gloss perfect for furniture finishing”…but what I didn’t notice (or at least comprehend) was the word “lacquer”.  I quickly grabbed it and ran to apply one final coat that I thought would perfectly finish off the paint job with a high-lustre gloss.

Within five minutes of coating the dresser, bubbles began to appear. That was when the word “lacquer” caught my eye. I’ve covered a water-based paint with an oil-based paint!!! Big mistake. As the paint continued to raise up I realized I had a choice to make: either live with a dresser that looked like it had a severe rash, or scrape. Moments like this have earned me the name “Anxious Annie” by my husband — another fabulous idea quickly executed gone bad.

My husband patiently worked alongside me with a scraper, and all the layers of paint on the top of the dresser peeled off like a banana peel. For some reasons, the sides just peeled a little, giving it a grainy distressed look. Could I like this? Maybe, but my disappointment shrouded any hope I had of being finished with this project. I moved it to the covered patio to dry again, and walked away.

A few days later I realized I did like the look. It wasn’t your normal run-of-the-mill black dresser. This thing had character! After checking with a couple of neighbors who gave two thumbs up, I moved it to Derek’s room. It was perfect and just what we needed.

Later I reflected on my dresser situation and two verses:

  • In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9). I could have pushed through to get what I thought I wanted, dresser #1. The frustrating roadblock to it may have been God’s way to provide a more affordable, just-what-I-needed item that was a better size.
  • And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). My haste produced what looked to be a disaster. All the work I had done had been in vain. However, it turned out to be something beautiful — I liked it more than the one I had imagined.

Father, help me to rest daily in your provision and your plan for me. Thank you for making something good of my mistakes, and for working in ways beyond my greatest imagination.

Now if I can just convince Chris and the boys to move the large armoir down the stairs and out to the back so the dresser can have a matching piece….

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I was cleaning out and reorganizing a closet last weekend when I came across a note. Written by my seven-year-old daughter to her ten-year-old brother, it said,

“I’m sorry for not trusting you. – Karis

Below the note she had drawn in sign language and written, “I love you Micah.”

Though just a tattered piece of notebook paper with writing that didn’t follow the lines, its message packed a punch. And she had gone out of her way to convey the most important point not only in words, but in picture, too.

It got me thinking about trust, and specifically trusting the Lord. I confessed over thirty years ago that I trusted him with everything that I was and would ever be. Am I truly trusting him day-by-day, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute?

I think of the times I fret about getting an article written or being prepared to give a new message at a women’s event. I think of the times I whine about a health issue or despair after reading the newspaper about how bad things are getting. I think about the times I worry about my children or try to micro-manage their lives in some way.

The fact is I’m not very good at trusting. Not really.

But I have a hunch from everything I’ve read in the Bible about the character of God that all He really wants to hear from me in those too-often sinful moments is this: “I’m sorry for not trusting you. –Brenna” Nothing fancy, and not neat, either, but it packs a punch. He understands my weaknesses, and reaches down with love and compassion to forgive, and give me the strength to try to get it right the next time.

In the meantime, I hope that I’m giving Him that second message not only by my spoken words but by the way I’m living my life: “I love you, Lord.”

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The piles that laid around the house were evidence of the projects I started during Spring Break: stacks of clothes to give away or pack into storage boxes, copies of pictures used as handouts in drawing classes, paints and paintbrushes, a few garage sale “treasures”, baskets filled with laundry in progress, newspaper coupon sections stacked and in need of cutting and filing, wet snow pants and gloves from unexpected snow (and beach towels from the day before!), and baseball tournament coolers and chairs awaiting their return to the attic. Obviously, we had shared a lot of fun experiences as a family, but the stuff had to be dealt with.

My energy drained as my eyes panned back and forth across the room on the stacks of stuff. Where do I start? Then my eyes stopped and focused on a positive feature…who was sitting and watching television. Nine-year-old Micah. That’s it – Micah and I can tackle this thing together! He might like to earn some extra money and I would sure like the help! I saw a window of time before me — a little more than an hour, in fact — before everyone would gather back at home.

When I proposed this great idea to Micah, he didn’t show a lot of interest, even when I mentioned I was paying $1 for every 20 minutes of help. After persuading him to at least go the first 20 minute round with me, we began.

We set the timer and off we went – we started in the family room, sprinting from here to there to get things in their places. The timer rang and he said we should go another round. After the third 20-minute segment we took a break and got something to drink, but he said he wasn’t ready to stop yet. The last 30 minutes he handed up lawn chairs and coolers and other items that needed to go to the attic, and we finished by organizing and sweeping out the garage.

Done! We finished by lighting a fire in the fireplace and some candles in the kitchen. I handed Micah his $5 with a big hug and thank you, and we talked about how amazed we were with all that we got done in a short amount of time.  Not only was the house clean, but I realized that even as I had expended energy, I had gained it back. Then I realized I was not only energetic, I was synergetic.

