New Year, New Adventures (aka I published a book!)

I am so excited about the release of my new book, Quaker Queries for All Seasons!


In the book you will find 60 spiritual questions to guide us through a new year of seeking to grow in our Christ-centered faith. It is available in both paperback as well as Kindle ebook.

If you’d like to process these queries with others in community, come join our discussion group on Facebook: Query Discussion Group-Quaker Queries for All Seasons

I hope to see you there!

 

New Adventures in a New Year,
ReFreshing!

https://www.amazon.com/author/charitysandstrom

 

 

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5 Ways to Not be a Jerk this Christmas

Holidays are stressful! Sometimes it is all we can do to hold ourselves together and maintain our status as civilized humans. Everything is pressure-filled, schedules are packed, people are living on caffeine and sugar. It all just leads to a gigantic case of the Christmas Crankies!

Photo by linder6580

Here are some ways you can resist the temptation to throw a public tantrum and maybe, just maybe, help someone else have a merrier Christmas season as well.

1. Let that person with three things go before you in the supermarket line. We’ve all been there. Last minute dash to the store before a Christmas party, or that dinner you thought you had all of the ingredients for. You pick up your items only to find all the open lanes packed and no speedy check out lanes open. Wouldn’t you want someone to kindly allow you and your tiny purchase to go first? Thinking with compassion and empathy lets us feel good about ourselves and it really does help someone else!

2. Let someone in while driving through traffic. I get aggravated when I drive and all the people are weaving in and out of the lanes, going slow in the fast lane, and just plain being rude. Here’s how I feel better in those situations. I find a way to add some politeness and niceness to the atmosphere. One way you can do that is by letting someone in. I don’t care if they should have merged 5 miles back, here they are in need and you have the power to help. Let them in. You will feel virtuous, and maybe they will pass on the kindness to others. If everyone were to just do one small kindness while driving the roads would be a safer place.

Photo by rachelg

3. Hold doors open for people with too many burdens. ‘Tis the season for over-shopping. And with that comes overconfidence in our ability to carry 14 parcels, packages, and shopping bags! When you are walking through a door, stop and take a look around. Is there someone who you could hold the door for? Literally 30 seconds of your time invested in your fellow humans can make the world a brighter place.

4. Park at the back of the parking lot. I know you like to park up front. I know it is tempting to circle until you find the perfect space. If you are like me, though, after about three trips up and down the aisles I am fed up and cranky! Skip the aggravation, burn off a bite of sugar cookie and park at the back of the lot. If you have mobility issues, you get a pass, but those with averagely abled legs can walk for 3 minutes and cut down on the up front parking congestion.

5. Tip Generously! Sometimes I get one of those waiters. You know the ones who don’t come to your table, refill your drinks, get the order wrong and otherwise just aren’t putting the “serve” in service. Well, during the holidays we need to show a little extra grace. I don’t know about you, but wait staff is not my dream job. It probably isn’t their dream job either. Maybe they are working to make ends meet and this is their second job. Maybe they are tired and worn out from working 60 hours a week just to make enough for rent and daycare. Maybe they just had one of those customers. The demanding, rude, “leave a snarky note on the back of the ticket instead of a real tip” kind of customers. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day how about we make a pact to tip generously whether they deserve it or not. We get to feel good about ourselves and they get to experience grace.

Doing something nice for others can help us in our cranky moments to find a light in the darkness by shining a little light ourselves.

Now That’s ReFreshing!

Home Made Christmas

There are times and seasons in life that require more from us than what we think we are capable of giving. When stresses pile up. When bills beckon. When life seems to be stacked against us. It is all so very disheartening.

It can be even more challenging when all of these arrive just in time for Christmas. It is supposed to be a time for cheer, a time of extravagance, of gifts and toys and pleasures all around. These expectations leave so many feeling like they are on the edge of a party they aren’t worthy to enter.

If you find yourself at that place this Christmas season, longing to give gifts and celebrate at parties but you don’t have extra cash to spend or a kitchen with a double boiler with which you can candy coat the world, take heart. Here are some easy, and I do mean easy, and inexpensive (yippee!) ways to create a home-made Christmas on a budget.

Bonus! Two of the projects are recycled/upcycled so you get to feel good about saving the planet as well!

1. Cell Phone Pocket for Charging

Do you have an old pair of jeans lying around? Like maybe the ones in your closet that are 3 sizes too small and you always thought that someday you’d wear them again? Today is the day for sacrifice. Cut the back pocket carefully from the jeans extending that cut up and over the seam above the pocket before you get to the waistband. Then cut a little window just above the pocket and below the upper seam. It should look like this:

You can, if you want and are able, sew or glue a ribbon or edging around the cut edges to pretty it up, or just leave it raw.

