There are many ways to experience the summer. We can experience a vacation, learn how to ride a bike, go swimming (everyday), go fishing, have a picnic, or build a fort at home.
One of our favorite ways to experience summer is through books. Reading, because you can and not because you have to, is a freeing experience. Several years ago while we were camping in Estes Park, Colorado, we read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis together as a family. Inside our tent, inside our sleeping bags, we opened the first page and read…
This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began.
Every time I hear someone talk about the book, I immediately go back to our tent in my mind in the beautiful mountains and remember that night together when we started reading. Memories are attached to summer books.
This month, we will share some summer reading suggestions for your family. We hope you will discover these books for yourself. Maybe you can read them together as a family or you can read them in your favorite comfy chair on a hot summer day.
Kick off the summer with this inspiring book, The Circle Maker. When you open the cover of this book, you will quickly discover the power of prayer in a new way. Mark Batterson writes from pure experience. He has witnessed God working through prayer in big and small ways. Based on the legend of Honi the Circle Maker who ended a great drought through prayer, Batterson invites all of us to circle our prayers. In the pages of the book, he shares how to circle prayers and encourages readers to pray through our prayers until God answers.
This book will encourage you and your family to pray and show you ways God answers prayers everyday in everyday lives…just like yours and mine.
From our Happy It’s Summer Tent to yours,
Social media lately is flooded with firsts and lasts. There are first communions, first dances, first cars, first steps, first solid foods. There are last recitals, last awards ceremony, last graduations, last day of school, last day to pack school lunches (Can I get an Amen?). It would be difficult not to notice all the smiling faces in the pictures or the energy in our communities. There have even been some first birthdays as new babies bounce into the world and last hugs and kisses as love ones spend their last days on earth.
Joseph Campbell once wrote, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Whether you are experiencing a first or a last this month, you are probably leaving one life and headed into a new one. You are leaving one normal and creating a new one. And if you are not experiencing this yourself, simply take a look to your left and your right, you will see someone who is. As we change from one life into the next, here are some ways to help you transition, recenter, stop, or become more aware of God’s presence:
- Sit in your God space and listen. Remember that the creator of the universe (your creator) is available. Any time. Any place. If you have a God space in your house or office…sit in it. Focus on one thing that never changes…God’s love for you!
- Make a lunch date with a friend. Spiritual friends are the best! They listen, understand, advise, support and follow up. They often know what you need before you know what you need. A lunch date will provide you with a pause between all the things you have to get done before you go to bed. Everyone can use a pause now and then.
- Plan a selfie day with just you and things you love. Watch a movie at 10am with popcorn and a coke. See two movies if you have time. Pull out your music collection and jam to you favorites. Take a nap in the middle of the day without you cell phone in the same room. Read a book just because. What brings your joy? Do it!
- Name your emotion(s). Mad, sad, angry, fearful or tender. All emotions fall under one of these top five. Once you know your emotion, you are more able to experience it and control it before it controls you. Pretending that you are not deeply experiencing one of these emotions is like pretending that nothing is changing. Pretending is exhausting.
- Plan a trip. It always helps to experience a change of scenery whether it is a day trip or a vacation. Just having one on the calendar is life giving! Shop in a new store. Visit museums in your community or close by. Reconnect with a family member or old friend and drive to their town to simply spend time together. Exploring nature in small parks or big parks like the Grand Canyon can certainly be fun! And there is always camping!!
- Take a deep breath. Sometimes when I am with my mom and I take a deep breath, she says, “Is that your first breath of the day?” Sometimes you just need to take a breath and a step, a breath and a step. Find a pace that allows your soul to catch up with your body!
- Hug your family. A one-minute hug always does the trick. (Set a timer.) One-minute to connect. One-minute to freeze time and capture the moment. One-minute of peace in the midst of chaos. Your family is experiencing many firsts and lasts together. Hugs, notes, texts, and hand-holding are all encouraged in the middle of transitions.
