Poetry Tea Time- Why and How?

Like so many other families, our family has a busy schedule. Our days are packed with schooling, activities, and ministry. We often have the next activity on our minds before we finish the task at hand. As the kids get older, it seems we only getting busier. And if we are not careful (and intentional), our family can easily become like ships passing in the night, each going his or her own way.

You may be thinking, “I know exactly what you mean! This is our family too!” Or maybe you are thinking, “Shanna, how is it possible for you to miss connection in your family when you live, school, and work at home? You see each other everyday, for like every minute of everyday!”

Well, it’s very possible, maybe even more possible. There is big a difference between being with people in a physical space versus connecting with people in a heart and mind space. When you see people often, there is a danger in taking their presence and their unique person for granted. Extra effort and intentionality are necessary to continue growing connections and relationships. Time is invaluable to check-in with each other to bust apart assumptions of how and what the other person may/may not have been feeling and the way they are experiencing life.

This is one of the reasons why I love Poetry Teatime. Teatime is an intentional, weekly break in our busy week to rest and reconnect with each other. It is a time to come to the table to enjoy. We set the table beautiful with “proper” tea cups and bring books to sit at our sides. We wait while the tea steeps and others speak, taking turns reading and listening to poems and plays. We slowly sip, nibble special treats, and relish the images that words and conversations bring to our minds.

It might seem very “Mary Poppins-like,” it kind of is. In a world that is increasingly becoming more confusing, dark and scary, these “Mary Poppins-like” moments are increasingly more precious to help celebrate the good and keep cheerful and magical moments alive. There are plenty of other moments in our week when the reality of the world comes crushing through our door with hard to answer questions. We don’t shy away from these things or from topics of current world issues. When these discussions and questions come, I often find myself leading a quick ground training of how to react and respond to these issues in love and according to our beliefs. Poetry Tea Time is a chance to for all of us to take a break, to refreshed and revived from our schedule and these heavy things.

So how? How does Teatime work? How can you start a time like this in your home? Teatime in your family doesn’t have to look exactly like ours. You can find some helpful tips from Julie Bogart, the creator of Poetry Tea Time here, http://poetryteatime.com. There are several components that make teatime special and enjoyable.

THE TABLE

On our table is always set with a table cloth and ceramic cups. I like to use my grandmother’s blue and white set, but we use other sets too. The Goodwill and Salvation Army are great places to find and purchase tea sets and cups. I always add fresh flowers or plants to the table. It is especially special to use something we found in our backyard- like pine boughs in the winter or daffodils in the spring. We always have at least one candle lit and sometimes my daughters will make a special table place card for each setting.

THE TREAT

Sometimes we bake our treats (or more accurately my daughter bakes them.) Sometimes we buy them. It’s fun to try cookies and treats we haven’t tried before. Then there are sometimes we use what we have in our pantry- like granola bars or crackers with peanut butter. Everything can be special and look differently when plated creatively. 🙂

THE TEA

I keep a collection of herbal and caffeine-free teas on hand and set them out on the table with sugar, milk and honey in ceramics. Sugar cubes are always fun to have. I buy them on Amazon as I haven’t had much luck finding them in my local grocery store.

THE WORDS

There are several books that always seem to make their way to the table. I encourage my kids to bring a poem, verse or short story they like to share. Sometimes the poems comes from our specific poetry books, and sometimes from unexpected places (like finding a poem in my daughter’s weekly reading assignment.) I’ve recently been encouraging all of us write our own poetry, but we are still working on that.

Sometimes, we have a Readers Theater during Teatime. We ALL love that! Here are some scripts we have used and enjoyed.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fractured-Fairy-Tale-Readers-Theater-Scripts-Writing-Activities-Grade-3456-3560643

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-True-Story-of-the-Three-Little-Pigs-Readers-Theater-Script-and-Craftivity-1125274

And sometimes, I bring our current read alouds to the table. Here are some suggestions:

https://embraceenthusiasm.net/bookshelf/


During readings, we listen to the reader and usually clap when he/she is finished. Sometimes we ask questions. Sometimes we share why we picked the poem. Sometimes we share our favorite parts. Sometimes the poem leads us into other conversations. Our Teatime lasts an hour long, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. There is a lot of “sometimes” in all of it because I feel like this is a time to just flow without an agenda.

