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Thursday, 02 September 2021 19:32

Keep Family Identity Alive

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families

Empty nests do not equate to dissolved families. Celebrating our family identity keeps those relationships fresh and alive.

Although our nuclear family has transformed into an extended—and even long-distance—family, we still maintain our core identity. Who are we and what it means to be a member of this family changes over time as the children mature and add spouses, but that sense of family can always be there.

I asked my kids to give me a list of descriptors that described us. They immediately responded with silly, goofy, and weird. My son added “zany at times.” (Their friends say our family is not normal.) Don’t worry, they also included open, communicative, loving, adaptive, loyal, and close.

How would you describe your family? What is your family identity that keeps you close even when you are apart? Here are a few things we do; feel free to adopt and adapt to your family!

  • Humor is an essential part of our relationships and keeps us in touch in a lighthearted way. We love puns like, “I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!” (You heard the rimshot, right? Ba-dum-SHH) Whether we laugh or groan, it’s a simple way to connect and requires little-to-no response. It simply says, I thought of you today!

 

  • Communication is key but doesn’t need to be constant. Regular and diverse forms such as phone calls, texts, video chats, and visits all work together for this. It allows us to keep our relationships a priority. But be flexible, and give each other grace; just because you didn’t hear from them in the past week doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means they are living an active life. When you do talk, learn to be an active listener. Reflect to them what they are sharing so that they know you are engaged.
  • Shared Experiences: Occasionally, we choose a show series or movie to watch. We don’t watch it at the same time, but we set aside time to discuss it. The content ranges from light to serious to a little bit of both. The point is to connect—you don’t have to be together to be together!
  • We regularly meet with extended family on both sides of the family. This reaffirms our relationships with our core family, reunites us with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and promotes the value that family is important. Of course, it depends on your family dynamics and who is willing to participate. For us, it’s not a coerced event, and our kids participate eagerly.
  • Share hospitality. Friendly reception of their friends increases your family reach. When college friends came to our house for short visits, we tried to embrace them as our own, doing our best to make them feel welcome. Not only does this show love to the friends, but it also honors your kids’ and makes them feel loved as well.
  • Keep an Open-Door Policy. Our ongoing relationship needs to be a place of security. No matter their choices in life, they need to know they are an accepted part of the family Luke 15;11-32). We may not agree with you, but we will always love you. Love outshines our opinions; they know what we believe.

My son summed it up this way, “We’re all so comfortable with one another. We celebrate our strengths and support each other in our weaknesses. We enjoy our similarities as well as what make us each unique.”

We’re not a perfect family. We get frustrated and annoyed with each other at times. But we work hard to see past the frustrations to celebrate and support each other.

What does your family value? I’d love to hear about how you would describe your family identity. Send me an email and tell me all about it!

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:38

Beauty Hunting

I learned a new phrase the other day: beauty hunting. It’s active pursuit of discovering beauty in the world around you. Isn’t that great?

Francis Bacon wrote “Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite”. Beauty, in all its forms, inhabits the world around us. Maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to move past the pain of the past year. It’s okay to grieve losses and celebrate beauty at the same time. God promised us beauty for ashes in Isaiah 61, it must be around to find. Looking for delightful moments allows us to peek at the limitless creation around us, and it redirects out minds to hope and restoration.

As a new empty nester, I need some hope and restoration. Actually, the first thing I’m doing is retiring the word empty from empty nest, because empty evokes hopeless emotions. But we are far from hopeless. We are ready to thrive! Transformative nest doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a better description. There’s a fresh life full of adventure – and beauty – waiting for each of us. For many, life slows down, and you can finally take a deep breath, look around and take in all sorts of lovely things and moments. Beaty hunting!

In this new season of life, I’m looking for fun to rejuvenate my spirit. So, let’s make a game of this. When you are out and about, see if you can observe beauty with all five of your senses. For example:

  • I see an older couple holding hands.
  • I hear the giggle of a child. (Isn’t that the best?)
  • I smell freshly baked bread.
  • I feel the cool breeze after a thunderstorm.
  • I taste the wonder of a pour over coffee.