While you (or someone you know) is experiencing firsts and lasts this month, remember one thing. Jesus is the “author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. When we see all of life through Christ eyes, we see the whole picture. There are many firsts and lasts that we experience, but in the middle we experience a full, abundant life. That is why Jesus came to this earth and why we have faith in Christ.
Keep posting those precious pictures of your abundant life, the highs and the lows. Each day and each experience serves as a reminder that we are all in this together within the loving arms of Jesus. And Jesus is ready to give us more of an abundant life!
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
The next generation has discovered Family Feud. Do you remember that show? I remember watching it with my family when I was a child. Last weekend my daughter discovered it while visiting a family member and my daughter who had a REAL TV. (We have been cable free FOREVER, so when we visit our family members our daughters always refer to TV at the REAL TV!). The REAL TV was full of interesting shows last weekend and Family Feud was the most interesting.
I was busy doing something else while she was watching it until I saw the first red X flash up on the screen. Then I was totally engaged. I remembered that there were three red X’s available to each family. After those three, they lost. Three chances to guess the best words for the category. This particular category was “Tell me ways in which the family dog can annoy you.” I won’t give you the answers here.
But those three X’s have been helpful in our tent all week. One morning while getting ready for our day, my sweet, adorable husband made an unnecessary comment about something I forgot to do (I never, ever claim to be perfect!). I quickly threw up my hands and formed an X. I informed him that he only had two more before the day was over…and it was only the morning. I then had to remind him about Family Feud and the three X’s. He caught on quickly. It wasn’t long before he threw up his arms into a big X and reminded me that we were now tied.
I know we all try our best to treat everyone in our tent with kindness, love and respect. That is our goal. But some days when we are tired, stressed or overwhelmed, we tend to do more harm than good. We say words that deserve a big red X. We complain about small things that do not matter in the big picture. We travel down the road of negativity not realizing that we are traveling it alone because everyone else is exhausted from listening. That too deserves a red X.
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). Our words have power to make our relationships sweeter. We know the right words to use to build each other up. We know how to avoid those words that cause the big red X’s to flash up on our screen of life.
Here’s a challenge for your family this week. See how many ways you can bring sweetness to your tent through your words. See how you can bring health into your relationships. See if your choice of words helps you to avoid family feuds within your home. And remember, GRACE. As much as we try, we will always make mistakes and say something that deserves a big red X. Our families are the best place to practice giving and receiving grace. Grace and forgiveness remove any X’s that exist in our relationships. Before you begin the challenge, take a moment to exchanged grace and give forgiveness to erase the X’s that have already been played. That way everyone starts with a fresh beginning.
Love your family, don’t feud. – Al Roker (2008)
From our Happy Tent to yours,
P.S. Grab your neighbors this Memorial weekend and play Family Feud. Here are some questions to get you started.
Difficult times create great legends. People that push through. People that overcome. People that do the impossible. We all know of big legends like Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. There are big legends in the faith story like Moses, Ruth and Paul the Apostle. There are also big legends in our families. One of our legends is Ben Andrews (my grandfather).
Ben was born in Archer City, Texas in 1900. His legend moment came during the Great Depression. The Depression changed his family and in 1924 he decided the look for work in California. As children, we were always told about his journey to California from Texas. He made the trip in a Model T Ford. While driving over the desert sand, he drove over railroad cross-ties. Bump. Bump. Bump. At the end of the day, he would simply make camp beside his car and sleep in the open. He successfully made it to Los Angeles, California, found a job, met Will Rogers and later returned to Texas. Ben lived to be 101. He was a legend in many ways.
Legends inspire us by their stories, perseverance, messages and examples. Their words cut through the noise of life and connect with something deep within each of us. As their story is told from person to person and generation to generation, they become bigger and better.
Within each of our families there are people who are legends. We hear their stories when we are in diapers and all the years following. We find ourselves telling others about our family legends at dinner parties or over lunch. Their stories are a part of our story because we stand on their shoulders and continue into the future.
This weekend one of our daughters will be making a rite of passage. She will be publicly choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and make His story a part of her story. Even though she has been told about Ben Andrews (and other family legends) since she was in diapers, she has also been told about Jesus Christ. The name above all names.