You can, if you want and are able, glue or iron on some personalizing glitz to make the pocket sparkle, or just leave it natural.

The pocket works like the images below, slip your phone in and hang the phone from the charger plug. It is handy for travel when outlets may not be near a shelf and you don’t want your phone lying on the floor.

2. Flannel or Fleece Scarf

Flannel and fleece are awesome because they don’t fray terribly so you can get away with no sew projects that have rough edges. If you can cut a relatively straight line and you have $2.50 to spend on a fleece throw from Walmart, you have enough for several gifts this season.

Walmart has these fleece throws for $2.50

They measure 50 inches by 60 inches. they have an edging sewn around the whole throw and you can either trim that off first, or simply cut the edges off that you prefer. If you have a ruler, pull it out. If you don’t have a ruler, hang tight, we’ll fold and cut instead.

Measure in 10 inch sections, or if you are feeling generous, 15 inch sections. Snip the edge of the blanket to mark 6 10 inch scarves, or 4 15 inch scarves.  Fold the blanket at the mark and cut the length of the fold. If you don’t have a ruler, simply fold the blanket in half, cut the length of the fold. Fold the two pieces in half again and cut the length of the fold. Voila!

If you really want to make it fancy, trim edging from all sides and cut 1 inch fringe along the bottom and top edges.

Ok, t-shirt repurposing time!

4. Make a Bag or a Scarf from a T-shirt

You can do this simple, two cut scarf in about 3 minutes.

This no-sew scarf takes less than five minutes to make! Great way to repurpose a t-shirt!

Just lay the t-shirt flat. Cut a straight line across the entire t-shirt, front and back, from one underarm to the other. Then cut off the bottom hem of the shirt. Pull the shirt to cause the edges to curl and you are done!

To make a bag, follow these easy steps, top to bottom first column, then top to bottom second column.

#DIY: No Sew Handbag Out of Your Old T-Shirt

Turn t-shirt inside out.
Lay t-shirt flat, like the first picture. Cut off the hem.
Fold t-shirt in half and cut the sleeves off just inside the seam.
Still folded, cut the neck from the t-shirt just inside the seam.
Gather the bottom of the shirt and tie it super tight with the hem piece you just removed.
Turn the bag right side out and Ta-Da! new tote bag!

There are just four of the low to no cost gift ideas you can make at home with little time and just a pair of scissors!

I hope you have a blessed Christmas season.
I hope you give yourself and others grace for the difficulties that come at the most inconvenient times.
I hope you find ways to celebrate that don’t break your budget and still allow you to join in the holiday fun!

Low cost ideas, little energy input, and the joy of giving!
ReFreshing

 

You’re Doing It WRONG!

I read another one today, a mommy blogger who mixes all the perfect things together like fashion modeling and Jesus, telling all the leggin’s-clad, stained XL t-shirt-wearing, run down moms exactly how much we are all failing.

It totally worked.

Now I am going to LOVE every minute of motherhood.
Now, I am going to cook only homemade, organic, gluten-free food for my family.
Now I am going to finally BE that Proverbs 31 woman! (Let’s ignore for a moment that this woman never existed as a single entity, and that if she did she had domestic help.)

NOPE!

Reality–these posts tick me off.
Reality–I am blogging right now in my pajamas.
Reality–posts all about how women are doing it wrong when it comes to marriage, family, parenting, and all-things-domestic really only serve to grind women’s faces into the dirt while heaping more responsibility for unachievable perfection onto their already overwhelmed shoulders. (Check out the length of that sentence! I think a little of my personal feeling on this is coming through here.)

Can we bring it down a notch, please?

Modern life is hard. I realize that is such a #firstworldproblems kind of statement, but let’s examine the truth for a moment:

*300 years ago it was enough to keep your children alive and marry them off at 13 or send them to be an apprentice.
*150 years ago it was enough to make sure they finished the local school course which ended around 8th grade.
*50 years ago it was enough to see that your children were individual people (thanks Dr. Spock).
*Today, you have to know your child’s unique personality, temperament, love language, and spirit animal. You have to scrapbook/photo-blog every second of their life. You have to make sure they play a sport, play an instrument, and have sufficient playdates. You have to make sure they are challenged, but not too much; given grace, but still develop grit; have firm schedules and boundaries with enough flexibility to make their own decisions once they leave home–which may be never if the economy doesn’t rebound or if you chose the industrially farmed broccoli instead of organic.

