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    All posts in "family"

    Thank You Thursday – Isaac’s Example

    The Thank You Revolution is for everyone.

    My son, Isaac, is a great example for others to follow.  Last week, he had his braces removed.  It was a “fun” process for the whole family.  Isaac dealt with the pain and hassle of the braces.  Leanne and I dealt with financial pain of paying for this process.  And Leanne spent a fair amount of time carting Isaac to and from the orthodontist.

    photo(1)

    When Isaac had the braces removed and he saw the finished product, you could tell he was appreciative.  This past summer, he had the opportunity to go to Guatemala with our family.  While he was there, he saw kids and adults with all kinds of dental issues – missing teeth, crooked teeth, and decaying teeth.  I think this may have amplified his appreciation for his orthodontic opportunity.

    The night the braces were removed, Leanne and I were greeted by a thank you note as we headed to bed.

    photo(2)

    The note read:

    Thank You

    Dear Mom and Dad,

    Thank You for providing the money to get my smile correct!  I know it was a lot of money and I’ll try my best with the retainers.  Thanks again!

    Love,

    Isaac

    It was a simple note, and it left a big impression.

    You are not too old or too young to write a thank you note.

    Start today.  Express your gratitude to others.

    A simple note can change the world.

    How has a simple thank you note changed your world?  Why are you thankful today?

    8 Ways To Survive And Thrive When Things Get Busy

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    “Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to.”  Rob Bell

    Our family is in the middle of a very busy week.  We have activities every night this week.  And work is just as busy.  We’re closing out the month of January this week, so I’m chasing down invoices, time sheets, and project close out activities.  It’s weeks like this that cause my head to spin.

    If you’re anything like me, you have weeks like this too.

    What do you do when the weeks get crazy busy?

    I’ve found several things that help me survive and thrive when the weeks get crazy busy.  Here are my suggestions.

    8 Ways To Survive And Thrive When Things Get Busy

    1. Start each day with prayer and time with God.  This is where it has to start.  Even if you can spend 15 to 30 minutes of quiet time at the start of your day, it will be worth it.  This is the time to focus your day in the right place.  When I jump right out of bed and into the fray without spending time to pray, read God’s word, and reflect, it often feels like I’m wheel spinning out of balance.
    2. Find ways to exercise regularly throughout the week.  For me, this is the next part of my day.  Even when I’m busy, I try to exercise 5 or 6 days a week.  Raising your heart rate for 20-30 minutes through running, hiking, biking, swimming, or brisk walking can make a huge difference.  I’ve found that regular exercise helps to get my metabolism off and running, and it helps me stay alert through meetings and conversations when I really need to pay attention.
    3. Make the most of the small moments in between.  It can seem really hectic when you’re running from one meeting to the next or one activity to the next.  Being intentional in the in between is important to getting things done.  Last night when I arrived home from work, I had a few minutes before dinner.  I used this time to replace a flood light above our garage.  It took me a few minutes to get the extension ladder, and I another minute to climb up the ladder to replace the bulb.  This is a task that needed to be accomplished.  Those precious minutes before dinner were provided just enough time to check this off my list of things to do.
    4. Connect with your family.  This probably should be number 2 on the list.  If you’re married, pray with your spouse at the beginning and at the end of the day.  Connect when you both get home from work for a few minutes.  I don’t always get this right, but it’s important to remove distractions for a few minutes to give your spouse or kids your undivided attention.  For your kids, it might mean playing a game of ping-pong before you leave for an activity or before they start the next part of their homework.  Connecting with your family is a huge part of finding balance in the midst of a crazy busy week.
    5. Don’t be afraid to say no.  I realize we’ve all made commitments to be part of one meeting or an activity.  There may be times where we have to cancel something or postpone it, so we can take time to catch our breath.  It will be okay.  Really!
    6. Remember why you are involved with the activities or meetings in the first place.  When things get busy, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do.  This can happen at work, but it can also happen at the evening game or meeting.
    7. Learn from your scheduling mistakes.  Sometimes a busy week is impossible to avoid, but there are also times when we simply don’t schedule ourselves very well.  Build gaps into your schedule.  You need breaks.  You need opportunities to catch up on the little things.
    8. Practice sabbath.  Take a one minute break every hour.  Take an hour break every day.  Take a day break every week.  You need time to rest, to connect, and to be restored.

