Month: April 2016

An Important Life Lesson Learned from the World’s Ugliest Scarf

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Rather unsatisfied with life.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels that way sometimes.

I know that my feelings are partly due to our recent move. We have a lovely new home in a wonderful neighborhood. The schools are great. We have many fun things to do within easy driving distance of our home. We have met so many good, kind, friendly people. But … I am someone who likes having roots. And two months hasn’t been quite long enough for me to put down roots.

So I’ve been going through the motions of daily life, but not very happily. As I wash the millionth(ish) dish of the day, as I vacuum the dog hair off of the stairs, as I dust, as I scrub, as I cook, I have had the same thought over and over.

“This isn’t what I want out of life. I want to be doing something more.”

More.

What is that “more”?

I’m not exactly sure. But as I’ve been trying to figure out what this “more” is that I want to be doing, I can let you know one thing: it does not involve housework. It involves … writing a book, perhaps. It involves sponsoring an orphanage in a third-world country. It involves connecting with people who share the deepest desire of my heart: making this world a better and a happier place, one act of kindness at a time.

And here, somewhere in between of a sink full of dishes and a bookshelf that needs to be dusted, I haven’t been able to find this “more.”

But I’m trying.

An Important Life Lesson Learned from the World's Ugliest Scarf

So yesterday, I took my son with me to run some errands. There is a new Michaels in our town, and off we headed, coupon in hand. As we wandered through the aisles, looking for felt to make our Star Wars Light Saber Popsicle Holders, I ran across the yarn aisle. I haven’t done anything with yarn since college, but I have been thinking about getting some kind of loom so I could teach my kids how to crochet simple hats. These would be great to add to my shoeboxes or blessing bags, and I thought it would be a good fine-motor skill for them to develop. I spotted the most simple loom – four pegs, just wide enough to crochet a scarf on. And it was cheap, and I had a coupon. Done.

I moved on to the yarn, and – yay! – skeins of soft yarn were on a “Doorbuster” sale. 70% off? Done. As I looked at colors, my son got excited.

“Mom, are you going to make ME a scarf?”

Well … I honestly hadn’t planned on that. But seeing the joy and hope on his face, I couldn’t help but say, “Sure, buddy. Pick your color.”

We settled on yellow AND black (“A bumblebee scarf, Mom!”), grabbed a few more skeins for future projects, and checked out. We came home and got busy with other projects, and then nap, and then a play date, and then dinner. And suddenly it was after 8 pm, and my son was asking (for the tenth time), “But Mom, when are you going to start my scarf?”

With a fair warning that I wouldn’t have time to finish it, I had him gather the supplies together for me. My plan was to figure out how to do it, and then let him help. I started working, and within a few minutes, I had the hang of it. And all kinds of ideas were running through my head. I could make scarves for my shoeboxes! I could give them to the homeless! Hey, maybe I’ll get so good, I can sell them, and use the money to buy more stuff for my shoeboxes! This is going to be the best hobby ever!

And then I looked … and I realized something.

This scarf. Was. UGLY.

Beginning a scarf

The thing is, with a loom this big, you’re supposed to use REALLY fluffy yarn. The thought had vaguely occurred to me, but, you know. 70% off. I thought if I doubled it, it would work out just fine.

I stared at the few rows of hideousness, all visions of crocheting fame flying out the window. It doesn’t even look like a scarf! It looks like … well, something that my 5-year-old would have done. Certainly not something that could be considered clothing. I sighed.

And then I heard a gasp.

“Mom. Look! LOOK! It’s … it’s a BUMBLEBEE SCARF!”

And I looked.

Not at the scarf.

At my son.

He was absolutely thrilled.

Apparently, I was making his dreams come true.

I smiled. And I kept going. Because apparently, this ugly scarf … it’s going to be enough.

I did a few more rows, then put it away as my husband and I put the kids to bed and worked on a few things around the house. I forgot about our new project.

But my son didn’t.

This morning, as I began preparing breakfast, he asked eagerly, “Mom, while you cook my eggs, can you finish my scarf?”

I started to chuckle. First, that he thinks that I’m coordinated enough to handle a hot pan, flipping eggs, AND a crochet hook all at once without scalding or impaling myself. And second, that he feels so secure in my love for him that he didn’t think I had anything better to do with my time than to cook for him and to make him a scarf.

And then I stopped in my tracks.

And tears came to my eyes.

And I realized something.

In this search for “more” … in this quest for fulfillment … in this desire to change the world … in the middle of this passion to make the world a better place, one act of kindness at a time …

I had forgotten.

I had forgotten that there is really, truly nothing better for me to do with my time than to cook for my son and to make him a scarf.

Because if I could change the world … this is what would be happening. In every single home where a child lived, there would be someone who has nothing better to do than to cook breakfast and to make a scarf. Every child would know this. Every parent would know this. And with that love, with that security, with that confidence, that parent and that child would walk out the door together, ready to bless everyone in sight.

I began to look around my kitchen, and I began to see things. The dishes left in the sink from last night were a remnant of the meal that I had prepared. My family had eaten. We had discussed our day, we’d made plans, we’d set a family goal. We’d left that table full and happy. That time in the kitchen, those chores that I often dread – they were an investment in my family.

Fruit bowl

The fruit bowl on the counter was full. And it was full because I had taken the time to grocery shop with my son the day before, teaching him about healthy food choices that give our bodies energy. And as I peeled and washed and chopped, I was teaching my children to invest in their bodies and their health. I was giving them the strength they needed to step out the front door and change the world.