What we all really need right now is another blog telling us how we are failing and ruining our children’s lives, not to mention tearing down our houses with our own hands like that foolish woman in Proverbs.

I want to say something to you, caregiver of small humans:
If you grew a human in your body, delivered them into the world, I recognize that you care about them. If you drove to the hospital or flew across the globe to pick them up and take them home, you want good things for them. If you wept and worried through fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption, supported your partner as they grew a small human inside of them, I see that you would do anything to love them until you can’t breathe–they are so beautiful.

I also see the heaps of laundry, the piles of dishes, the disaster of a playroom, the incessant bickering, the insomnia, the teething, the talking back, the full-blown fits in the middle of Target. I see you tired and overwhelmed by all the demands. I see you struggling to realize that you shine at 6 month-old baby care, but suck at embracing the Kindergarten stage. We all have our sweet spots, maybe one of those super organized mom-bloggers could make a spreadsheet and then I would raise your 2 year-old and you could have my 11 year-old until the next phase hits and we could all trade again.

Parenting is hard. We don’t need someone telling us all the ways we are falling short, we need cheerleaders for those beautiful moments where we do smile at our children and mean it when we say, “I love you, sweetie, have a good day!”

You may not know that I have my own checklist for parenting success. I blogged about it last year, but I will condense it for you here:
1. Don’t kill them.
2. Do your best–whatever your best looks like in this moment.
3. Love them.
4. Trust God–if you are going to be a parent, you need a higher power.
5. Everything else can be worked out in therapy.

So if you didn’t score a perfect 10 this morning, don’t beat yourself up. Grab a cup of coffee, fold 5 minutes worth of laundry, call a friend and invite them to bring their kids to distract your kids so you can have grown up conversation. Give yourself some grace, it’ll go a long way toward your ability to offer grace to your kids as well.

Anne of Green Gables once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?

Grace for ourselves and others on this parenting journey.
ReFreshing

Confusion and Joy

My message for Easter Sunday Celebration at First Friends Church in Emporia, KS.

John 20:1-21

Confusion and Joy

These were the emotions that accompanied the experiences of Jesus’s closest friends and followers on the day of his resurrection. And why not? Any one of us would feel the same. For years they had followed him, listened to his teaching, witnessed his miracles and even the glory. They believed he was the Messiah, the one who would rescue God’s people Israel from their cruel oppressors. He would be their hero, arrayed in armor for battle, leading the charge.

Only he wasn’t. And he didn’t.

Instead he surrendered without a fight. He wouldn’t put up a defense in his trial. He let them bind him, whip him, beat him, spit on him, mock him, pull out his beard, and then he carried his cross to the place where they would crucify him.

Maybe they were wrong. Maybe he wasn’t the Messiah. Maybe they’d all been conned by a smooth talker who knew just the right things to say. Maybe they were wrong and he was just a good teacher intent on reminding Israel of God’s love and mercy. Maybe…the maybes were endless. What do you do when your dreams come crashing down?

The disciples holed up in an upper room, one with a good solid lock on the door.

The women gathered their spices and went to finish the job of burying the man they had followed who treated them like no man ever had before. Like persons of worth. Like bearers of the divine image. Like God’s children, not objects, not slaves, but companions for the journey. The women rolled up their sleeves and got to work as soon as the Sabbath had ended and they set out to anoint the body before it had another day to swelter in the tomb.

When they arrived, they were met with a puzzle. The stone was rolled away. The door open and unguarded. The tomb empty. What had happened? Who had been here, where was the body, how do they now carry out their final tribute to their friend without a body? The questions multiplied by the minute. Not once did they dare to hope that they would see him alive again.

Mary took charge, running to find Peter and John. She told them what they had seen, and they ran to the tomb to see for themselves. John stopped at the door, but Peter being Peter ran right on in and stood in the space that had just held the body of their friend. Empty. Just the cloth binding that had wrapped his corpse lying on the shelf to show that the space had been occupied.

They returned, more questions than before. No answers. No idea of what to do next.

Mary stayed behind. Overwhelmed with grief and frustration, unable to perform this last service for her teacher, she wept. Through her tears she gazed again into the tomb and there—where minutes before there was darkness and empty space—sat two angels. I don’t know if the day could have gotten any stranger for her at this point, but they speak to her of her tears. Why is she weeping when Jesus is not dead? Who is she looking for?

She turns as she answers, as if to search for him once again, she just wants to know where his body is. And then she sees him. Thinking he is the gardener, she asks him where they have taken him. She volunteers to go and carry him back to where he belongs. He speaks her name and she knows. It’s Jesus.