There are many ways to set aside time and connect with family. Poetry Tea Time is just one way we do it in our family. There are other ways we connect that have nothing to do with tea or books. The important thing is making sure we are using our time wisely and and be intentional about creating spaces of connection.

How about you? How are you intentional in creating spaces to rest and reconnect as a family?

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“Shanna, Shanna”

importantvsurgent

Our days are filled with urgent and important things vying for our attention. Within the day’s whirlwind of busyness, it’s easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the important. It can be a struggle to favor crossing items off our to-do lists to spending unscheduled amounts of quality time with people. It can be difficult, feel uncomfortable, and might seem plain impossible to stop and rest. We have become tightly scheduled and overbooked. White spaces on our calendars are a rare find.
 
And I can be the worst culprit. If I am not intentional, my pace of life can be all consuming and exhausting. I can easily fall into the race of rushing from task to task, place to place, activity to activity. Instead, I want my life to be one of making time for others, resting in my surroundings, finding beauty in the quietest places, and tuning out the voices of the world to focus on hearing His voice. I want my legacy to include, “She made time for others and she loved well.”
 
It’s true, tasks, meetings, errands and chores need to get done but not at the expense of the quiet, more meaningful, and important things in life. There needs to be a balance.
 
This is a real, age-old struggle. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus enters the home of a woman named Martha. “Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
 
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
 
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
 
Just replace, “Martha, Martha” with your name and read it again- “Shanna, Shanna, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”
 
It grabs your attention, doesn’t it? If that one thing Mary was doing was stopping, listening, and resting at the feet of Jesus, I think following her example would be the best thing we can do today. I want to challenge you to take a few minutes to reevaluate today’s activities and give more attention and focus to the quiet, important things in your life. Relationships, people, listening, cheerfully helping, joyfully serving, answering with kindness- those types of things. I think we will find the urgent things are not as urgent as we thought they would be and the important things are more important and needed than what we thought. Have a great day! ❤

August Scripture Reading and Writing Calendar with Reflection Questions

2016-08-03

August Scripture Reading and Writing Calendar

July’s Scripture Writing Plan focused on God’s movement in our lives. The idea was to set aside ten minutes a day, copy the scripture and circle the verbs found within the passage. Using the daily word as a prayer focus, I hoped we would ask God to help us recognize His activity in our lives and journal our reflections.

Each morning,  I tried to slip away to a quiet place to open the Word of God. This worked best when the kids seemed occupied or when I turned on the TV to occupy them (just keeping it real…sometimes you got to do what you got to do.) Some days I was more successful at this than others, but on the days when I was able to give my complete attention to God, His Word and His voice, I felt the time spent prepared my heart and mind for the day’s constant barrage of requests and demands thrown at me. I noticed my reactions to other people seemed more gracious. I said “yes” more than “no.” I was less distracted with social media and more aware of relationships. Heavenly, eternal things seemed way more important than the earthly, fleeting things. I was filled with peace and joy. Don’t get me wrong, life was not perfect, easy or without challenges. There were still trials and life to work through but how I approached those challenges was different. I found myself prompted to rely on the LORD’s strength and reflecting on the words I was hiding in my heart and mind.

Growing up, my dad always said, “Garbage in, garbage out.” I have always remembered that phrase (see Dad, I was listening.) I do not think we give enough thought to what we are filling our ears, eyes, heart, mind and even our mouths with. What we allow in our lives will shape and mold us and eventually those things will impact the way we think, speak, act and respond. This month (and every month), I am choosing “Truth in, Good out.”