Beauty promotes joy and elicits wonder, reminding us our creator put good in the world for us to enjoy. Beauty permeates all of life, spilling out of the ordinary. Allow it to seep into your soul and redirect our sensory input from the negative to the positive. Don’t ignore difficulties, but let beauty keep them in balance.

Beauty hunting creates memorable moments in a normal day. Broaden the scope of its impact by describing why something is beautiful to you. What we see as beautiful often comes from experience.  That older couple mentioned above represents resiliency in marriage. They remind me of my parents who shared 57 years together before my dad passed away. Time tested they remain together with a bond that cannot be broken. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s true about that random couple I saw but to me, that’s what they represent. Continue with the list and ruminate on each beautiful observation. Linger over the details.  

Beauty hunting can look however you want. You can do it alone or with a group; it starts great conversations! It can be used when out to dinner and the conversation wanes or on a walk through a familiar neighborhood. Our souls yearn for the lovely in our lives to touch us deeply and produces joy and peace.

Try it and email me your observations! Everyone needs a little beauty.

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Published in Devotionals
Friday, 21 May 2021 15:21

Build Bridges

Enjoy this guest post from Nita Wilkinson. She shares her story of briding Generation Z to Traditionalists! Such an encouraging story! - Leslie

“It has been said that when everyone is certain that something can’t be accomplished, someone goes ahead and does it anyway.” Ira Thut, Manager of West Liberty Homes 1977

It all started with a bake sale. The small town of West Liberty had a dream of a “senior citizen village” that would allow them to age with purpose and dignity. The financing of $1 million had the dream fading. But a women’s sewing circle refused to give up. They planned a bake sale that netted $2,232, and the dream was taking shape. Seven years later, a legacy was formed.

“Our purpose is to meet the total needs – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – of the older person, to offer a secure environment, a sense of dignity, and to help him retain his lifestyle. We believe in a ministry to the aging whose personal needs we have special concern. We believe in a ministry with the aging as we seek to involve them as partners in the total program. And we believe in a ministry of the aging in which their special gifts of maturity, understanding, vision, concern, and experience is recognized and utilized.”

Those words are so progressive. More than 40 years ago, in 1972, they spoke in terms that many aging services providers strive to live by today. Those words have driven the culture at Green Hills for 45 years.

That progressive thinking continues at Green Hills today with the Techy Teens Savvy Seniors program. The original objectives were to create an intergenerational mentoring program with the teens mentoring the seniors on technology. What happened was so much bigger than any of us imagined.

In the first meeting, there was some nervousness and shyness on both sides. As they met and learned about each other, there was just a great connection. The teens and seniors hit it off and formed close relationships that none of us anticipated. It originally was planned for once a month, but the teens begged to come more, so we did twice a month.

While the seniors happily learned about e-readers, smartphones, and social media, the teens quickly realized that these elders were a wealth of knowledge and experience. The teens wanted to build on the technology and the value of the elders, so they created many social media challenges that paired a senior with a teen. There were scavenger hunts, carpool karaoke, and the favorite activity; teaching the elders the whip and the nae nae.

When the new program was announced to the seniors, there was a lot of excitement. Many of them had smartphones and e-readers that they knew offered more than just phone calls. Marjorie couldn’t wait to learn how to send the same email to all her sisters. She was retyping the whole email for all 4 of them! One of the teens fixed her question the first day, and she was thrilled at how easy it was.

Ruth came to my office a couple of days after we announced the new program was coming. She had a brand new iPad, still in the box with the wrapper on it. She asked if the teens would help her figure out “what this thing was.” Her grandson proudly gave it to her for Christmas but didn’t advise her on using it. She took it to her next family Christmas with books, games, and social media on it.

