AVFM: Precious Moments…for when your little ones are all grown up

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

“Precious moments. . .sneak up on us. I don’t think it matters how young or old our children are.Sometimes it’s just a quick, funny smile, or a small gesture they make, that sparks that overwhelmingfeeling of total love.” – Shari Cohen, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul

I got to see my grandchildren, Elizabeth and Alexander, in their annual school presentation last weekend. Their parts entailed making a biographical presentation of an historical person, including costume and 10 minute first person oral presentation.

They were brilliant!

lizzy as clara

Lizzy was Clara Barton

Xander was Nikola Tesla

Xander was Nikola Tesla

I enjoyed it immensely. . .almost as much as I enjoyed watching my eldest daughter taking in their work. It prompted memories of hours of Odyssey of the Mind competitions, volleyball and basketball tournaments, and academic honors ceremonies. That search for excellence is still within her and drives her daily. It makes her loyal to her husband and children and tireless in her faith. For this and many, many other qualities, I am truly proud.

On Saturday, I got to see my grandson, Crawford, and my new grandson, Roman. We joined my
daughter, Lora, and son-in-law, Dustin, at Crawford’s soccer game. It was a first experience with Roman, and a cherished one. Crawford was excited to have his grandpa there to watch the game and Roman was excited to pick the newly discovered grass from the field and place it in a bucket. Our parting moment, when he kissed my cheek without being prompted, ranks right up there with most beautiful moments in my life.

Lora Crawford and Roman

Roman, Lora and Crawford at the orphanage in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

I look at my sweet, sweet Lora, and so understand why God gave her the perseverance to rescue this child from his homeland. She has all the technical skills needed, certainly, but she and Dustin are the most consistent parents I have ever seen. If, as I believe, it is true that we can change this world one person and one act at a time, this desire to raise these two beautiful boys will make a huge change. What a legacy!

On Sunday, we joined my youngest daughter for lunch before she returned to an afternoon of homework as she pursues her Master’s degree in education. I watched her interact with others in the restaurant, taking in how beautiful she is and how charming she can be. She has a gorgeous love of color and surrounds herself in it. She teaches art, you know.

alexis

My beautiful daughter, Alexis.

She possesses an amazing talent—not just the artistic talent, but the ability to convey a joy of learning to the children she teaches. She has survived some traumatic emotional events, and continues to display an amazing amount of personal strength and determination. She is a natural caregiver, displaying a loyalty that few people ever possess. Give her a project, and she will accomplish it. Give her a challenge, and she will overcome it. I do so admire her inner strength.

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

Yes, it is true: it doesn’t matter how old or young your children are. There are those moments when you behold a smile, a turn of the head, a mannerism, and feel that total, unabashed love for your “little one”. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for my blessed family!

Blessings,

welch's

Me and my family….aren’t they beautiful?

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM: I Am Not a Winter Person…for when joy falls like snow

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

snowy bench

I am not a winter person. The cold weather and cloudy skies have a claustrophobic effect on me and I have a deep desire to hibernate like a mama bear until the jonquils bloom.

But this morning, when I arose, there was a pristine blanket on the ground.  Soft, white petals were drifting listlessly toward the sidewalks, and silence filled the air.  I sat on my front porch for a few minutes just taking in the grandeur of life’s simple joys.  I breathed in the chilled purity of a morning cleansed in snow.  It amazes me that such a small amount of beauty can quiet our world for just a little while, wrap it in serenity and give us a moment of peace.

The snow melted off during the day, but the afterglow is still with me.

It was a high performance kind of day. . .I got the taxes done, the office has been rearranged, my daughter will be home from the Ukraine in a week with our new grandson, my granddaughter got her braces off, I had a lovely dinner with my youngest child,  Jim is feeling a little better today, and our doggies are freshly groomed and beautiful.  I also got to visit with old friends this week, I’m on the last load of laundry, . . .on and on.

I could look at all these things in a different light and tell you it took forever to get the taxes done, I had to make some changes in the office, my daughter has been in the Ukraine a very long time, my granddaughter had to have braces, my child didn’t talk much at dinner, Jim has been feeling ill, the dogs were really looking scrungy,  . . .see how this can go in an entirely different direction?

I am not a winter person.  But one cannot arise on a magnificent morning such as this and fail to see the work of our Heavenly Father as he cloaks us all gently in white snow feathers.   To wake up each morning with a grateful heart and search for the blessings in the day is a way of life that begets itself.  Joy produces joy, appreciation grows gratitude, and love for one another is contagious.  Please Lord, let it continue to be so!