The August Scripture Reading and Writing Calendar contains scriptures that refer to our reactions to God. For deeper reflection, I have included question for each passage. My hope and prayer is for you to join me as we dig into the scriptures and ask God to align our reactions to His word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8

2016-08-03 (1)


Unplugged

unplugged

This has been a busy week and I am feeling tired, cranky and filled with dissatisfaction. My priorities are off and my time has been misplaced. My week’s “to-do” list contains many items that still need to be completed and checked off. I am ashamed to admit this, but the amount of time that I have spent looking at screens might be more than the time I have spent looking into the faces of the people right in front of me. In boredom,  I have reached for my phone and mindlessly scrolled through newsfeeds and viewed gorgeous square pictures. In avoidance, I have opened my laptop and pinned pins of inspirational quotes and organized homes, all while my house is left in disorder and a depressed state. Comparison and discontentment have weaseled their way into my heart leaving me to struggle to find joy.  I have not spent enough time with Jesus.

Something has to change! Time to hit the reset button! This weekend, I am unplugging from social media. I am eliminating the distractions and quieting the noise so I can hear more clearly and reevaluate my priorities. Time to look at boundaries and commitments AGAIN! It’s time to rediscover who is right in front of me and enjoy their company.

I am looking forward to being present and to listening intently. Listen to my kids share their ideas and dreams. Listen to my husband and hear what has been on his heart. I am going to be aware of my surroundings and look for strangers who may need someone to talk to. Most importantly, I am pausing to listen to God, hear His voice and the divine guidance He wants to give.

If you need me, you will have to find me the old-fashioned way. Pick up the telephone or come on by. I will be happy to see your face and ready to listen.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  

Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV

 


Resting Snowflakes

Resting Snowflakes

All snowflakes begin the same way. High in the sky, a tiny piece of dust collides with a cold droplet of water creating an ice crystal. As the ice crystal descends to earth, it moves through changing atmospheric conditions and responds in the creation of a snowflake. A beautiful and uniquely formed snowflake complete with exquisite patterns and plates. Not one snowflake is the same.

Children are like snowflakes. They start as a miracle, grow and form in the belly of a woman, and then are birthed into this world. Each child enters the world unique and beautifully made. Innocent and new, they do not know who they are or how to navigate the unfamiliar world they have come into.

Children depend on their parents for love and their basic needs. As children grow, parents help guide their children on the path of discovering their gifts, talents, and passions. We want our children to thrive physically, mentally, and spiritually as they grow into the exquisitely designed, healthy adults who they were created to be.

Sometimes, in our zeal to “help” our children discover who they are we often over look important things. Things like our children’s different personalities, priorities, hectic schedules, and most importantly the basic human need of rest. We are an overcommitted society. With good intentions, we end up creating and modeling a hurried, busy lifestyle rather than an atmosphere of rest and value on relationships. If we want our children to flourish in their unique person, we must learn to reevaluate our priorities and work to add rest back into our family’s schedule.

The following are ideas to implement rest back into everyday life. Some might be easier to add into your lifestyle than others. Some might require work, priority, scheduling, and practice. The work will pay off with positive results for all family members. Just as a snowflake is formed by the atmosphere around them, so will your children be formed by the environment you foster around them. Make their ascent into adulthood an atmosphere focused on relationships and with a priority to rest.

  • Be “interruptible.” Life happens at unpredictable moments. Be mentally prepared to be interrupted when your kids need to talk or want to show you something. Listening to them now will create a habit and desire to talk to you later as young adults.
  • Schedule downtime on your family’s calendar! Include your children in scheduling activities on the calendar. Schedule “rest” first and then everything else next. This will show your children that your family makes rest an important priority.
  • Make it a date! Give each of your children the gift of quality time with just you. Find care for your other children so that you can focus on one child at a time. You might be surprise at what you learn during your time together.
  • Share a family meal together! Research shows that sharing a meal is good for a family’s health and member’s self esteem. Check out the Family Dinner Project for recipes and conversation starters
  • Get into a good book! Cuddle on the couch and read together. Reading aloud has many benefits including increasing attention span, building vocabulary and creating lifelong readers. Reading aloud also opens the doors for discussion about life and difficult issues.
  • Go take a hike! Get outside and get moving. You may not think of exercise as rest but the benefits of exercise promotes good health, boost energy levels, improve moods, and helps with sleep. It is a great way to spend time together.

