Kids, a.k.a. In Summer!

It is already summer vacation here. The last day of school was May 22nd and so we now have 3 children again. All. Day. Long. I know at least some of you out there are feeling my pain with 10 weeks of summer break, the need to work from home, and a spouse who is working and going to school. This summer was looking to be a huge panic-inducing mess until I had a moment of divinely inspired brilliance (let’s face it, where else would it come from?) and created an activity system for our girls to use that basically allows them to manage their own time and chores, and guarantees that something will be accomplished at the end of the day (even if it is just enough to save my sanity).

We have all done chore charts, right? In our house, countless chore charts have been created, strictly followed for a week, and promptly abandoned. I can see several reasons for this, the top being that it requires parental initiation and we are not great at staying on top of it all while juggling our schedules. Also, chore charts, no matter what kind of stickers you use, are just boring. No one likes them, ok, probably someone out there loves chore charts. We are just not those people.

We need a system that will run itself, that is highly motivating, and fun. And fair. Let’s not forget who we are dealing with–a 7 year old and a 10 year old–sisters. So, I got the idea to make magnets with daily chores, activities, and extra chores. We’ll call this the “Pick-5” system. There are 10 daily chores, of which the girls can pick 5 to do on any given day. When they complete a chore, they move that magnet to the “Done” zone. They can do these chores whenever they want, which means my oldest has gotten up several mornings and promptly done all five. When daddy gets home from work, he’ll holler “Pick-5” and if they have not completed five chores it is time to do so. We have not had to do this yet, because of the motivation factor.

There are also activity magnets on the fridge. These range from self-directed activities like reading for 20 minutes using the kitchen timer, to adult-intensive activities like going swimming. The self-directed activities give them ideas for what to do and when completed these also go into the “Done” zone. Some activities, like reading, are renewable as many times as they want. Others, like watch a tv show and 15 minutes of computer/game time, have to be redeemed.

Here is where the motivation comes in! In order to redeem another tv show or computer time, they must have all 5 chores completed as well as their reading. Then they can pick an *Extra Chore*. These are chores like picking up sticks in the yard, wiping down window sills, sweeping, mopping, doing a load of laundry. They are challenging and not something I would expect them to do every day, but are good training for life in general, and let’s face it, they are the chores that I would pay someone to do so that I don’t have to do them myself. So I do, I pay them in extra tv time.

What this has produced in our house in the past week is a pair of girls who do their chores on their own, without complaining, and come back for more! Why didn’t this brilliance strike years ago? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter because I am taking full advantage of it now!


Sorry for the poor photo, the real camera is waiting for a new charger, I just couldn’t wait to post my new source of sanity!

I am attaching the pages for chore and activity cards below if any of you parents out there want to use this system for your kids. It is not proprietary, I will not charge you to use something that came so easily and has been such a blessing already.

Chores And Activities

Happy Kids, Happy Mom, Sanity, All a part of the Refreshing Life!



Feeling With

Compassion seems to be a difficult thing these days. As strange as it seems with all of our ability to stay connected to people around the globe, that connection does not reach our hearts.

Reading a celebratory post or tweet inspires jealousy of rather than rejoicing with a friend. Pausing at a tragic post may provoke a near-tearful 10 seconds before we move on to the dancing cats lolzing about dogs and cheeseburger. All of our access seems to have shut off our ability to feel with the life experiences of others.

I can’t count the number of blogs I have read about people’s frustration with image-crafting on social media, or complaints about one cause getting buzz with a hashtag while the blogger’s cause goes unnoticed. While I would never claim that people don’t filter their social media lives, for many this happens unintentionally. I don’t know many people IRL who stop and think “How will this post add to my overall image?” Instead, they post the things that are big and meaningful. A new baby. A new job. A new love. Death. Divorce. Despair.

As for hashtags and forwards and shares, we tend to jump on board and pass on the things that instinctively trigger our support. Maybe that means supporting with a retweet an article with the better headline, not necessarily the better fact-checking. Sometimes that means promoting with a hashtag the cause with the more emotional pictures, not the one with the greatest impact. Nor does our slacktivism translate into real life action or even attention on the part of many.

So how do we bring compassion back?

I say we start with ourselves. Assume the best of your connections. When you read a post that irks you, stop and think about why this person may have posted or shared. Does it reflect a deeply held value? Is it an expression of their sense of joy, or loneliness? Don’t start by assuming they posted it to annoy you. (Maybe they did, but that is their problem, right?) Chances are their posts are about them, and have nothing to do with you. (Narcissism goes both ways.)