As time passes and generations come and go, the one legend that we cannot fail to pass on to our families is Jesus Christ. We know that sometimes life gives us our own “Great Depression” event. In those seasons, we need our faith in Jesus Christ to help us travel from home, across the desert and to new opportunities. Our faith in Jesus Christ empowers and equips us with all that we need to survive the unexpected events in life. And when we are camping outside under the stars on our journey, we can also appreciate how we are loved by the Creator of the universe.
This weekend, share some of your family legend stories with your family and friends. And share your family’s faith story…it will only grow stronger.
I will give you as many descendants as the stars in the sky, and I will give your descendants all of these lands. All of the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants. Genesis 26:4
From our Happy Tent to yours,
Happy Easter Eve! A day filled with mystery in the tomb and excitement in our hearts. We know something is coming and we are anxious to roll back that huge stone. There is a lot of energy in our home this weekend and some extra time to be home. We are simply waiting for Easter morning.
But how do we wait? By doing some good!
In our tent, we have been exploring ways to do some good. Here is our list. We hope it inspires you to do some good. We thought of ways we might make Jesus smile.
Families Doing Some Good List
- Make This Weekend About Family
We had to work at it, but we stepped out of all our extracurricular activities this weekend. Does it make us less committed or passionate about our activities…NO. It simply says, “During this Christian Super Bowl weekend…the game above all games, the win over all wins…we are going to celebrate God’s team, together! We will catch back up with the other teams and groups after the RESURRECTION!”
- Kick Off 52 Weeks of Neighboring
We just signed up for this cool idea. Check it out! SoCe Life is a non-profit organization that researches, practices and teaches about good neighboring. They have so many great ideas about neighboring. We are excited to get started.
- Make Something Sweet
We are soooo excited to end our Lenten fast from SUGAR. And so we are diving into sweetness this weekend. One of our favorite sweets to make on Easter Eve is Easter Story Cookies. Ingredients are simple. Spiritual lesson is powerful. The cookies on Easter morning are magical.
- Spread Some Joy
We got dirty today planting flowers in little clay pots. It was a lot of fun. Then we took these little pots around town and delivered them to un-expecting friends and neighbors. We spread some joy and we experienced some joy. While you are waiting around on Easter Eve…think of ways you can spread joy.
- Get Outside, Together
Bikes, scooters, roller blades, tennis rackets, fishing poles, Kubb (our all time favorite family game), camping gear and so much more live in our garage. We walk past it most days…but why not get outside this weekend together and make some memories. Be spontaneous and adventurous.
At the center of the Christian life stands Jesus. Jesus who teaches, guides, strengthens and inspires us to be who God created us to be as individuals and as families. During this Easter weekend, let’s love on each other and others a little extra by doing some good. It will make this weekend a little sweeter and happier.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13
Happy Easter from our Happy Tent to yours,
How many times a day do you shake a jar of pickles in your fridge. Around our house, it is a new activity. It began by receiving a jar of pickles from a friend who instructed us to shake the jar at least twice a day for a week to help season the pickles. (The jar contains a secret seasoning…or at least that is what he said.) We know how to follow directions so we have been shaking the pickles, daily.
No matter what is going on in our house, we shake the pickles. During homework, we shake the pickles. While cooking dinner, we shake the pickles. In the morning while drinking coffee, we shake the pickles. We have embraced the process and we are looking forward to eating the pickles at the end of the week.
God invites us to do a lot of things in life. We are called to hang out with God in prayer during the day. We are called to play God-spy by keeping our eyes open for God at work around us. We are called to “be” more and “do” less so that our religion makes more sense. But above all, we are encouraged to embrace the experiences around us. If we are too focused on the past, we miss it. If we are too worried about the future, we miss it. Only when we can embrace the moment (and shake the pickles) do we really catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come so that you may life to it’s fullest.”