“100 Things I Love”

100 things I love activity

Everyone is creative in their own way. God has created each of us with different gifts and talents to be used to reflect His goodness and His image. Creativity is not constrained within the arts, it is included in the processes of thinking, planning, and decision making. Sometimes, we need to remove distractions and shift our perspective so that we can find the creativity that God designed us to enjoy.

At our last MOPS meeting, my creative Co-Coordinator came up with this amazing activity to help us “notice goodness,” “embrace rest,” and to “celebrate lavishly.”  We started our meeting by watching an engaging speaker, Kay Morison, talk about the importance of finding our creativity and embrace it as a way to recharge so we can continue to pour into others. She made a point to say that creativity looks differently in all of our lives and it can be found in things like spreadsheets and in runner’s strides.

“Creativity teaches us to be more present in the moment, enjoy the process, and let go of the end result.”

Kay Morrison-Eyes to See…Creativity 

Noticing Goodness Kit

After viewing the video, each mom was given a “Noticing Goodness Kit.” The kit contained cardstock, numbers, mat, a heart, and writing prompts. We organized the items on our paper, glued them in place, and waited for the next instruction. My Co-Coordinator asked us to think about the many things we love and then led us through two or three examples, encouraging us to be creative in how we numbered and wrote the items on our paper. 

“On your paper, write number one. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what you love? (PAUSE) Write number two. What is your favorite smell? (PAUSE)” 

Once we all had a good idea of what we were to do, she sent us off to find a peaceful, quiet space. Then we were left alone with our thoughts, a pen and our paper.

When you are a mom of little ones, you rarely get 30-40 minutes of alone time without interruptions. The time to think was a gift in itself.

It took me three or four tries to find a comfortable, quiet spot. Once I found a space, I did nothing but sat and breathed. The silence was unfamiliar. A good five minutes went by before I pulled out the prompts and things started coming to mind. Sometimes, they came quickly. Word after word. A few times, I got stuck and sat in silence again. I found that there was no particular order of importance and one word/memory often led to many other things that I loved. Before I knew it I had 100 items on my paper. I could have kept going.

I reread my list and realized that I had missed things that I absolutely love- chocolate-chip cookies, apple picking, Santa Claus, running, the 4th of July. I also realized that I missed many memories- Story Land with my family, going to Cape Cod, my wedding, soda floats in chemistry beakers with my grandpa, and watching Days of Our Lives with my aunt.

It did not matter what I missed or how many things I forgot. This was not a checklist-type of activity. No bonus points for the best or most unique item. This was practice in opening our eyes to notice the goodness in the every day, in the smallest moments, with the people who you do life with. It was also helped us embrace rest and to celebrate lavishly in what we accomplished.

You do not have to have a special kit to complete this activity. Grab a piece paper. Find 30 minutes of “quiet” time- maybe at nap time or when the kids go to bed.  Start one at a time and number your items. I think you find yourself opening up as you go. If you get stuck, here are a list of prompts that you can use:  100 Things I Love Prompts

If you need even more inspiration, check out these pins and the different ways others have completed this type of project:

47cf8424f630cbe354480d34025c660d 100 things

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AY8ichhWgnUDkgUSc6s1DyiIul1JJc6DNunyzFLpTtCXGwgxWIxl4TQ/

936c1ff85216238296c771d3ce8e88f7100things

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/131871095314686653/

1eaaed8f2f645d38cd611e262c983c9e100things

Crafty Island Girl

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/267119821626528980/

e15b7e8f80cc914b697f7fd06523c413100things

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/267119821626529714/

If you do get a chance to do this activity, I would love to hear your thoughts and how you did.

