Before the First Leaf Falls

What can I say?  It’s summer, and I don’t think life has been any richer than it is right now.  So much glorious weather, glorious food, glorious play. Behind the scenes I’m a crazy woman, working day and night on something really exciting, really consuming, but right now on the main stage it’s still summer through and through.  And enjoying it with these little munchkins is objective #1.

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This summer seems to be an equal mixture of 2 types of days around here- 1) warm, sunny blue-skied days that demand burgers on the grill and icy margaritas, and 2) dark, stormy days that rain absolute buckets.  Tough to decide which I like more, but I’m pretty sure it’s the rainy days.  I don’t doubt that we’ve set a rainfall record this year, and as far as I’m concerned, the more, the better.  It has a way of feeding my soul.

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And is there anything better, on those blustery, rumbly days, than a good old fashioned puppet show?  I think not.  We enjoyed an especially fun one this week.

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What else on a rainy day?  Why sew of course.  Rain pitter pattering on the leaves outside my sewing room window is nothing short of heavenly.  Unless of course, it means halting whatever treehouse decorating project is underway (that apparently involves slathering one’s self in school glue).  Then we’re inside again and there’s no shortage of things to do.

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The kids are definitely growing like weeds, but you know who else is growing?  Ranger boy!  Our little fuzzball is practically a full grown pup now and it’s officially hard to remember life without him in it.

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So here’s to summer.  Here’s to climbing and swinging, dancing and eating and growing.  May we soak in every precious moment of it before the first leaf falls.

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XO

July Beyond the Block

Hi All!  Ahhhh, it’s July!  So busy this month, but how thankful I am for this Beyond the Block series!  I think the big man upstairs knew just the ticket for keeping me grounded this year, amidst all my big projects and hectic family schedule, I’m pulled back each month to slow down, ponder, and re-examine some things.  What a blessing!  If it weren’t for this monthly commitment, I know I would surely get distracted and not dedicate this much-needed personal time.  Thanks for joining in with me!

So this month we’re stitching up a pretty cross/star combo that I’m calling “Serve” in honor of our personal  challenge to BE…a Servant.

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When it comes time to choose our Beyond the Block challenge each month, I simmer, I pray, and I go through the list of challenges I made last year to see which is tugging at my heart that month.  Sometimes I’m “in the mood” for one or the other, or have an idea about how I want to approach a specific challenge…so I usually am able to settle on one fairly easily.  But this month was different.  This month, as before, I did feel “called” toward a specific challenge, but the truth of it is, it was tough.  I had passed over “be a servant” month after month, each time opting for something else because, truthfully, I just wasn’t “feeling it”.  It’s funny, because this very hesitation is what caused me to go back to this topic.  Perhaps the challenge that I least “feel like” working on is the one that I truly need to work on.

Webster’s dictionary defines a “servant” as “a person in the service of another.”  To serve is to render assistance, to be of use, to help.  Yes, helping others is good.  My heart knows this.  But when I look to the Bible for instruction, I receive an even stronger call toward service- I Peter 4:10 tells me “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  In fact, not only does it call me to use my gifts to serve others, but if I look at Christ’s example, I’m actually to be…well, a slave.  Mark 10:44 says “And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be a slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as ransom for many.”  Time and time again, this message is repeated: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” -Matthew 23:11

So, we should serve.  What does that mean?  I think it boils down to a really foundational concept:  Humility.  No matter where I look, humility seems to be the key to practically everything.  Respect, compassion, gratitude, generosity- they all stem from humility.  Last is first. Lowest is highest.  It’s about understanding and living the reality that I am no better than anyone else, that my needs aren’t more important than anyone else’s.  Yes, I want to thrive and succeed just like everyone else.  I want to meet my own needs and to follow my dreams.  Can I do this at the same time that I’m striving to humble myself and to serve others?

I know the answer is yes, and the beautiful thing is that the two are inseparably linked!  The more I give, the more full I will be.  It seems contradictory, but what oh what a truth it is.

So what does this mean for me?  I know I am called to serve others, but how does this translate into my everyday life?  I’m a busy mom.  I’m already serving my kids and my husband every day, right?  I want to go deeper, so what does this really look like?  Must I join the Salvation Army and volunteer in soup kitchens every day of the week?  Here are some realistic starting points that I think I can build on as I embark on this challenge to think of others before myself:

  • Be patient when waiting in line, for anything.  Even when folks ahead of me are moving slowly, I can use this simple gesture- kindness and peace in the face of waiting- as a way to recognize that everyone around me has needs.
  • Eat what I am served, even if I don’t like it.  I’m the lady who has given a drink back to the barista at Starbucks when I don’t think it has the right amount of chocolate in it, or let’s my waiter know when I think my salad is shy of the avocado slices I know it deserves.  I always thought it was my “right” to demand the food I want because, well, I’m paying for it, and technically I do, but I recognize that what I’m really doing when I reject food either at a restaurant or someone’s home (unless I’m allergic to it), is creating more work for others, and making it known that I am a priority.  Can I just let this go, and eat what I’m served?  Especially when millions in the world are starving?  Yes.
  • Let cars merge in front of me.  I should strive never to be that driver who speeds up or acts like I don’t notice someone’s turning signal.
  • Bring food, even when I’m not asked.  This could be a meal for a family who’s just moved or had a baby, or bag of bagels and cream cheese to work or a meeting.  Who isn’t blessed by unexpected nourishment?
  • Serve at home.  This means ditching the “you have legs” reaction, and selflessly serving those in your home at every opportunity.  Filling a drink, packing a lunch, doing a chore that isn’t normally yours and expecting nothing in return.  What better way to inspire service and sacrifice in my husband and kids than to demonstrate it myself?
  • Be a friend.  This can mean so many things.  Listening ears, a thoughtful note, a generous carpool or babysitter.  I can go the extra mile to be a better friend.
  • Be a neighbor.  Could I mow my neighbor’s lawn in addition to my own?  Can I bring in newspapers that collect in the driveway?  How about bringing produce or flowers from my garden to someone else, even when I know I could use them all myself.
  • Volunteer.  No doubt there are immediate needs around us all for volunteer help- the nursery at church, the PTA at school, selling concessions at kid’s sports games or leading a youth group. I so often convince myself that I don’t have time for these things, but the fact of the matter is, I make excuses because I don’t want to do them.   I can work to put my schedule aside and give more generously of my time.
  • Donate.  Clothes, food, appliances, a vehicle.  Whenever I can possibly spare items that others are in need of, I can go out of my way to donate them.

And these are just a few ideas!  There are so many zillions of ways we can serve one another, and they’re not tough to find when we just start looking for them.  From the smallest of gestures- a friendly wave- to the largest of sacrifices, I can find ways to serve others every single day.  Do you have more ideas?  I’d love to hear them!

XO

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