The biggest surprise was how quickly the teens understood the value and experience the elders had. They were soon doing videos with interviews about their proms, their sports, and how the seniors navigated the computer era coming to their jobs that had always been paper.

The teens invited the seniors to a basketball game since several of the kids played or cheered for the local high school. The athletic director set up a VIP section for the seniors and gave them snacks “on the house” all evening. The teens also did a pizza “tailgate” with them before the game. The conversation filled the room with laughter and friendly banter.

Nancy, one of the elders, shared a memory of playing girls basketball when she was in high school. She reminisced and told Liz, a star girls basketball player and a techy teen, how she wished they could have played full court. Liz was appalled and said she would have fought it. Nancy explained that they were lucky even to get to play; no one even thought of asking for more. This was such an awesome moment as the kids realized how Nancy’s generation started opening doors, so they have so much available to them today.

The teens also put together a prom for the seniors at Green Hills, including those in the nursing center and assisted living. The young men dressed up and escorted the women in. (Even those in wheelchairs). They crowned a king and queen and fed them lunch.

What started as a simple program grew into life-long friendships. The teens invited their favorite seniors to their grad parties. And all of the savvy seniors were invited to the teen's graduation. The school once again embraced them by giving them special places to sit and immediately access the teens after the ceremony.

Several of the teens did a presentation about the program for a DECA competition and couldn't hold back tears during that presentation because they knew their time was coming to an end.

The techy-teens, savvy-seniors was beneficial to both generations in so many ways. They have all learned the value of others and how we learn from each other.

The relationships that formed were lasting. I never in my wildest dreams thought they would grow so close and continue to communicate long after the first round of teens graduated.
They understood how other generations live and that they both have so much to offer. The seniors learned how responsible the teens are as they handle jobs, get good grades, and still do extracurricular activities. And they have learned so much from each other.
Green Hills has benefitted from the energy and creativity of the teens. Many of them have become volunteers for events for all of Green Hills.
Bellefontaine High School has benefited from the experience and knowledge of the residents.

The world tells us teens are irresponsible and selfish and that elders are antiquated and useless. The Techy-Teens, Savvy Seniors will say to the world there is value in both generations and extra joy and love when you allow them to partner and share.

Ira Tuth would have loved to see these folks going ahead and doing it anyway!

Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 29 April 2021 17:38

Easter shoes showing me the way home.

 

As a little girl, my sisters and I received a new Easter outfit every year often including a new pair of white patent leather shoes. I felt grown up as the heals clicked down the church hallway. We paraded into church with our new dresses, Easter hats and our fancy shiny shoes. Those were special shoes, marking for the most important day of the year.


This year my Easter shoes looked different. Our church sponsored a stay-home mission trip. We served local organizations in various ways to help alleviate much of the added work that this difficult year brought.
Assigned to staining a deck and ramp of a warming center, I tried to work without inconveniencing the residents, but that proved more difficult than I thought. We could not lock the windowless door, so several people accidently stepped out onto the wet deck. Redirected to the other exit, most quietly respected the request.


At the end of the day, my white shoes were covered in red stain blotches. I sent pictures to my kids asking them to guess what I had done that day. Various guesses related to blood commenced, entertaining us with the silly humor we like to share.

But one moment from that day captured my attention.
Two men approached the ramp hesitating and unsure of what to do. I apologized for blocking their entrance, inconveniencing their normal routine.
One replied, “It’s okay, you are making our home beautiful.”


This caught me off guard, he said “home”. Home implies permanence, a dwelling place for family. A place I regarded as temporary for those suffering setbacks, a place of rescue and even sanctuary but not home. His comment humbled me and reminded me of how little I really knew of other’s sufferings.