Embrace your creativity!


The Red Line

The Red Line

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

I bravely and joyfully walked up to my unknown neighbor’s walkway and stood ready to ring the doorbell. The feeling was a familiar one. I felt as if I was fifteen-years old again, carrying the tattered Romans Road prayer card in my hand, confidently uncertain I had the right words to lead anyone to the One who could save their soul from eternal damnation. Now much older and more confident, I held another tattered book in my hand and looked out over the beautiful faces of my group. It wasn’t the First Baptist Youth Group Evangelism Team that stood in front of me. It was twenty-five, enthusiastic, joyful church members holding matching tattered books-caroling books ready for adventure. They were my fellow companions on an adventure of song through the church neighborhood. Our mission, to spread Christmas cheer and joy to our neighbors.

Up until today, my caroling experience was limited to junior high choirs and visitations to nursing homes. I had never been caroling door to door before. We only had a loose plan. Walk, sing, and ring a doorbell here and there. It seemed easy enough and I was fairly confident it would be great fun. I was not prepared for what God had prepared for this day.

At each house, we sang a few songs, presented a kid-made Christmas card, and asked if there was anything we could pray for with them. No questions about knowing where they were going when they died, no judgments, and certainly no expectations. To our surprise, many people shared their stories of hurt, pain, and loneliness and so many people accepted the invitation for prayer. Humbly we prayed, lovingly we hugged, and joyfully we sang and smiled.

The world needs more HOPE, LOVE, and JOY.

I came back home on a Holy-Spirit high! I was so grateful and so humbled that God entrusted us with this type of “work.” In between my thinking and praising, I started to visualize a red line, like a ribbon, that stretched back to my childhood, trailing through present time, and continuing on through my unknown future.

Following the red ribbon back in time, I came to many different situations, opportunities, and experiences which seemed normal at the time. Everyday living, everyday interactions, everyday moments now seemed sacred and holy. Some of those encounters with people, places, and experiences specifically prepared me for the work God has for me to do now AND the work He has for me to do in the future.

My family, the church I grew up in, the correspondence Bible classes at age eight, prayer meetings that lasted long into the night, Christian friends/non-Christian friends, Southern Baptist summer camp, street evangelism with my youth group, college, separation from the Lord, teaching, and marrying my then teacher-now pastor husband. Some of these moments were fun, great, and exciting. Some of these moments were trying, painful, and paralyzing. But each of these moments stand as a marker, an ebenezer, of God’s help and faithfulness on the red line of my life. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. 

Jeremiah 29:12-14

I have no idea what’s in store for me next but God does. Some days, I am guilty of spending enormous, wasteful amounts of time feeling anxious, worried, and fearful about what the future will hold. I dwell on the next big thing the Lord is calling me to do, all the while almost missing out on what He has planned for me to do right at that moment. I can drive myself loopy with all that thinking. And while, it is good to think about future plans, dream, and prepare; it is wrong to be so caught up with worry and fear that you cannot seek the Lord with your whole heart.

We have a short time left in this year. This season comes so many emotions. If you are dealing with an anxious, hurting, fearful heart, I encourage you to ask God to replace the worry, fear, and weariness with peace, hope, love, and joy. If it is difficult to do, try following your red ribbon back in time, searching for markers of God’s faithfulness. You might be surprised what you find. Some markers will be easy to locate, wrapped in lots of red ribbon and right out in the open; but others might be hidden, tied with a simple bow waiting to be pulled out and discovered. Each marker is a gift from our Lord and our hope and assurance that our future rests in Him.

Live out each day for what it is. Embrace the people and interactions that come into your path. We may never know how God will use them in our future or in the future of another person. Lastly, enjoy! Enjoy this season for the hope that it brings and the peace that is offered. Embrace it all with the Lord’s help.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

Romans 8:28