The Serving Bowl: 3 Simple Ways to Serve This Summer

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So far, summer looks different for our family.

It’s the first time since our teens were toddlers that my husband works from home and I work at the Mercy House warehouse three days a week.

It’s the first summer our part time, on-the-side yes, is full time.

On the first Monday morning of summer, my kids opted out of sleeping in to go with me to volunteer.

They counted beads from around the world for hours for a big Fair Trade Friday project we’re working on.

(They also set a timer and raced to see who could do the most. I love productivity, so I didn’t mind).

On Tuesday morning, I was going to go by myself to get volunteers started when I overheard my teens tell their dad, “No, we set our alarm to get up and go with mom. Have you seen how much work there is at the warehouse? She needs us.”

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I smiled back a Texas-size lump in my throat.

Because sometimes different is good. And sometimes our kids just need to know they are needed.

Of course, our summer work and summer serving will be sprinkled with plenty of summer.

But there will also be plenty of service.

Because we’ve all realized it’s easier to stay home, easier to spend our days doing what we want, but easy doesn’t always make us feel good. Maybe that’s what makes serving so special?

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One morning this week, one of my kids was a little grumpy. I encouraged them to stay home. “Yeah, I can do nothing and feel sorry for myself,” they replied.

Yes, you can.

“Or you can do something for someone else and I promise you’ll feel better about yourself and your life,” I replied as I headed to the car.

My kids had a great time that morning and when a family stopped by so their little 9 year old could drop off the $80 her family raised with a Mercy House bake sale, my kids noticed me trying not to cry.

And the grumpy one left that warehouse without a care in the world because that’s what happens when you care about the world.

I didn’t even have to say I told you so.

(It also might have helped that their youth pastor called to ask if he could bring students to serve every week of the summer. Serving is contagious fun).

Turn a few days this summer into a sacrifice. You will be so glad you did!

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I like to think of summer with my kids like a serving bowl. I keep the serving bowl on my counter filled with colorful, healthy fruit for them to eat. When it gets empty, I refill it. When we spoon out what we have an abundance of–time, talent, energy, finances- we fill someone else’s bowl.

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There are a lot of empty bowls out there waiting to be filled!

Here are 3 easy ways to serve this summer:

1. Take someone a meal-get your kids in the kitchen. We took some friends a meal to celebrate their new foster baby a couple of weeks ago and they invited us to share the meal. It wasn’t fancy, but this simple gesture not only filled a bunch of bellies, it filled our hearts to serve someone else.

2. Invite someone to eat with your family. Something as simple as dinner can be such a blessing to someone who usually eats alone or doesn’t always have enough to eat. My kids love when we invite someone into our mess and share our live with them.

3. Turn your regular dinner time into a plan of action. Ask your kids how they want to serve others this summer. They may just surprise you.

 

I’m partnering with Dayspring during their Customer Appreciation sale this week to turn your summer into a serving one. Through this weekend, get one of these beautiful Daily Grace serving pieces pictured above at their lowest price yet!

Daily Grace: Wide Serving Bowl 

REG PRICE: $30
Sale Price: $9 with code: THANKYOU it’s only $6.75

Daily Grace: Tall Serving Bowl

REG PRICE: $28

Sale Price: $9 with code: THANKYOU, it’s only $6.75

Daily Grace: Pitcher
REG PRICE: $37
Sale Price: $14 with code: THANKYOU it’s only $10.50

 

How fun would it be to fill one of these up to encourage a neighbor or friend in need this summer?

 

What I’m Loving Right Now

So. Yeah. Let’s talk about good face cleaners and cute headbands, okay? I thought I’d share some of the things I’m loving right now:

  • My teen daughter and I have discovered Aztec clay. You guys. This stuff is unreal. It’s less than $10 for a one pound jar and you can mix the dry powder with apply cider vinegar. Not only it is a deep skin cleanser and eczema healer, it also can be used at toothpaste, detox your hair, and about a hundred other uses. We look really scary with it on, but you can literally feel it tightening your skin while it dries and we can really tell a difference.
  • These stylish fair trade headbands for second (or third day pony tail hair) are my favorite. headband-herringbone-shopify_large
  • I’m also all about The Layering. From tank tops to bracelets, I love to pile it on. I looked down at my arm at church the other day and I realized my hodgepodge of fair trade bracelets from Kenya, India, the Philippines and Nepal made me so happy. I’m proud to #wearthestory and now you can get your own global layered look here at a great deal. IMG_9402
  • My inbox has never been happier with Unroll Me. Have you heard of this amazing free service that rolls up all your unwanted emails and removes them from your inbox? It’s a game changer. Instead of waking up to 100 email I end up deleting, it does it for me.
  • We used these adorable paper baking cups at our last Girls Night Out. And now I want to bake everything in these happy cups! 17844
  • I love easy-reading in the summer. And this summer book list is epic.
  • Coloring. Yeah, you heard me right. Have you heard about the adult coloring books -proven to relieve stress reliever with their intricate designs. It totally works for kids and bloggers.  Ask me how I know.

9 Things We Love About Dad

Lightening lit up the midnight sky and I squinted in the dark to see the clock. 3 A.M.

My husband’s normal spot in bed next to me contained a drooling second grader, arms and legs sprawled.

I could see his shadow as he stood next to the window and watched the rain. “She was scared of the thunder,” he whispered. “The yard is flooded. I’m going to stay awake for awhile and make sure it doesn’t get worse.”

It’s just like him to stand guard over our home and family. To watch and wait. To protect and provide. To give up his warm spot in the bed, to get up at the crack of dawn to make sure the Mercy House warehouse roof isn’t leaking water on our precious fair trade product.

It’s been raining for 30 days here in Texas and the ground can’t hold much more. But I turned over and went back to sleep with an 8 year old’s knee in my back. Because I knew Dad was on duty.

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He’s often the last in bed, locking up and turning out lights and the first up, shaking tired teens awake for school. Many mornings, by the time I’m awake, he’s made lunches and has breakfast in the oven. Yeah, I know. He’s for real.

My husband rocks.

My Husband Rocks

So does their Dad.

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We work together every day and that means sharing car line and dinner duties, after-school practices and late night accounting, travel and speaking engagements. But I think it’s too easy to take the good in our lives for granted. So, I thought we should share 9 things the kids and I love about the man of our house:

9 Reasons Why Dad Rocks

  1. He doesn’t step over the hairball in the kitchen floor or pretend it isn’t there. He picks it up. (And sometimes chases the kids around the house with it).
  2. He puts the family’s needs and dreams in front of his own.
  3. He always make us laugh by singing silly songs, making up goofy words or holding us down and tickling us to Level 41 (and sometimes he embarrasses us. But only when he wears his cowboy hat to school activities).
  4. He protect us. We have never felt afraid with Dad in the house (Mom, on the other hand, is a big chicken).
  5. He can grill anything. And he enjoys it.
  6. He talks to our kids about hard things– past mistakes and hopes for the future.
  7. He is the Master Looker in the house. Nothing is really lost on his watch. (Except for Mom’s keys at the beach on Spring Break. But we all know they are somewhere).
  8. He cherishes his wife and gives his kids a darn good example of what committed love looks like.
  9. He carries pictures of his family where his money used to be.

We love our Union28 shirts! Tell the world the man of your house rocks with “My Dad Rocks” kids shirts and “My Husband Rocks” t-shirts just in time for Father’s Day and get 15% off with coupon code: u28WATF15

For The Momma of the Strong-Willed Child

She made a beeline for me at the girls night out.

“You said your daughters are strong-willed, right?” she got right to the point.

We found a corner of the room and I waited. She had a lot to say about her precious and precocious two year old, her first daughter.

“She screams no! She throws herself onto the floor when she doesn’t get her way. I can’t go anywhere with her. My sons never once acted like this and I don’t know what to do.”

I listened and smiled and nodded my head because I understood. Sometimes the best way to encourage one another is to remind each other This is normal. And This shall pass. And You’re not alone. 

I mean, it’s happening in The Oval Office. CNN is talking about tantrums, y’all. (And I thought my son’s library meltdown of 2006 was epic).

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You will survive this hard place.

And most importantly, One day, You will thank God for it.