Her confusion turns to joy in a moment, so great that she throws herself at his feet. Fresh tears burst forth. There is no logic in this moment, she doesn’t try to figure it all out. He is alive and that is all that matters to her. She is consumed by a joy as overpowering as her grief had been moments ago.

Jesus gave her a message and she carried it faithfully to tell the disciples that he was alive, risen from the dead.

Other Gospels tell us that they did not believe her. It was news too good to be true, the delusion of a woman lost in despair.

That night he stands among them and blesses them. “Peace” he says, imparting to them divine wholeness, healing, restoration, forgiveness for their faithlessness, all in one breath. And then he begins to speak to them of the mission he has for them. Just as the father had sent him, he now is sending them to carry his message of the kingdom, to bring hope and healing and light where darkness, brokenness, and resignation have reigned for so long.

If this were a fairytale, at this point we would say that they all lived happily ever after. But we know that is not true in this case. They did not immediately lose their questions, their doubt, their need. They did not immediately receive the peace he offered. They did not immediately understand their mission. Like us, they were human beings living real lives with real hardship. But on that day, resurrection day, their confusion was overcome by their joy.

Jesus is alive.

They walked with him, and listened to him again for a time before he ascended into heaven. And he promised them that they would not be left alone. That promise is ours as well. We have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us in our real lives with real hardship, real questions, real doubts.

Today we celebrate the day that their confusion turned to joy, and we can join our joy with theirs because in rising from the dead, he defeated the last fear, the last stronghold. Jesus has conquered death and hell and the grave, and no matter what we experience in our earthly lives we know we do not walk alone and the victory he won is ours as well.

Jesus lives and so do we, free to live in this bodily life, free to look forward to a life that does not end, free to know that our lives can have eternal significance as we follow him.

Christ has risen, Alleluia!

 

Don’t Kill Them, & 4 Other Essential Parenting Rules

My 5 Simple Rules for Parenting

When my first child was born, I read the books and followed the developmental charts like they were blueprints for a nuclear power plant. I didn’t want anything to explode, and knew that if something went wrong it would be a) the most terrible-awful-horrible thing ever, and b) as the mother, it would all be my fault. 13 years and two more kids down the line, I can tell you that children are way less fragile and more resilient than we could have imagined when we drove them home from the hospital at 15 miles per hour.

Everywhere you turn someone else is telling you what you absolutely have to do in order to raise healthy, happy children. They’ll scream, threaten, cajole, and manipulate your emotions to get you to follow their advice. We all want the best for our kids, right? So why is it that many of the opinions we hear completely contradict each other?

My years of experience and seeing my kids survive (so far) have brought me to a place of simplicity when it comes to parenthood. Feel free to investigate all of the parenting options out there, but I’ve boiled my personal rules of parenting down to just 5.

Parenting Rule #1: Don’t Kill Them

This is a vital piece of advice if you want them to live to adulthood. This includes things like feeding, clothing, and providing for their obvious physical needs. It also covers the very real temptation that might arise around the age of “I can do it myself” and re-emerge when the eye-rolling starts. Take a deep breath. If you don’t kill them, they will probably grow up and have children who also go through these maddening stages. Don’t we all want to see that day?

Parenting Rule #2: Do Your Best

Mismatched socks on their feet, their clothes wrinkled, and you don’t know if that jacket has been cleaned since they dripped ice cream on it last month? If that is the best you can do today, great. They are covered, and trust me their teacher has seen worse. Some days my best includes locking the bathroom door with the fan on so that I can’t hear them when they whine at me outside the door. Five minutes of solitude in the toilet just might help you follow Rule #1. You aren’t going to be parent of the year every minute of every day. Give yourself a break and just determine to do your best with what you have.

Parenting Rule #3: Love Them

I know you might be thinking this rule should probably be #1, but realistically I think not killing them wins for purely practical reasons. Love your kids. Love them sticky or clean. Love them hair combed or with rats nests. Love them with their precious gifts of art you couldn’t decipher if you were a master of cryptology. “Is that a dog? Oh, it’s mommy. Thanks, sweetie.” Just love them. Love covers over a multitude of parenting mishaps, and it will most likely help them not become psychopaths. It’s true.

Parenting Rule #4: Trust God

There are so many things in your children’s lives that you have absolutely no control over. You can’t keep them from every danger, or every bully, or every dumb idea they might decide to try out while your back is turned. If you are going to raise children, you need a higher power.