Holy instances like these, cause one to pause and reflect. Straining to see behind the supernatural veil, I captured a glimpse of Jesus in that moment.
Jesus, as Messiah, had no home but He abided in the Father and we abide in the Christ. When we serve the least of these, we serve Jesus, and we are truly home. Discussing this with my son, he drew my attention to Psalm 91:1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty”


That man’s pleasant response reminded me that he was not the only one at home in that instance. I too, found my home there because Jesus was there in that man’s words. As I write this, I am reminded that maybe I mislabeled the needy person in that circumstance. Truly after a difficult year, I was the least of these and this man’s humble spark of gratitude in a life of hardship, deeply ministered to me.
Now, my stain-spattered Easter shoes remind me of the promise that my eternal home will always be in Jesus.

 

Published in Devotionals
Sunday, 31 January 2021 19:59

Restore the Broken House of God

Untitled design 4

Are you frustrated with the fractured society that has infiltrated the church? Anger, conflict, and division ripped through our country this last year. People were categorized allowing us to dehumanize them. BUT they are human - created in the image of God. We need to see each person as individuals. Young people look to their elders for example and accuse us of apparent hypocrisy. Jesus calls us to restore others – repairers of the breach in the King James. Isaiah 58:12 NLT Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. 

As I scroll through social media, my stomach flipflops to see the vitriol written. Brutal critiques of the “other side” continue to flow. Criticism from younger people bring tears to my eyes because they are partially correct. Offensive words put us on the defense, but I implore you to look beyond the acidic words and see the pain behind. 

Together we can open an amicable discourse that encourages freedom to respectfully express opinions. We can each be the repairer of the breach we see in our communities. Where do we begin? 

  1. We repent of any offense we are carrying. Ideologies divide our theology and that must stop. Humbly we go before our Lord and admit we do not have all the answers. Young and old in the church disagree about important topics but not the Gospel. If Jesus is Lord, we belong to the same family. We pray and live Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. NLT 
  2. Listen to those that disagree with you. Not online, but in person or on the phone. Listen to the heart behind the opinion, the depth of knowledge behind it may surprise you. Our goal becomes understanding, building relationship and trust. Proverbs 12:15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. NLT
  3. Instead of correcting their opinion, tell them why they are important to you and your community. Ask them how you can pray for them. Where are they struggling, how can you be an answer to their needs? Encourage them through Scripture, not to correct but to grow together. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. NLT 
  4.  Throughout your discourse, clearly state your mutual faith in Jesus. Our unity rests on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the nonnegotiable center of the relationship; Jesus is the Lord of our life. Centered on Him nothing else matters, let Him teach each of us to be more like Him. Galatians 1:11-12 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. NLT 
  5. Respectfully disagree if you feel it necessary. Make it clear, all opinions can be discussed if they are stated respectfully both by you and your young friend. No opinion should be held so tight that it damages the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:2 Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. NLT 

 Each generation holds important characteristics to cherish in one another. Combining them together, the Holy Spirit interweaves us in ways beyond our understanding. 

  1.     Traditionalists bring wisdom of their experience. 
  2.     Baby Boomers get it done with their strong work ethic. 
  3.     Generation X join us with their ability to problem solve. 
  4.     Millennials strong desire to care for their community empower us to reach out. 
  5.     Generation Z’s pragmatic approach to life help us to ease into working in a diverse workforce. 

 It is true that Jesus said He would bring division (Luke 12:51-53) but the division occurs in recognizing the deity of Christ. We are divided by believers of the Gospel and those that reject it. Within the faith we need each other and we need to initiate the restoration of our church homes.

 

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 03 October 2020 12:31

The Dragonfly Effect

 dragonfly effect 2

 

Dragonflies played a lovely part of raising our son. To pass the time while his sister napped, we
counted the dragonflies that sunned themselves on our neighbor’s roof. As he grew, he learned
to capture these delicate creatures and bring them to me for study.
 
Dragonfly eyes dominate the tiny faces of these odd creatures giving them excellent vision.
While our vision sees in shades of three primary colors, the dragonfly sees way beyond that, up
to 30 different primary colors. Their vision captures much more of the vibrancy of the light
spectrum, they even see ultraviolet rays!
 
