Thursday, September 27, 2012

Most Blessed

Living a life of gratitude and grace is about taking time to see the beauty within...

each day
each person
each thing with which we have been most blessed.

It is about realizing that we are blessed because of the Blessed One, and that we honor his blessings by noticing them.

Well this morning I noticed.

Olive oil on the kitchen table that I know for sure had been...

poured
portioned
prayed over in preparation for the "Brotherhood Men's Retreat".

 




































I said a silent "thank you" as I considered each person that would be impacted by that oil, which I know for sure had been "blessed".

I said a silent "thank you" for every family, husband, father, mother, and child that would be covered with blessings.

"These are the things that I don't want to take for granted anymore."

Children eating chocolate chip waffles at a table covered in blessed oil.
Children happily quoting Bible Verses they've memorized with help.
Children being raised together with...

a praying man
a God-fearing man
an imperfect man, my husband

who I know for sure has met and communed with

a praying man
the God-Man
the perfect man, Christ Jesus

And what I know for sure, is that

this oil
this house
this family

is "Most Blessed".


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Crayon Melting... (Week 1)

I've heard it said that you don't know how much stuff you have until you have to pack up and move.  Well fortunately for me I haven't moved since I was 8 years old, so I am not that familiar with the "packing process". 

However, when I began sorting through all of our child care stuff before we closed our program, I came to realize just how much we actually had.  There were children's books and toys galore, and even the crayons were spilling out of the container!

Chubby...
Skinny...
Broken...
Used...
Donated...
Restaurant collected...
You name it...

We were up to our elbows in crayons, but instead of throwing them out, I had several activities in mind...



Activity #1-Crayon Bundles






What I did: I grabbed a crayon from each "color family", grabbed a small rubber band, and made crayon bundles.  (Language and Literacy, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Development).




What they did: They picked up the crayon bundles and began coloring!  Since I was working with a mixed age group it was very interesting to see the various "scribbling stages" that the children were in.









Lesson Reinforced:  I have been faccinated ever since my college days when I learned that scribbling is an essential part of a child's fine motor development.  Up until that time I had always heard scribbling mentioned with a negative connotation ("oh, she's just scribbling") and did not realize there are actually "20 basic scribbles" that all children must master before "writing".  As adults we must be careful not to place judgment on children's art.  However, they should have opportunities to express themselves freely without adult comment.  Follow this link to learn more about Rhoda Kellogg's extensive research on children's art, and how we came to know about the "20 basic scribbles".





Helpful Tip:  Keep your children's developmental stage in mind when planning activities.  For instance, do not give infants or toddler rubber bands (tape their crayons together instead) because they are a choking hazard.  Very young children still have the tendency to put everything in their mouths, so know your children.

Activity #2-Crayon Melting

What I did: I kept seeing different variations of this idea on Pinterest...


Melted Crayon Art by JKCreate


Melted Crayon Monograms by Dilly Dali Art
 
So I decided to try to make a crayon masterpiece of my own...  I grabbed a piece of canvas that the children had tossed to the side, tore up some painter's tape to spell out my name, hot-glued some crayons, grabbed my hair dryer and quickly decided that...


 
I should have left the wrappers on the crayons
I should remove the painter's tape and
I should flip it the other direction
 
and voila!
 
That's the beauty of art...
 
 
 


(Click here to see more crayon activities)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Resting On the Back of Something Bigger!!


Today I witnessed something I had never seen before.

It was...
intriguing
amazing
enlightening.

It caused me to stop and consider...
success
support
life.

Today as the Space Shuttle Endeavor was flown across country "on the back" of NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, the pictures alone left me in awe.

And I realized...

that no matter
how big you are
how brilliant you are
or
how far you've come (even if it's to the moon and back!)

when you reach your final destination, you will find that you have only arrived safely because you found rest on the back of something bigger!


Are you resting?  (Matthew 11:28)


                         Photo courtesy of NASA.  Click here to read the full article.
 

Misc Shuttle 013.jpg 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life is Like a Box of... Crayons?

One day I began to sort our "big box of crayons" into color categories...
Blue/Greens
Yellow/Orange
Red/Purple/Pinks
and Gray/Earth Tones



I had crayons of

-every shape and size
-some still new, others used
-some with paper, others bare

Many were...
broken, but useful









and when my son saw what I was doing, he was eager to help, and together
we began peeling the papers off of the crayons and setting them to the side

He noted that some wrappers were easy to remove, but others fought back!


Since my intention was to...
melt them for a purpose

I wanted them to blend together

So, the ones that...
refused to surrender
were tossed into the trash

I also soon discovered that not all were what they initially appeared to be 
(some of the purple crayons, for instance were not really purple, they were blue)

The wrapper had been misleading...
causing us to sort it to the wrong pile

and once all the wrappers were removed it was much harder to

tell the dark blue crayons...
from the purple crayons...
from the black crayons... 