My own strong-willed girl walked up in the middle of our conversation and my friend said, “Look at your daughter. She loves Jesus. She’s amazing and she isn’t out of control.”

“Not in public anyway,” my daughter quipped and wandered off.

We laughed. Because I’ve learned strong-willed toddlers grow up to be strong-willed teens.

And that’s more than okay. It’s actually a blessing and I wouldn’t change it if I could. Even when saying no means tempers flare or make the meanest mom. I’ll take it.

I pulled my friend close and I said these words, “Listen, I know these strong-willed children are challenging. They push our buttons, they make us question our parenting. We cry and hit our knees. But they are used by God to transform us. They show us our humanity, our weakness and mostly how much we need Jesus.

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“We want our determined, fierce kids to stand up first to us so someday they can stand up against the world.”

I thought of my own strong-willed girls who have stood against most of my food and friend and fashion suggestions for years, only to see them stand up for faith in the face of a culture that lacks it.

The beauty of strong-willed children is that they are strong.

They will try and lead and manipulate us; starve and dress themselves and win every argument. Their determination will embarrass and thrill us all in the same day.

We will beg and barter and bribe. We will question every move we make and cringe at every fit. But we will remember that their fierce determination is channeled into velvet strength and these kids who won’t give up their will, also will not give in.

Yes, they chase hard after what they want, but they also chase hard after what’s right.

So, Momma of the strong-willed child pulling out your hair, wondering if you’ll ever be able to eat in public again, be encouraged. That little one will change the world.

But first, she will change you.

Moms, We Might Want to Bookmark This Post For the Middle Of Summer

My 9th grader mentioned another project that was due before the end of school and we both just rolled our eyes and sighed. There might have been some nervous, hysterical laughter even.

The second grader in the house handed me a huge stack of papers in her neglected homework folder while we sped to carline. Her look of disdain was dully noted. I should probably take a look at those sometime.

My son hit snooze on his alarm 3 mornings last week. One day he got ready for school  in 9 minutes.

I’m pretty sure he left the house with only one shoe on. I tossed a granola bar at the back of his head.

Yeah.

We have 11 days of school left. Can you tell?

I don’t ever want to make lunches again. Why is sandwich-making so hard??

There’s all the opening and spreading and assembling. It’s just exhausting.

And then there’s getting my 2nd grader off the bus. I have to go outside. Why is our driveway sooo long?

Stick a fork in me.

moms we might want to bookmark this post for the middle of summer

I know we are in the homestretch and every end of the school year, I feel this way. I keep rereading Jen Hatmaker’s post and the hilarious comments and I know I’m not alone. Solidarity, right?

The first couple of weeks of summer are amazing. We turn off the alarms, the kids sleep late. We pull closed our favorite room darkening curtains to help their bodies get more rest because we think only of the children. There’s a lot of laying around and few expectations. We swim and go to the park and fire up the bbq. We make summer bucket lists. We wear flip flops every day.

But moms like structure and we get twitchy when our kids stay up all night and want to sleep all day. So, we start slowly with a requirement or two. Like maybe get out of bed or get dressed today. You know, baby steps.

We take their resistance in stride. But we secretly change the Internet and Netflix password and hand them a list of chores in exchange for the new codes. It’s parental blackmail and totally legit.  This isn’t our first summer, ya know.

We hit a high in the summer and we are just so grateful for all the freedom from routine and schedules and togetherness.

Then Summer Transition Happens.

We all remember that first whine, the first “I’m bored,” the first time our head spins around 3 times. It generally happens the first day back from vacation or summer camp or you know June 10.  It happens we’re not entertaining! and delighting! our children all the time!

Moms know about summer retention level and TV brain cell loss, so we have a little family meeting called, “Reading Time Earns Screen Time” for our younger children and a beautiful program called “Get a job,” for our older ones.  These are very popular programs with mothers. Every time a child complains we point to the weeds in the backyard and the stack of library books on the coffee table. We can smell their fear.

Moms, Save this post for summer

We love summer. We love our kids. We love the mix of both. But even things we love get routine and mundane. 

Moms perk up on our (escape) trip to Target when we catch the scent of school supplies in mid-July. Kids immediately feel nauseous. So weird.

