As a child, one of my favorite houses to visit was right next door . . . my grandparents’. When my sisters and I saw grandpa sitting on the porch, it was our cue to run down the hill to share a sleeve of saltine crackers and a can of Vienna sausages. (Don’t judge . . . anything is a treat when you share it with grandpa.) The house was a fascinating dichotomy—a garage crammed with tools and truck parts that smelled of oil and gasoline next to immaculate flower beds teeming with pristine, sweet-smelling roses . . . grandpa in his coveralls smudged head to toe in oil and grandma with her neatly coiffed hair and manicured nails. When I think of that home, memories flood in of summer evenings on the porch with my family, Christmas Eve parties, and Easter egg hunts. One constant ingredient in every visit to that cozy house, however, was laughter. I loved to hear my parents chuckling at grandpa’s latest joke, my great aunts and uncles howling with laughter as they shared stories from childhood, and grandma giggling at all of our silly antics. That house was blessed! Recently, I attended a house blessing for a new home. It was so cool! And it reminded me of what makes a house blessed—faith, family and laughter. My grandparents’ house wasn’t very big or extravagant, but it was full of those essentials. I’m hoping yours is, too! Here’s my prayer and blessing for your home: I pray your home is built on a foundation of love and faith that stands firm in life’s storms. (Matthew 7:24-26) I pray your family is sheltered, provided for and safe always. (Philippians 4:19) I pray your door opens to those you love often. (Hebrews 10:24-25) I pray your rooms are filled with the sounds of pattering feet. (Psalm 127:3-5) I pray your walls echo with much laughter. (Psalm 126:2)
When you got in trouble as a child, did you ever hear this phrase before the boom was lowered? “This hurts me more than you.” Ummm, I don’t think so. Whose behind is stinging right now? As a parent, I understand it’s not as simple as that. Discipline is no fun for the one who has messed up, but it’s no cakewalk for the one handing down consequences either. For example, when my kids were in elementary, playground time after school was a reward for good behavior. I loved chatting with other moms while they played. On days when they didn’t hit the behavior mark, I was just as sad as they were when we walked past those giggling children and cackling moms on our way to the car. Why did I have to be punished, too? Fast forward a few years and my daughter recently got a speeding ticket. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with an extra driver around. So I was just as bummed as she was to take her keys away for a bit. Now I have to drive her to work and her siblings to a myriad of sports workouts and practices. Good grief . . . how inconvenient! On top of it all, the moment you deliver the consequences you see the “face.” You know the one . . . that you-just-stuck-a-knife-in-my-heart face. No matter how disappointed or even angry you are, when your children hurt—even as a result of their own actions—it matters. Parenting is already pretty difficult. Is discipline really so important? In the midst of my whining, I got an image of God walking through a pristine garden in the cool of the evening . . . alone. Remember in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve made their big boo-boo? Prior to then, God hung out with them in an incredibly beautiful place he created. It looks to me like he really enjoyed their company. But when they disobeyed, there were consequences. God had to look them in the face and tell them how they would suffer as a result. I can only imagine their heartbroken, frightened expressions. God created them . . . of course their pain mattered to Him. But I think, most of all, God was saddened that he could no longer be in their presence. I believe he missed them. If God didn’t take the easy way out and let his … Read More
My daughter Katie was driving home the other evening and saw something that made her happy. She was so inspired that she sped into the driveway and ran into the house at full speed. “Where’s your sister?” I asked wondering what was wrong. “She’s in the car. I need to grab the camera before it’s gone,” she called out as she whizzed by me camera in hand. “Beautiful sunset. We’re gonna take some pics.” And with that, she was gone again. Wow. Some sunset, I thought. And it was. They came back with several shots of stunning colors as the sun made its exit for the evening. You’ve probably experienced a sunset, sunrise or spectacular view of nature that made you stop and smile. Maybe you even said, “Now, that’s a work of art.” I’m not much of an artist myself, but I know a few. Creating art is not just a skill for them . . . it is a love language to be shared. In fact, from the time children are small, they share their art. Like me, you probably have a box, drawer or wall full of drawings and colorings from the children you love. Don’t you love their sweet faces, beaming with love and pride, as they proclaim, “Look what I made for you!” and present you with their best creation? Art is a love language for God, too. His palette is just a little bigger. I’m fascinated and amazed by the glint of sunbeams dancing through pine trees, the delicate layers of soft red rose petals, or a sunset that fills the sky with fiery hues. Every time I see something special like that, I can almost hear God saying, “Look what I made for you.” It makes me happy. How about you? “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1 NIV)
Yesterday was the last day of the school year for my kiddos and they celebrated in very different ways. One came home, fell in the bed and took a nap that lasted . . . well, it is still going as I type this. (She’s OK and breathing. I’ve checked several times.) The other two came home dancing, went for ice cream and jumped in the lake (which was very, very cold). I suppose everyone has their own idea of relaxation and fun. When my babies were younger, I thought we needed a packed summer of activities to make the most of the time. It was busy and exciting, but just hanging out and letting them crawl all over me was fun, too. There are lists galore with summer ideas to be googled. Here are 60 of my favorites that don’t take you far from home. Whatever you do this summer, make sure you get plenty of hugs, kisses and snuggle time! (And a nap or two doesn’t hurt.) Declare a coloring day – dig out all your coloring books and colors Explore history Go fishing – for real or pretend Learn about other places/cultures Have a scavenger hunt – in the house, in the yard or beyond Plan a circus at home – dress up like clowns, enlist the family dog to do “tricks”, tumble, etc. Make a homemade piñata – Google it, some are pretty easy to make Write a silly story or poem and read it at supper Craft day – find simple crafts online like making tissue paper flowers, pinecone bird feeders, etc. Have a Nerf gun battle Play hide-and-seek Go camping at a state park or in the back yard Play hopscotch Learn about stars during the day and count them at night Make a fort with pillows Look up how to make some simple musical instruments (like paper rolls and rice) Laughing day — see how many jokes you can write or look up and share them at lunch or dinner Hunt for bugs Get dirty (play in the sand or dirt) Run through sprinklers Go to the zoo Paint something Play kickball Go to a flea market (make a craft with what you find) Take cards to a retirement home Balloon day, including a water balloon fight Have a picnic Dress up like . . . Go to a museum Sculpt with clay … Read More