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Covenant Relationships: Listen…for when words aren’t enough

This is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached. It’s a short little guidebook that walks through the Strings Attached Pledge and the development of covenant relationships. Enjoy!

listen to your heart
“I will listen for my friend’s heart more than her talk. I will not be afraid to listen to her struggles.”- Strings Attached Pledge

“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

– Proverbs 27:19

Communication goes well beyond what we say with our words.

We know this well. Research shows that when we are under stress, less than seven percent of our communication comes from our words. The rest of the communication cues we send out come from our tone (38%) and our body language (55%). How often have you had a conversation with someone close to you and, despite the fact that everything she was saying to you was upbeat, you knew something was wrong? Did you know that our brains are set to scan systematically the people we talk with for visual, auditory and tactile cues to establish trustworthiness?  We automatically sense and register when someone’s words don’t match what the rest of that person is saying.

That’s because God created us to communicate through many more avenues than just the spoken word. Much of the meaning of our verbal communication is expressed beyond our words, through body language. Through our bodily posture, motion, countenance, gestures, tone and volume of voice, we express feelings that words may fail to reveal.  Our eyes and ears are constantly scanning situations for incongruity between the words that are being spoken and the message that is being sent by the heart.

When you are listening to your friend, listen with more than your ears. Engage your eyes and other senses, and trust your intuition when you feel something is off. This part is not difficult. God designed us to connect to one another this way. To “click in” with each other and understand one another from a place beyond the physical, from our hearts. We each have this ability and do it every day.

The hard part, the part we run from, is the next step.

Once we sense this incongruity, we must reach beyond our safe cocoon of indifference to extend support to our friend. This can be as simple as asking, “Are you ok?” and being prepared to hold your ground if floodgates open and emotional issues come up.

In her poem, “The Invitation,” Oriah Mountain Dreamer writes:

It doesn’t interest me who you know
Or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
In the center of the fire
With me
And not shrink back.

That sums it up, doesn’t it?

Are you willing to ask the question when you know the answer might take time to wade through, and stand at the center of the fire and not be afraid of what you might see when the mask comes off and someone’s heart is revealed?

AVFM: I am a Social Media Rookie

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

facebook

I am a social media rookie. I have deliberately avoided getting too involved in emailing, facebooking,texting, and tweeting because I really like to speak with people face to face or phone to phone. Too much information is omitted when even the written words are being abbreviated. Recently, one of our children went to the Ukraine to finalize the adoption of a little boy. The need to communicate has forced me to blog and even skype. Can you imagine?. . . I find myself perusing facebook every day to
search for her latest news and to glean tidbits about our new grandson.

While I am ever so grateful for these lines of communication, I recall why I avoided them. I scroll down the screen, observing one person, recently divorced, bitter and sharing one-sided “war” stories. Another (or several) attack the president and his policies with far- fetched accusations and half baked truths. And then there are those attacking the attackers with more of the same. There are sweet friends who try to lighten the mood by sending me yet another witty saying or funny joke. There are birthday and anniversary reminders and simply quotations with obscure connections. I see young relatives who display inappropriate photos and use crass language , not realizing the impact they are making in a public forum. Very rarely do I actually see what I search for: news of friends and family.

We live in an age of technological advancement most of us could not have dreamed up in our youths. The communication technology is but a small portion of that. We can use our newfound technology to create immediate accessibility to one another or we can use it to create barriers and misunderstandings.

No matter how you use your social media outlets, use them with caution and forethought. We no longer are having a private conversation with a friend. We are conversing with a few million of them. It is so much easier to fire off a comment or two when you don’t have to look at the person while you do it. Somehow, it makes us feel less accountable for our own actions and more likely to speak before we think. I want to believe that we can use facebook to enhance our empathy and understanding for one another. Let us make it so.

Blessings,

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

My Top Five Picks: Get-to-Know-You Activities

Most often when I am asked for help in planning events for women’s ministries (did you know that I did that? See the “Contact Us: Pick My Brain” tab for more information), I am asked for ideas for icebreakers or games that help us get-to know each other.  I actually divide these into two categories because I think icebreakersare really games or activities that loosen us up and help get conversations started and what I call “get-to-know-yous” are activities that help me learn more about you and, in some cases, take the conversation deeper….it is in these activities that team-building begins to take place.