By August first, we are eating popsicles for dinner and we are sending the kids outside and locking the backdoor behind them.

We are taking the shampoo and bar of soap to the community swimming pool and calling it bath time. And we pack the pajamas in the pool bag if we really have our act together.

The last 12 days of summer are a bittersweet countdown we love and hate at the same time.

A lot like these last two weeks of school.

So we try to do the impossible, moms: We try to enjoy every moment-those last days of the school year and the fleeting days of summer. And all the ones in-between that make us crazy.

Because we know they all end.

And begin again.

A Letter to My Teenaged Son

The week before you were born I had my first pedicure. It was a Mother’s Day gift from your Dad.

I didn’t have to see my feet to know they were terribly swollen.

I begged my doctor to induce me early–not because I was miserable, although yes. But mostly because I wanted to meet you.

You are my only son.

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And in that one heavy statement- you have already met and exceeded every joy I thought might come with being a boy Mom.

Except for the dirt. There’s been a lot of that.

The years have been short and you become a teenager this week and with that comes a little more freedom, a lot more responsibility and big lump in your momma’s throat.  Thirteen years old. I can’t keep the pantry stocked or your pants long enough. I can’t keep the girls from taking a second look at your lean body and adorable grin and I can’t keep you from flying away.

When I asked you to kiss me on the cheek for a Mother’s Day picture, you blushed and laughed and said, “I don’t really know how to kiss.” I think I will hold onto that moment forever (and try not to bring it up when you show up with a girlfriend on the doorstep in a few years).

A Letter to My Teenaged Son

You are changing daily. You keep more to yourself. You are quiet where you used to be loud. Your wit is razor sharp. You are growing into a man in front of me and there are some (more) things I need to tell you.

Son, there’s a part of me that would keep you young and innocent forever. But that would be selfish. Healthy things grow and you’ve got the growing up part down. The world is a difficult place to navigate, but now that you are a teenager, I have to start letting you try.

I want you to always:

Choose people over technology.

Understand that 6 out of 10 of your classmates will look up porn on the Internet to learn about sex. Don’t be a statistic. As hard as it may be, ask us.

Know there will be times you don’t like me very much. But I’m your mom and you have to get over it.

Remember when a pretty girl whispers she loves you one day that your momma loves you more.

Say you’re sorry when you need to.

Be quick to forgive and slow to anger.

Choose kindness before popularity.

Understand that girls you may be tempted to look at are somebody’s daughter or sister.

Remember social media is a powerful weapon or resource. Your choice. Use it wisely.

Know that ownership is not a right; it’s a privilege. This means your future phone and car and well, everything, is actually mine and your dad’s and we are letting you borrow it.

Have an escape plan for when you feel tempted. Joseph ran from Potipher’s wife and that’s always a good place to start.

Serve other people before you serve yourself.

Be cautious when sending a text message, a picture or replying to one that you wouldn’t want me or your Dad to receive.

Remember you can always tell your Dad and I anything. Everything. Always.

Wait for sex. Some days it will be hard. Other days harder. But wait for it. God has an order and when we stick to His plan, there is a lot of peace and fulfillment. When we get things out of order we end up carry a lot of extra baggage.

Know that God is with you every moment–in joy, in sorrow, in love and life and death.

Extend grace and forgiveness. Especially to yourself.

I love you,

Mom

Moms: We Have The Best Job In The World

There’s a ring around my tub and tubs of laundry that need tending.

And dust bunnies that run through the house when someone walks quickly across the room.

This month I’ve been to Africa with one daughter and 2nd grade field day with the other;

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To the Refugee Project fundraiser tea and three stores with my teen looking for a banquet dress;

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I’ve had kids in my bed sharing their hearts and a couple of family fights.

I’ve overseen close to 1500 Fair Trade Friday packages and sat through percussion practice.

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Baked a cake or two with my kids and had houseguests for a week.

And yesterday, I helped my youngest decide on a talent for the school talent show and hosted a Fair Trade Girls Night Out.

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Yeah, it’s been a busy couple of weeks around here.

Last night, I stepped over the piles and I ignored the dirty tub and I fell into bed exhausted.