Synergy (n.), synergetic (adj.) – The working together of two or more people…especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.

I think I would like to add something else to this definition: synergetic – the lively, happy feeling moms get when others pitch in and help get things accomplished around the house, seeing amazing results.

Here’s to more synergetic days in our future as moms.

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Music to My Ears


I received a precious gift from my seven-year-old daughter recently.  Karis wrote the lyrics out and presented them to me as she broke into sweet song.

You are the best mom (reapeet)

in the hole wide wold (reapeet)

I love it when I sit on your lap (reapeet)

I lo——-ve you———- (reapeet)

I felt like the luckiest mom on the planet. In my opinion, this was better than anything the Grammy Awards had heard, and the fact that it was delivered with a big hug made it even more special.

Done anything personal for your Heavenly Father lately? No, not just anything. Something that you put your heart into, pouring out your love for Him. No need to make it fancy or try to impress.  Isaiah 43:4 reminds us we are precious and honored in His sight and He loves us. Our heartfelt expressions of adoration are music to His ears. As Casting Crown sings, “Let my lifesong sing to you….”

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A Christmas Surprise

The gifts covered in red and green paper and hiding in bell-shaped gift sacks no longer sat under the tree.  Their contents had been opened and enjoyed with much elation days before. Little did I know I was about to witness my greatest surprise of the season.

You know the feeling…we had experienced the high of celebrating the miraculous birth…but then came the postpartum packing blues.  I had dreaded taking down Christmas decorations from the minute the last of the family walked out the door on Christmas Day.  Though I loved the carefree schedule of the holidays and the beauty of the glimmering lights, the black cloud of having to pack it all away loomed over me. 

Noting that the clock was ticking — it was the final day of December — I realized I must stare my procrastination in the face and do something.  The energy drained out of my body as I mulled it over.  I felt overwhelmed as I considered all the lights, garland, seasonal plates and decorations to put away…not to mention the sheets and towels that needed washing, floors that needed vacuuming, and the leftovers in the refrigerator that were becoming science projects. 

Wait a minute, what about teamwork?  What about breaking things down into manageable parts to tackle a hard job?  And what about taking an undesirable task and making it into a game?  These were things I had written and spoken about…could I apply these principles at this critical moment?

My heart began to lift, then raced as I pondered the possibilities.   I considered each of the children and the talents they possessed.  Hope swept in like a cool breeze on a hot day.  

Not wanting to lose the inspiration, I gathered everyone and gave a quick off-the-cuff pep talk. “Team, we have a mission today that will include everyone.  We are going to put away the Christmas decorations in record time.  Everyone who works with a good attitude will be rewarded with a treat every thirty minutes when the timer goes off.  After we are done, everyone will receive payment based on effort and attitude.  Bonuses will be given if we come in under a three hour time limit. Prizes will be awarded, and we will celebrate with kids meals at your favorite restaurant.” 

Where should we start?  Karis Joy (3) and Micah (5) could be gatherers. “Your mission is to seek out every Christmas-related item in the house that you can reach and carefully bring it to one of the two large tables I have covered with table cloths.” They scurried off like two busy bees.

I then turned my attention to Caleb (7).  He had always been our outdoorsman and was a take-charge guy who enjoyed time with his dad.  “Caleb, you and Dad will be packing all the outdoor decorations and lights.”

As I could see the tables filling up with Christmas items, I knew just who I needed at that point.  My spatially-gifted left-brained son, Dillon (11).  Chris passed down the thirteen red and green plastic bins from the attic, and his job was to pack all the items brought to the tables.

That left Derek (10), the perfect right-hand-man for me that day.  His strengths are flexibility, a good attitude, and a willingness to do whatever is asked, one task at a time.  He and I covered whatever else was needed.  As we turned on some upbeat music, I announced, “Let the games begin!” 

Every thirty minutes when the timer rang, I dispensed “energy pills” (small chocolate candies) to keep them going. “Yea!  It’s time for injury pills!” my five-year-old would exclaim when he heard the ring.

My heart welled up with joy as I saw my home transform before my eyes, inside and out.  If someone started to tire, I reminded him of the good things ahead for the diligent who held good attitudes.  One and a half hours from our starting time, I was in awe as we passed up to Chris the last box to store in the attic until next year. Was I surprised? It was greater than I could have ever hoped or dreamed.

We gave a cheer and I told everyone to head to the car to depart for our celebration.  I quickly cut “ribbons” out of red construction paper, and grabbed my Sharpie to label the awards.  We had everything from “fastest three-year-old gatherer in the U.S.” to “shrewdest packer in history” (Dillon had two empty bins left over).  And of course my husband received an award for being so great and going along with my plan.

My favorite gift that year didn’t have a ribbon around it and couldn’t be held in my hands.  I received the joy of marking a big job off my to-do list.  But even greater was the joy of watching my family work like an All-Star team.  Post-season play had never looked or felt better.

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