So I’ve shared with you my top five icebreakers and mixers, but I thought I might share with you some of these deeper activities. Some of these came from my own mind, others came from ideas from pinterest, and a couple of these came from a great resource by Group.com called Icebreakers Galore. I’d love for you guys to share your resources with me! Feel free to drop a comment!

Without further ado, my top five get-to-know-yous:

One Unique Thing:

 

Supplies:  Slips of paper and writing utensils

paper

Hand out a slip of paper and writing utensil to each guest.  Ask them to write one unique thing about themselves on the paper (something that most people don’t know.) Put the papers in a basket and draw three out periodically throughout the evening. Read the unique thing out loud and ask the group to try to guess whose paper it is.  Ask the person who wrote it to tell you more about the story in front of the group (if they are willing.)

Common Bonds:

Supplies:  None needed (except for a little patience and the ability to command the room: )

This game is a great way to get your group up and moving around and to move people into groups that they wouldn’t normally sort themselves in. It also gives an opportunity to share bits and pieces of our story with one another.

Just as a warning- this game requires a pretty big area of to work in and whoever is leading this exercise needs to be able to wrangle the group back to attention when it’s time to move on to the next group of questions.

Before starting this game, explain that you will be calling out a category and then division within each category.  Each person will go the category division that best fits her. Once everyone is in her division, you will read a question and everyone will take turns answering that question within her group. When they are finished, they should all raise their hands to let you know that they are ready to move.

You can choose your own categories, divisions and questions, but here are some examples:

Cat 1: Birth Order:  The divisions are oldest, middles, youngest and onlys (tell them where each group will meet)

Q: Describe the member of your family you are most like. Why?

Cat 2: How long have you lived here?  Divisions: whole life, half of my life, less than a quarter of my life, I’m new here

Q: What do you remember about the day you moved here?

Cat 3:  What do you like to do in your free time?  Division: read, time with friends, go shopping , watch tv

Q: What’s your favorite hobby?

Cat 4:  Vacation destination:  home, sunny beach, mountains, chocolate factory

Q: What’s your favorite vacation location?

This is a great activity for forming more of those simple connections that bond us together, and a great follow up activity to “Me, too.”  Ask a couple of the ladies to share things they have learned that they didn’t know before.

Pass the Beans:

Sharing our hidden talents...

Sharing our hidden talents…

Supplies: 15 dried beans for each participant

Everyone has a special talent  and unique experiences, but sometimes they are hidden, so no one else knows about them. The goal of this game is to reveal those gifts to the rest of the group.

Ask women to form groups of five, and then have each group sit in a circle. Give each person 15 beans. Explain that the girls are to try and collect beans by describing their unique experiences or abilities. For example, a woman might tell about running in a marathon, being able to recite all the books of the Bible, or her passion for painting with watercolors. Whatever activity they describe must be absolutely true.

After someone shares an activity, each lady who has never done that must give the person who shared one bean.  Have participants take turns listing their unique experiences and abilities until each person has shared 10 activities.
After everyone has shared at least 10 activities, ask women to report how many beans they’ve collected. Then ask for volunteers to share interesting activities they heard about and encourage those that have done that activity to share more about their stories.

The purpose of these next two games is to go deeper into our stories with one another.  These should definitely fall later in your program, after women have had some time to get to know each other a bit.

Deeper Questions:

Supplies:  Chairs and tables

Strings Attached Pictures 006 - Copy

This exercise is best done in groups of less than ten(5-8 is the perfect range) sitting in circles or at circle tables. Be sure to have tissues handy as this can sometimes get emotional.

Have the ladies sit in a circle (or around a table) and go around the group answering these questions one at time.  Allow about 2-3 min for each woman or more as time allows.  Don’t rush these, there are beautiful stories here.

1.  What is your happiest memory from your childhood?
2.  What is the one thing you will never compromise or can’t live without?
3.  What is your biggest fear?

The Hot Seat:

Supplies: Chairs

This is another activity that really encourages depth in sharing. This activity is best done in smaller groups of 5-8.

Sit in a circle around an empty chair. Ask for a volunteer to sit in the “Hot Seat.”  Ask them to tell about a time in the last week that she experienced the presence of God.  Then ask others to sit in the hot seat and share.  Make up your own questions or use some of these:

1.  Tell us about a time last week you roared with laughter?
2.  What was the topic of the last serious discussion you had with someone close to you?
3.  In what way did you come to the aid of someone last week?

You don’t necessarily have to come up with your own questions. Let the group come up with questions to answer.  Start with a few that are guided and then move to group suggestions.