Body heavy, these fascinating insects look like that couldn’t get off the ground. Yet, their
iridescent wings glimmer in the sunlight as they fly. Masters of flight each of their wings work
independently allowing them to catch their dinner on the fly. At 30 miles per hour they can eat
hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
 
I can relate to the dragonfly. I feel like I’m awkward and unable to do what God calls me to each
day. But if these baffling insects can traverse the air with acrobatic stunts, I too can learn live in
the way I am designed. Free to fly as God leads and seeking the vision to see His next steps. This
is how I see you as well.
 
Dragonfly women fly because they are fruitful, linked, and yielded.
 
        F: Fruitful, bridges to other generations and builds relationships that bring unity to the
            body of Christ. We recognize we need each other but we also value the next as well as the
            previous generation as dynamic members of our community.
       L: Linked by these bridges, we depend on one another because we yearn to nurture
           each other as well as be nurtured. A vibrant woman thrives in community.
       Y: Yielded to the Holy Spirit, we desire a close relationship with God that builds our
           confidence and anchors our identity in Christ. We release insecurity through living as God's
           child.
 
When we learn to live this way, we recognize God esteems us as His daughters. Our mid-life
centers around renewing and restoring ourselves recognizing we are still needed. We are a vital
part of our community.
 

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

 
Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 29 June 2019 12:25

Building a Legacy

Building A Legacy

Be the woman you wished you had in your life. Legacy by Leslie Schonfeld

Leslie Schonfeld

I always knew I wanted to teach God’s word, but I didn’t know how to initiate that process. I prayed for opportunity. I was determined to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, but I was afraid any movement I made would be outside of God’s will. I will never forget the phone call that came on a bright June morning. Elizabeth was looking for women to mentor into Bible Study leadership. A wonderful teacher, she saw in me a glimpse of who I could become. She was wondering if I would be interesting in joining two other women in a year long process. After that year, the three of us would share the Bible Study leadership at our church. I didn’t hesitate to say yes—this is what I had waited for! As the year progressed, so did our friendship. Soon we were discussing more than Bible Study—we were sharing our lives.

But it wasn’t just knowledge she poured into me. Elizabeth knew me, and saw what I was good and what I was not-so-good at. She saw things I didn't see; she exposed flaws and encouraged gifts. Not only did she teach, but she listened. Introverted, she chose her words thoughtfully. I was the extrovert to her introvert, and often had ten times as many words as she did! But she listened closely to every one of them. She was a wonderful sounding board and I have learned much not only from her knowledge but also her technique.

“You realize I didn’t give you any advice,” Elizabeth would say with a chuckle. “I just had to wait until you heard what was in your head. You came to the conclusion without me.”

That may be true, but I needed help untangling that mess. I’m a verbal processor; I needed someone who loved me enough to patiently listen to all the details, all the bunny trails, and finally determine the conclusion. This is one of the tools I bring to the young women I know. I love them because I was loved. I pass on the legacy I was given.

Maybe you didn’t have an Elizabeth in your life—don’t let that stop you from being an Elizabeth for someone else! The potential is in you because you have Jesus in you. He is greater than your past. Put Him in the center of your relationships and watch Him work. You can do this. Be the woman you wished you had in your life.

I know, I know—I can hear your protest now: “But I don't have anything to offer!”

That’s not true. Discipleship is not about your accomplishments. You don't need an impressive resume or a string of letters behind your name to be a mentor. Discipleship is about sharing your struggles as well as your victories. Sharing life is more important than sharing advice. Availability plays a stronger role than teaching knowledge. You have wisdom to share but your confidence comes from your identity in Christ, not your achievements. You are fully equipped, and sharing you time tells others they are important. Sharing life—like Jesus did with His disciples— just takes availability.

Will you make yourself available?

Leslie Schonfeld

Speaker, Author, founder Dragonfly Ministry

Leslie Schonfeld

Published in Devotionals