As a mom, I mess up . . . a lot. Dirty laundry. Drive-thru suppers. Pit-eeeeee-ful birthday planning. The list goes on. (Can I get an Amen?) But one thing I know I can ALWAYS do right is pray for my kiddos. I’ve looked it up and prayer is a good idea. Period. Any prayer. Any time. Any place. Talking to God about your kids doesn’t have to be long or formal. It just needs to be consistent. That’s hard when you’re doing the mom thing from the time you wake up in the morn until you crash at night. In fact, when I actually try to spend time on my knees in a quiet place, I wake up groggy, facedown, forehead on arms with drool on my “prayer bench” . . . sad, but true! So, here are a few unconventional times and places I talk to God about my children throughout the day that might help you, too. –In bed before the snooze goes off. You know you do it! We ALL hit the snooze when that annoying morning alarm goes off. Why not whisper a quick prayer for your kids as your first act of the day while snuggling under the covers for that last 10 minutes? “God thank you for this day and for my children. Please bless them, protect them and guide me as their mom today.” It’s as simple as that . . . and you can even keep your eyes closed! –During morning coffee. If you steal a few minutes for a steaming cup of coffee in your favorite chair or on the patio before waking the house up, why not share it with God? Have a chat about your loved ones. That’s what friends do! –In the car. I’ve spent a lot of time in the car—school pick-up lines, sports practice shuttles, forgotten lunch drop-offs. I’m sure you do, too. Don’t just sing along with the radio. It’s a great time to pray. –On a walk. I’m not a fan of exercise. But when I do go for a walk, talking to God about my family makes the time more pleasant. Try it! –While doing housework. There is just something about praying for your child as you fold their undies that gets real. No lie! Laundry, dishes, vacuuming . . . talk to God while you work. He’ll listen. –In the shower. … Read More
Did you ever wear two different earrings . . . not on purpose? I did. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things, considering the morning craziness. I was running late, of course. It was one of those mad scrambles out the door . . . kind of like I imagine soldiers under attack who are running to their foxholes near the frontline of battle. I’m tearing through the house waving the kids on like a sergeant. Go, go, GO . . . save yourself, get to the van! An errant lunch bag falls out of a backpack. Don’t stop for that! Are you crazy? Just go. No time! NO TIME! Sound familiar? Come on, you can admit it to me. No judging here. It wasn’t until that evening when I took my earrings out that I even noticed. Wait a minute! No one else noticed either. Now I wear pretty big ear hardware. I’m stuck in the 80s, I admit. I gave my husband a hug and kiss goodbye, chatted with several moms at the school, and spent all afternoon and evening with my family. No one noticed. At first I was glad. Then offended. Are you kidding me? Am I that insignificant that such a fashion flub never raised an eyebrow? Am I invisible? Good grief! Maybe there are days when you feel the same. You get up, get everyone out the door, do your thing, get your crew back home, feed all, work on homework, tuck ‘em in, fall into bed and start over. Perhaps you feel that no one notices what you do. I have good news. God does! “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go . . .” (Genesis 28:15). If you are feeling invisible, I understand. But please know that God notices your sacrifices, your pain, your exhaustion. And he loves you, mismatched earrings and all. P.S. If you have young children, just wait. When they become teens, you’ll WISH they don’t notice so much. “Mom, are you really wearing those earrings today?!” Good grief!
Hello there! Please allow me to introduce myself . . . I am a _____ who _______. Hmmmm. Should I fill in the blanks with my personal life or professional title? Of course, I’m not perfectly accomplished in those things . . . still a work in progress. OK then, maybe I should write in who I want to be? But sometimes that changes daily. Oh, how about how other people see me? Not sure on that one, though. Good grief! This may take longer than I thought. What about you? If you had to describe yourself in one sentence—who you are and what you do—how would it go? Not enough paper? I hear ya. Well then, let’s NOT narrow it down. All your “titles” make up the one, uniquely perfect you! So . . . I’ll just share a few things about me and maybe we have a lot in common. I’m a wife and mom. My sweet husband Geoff and I have three teen-age children—three TEENS! Eeeeek! I have to read it to believe it. Katie, Ethan and Gracie keep things a hoppin’ in the Roark household, but that’s the subject for a whole different blog. Wife and mom . . . I usually say those two together because they are so intertwined. Do you? I forget that I need to occasionally separate the two and focus my attentions (especially on that wife thing!). Also, another whole topic. Moving on . . . I’m a storyteller. I’ve written professionally for more than 25 years, sharing stories for ministries, non-profits, newspapers and more. Stories are the best! I absolutely love hearing about the courage, connections and compassion of the human spirit. Maybe someday you’ll tell me your story? I’m a fan of children. God did his best work when he devised the family plan that included kiddos. Babies, toddlers, and children of all ages . . . love, love, love! They give us purpose, make us laugh, help us grow, and share the gift of love without reservation. I’ve volunteered in children’s ministry most of my life, from teaching Sunday School to leading Children’s Church to clowning and sharing puppets. The kiddos often call me Miss Shelly . . . you can, too, if you like. Last but not least (as they say), I’m a child of God. If you aren’t, I highly recommend it. Being a Christian is … Read More