They almost all looked the same without their "label"

and it was only until after...
pressure was put on them

that the true color was revealed

Once they were finally...
separate and ready to be used

I realized that life is like a box of crayons!


God using each of our differing...

lives
abilities
talents
styles

to color His world 

AND...

He plans to...

sort
peel
test
melt

us

to make something new!

(Click the links below to follow the crayon activities)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

My son took this picture of me last year
while we were on vacation...



We were sitting in the lobby waiting for the rest of our group to meet us, and he asked for my camera.  I was uncertain, but handed it to him anyway. 

Then he noticed the flowers sitting on a small table between us,
and asked if I would take a picture holding them because...

"Mom, they match your dress"

(only thing...I was wearing a skirt)

Then he surprised me when he asked for me to stop and smell them

                             
"What does a (then) 9 year old boy 
know about stopping to smell the roses?"

And there it was...

Isaiah 11:6 "...and a little child shall lead them." 

(Yes, God will restore all order in His time)

So today on this National Day of Remembrance I want to implore you to...

hold the ones that you love dearly,
thank the Lord above,
let a child lead you,

and take time to stop and smell the roses!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our 27th First Day of School

Today was the first day of school! 

My children woke...

early
eager
excited

We had prepared as much as we could the night before.  Slept well.  Prayed up.

My mind was...

ridiculously calm
reflective
ready

The folks at my wonderful new job already knew to expect me in a little later

They knew that it was the first day of school
They knew that I wanted to be there to drop my children off
They didn't know the history behind our "first day of school" tradition

"Breathe, Tondra"

Shortly after the children were dressed, my mother arrived to cook our "first day of school" traditional breakfast of chicken and waffles.  We loaded up the car, and headed out, and as we stood in front of the school watching all of the children marching in with overflowing backpacks and tissue boxes in tow,

I couldn't help but think back...




It seems like just yesterday that my mother dropped me off for my first day of school...and then headed to the hospital where she would spend weeks trying to figure out why she was so sick.
The doctors said that she was dying and told her this was probably the last "first day of school" drop-off that she would ever make. 
  
"Just Breathe, Tondra"

Fast forward...

The doctors were wrong.  My mother lived to see EVERY first day of school that I had all the way through college!  God had big plans because my mother has also seen every "first day of school" for both my son AND my daughter. 

So today I was not only delighted to celebrate my children's first day of school,
but I also celebrated my mother's 27th "First day of school" with us

(and they said that my first would be her last!)
But God said... "Just Breathe"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Obtaining the Blessing of a Skinned Knee

I found this book at a used bookstore and was immediately captured by the title 

"The Blessing of a Skinned Knee" 

Isn't that an oxymoron?

I flipped the book over and read the back cover

It sounded...

Intriguing
Provocative and
Useful

for me in my career as an Early Childhood Professional

I brought the book home and have been

reading it and
re-reading it

for over a year now and

it is my "go to" book when I need to remind myself of the importance of letting children be children
 
it is my "go to" book when I need to look up the Jewish blessings so simply outlined for someone of a non-Jewish background to understand and

it was my "go to" book once again today...



Yesterday was my first day leaving my house for work
in over 8 years!

As I prepared to leave my house, I told the angels that are assigned to guard me,
"Okay, it's time to go." 

My neighbor (who is also a Pastor) saw me leaving, and said "C'mon let's have a word of prayer.  Winston told me that you begin your new job today, and we're asking for God's blessing."

He prayed and sent me on my way...

During orientation the lady sitting next to me (also a new hire) looked at me and said
"God is so good.  Can I just tell you how amazing He is?" 

She began to pour out her heart explaining how

she had acquired her new job, giving me chill bumps, and leaving me speechless!

I was introduced to coworkers
met many new people
and even saw a few familiar faces

Finally finished the day and headed to orientation at my children's school, still floating from the day's events until I suddenly realized that I was on the ground.  I rolled and ended up on my back looking up into the sky and the HUGE tree overhead and to my surprise...

A SMILE came across my face and I found the words "Thank you Jesus" spilling from the corners of my lips. 

Apparently the tree had tripped me because I saw the roots that had pushed the sidewalk up leaving it unlevel.  I felt the burn on my elbow and my knee mourning the location where skin had just been... and I got it!

The blessing of a skinned knee! 

Yes, it is easier to stay in the house for 8 years because you are far less likely to fall on the sidewalk... but you will never get to look up at the sky and the trees and see God in all of His Glory!

Baruch atah "blessed are you"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Survey Says... FAMILY is the #1 answer!

Okay, so here's the part that you didn't get to see...