Covenant Relationships: The Power of Prayer

This is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached.  It’s a short little guidebook that walks through the Strings Attached Pledge and the development of covenant relationships.  Enjoy!

job and his friends

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” – Job 42:10

I love this quote from Job. Let me refresh your memory about the story.  This particular verse actually takes place within the Epilogue of the story of Job. Job has been through (literally) Hell on Earth; he has been faithful, but prideful; he has questioned God; and he has seen the error of his questions and repented before the Lord.  The Lord is angry with Job’s friends for speaking out against Him. He tells them to offer burnt sacrifices and Job will pray for them and that Job’s intercessory prayer will be heard. It is heard and Job’s friends are restored in the eyes of God. Job also, by praying for his friends, is restored.

How many times have you said to someone going through a tough time, or needing a little encouragement, “I’ll pray for you.”

I do it, often multiple times a day. It’s the standard Christian good bye.  “Hi, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, thanks!”

“Oh great…I’ll pray for you!”

That’s wonderful! But the real question is: how often do you REALLY do it? Do you REALLY pray for them?

I will be totally honest – I am preaching to the choir here! I have been really convicted of late to change this part of my Christian walk.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to me, too):

The next time you are confronted with an opportunity to pray for someone…STOP RIGHT THERE and do it! Right then! There are a couple of ways to do this:

First, you could simply say to the person you are talking to, “I would love to pray with you about that. May I pray with you right now?” If the answer is yes, well, then you know what to do.

Sometimes, however, the answer will be no. Prayer is a very intimate experience and some people are simply not ready to share that with you. They may covet your intercessory prayers on their behalf, but they are not ready to be privy to them.  This is ok, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t pray RIGHT THEN.  Just take a moment alone, and lift that person up in prayer. Your moment doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be intentional. I find that not only does praying for others encourage a life of “praying without ceasing it also helps me to remember the prayer requests of the people who I run across in my daily life.

Thinking of the Book of Job, I often wonder at Job’s friends. They showed great loyalty by sitting with him.  They sat for 7 days and watched their friend suffer. They debated and thought and tried to coach Job through a solution to the problem.  Sometimes, perhaps they were not far from striking the theological truth. Sometimes, they were just plain ole wrong. But never once did they offer to do the one thing that all good friends should do. They never once offered to pray for Job.

I wonder what would have happened if they had?

Covenant Relationships: Commitment and Time

The following post is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached. Enjoy!

photo-two-girls-talking-on-dock-1

Real relationships require a couple of non-negotiables to flourish: commitment and time.

Webster defines “commitment” as: the state or instance of being obligated or emotionally compelled. Of course, it also defines commitment as consignment to a mental
institution, but for now let’s stick to the first definition. 🙂

I like to substitute the word, “covenant” for “commitment.” A covenant is a “binding agreement or pact.” So, in essence, Strings Attached relationships require three things up front.

First, they require COMMITMENT. In order to build deep, trusting, friendships you can count on to help you with everything from plunging your toilet to moving to offering a shoulder to cry on, you have to be emotionally compelled to act for your friend from day one. You have to be committed to caring for your friends.

Secondly, they require COVENANT. Did you ever prick your finger, watch your friend prick hers and then press them together, becoming blood sisters? My best friend’s mom was a bit of germ-o-phobe, so we became “toothpaste” sisters instead. But, I remember clearly the
day we sat in her little playhouse in the backyard, with the sign on the door that said, “NO BOYZ ALLOWED!” – as though that ever kept her little brother out – and pressed our thumbs, slathered with toothpaste, together while boldly declaring that we were, indeed, blood sisters and
would always be there for each other. We were nine and understood the idea of a covenant relationship more clearly than most adults do today. That day we made a pact to stand by one another.

God was clear about the nature of covenant relationships. They are the kind of relationships we were created for –that He created us to have with Him. It is full-fledged commitment. It doesn’t mean just knowing and understanding Him, but caring, loving and fully surrendering to His overarching plan for our lives. Walking with Him, interceding for Him with others, and
fulfilling our active role in the relationship.

He built us to be blood sisters with each other. He wants us to model our heavenly relationship in our physical relationships on earth.

The third thing these relationships require is TIME. All things grow with time, and that includes friendship. Time is one of our most valuable and valued commodities. True relationships are built with time spent together, learning about one another and understanding one another.

So are you willing? Are you ready to form deep and long lasting strings attached relationships?

Break out your toothpaste, sisters, ‘cause here we go!