I’ve wiped tears and counters.

I’ve hugged and held.

I’ve been mean.

I’ve laughed and loved.

I’m a mom.10422531_633617950071416_4042879949427280827_n

And I have the best job in the world.

Not only do I get to mother three amazing kids, I have the honor of connecting moms who have with moms who don’t. 

I get to remind and nudge and help mothers who’ve been dealt a good hand, remember those whose hands are empty.

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During this busy month, I sat at a picnic table at the park with some friends. The kids were swinging and sliding within earshot and occasionally we would stop our conversation mid-sentence to count their heads, while our husbands solved all the world problems a few tables down.

We are women living in community together-young and not-so-young moms and women-longing-to-be-moms trying to help each other through life and faith.

Our conversation skipped from recipes to religion and before long we were deep in conversation about Heaven and eternity and our time left here on earth.

One of my friends said, “I grew up wondering why I was born here in Houston, Texas, with so much advantage and opportunity, while other girls were born into oppression and poverty. Why was I dealt this good hand?”

She has discovered her answer by leading The Refugee Project. This is why. God knew we would help each other.

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This Mother’s Day, there will be cards and flowers and maybe some new pajamas. Or a bottle of lotion. We deserve it, right? We give ourselves away to our family everyday.

But I think we also owe ourselves a bit of perspective. Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? How can I give my kids the world?

This is how: By recognizing what we’ve been given. And by giving some of it away.

I told a friend sitting on my couch the other day that hurting women don’t need another Bible Study or another new church. They don’t need more friends or more stuff to feel complete or healed.

Hurting women need to help hurting woman. That’s how we heal our hurts. That’s how we stir up gratitude for the hand we’ve been dealt. Because we can always always find something to be thankful for even in trials, sorrow and disappointment.

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I can’t help but remember the moment when a mom in a slum in Kenya–who wanted the exact same thing for her kids that I want for mine- handed me a lapful of bracelets and I handed her $50. It was a powerful moment of empowerment.

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Who knew bracelets could change a life?

Who knew that helping her would help me?

Who knew that every woman wearing a simple paper bracelet made by Mary from a slum in Kenya would also be changed?

God. That’s who.

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This week is Mother’s Day. It’s also World Fair Trade Day.

Let’s celebrate motherhood: the best job in the world.

But mostly, let’s remember mothers everywhere.

 

[Host a fair trade girls night out.]

[sign up for one of the fair trade friday subscription clubs and provide hope and a job every month for women from around the globe.]

[shop fair trade and change the world]

Refugee Project photos by Taylor Robbins; Chalk art by SerendipityDuo

The Truth About My Family (And Probably Yours, Too)

We argued the whole way to church.

It started with a grumpy kid and quickly escalated into a fight between all my children.

Halfway there, my husband and I were arguing over how to handle the arguing kids.

Ah…parenting.

By the time we parked, no one was speaking to anybody else.

Yes, we are a holy bunch.

I was half-tempted to ask Terrell to turn the car around, you know? Some days family life is just hard.

We walked through the front door and a familiar face said, “Well, look who’s back from Africa! There they are, that world -changing family!”

If only you knew.

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“Are you ready to speak today and inspire women?” The kind person asked about the event I was doing later that day.

I smiled and tried not to cry.

Because sometimes I think if people knew the truth about my family, they would be less than impressed. And they might understand we are just like every other family–messy.  None of us belong on a pedestal.

We yell.

We cry.

We fail.

We try.

We wonder if we are getting this thing right at all.

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And it seems the more we try to live on mission, the messier our family life gets. Or maybe it just becomes more obvious that we need Jesus.

I took my youngest daughter with me to the speaking event. Afterwards, she told me my talk “was really big.”

“Oh, you mean, like it was powerful?” I asked.

“No, I mean it was really long,” she clarified.

“But was it good?” I asked feeling a little vulnerable.

“It was okay, but the sugar cubes at the drink table–those were really good,” she said and skipped off.

God has a way of keeping us humble and he will use our family to do it every time.

If you run into us at church or the store one day and see anything good in our mess, just remember it isn’t us.

It’s God.