Every meal. Every dish. Every hug and kiss and song and prayer. Every story. Every tangle brushed out of long hair. Every ride to school, or to swim lessons, or to a play date. Every shopping trip to buy clothing or food for growing bodies. Every bit of unpaid, unnoticed, thankless service.

They all matter.

Every single one.

This message is for you, exhausted new mom who feels like you do nothing but feed and clean and burp and rock.

This message is for you, young dad who has forgotten what “free time” feels like because every extra minute you can find is dedicated to your children.

It’s for you, teacher who spends day after day after day trying to instruct and correct and protect and guide children who are not your own, but who you love with all of your heart.

It’s for you, who spends your days brushing tangles out of hair, breaking up arguments, folding piles of laundry, bathing little bodies, and cutting food into tiny pieces.

This message is for you.

What you do every day: it is enough.

You are enough.

By all means, take a break when you need it. Reach outside yourself to serve and to make a difference. Find your passion and pursue it. Do what you can do to make yourself strong and happy. Because if you are strong and happy, your family will benefit.

But then come back. And fry another egg. And know that in that small act, you are changing the world.

And maybe … just maybe … you can even crochet an ugly scarf.

Ugly scarf

The Shelter Challenge (Updated)

I’m back, y’all!   

(Only I’m in Colorado now, not Texas. Am I still allowed to say y’all? I hope so!)

These past few months have been busy. They’ve been chaotic. They’ve been a little bit rough. And I am so, SO excited to be back to writing and sharing with you! Life still isn’t 100% settled, but I’m hoping to be able to share weekly service challenges with you once again. And frankly, I’m ready to stop thinking about myself and start looking for ways to make a difference in my new community.

So this week, we repeat a previous challenge. And since we’ve done this before, I’m going to give you a few options: Easy, intermediate, and difficult. Are you in??

This week, we’re going to reach out to a local shelter and see what we can do to help! And for me, being new in my community, I’m starting from scratch again. I am so excited!

Simple Ways to Serve Your Local Shelter

To begin, everyone has the same assignment. Are you ready?

Find an empty box.

(Seriously. That’s it.)

Just get an empty box and leave it in a closet somewhere. As you find out what your local shelter needs, this will be where you’ll put your stash. When the box is full, time to donate! So simple.

And now, our three other ways to help a local shelter. Easy, intermediate, or difficult – what are you up for this week?

So first, the easy plan. If this is your first time participating, you just have two things to do. First of all, do an internet search: simply type in your zipcode and the word “shelter”. Then find something that touches your heart. Homeless shelter? Shelter for families? Temporary housing for teens? An animal shelter? Just pick one. And then step two: find out what they need! Often, you can find a wishlist online that you can simply print. If not, make a quick phone call and ask what the items are that they need the most. Write them down and stick the list somewhere that you’ll see.

That’s it!

I am a firm believer that the first step to making a difference in our community is simply knowing what our community needs. From there, helping will be much easier!Serving as friends

Okay, ready for the intermediate plan?

If you’ve participated in our shelter challenge previously, you already know what your local shelter’s needs are. So this week … time to do something about it! Here are my ideas for you:

* Set aside a cash budget. Then start bargain shopping! Does your shelter need new bedding? Check your local department stores (with coupons, of course) for sales and clearance deals. Do they need canned food? Scour your weekly ads and see how far you can stretch that budget.

* See what you already have in your home that you might be able to donate. Have a surplus of canned food that you probably won’t use before it expires? Share it with someone who is hungry! Have clothing that no longer fits? Let it go, and let it bless someone who does not have the means to buy new clothing. But please, please be mindful that you are not donating junk. Secondhand clothing? Totally fine. Terribly ripped and stained clothing? That will likely end up thrown away. I read this powerful article (and the buzz it stirred up on Facebook) almost two years ago, and it stuck with me. Donating things that our families would use if we still have the need for them – awesome. Donating garbage that we just can’t stand to throw away though – that just causes more work for the volunteers who sort through donations. When in doubt, give the organization a call and ask! Some organizations will accept tattered clothing to cut into rags, and some will have to take time to sort and throw it away. Just be mindful of what you are giving and take a moment to be sure it will be a blessing, not a burden.

* Get your friends to help you. I can’t think of a better way to make a difference than to reach beyond your own influence and let others help! As I’ve shared with you before, my friends and I have done everything from throwing a baby shower for charity to making blessing bags, and it has been so awesome. Tell your friends what you are gathering together, and see if anyone has anything else to donate.

* Advocate. Even if you have no money and almost no time, you can do that! Just let people know what the needs are in your neighborhood. Chatting with a coworker or a neighbor? Mention your local shelter and their needs. Are you on Facebook? Share a link to your local shelter’s Facebook page or wish list and encourage people to check it out.

Even if you are not in a financial position to help right now, you might be able to share the information with someone who can help.

The Quarter Challenge 005

Okay. There are our easy and intermediate challenges. Are you ready for the advanced challenge??

Volunteer.

I know that time is precious. I know that you might not think you can commit to helping a local organization on a regular basis. But often, their most desperate need is for volunteers. Women’s shelters need babysitters so the moms can attend work and training classes. Homeless shelters (and youth shelters) need mentors. Animal shelters need people to play with and walk the pets. Food pantries need volunteers to stock shelves and fill orders. Many organizations need people to do simple tasks like answer phones and help with paperwork.

They need your time.

If you are in a season of life with a few extra hours a week, make a phone call and see who you can help!

New mom care package

So there is your challenge for this week! Here is my personal plan:

* Find a local women’s shelter, homeless shelter, and animal shelter
* Start a “donation box” to collect needed items
* Donate at least one bag of items

What about you? Have you done our challenge before? How are you going to participate this week?