Our pickles keep us present in the moment and they make us laugh. Every time someone opens the fridge door and shake the pickles, we all laugh. This silly exercise creates a moment where we forget our stress, phones, chores and challenges and we just shake the pickles. When they are placed back in the fridge and the door is closed, all our problems do not seem as challenging.
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
P.S. Delicious pickle recipe: Buy a large jar of sliced pickles (ours are Hamburger Dill Chips made with sea salt from HEB). Add one package of powder Ranch dip. Shake your pickles for a week. Store in the fridge.
P.S.S. The season of Lent begins next week. If you need a devotional guide, order your copy of Have Mercy on Me. All proceeds will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
A few years ago, we celebrated a family birthday in the “Big Ball” in Dallas (also known as Reunion Tower by people over 15-years-old). The night was memorable. What I remember the most was my mother’s experience on the observation deck. From that place in the tower, you can see the site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She stood there for a long time just looking at the street and the site where he was shot on her birthday so many years before. She was able to see the whole picture; where it happened, the shape and height of the buildings and the road that the driver took to Parkland Hospital. Just observing the site with her own eyes allowed her to see the whole experience differently.
Recently I have been on my own observation deck. I decided to take a step back from my life, work, my chores and myself to just observe all of it. My step back is more abstract than literal. I am still living in the busyness of life, but I am seeing it differently. I have noticed the simplicity that exists around me that I often miss. I actually saw the people in my life that make life easier for me such as the grocery workers, my child’s teacher and friends. The sunsets and sunrises that come every day are breathtaking. I discovered a sacred time at the end of the day as my older daughter finishes her homework before bed. While she works, we just visit about the events of our day. I have been reminded of the power of positivity. Positive words can change or redirect any conversation into something meaningful and life giving. I have become more relaxed about watching the clock and more open to unexpected meetings with friends. My observation deck has simply shown me things that I needed to see.
I believe that we have a gift of making life more complicated than God ever intended life to be lived. So much of our stress comes from ourselves. We are often unable to say “no” to things we do not need to do and “yes” to things God is calling us to do. The result is too much time spent on too many things. Life becomes shallow instead of deep and meaningful.
I invite you to walk out onto your own observation deck this week. Spend some time to simply observe life around you. What do you see? What do you say? What is going on in your family? What is God doing around you? This little practice is sure to reveal something new.
Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. Psalm 119:18
I am married to a duck hunter. When we married 16 years ago, he was not a duck hunter. Today he is. His friends took him hunting a year ago and he was open to the new experience. To say that he enjoyed it is an understatement. This guy dove in like a duck and has not stopped flying since. All year long, Amazon Prime has swiftly delivered much needed “supplies” for the hunts. Our garage has slowly filled up with duck decoys, duck calls, duck decoys and a lot of camo things. It now looks like an Academy supply warehouse.
For the past five mornings, I have been on a duck hunting date with my guy. I was open to this new date experience. At five o’clock we rise, he makes me hot tea and we go duck hunting. Actually…I hang out in the truck and he hunts. From the truck, I have had the privilege of watching the sunrise. Each morning it has been breath taking. Each morning it has been different. Each morning has been a new experience.
Duck hunting has given my guy a hobby…a much needed hobby. Going hunting has pulled me out of my normal morning routine and shown me a beautiful new day, every day.
As we lean into the New Year, we are called to being open. Just as every sunrise is different, every year is different. We cannot anticipate or know what lies ahead. There is no need for anxiety or fear because God travels with us.
We do know that each day will begin with a sunrise and end with a sunset. Each day God will be co-creating with us to show the world how to love one another. If we are willing to being open to something new, our breath will be taken away and we will discover new experiences.
What new experiences are you open to this year? What is God asking you to leave behind so that you can live with an attitude of being open?
For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! Isaiah 43:19
Happy New Year from Happy Tents,
No matter how much you prepare or plan, the Christmas season always brings its own surprises. Jesus’ mother Mary certainly was surprise as was her friend Elizabeth on that first Christmas. The surprises make memories (and in Mary’s case transformed the world!).