Our journey began on a "Taco Tuesday" family night as us first cousins (Jamilla, Cherrell, Eileen, Marlies and Tondra) had just finished "grubbing" on tacos, chips, homemade guacamole, sweet tea, and red velvet cupcakes.  (This was pre Revolution for Jamilla and Cherrell, aka "The Harris Sisters".  Find out more about their lifestyle change/ weight loss journey here.)

As we were sitting around laughing, someone mentioned how much fun it would be to go on the Family Feud game show.

Well I have since learned that you should never say anything of front of Jamilla Harris unless you are absolutely serious because that girl knows how to make things happen!

I received a text a few weeks later... "Family Feud tryouts next weekend in Texas.  Let's fly down for a girl's weekend.  Call u later".

The idea in itself seemed very exciting, but after pricing airline tickets we decided the timing wasn't right.  But I have also since learned that when something is meant to be... it WILL be, and just a few weeks later Jamilla called to inform me that Family Feud tryouts were coming to us!!!  The auditions were to be held at a location less than 3 miles from my home. 

We were all super excited and screamed our heads off when they announced that the season would be taping out of Atlanta, GA!  Family Feud would be picking up the tab for roundtrip ground/air transportation, meals, and hotel accommodations... all they asked of us was for excitement to make for good television.  We could do THAT! 

The very following week Jamilla, Cherrell, and Marlies called me screaming "Congratulations, your family has been selected for Family Feud!"  I could barely make out what they were saying, but I started screaming too!  The next few months consisted of many "Taco Tuesday/Family Feud" study and practice sessions to ensure that we were ready when our time arrived. 

When the day finally arrived, we boarded the plane and headed out to Atlanta.  That evening we ate at "The Waffle House" across the street from our hotel.  I was so excited when I looked up to see my cousin Shonn walking through the door!  Although Shonn is a first cousin on my mom's side of the family, my Harris cousins adopted her as their cousin too.  Having her there made our night, and I realized that family has a way of making you feel at "home" no matter how far away you are from familiar surroundings!

The next day we arrived at the studio for taping and we had an amazing experience.  Everyone was so friendly, and all of the other families were super excited, as well.  When Jamilla introduced our family we surprised Mr. Steve Harvey with a song that I had written.

singing*
 
Guess who's here today... It's the Harris Family!
Look who's here today... It's the Harris Family!
We flew all the way to the ATL, to just say hi
"HI Steve"
Win the game, and take home the money!

Steve looked at us and smiled saying, "Any song with my name in it, is a hit!"

Jamilla, Cherrell, Steve Harvey, Eileen, Marlies, and ME!




Then the game was ON, and we gave it our all.  We took a round, they took a round... back and forth all the way up to sudden death!  At this point it all rested on my shoulders, and I quickly learned why it is termed sudden death. (Because that's exactly what it feels like when you buzz in first with the WRONG answer)  It is in a fact a "sudden death" that you keep playing over and over again in your mind...only in slow motion.  So we lost the game and were bid farewell with a parting statement of "you have a great family, maybe we'll have you back again some time" (If you're reading this and want to write to Family Feud on our behalf... that will not be necessary).
 
We headed back to the hotel and had our own "in room" party.  The girls kept trying to encourage me, but I felt like such a huge disappointment.  They ordered pizza and chicken and wouldn't let me chip in on the bill.  They reminded me that all we needed was Jesus and each other, and began to list all the ways in which we were winners.  During our conversation, Jamilla's phone rang and she stepped out of the room to take the call.  When she came back in she was wearing a huge smile as she informed Cherrell that they had gotten a call back from the ABC Network Show "The Revolution" which would be the beginning of other good things! 

(read the special post for that...here).
 
The following day our cousin Anita (another first cousin) and her 2 kids drove down to our hotel to see us.  I was delighted because this was my first time meeting the kids.  It was a mini family reunion!  We decided to walk across the street to get something to eat, and as we munched on chips and cheese and slurped our sweet tea, I realized that this was all beginning to feel a bit familiar.  I thought about it as I watched Cherrell reading from her menu...and it hit me.  TACOS! 
 
This whole saga had begun on a family Taco Tuesday night, and here we were at the culmination of our trip sitting with family that we hadn't seen in 20 years, and eating TACOS!  I finally started to see it.  Even though we had lost the game, it felt like such a win at that moment.    I love how God has a way of bringing everything back into perspective and reminding us of what really matters.
 
Sure I was disappointed that I cost us the game.  It would have been nice to get some "seed money" for down payment for a future child care facility.  It would have been nice to buzz in first and yell out the correct anwer.  Even though it didn't work out quite the way that we had hoped, I learned that no matter what...
 
FAMILY is and always will be the #1 answer!!