Parenting Rule #5: Everything Else Can Be Worked Out in Therapy

You know that all parenting theory is just that, theory. Someone has a good idea, it looks great on paper, but then in practice it just doesn’t work for your child. Besides, look at how much has changed in the years since you were a youngster. Could we ever have predicted that our kids wouldn’t know how to dial a phone? (I mean a real phone, selecting Grandma from the contacts list does not count.) So much will continue to change in our world, society, and in the understanding of young minds. You are bound to mess up. Besides, therapists are nice people and we should want to support their industry.

As parents we are under so much pressure to be perfect, but none of us were raised by perfect parents. (If you write to tell me your parents were perfect, I don’t know if we can be friends.) All of us are here, walking around as (mostly) productive members of society. Give yourself a break from perfection based on someone else’s theories. You will be a more peaceful parent, and your kids will need less therapy. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Keeping it simple
ReFreshing!

Christmas Pondering

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

When was the last time you did any pondering? With the way everything moves so quickly, it is hard to find time to ponder anymore. Social media makes it easy to be emotionally moved by love/anger/fear/sadness/empathy one moment and laugh at silly cats talking about cheeseburgers the next. How is it that we can shift gears so quickly? The emotion barely has time to set in before we are scrolling on to the next thing. As disturbing as this might seem, the information we are reading and the stories we are moved by mostly have to do with the lives and experiences of other people, sometimes people we’ve never met who live on the other side of the globe. It is easier to keep them at arm’s length and only allow them to touch our emotions on the surface. Still it is troubling that we interact with so many deep needs with so little thought. Possibly more troubling is the thought that we could be losing the art of thinking and feeling deeply about things in our own lives.

It might just be me, but when things get busy, during the holidays or toward the middle of each school year, I function with very little deep thought from day to day. I follow the commands of my calendar, moving from one appointment and event to the next without any time to process what I have just experienced. Like scrolling through Facebook, I can find myself keeping the story of my own life at arm’s length and the events of my day from drawing any deep thought.

With all that was happening in her life, the announcement of the angel, the trip to see her cousin Elizabeth, the return and Joseph coming to take her to his home, the journey to Bethlehem for the census, Mary took time to ponder. Perhaps in the stillness of a baby sleeping after the shepherds had left in the early morning hours. Maybe in the days to come as she experienced first-hand feeding a baby from her body, sleeping 45 minutes at a time, changing for-real clothe diapers. Definitely as they met Anna and Simeon in the temple after the time of purification to dedicate little Jesus as a firstborn son. She actively stored up these experiences and pondered them in her heart.

When we ponder, we establish memories. The stories we tell ourselves and others about the events in our lives are the ones we keep for years to come. Moments that we pass over without a thought are gone forever, but those we choose to reflect upon are treasures that last.

What is happening in your life right now that could use some mulling over? What treasures are you brushing off for more pressing demands of work, or the louder demand from the buzz of your phone? For those of us who don’t check our phones that much, maybe it’s using the radio or TV to drown out the silence. A little of that is ok, but if we find ourselves simply filling space with meaningless activity then we need to reevaluate. With all of this filler, we forget to feed our souls.

By contrast, when we remind ourselves of God at work in our lives, when we turn our hearts to gratitude for all we have and all God has done for us, when we take time to ponder, we find the deep joy God offers to us in himself.

Scientific studies have recently shown that what we ponder makes a difference in the ways our brains function, carving neural pathways so that the thoughts we think a lot, we continue to think a lot.  Like driving home and forgetting how you got there, our mind follows pathways that are familiar without our direction. It works with gratitude, being thankful as a practice makes it easier to see things to be thankful for and reinforce the gratitude. The same is true if we think about what God has done for us and is doing in our lives. Wouldn’t it be great to have gratitude and joy as our autopilot response? When we tune our minds to perceive God at work and find even more to ponder.

God gives us a lot to think about. We can start with what he did for people in ages past, recorded in the Bible. What he has done for all of humanity and the world in coming in the flesh to walk among us in the person of Jesus. Redemption. Grace. Mercy. Love. We can move on to how this plays out in our daily lives specifically. His giving us family and friends. The job that feeds us. The children that fill our homes with cheerful noise. The animals and pets that provide such loving companionship. The friends close by whose care and concern for us shines bright. The warmth of love transmitted from loved ones who are far away in cards, pictures and letters. A bird outside our window. The sun shining, the breeze blowing, the glint of light off of the snow, the break in the clouds. All can be reminders of God’s love and care.

God has done such great things for us, let us not set aside his blessings for fleeting pleasures, busy schedules and mindless lives. Let’s take time to ponder, and in that act of pondering store up treasures of memories and grace.

Philippians 4:8 “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.”