How you handle surprises is what is important. We had an unexpected guest in our tent recently. I decided to handle it with humor. Below is an amateur poem about the visit. Enjoy!
THE CHRISTMAS BAT
‘Twas the FIRST OF DECEMBER and all through the house not a creature was stirring…except for something that looked like a mouse.
Stockings (still needed to be) hung by the chimney with care because St. Nicolas would soon be there.
The children were nestled and all snug in their beds as the agenda of the day began dancing in Mamma’s head. When the alarm clock made such a clatter, I sprang from my bed and discovered the CHRISTMAS BAT (on the kitchen floor) and could not be madder.
Away from the kitchen I flew like a flash, torn open the doors and with a broom prepared to smash.
The light in the room illuminated the object below and it was indeed a little black CHRISTMAS BAT just saying HELLO!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear but small little feet, two wings and pointy ears. More rapid than eagles I shouted out names “Oh Jesus! Dear God! Oh, where is STEVEN! Go Sam (the dog) fetch the bat (duck)…why are you acting so tame?” To the top of the ceiling to the top of the shelves, the bat dashed away, dashed away, dashed away and…disappeared just like Santa’s elves.
FOUR NIGHTS LATER as I was turning around, that little CHRISTMAS BAT came back to town. He was still dressed all in fur from his head to his foot and he made five laps around the living room as I sat by the chimney soot.
He was loudly ECHOLOCATING trying to find a way out and all I could do was yell, “Steven! Get the Bat!” with a shout!
With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Steven soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, grabbed lots of blankets and turned with a jerk, and put on gloves, a hat and long sleeve clothes, and giving a nod, out the door that CHRISTMAS BAT goes.
He slammed the door shut and gave the dog, Sam, a little whistle and they talked about how that CHRISTMAS BAT flew like a missile. But I heard him exclaim, ere he walked out of sight.
Merry Christmas, CHRISTMAS BAT, and to all…good night!
From our Tent to Yours,
After church one Sunday a few years ago, my husband asked our five-year-old daughter what she learned in Sunday school. She said that she learned about Jesus and the cheetahs. The theologian in him was immediately curious because he was not familiar with that story in the Bible. He asked for more information and she told him the whole story. Then he listened closely to her lesson.
Jesus and the Cheetahs
Once upon a time, Jesus was walking down the road. There were ten cheetahs that came to him. They were sick. (In Sunday school we put dots all over our clothes with cotton balls and baby powder. We looked like cheetahs. It was fun.) Jesus made the cheetahs better, but only one cheetah said “Thank you.”
Eventually my husband got it…she was talking about Jesus and the Lepers not CHEETAHS! We always get a good belly laugh from her version of the story especially since I was her Sunday school teacher that day!!
There is also a lot to truth to her story. There are a lot of cheaters in this story. Nine to be exact. In Luke, we learn that Jesus encountered ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem who begged him for mercy and healing. He did exactly what they asked. They were healed and they had their lives back. They could return to society, their families, and their careers. He had given them all that they could dream of having and more. Out of the ten healed lepers, only one returned to thank him. Only one.
This Thanksgiving we have the opportunity to be the one that returned to give thanks. Think about all the people in your life that have made your life better this year. Be the one to thank them. People like your doctor who helped you stay healthy, your friend that remembered your birthday, your co-worker who helped you meet your deadline, or your neighbor who pulls your trash bins back to your fence after they are empty. Be the one to thank them. Think about the people you see each week at the grocery store, school, bank, gas station or in your neighborhood. Be the one to thank them. Recall how they helped you have a better day or a better life. Be the one to thank them.
Since Thanksgiving is on our minds, our family took a moment after dinner this week to make a list of all the people we want to thank. We signed a cards and wrote a notes together. We had fun talking about why we wanted to thank someone. What is a creative way your family can give thanks?
When we bow our heads and give thanks to God with our family on Thursday, we will also be giving thanks for all the people God sent us this year to make our lives better. If we don’t take time to pause and give thanks, aren’t we really only cheating ourselves?
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:15-19
Happy Thanksgiving from our tent to yours!