Choose to rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. For real. Stop and take a moment to write a personal message to that friend with a new baby. Like the cute pics, but go further and start a conversation, offer to come do their laundry or bring a meal. Real life interactions help us avoid the Noid. Program a reminder in your phone for a week or two from now to text that friend who just suffered a big loss. Commiserate on facebook today, but lend lasting support. Say a prayer for them now and do the same tomorrow.

It takes extra effort to forge deep bonds with people when we don’t see them face-to-face. Take some time to talk to real people in the same room with you, and when you communicate over the internet remember those are real people, too.

Compassion and empathy, definitely part of a Refreshing Life!


Baby Steps

I was pondering recently how different I am today than I was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. (Alas, the peril of birthdays!)

I don’t know if the me then would like the me now. I am not sure the me now would like the me then, either. (Sometimes I shake my head, but I love her dearly. Honestly.) We certainly would not agree on many things.

We wouldn’t like the same clothing, although our fashion would be the least of our differences. We would have different views on what makes a body healthy, a marriage satisfying, and children happy.

We would certainly have different views on politics, religion, and world affairs. We would both claim to love God and follow Jesus, but the way that faith expresses itself in our lives would stand in stark contrast.

Some things have not changed, or I should say some things began there in the form of seedling decisions and have grown bigger and stronger.

My choice to love instead of respond in hate, the seeds of non-violence.

My choice to love others who are different from me, the seeds of broad acceptance of people as they are–expressing the image of God in them, instead of trying to remake them in my own image.

My choice to allow the Holy Spirit to shape me, the seeds of so much growth and change in how I read scripture and see my life in light of its truths.

Like looking back in snapshots, I can clearly see who I was in those moments, but the path between them gets blurred. I don’t remember when I decided that while there were things I would die for, there is perhaps only one for which I would kill–my children. I don’t remember when I decided that I would rather be healthy than wear a certain size. I don’t know when I decided it was ok for me to speak my mind and trust my husband to listen and love me anyway (and he does in surprising ways as the years of marriage continue to stack up).

Maybe I don’t remember because all of those changes came slowly. Testing the waters. Going a little deeper.

Baby steps toward being the fully-formed person who will probably look back on this post in 10 years or so and shake her head at all the growth that still needs to come.

Taking that journey one step at a time and trusting the Way to lead me,
How Refreshing!

National day of prayer 2014

Today is the first Thursday of May and so it is the National Day of Prayer. At noon, several will gather in White Park on the corner of 6th Ave and Merchant St. to pray for our nation. Here is my contribution to today’s prayers. Sometimes the best prayers are those we think about before we pray. Written prayer is not part of my tradition, but I find beauty in contemplating the words I will speak on behalf of myself and all of God’s children.

Hebrews 4:12-16
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Prayer for repentance & rededication
God of grace and mercy, draw the hearts of your children to you. Open our eyes to the broken places in our hearts and lives that need your touch. Convict us of our sin through the Holy Spirit. Show us the way of peace and wholeness that you offer those who follow your Son, Jesus. Turn us away from the distractions of the world, and the temptation to wander in our own ways. Cause our hearts to chase after your heart.

Give us a passionate dedication to the beauty of the Gospel message and the desire to shine your light into dark places. Convince us that the things we hold onto are useless and hinder us from running with victory the race you have set before us. Help us to lay down whatever does not lead to a deeper love for you and a fuller heart of service for those around us. Show us how to put aside not only sin, but anything that keeps us from fully dedicating our very selves to you.

Take our lives, our hearts, our families, our jobs, our relationships, our activities, our churches, and wring them out of the excess and the corruption of serving our selfish motives. Fill us with a vision of every part of our lives lived to bring glory and honor to you.

May your Holy Spirit produce mature fruit in our lives that you can use to feed those around us who are hungry for the things of you. May your love pour forth from us, your joy fill every moment, your peace pervade our relationships, your attitude of long-suffering give us perseverance in difficulty, your kindness characterize our interactions with the world, your goodness motivate our decisions, your faithfulness the foundation of our grounded life, your gentleness evident in our evangelism, and self –discipline the strength that enables us to continue putting one foot in front of the other as we follow you.

All for your glory and the revelation of your rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven, through your Son Jesus, our LORD.