    It’s only Tuesday, I’m not sure exactly how the rest of my week will go.  But I do know that following these simple tips will help me though my crazy busy week.

    What kind of week are you having?  What helps your survive when the days and weeks get crazy busy?

    10 Great Things To Do On A Snow Day

    As I was getting my laptop out to write today’s blog post, we received a call from our school district indicating school would be closed tomorrow due to the snow storm blowing through our area yesterday and today.  The kids were jumping through the ceiling when they heard this news.  As I type this (at 8 PM Tuesday night), 9 inches of snow has fallen and it’s still coming.  The snow is supposed to end around 5 AM this morning.  We’ll see what the total is.

    The snow day made me think about all the great things that come with a snow day.  I thought you might enjoy my ideas.

    10 Great Things To Do On A Snow Day

    1. Shovel.  Shovel.  Shovel.  This was the way I made money when I was a kid.  Where have all the entrepreneurial kids gone?  Seriously, there’s something satisfying about shoveling.  My back doesn’t always enjoy the heavier snows, but a light snow is good for the soul.
    2. Read a good book.  There’s nothing like a good snow storm to slow us down enough to stop and read.  Right now, I’m reading Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room by Matt Appling.
    3. Play a game.  When I arrived home from work late this afternoon, Leanne and the kids were in the middle of a game of Monopoly.  Hannah has become quite the tycoon.  People don’t play board games anymore.  Sometimes a snow storm is just what it takes to get you to return to the old game closet or game shelf.
    4. Eat some comfort food.  Last night, Leanne had prepared a chicken and mushroom casserole.  I’m not sure what it was, but it just seemed like the right meal for a snow day.
    5. Watch a good movie.  I haven’t watched a good movie at home lately.  This is the perfect time for a Netflix movie.  What movie would you recommend?
    6. Listen to some good music.  Last night, I rummaged through my CD collection and found Marc Cohn‘s first album.  Nothing like Walking In Memphis to make you feel relaxed.
    7. Help a neighbor.  I kind of alluded to it in the first one above.  Snow days are great for gathering the neighborhood for shoveling, building a snowman, or having a snowball fight.
    8. Hot chocolate.  I can’t enjoy this one anymore unless I want a good migraine, but that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying a mug of hot chocolate with some marshmallows a couple of drops of Kahlua.
    9. Write a thank you note.  I know it’s not Thank You Thursday, but you could use the snow day to keep up with the 90 Day Thank You Note Challenge.  Just a thought!
    10. Rest!  Go ahead.  Take a nap.  Put your feet up.  Slow down for the day.  We rush around so much.  I snow day is a great time to take a break.

    What’s your favorite thing to do on a snow day?  What else would you add to the list above?

    Thank You – #30

    Advent Calendar

    Thank You No. 30

    Today, I’m thankful for advent.

    Our family kicks off our celebration of advent today.  We’ll be taking our kids into Philadelphia today for dinner and a Christmas show at the Walnut Street Theater.  This is a fun way to get our hearts and brains in gear this holiday season.  Each day from now until Christmas, our family will be doing something to celebrate advent.

    Why are you thankful today?

    Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

    Thank You – #28

    Miscellaneous JMS Photos 226

    Thank You No. 28

    Today, I’m thankful for family and food.

    I’ll be enjoying both today as we celebrate Thanksgiving at Leanne’s folks.

    Why are you thankful today?

    Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

    Thank You – #25

    Thank You No. 25

    Today, I’m thankful for my brothers.

    I have two brothers (actually three if you count my brother-in-law).  You’ve met my brother, David, through the blog comments.  He lives in Wisconsin with his family.  We are different in many ways, but we have a common bond in Christ that breaks through our differences.  He challenges me to think differently and to go against the flow.  My youngest brother, Erik, lives in Texas.  I wish we lived closer, so we could get together regularly just to hang out.  He is unbelievably talented when it comes to music and cooking.  And my brother-in-law, Andy, lives in South Carolina with his family.  I greatly admire his intelligence and the depth of his faith.

    Why are you thankful today?

    Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

    Sweet 16

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    Today is Hannah’s 16th birthday!

    Wow, time flies.

    16 is a big milestone.

    She is officially eligible to get her driver’s permit today.  This is a bit scary for Leanne and me.

    She is in her middle teens.  She is definitely moving into young adulthood.  She’s taking more responsibility.  She’s starting to look at colleges and to consider career aspirations.

    And she is taking responsibility for her own faith.

    To Leanne and I, it seems impossible we are already at this milestone.  We will always think of her as the little girl with the bobbed haircut who takes charge bossing her brother around and organizing backyard circuses and afternoon teas for her friends.  It seems like yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital in her car seat or taking her to her first day of preschool or watching her climb on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten.

    This is my prayer for Hannah on her 16th birthday.

    Dear God, Thank you for Hannah.  Thank you for the amazing gift you have given me in my daughter.  Thank you for the honor and responsibility of raising her.  God, I pray you will continue to work in Hannah’s life in a mighty way.  Help her to continue to grow in beauty – inside and out – in the years ahead.  More importantly, I pray that you will guide and protect her as she gets older.  Thank you for her heart to serve others and to honor You.  Use her in a mighty way.  I know you have big plans for her.  Help me to do my part in preparing her for the future, and help me to know how and when to let go at just the right time so she can continue to grow and serve.  I pray she will keep Your Word in her heart.  I pray she’ll surround herself with positive influences and that she’ll continue to look out for the needs of others.  Thank you for these 16 years.

    What do you remember about turning 16?

    Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

    6 Ways To Make Your Thanksgiving Holiday Extra Special

    Thanksgiving 2010
    November has been designated as the month for thanksgiving due to the holiday that falls towards the end of the month.  While I’d love to see thanksgiving be better represented the rest of the year, I can also tell you that our family probably concentrates more on giving thanks during this month than other months in the year.  You probably noticed that I have also added a separate post each day so far this month to express my thanks for someone or something.

    Today, I want to give you some ideas for enhancing your Thanksgiving experience this year.  Don’t wait until the last minute to implement these ideas.  Start today to make your Thanksgiving extra special this year!

    6 Ways To Make Your Thanksgiving Holiday Special

    1. Run or walk at a Turkey Trot.  A couple of years ago, I did the Thanksgiving Marathon in NYC which might be considered a little overboard.  Why not get out and run or walk a community 5K?  Many towns across the country have started their own Turkey Trot.  My wife and kids have run one in Latrobe, PA several times.  The races are always fun, and it makes the turkey taste so much better later that day.
    2. Invite someone over for dinner.  My guess is that you live near someone who is missing out on family.  They are lonely, and they may not have to means to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Why not invite them over to your house?  Usually, there are more than enough leftovers to go around after the Thanksgiving feast, and we can always put an extra chair around the table.
    3. Go out and serve.  There are hundreds of opportunities around your community.  The church in my hometown used to hold a Community Thanksgiving Day meal where our family served a couple of times.  This was a great way for my parents to demonstrate that Thanksgiving was so much more than turkey and football.  We had the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.  Why not find a place to serve with your family this Thanksgiving season?  (If you’re in the Perkiomen Valley area, consider joining our H.O.P.E. group.  We gather together twice a month to serve others in our community.)
    4. Change up the menu.  If you are like me, you like everything the same way every year – turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.  For some though, this may sound boring.  Why not change things up on your Thanksgiving menu?  My brother made beef tenderloin several years ago when we visited their family for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you should try Chinese food or fish or something more exotic.  Whatever it is, use this time to eat together with family and friends and to be thankful.  I knew menu could be the catalyst for new memories.  I still remember the year we deep-fried our turkey.  It was different, and it was something we will always remember.
    5. Start a Thanksgiving tradition.  For over ten years, our family has been using the same tablecloth for our Thanksgiving dinner.  The tablecloth is white.  Each year, those in attendance trace their hand onto the tablecloth using different colored fabric markers.  Then in each of the five fingers, we write down something for which we’re thankful along with our name and the year.  The tablecloth is now filled with names of grandparents who are no longer with us and with years of thanksgiving.  As we look at the table each year, it gives us to reflect on how God has blessed us even through years of challenge.  Why not start a new tradition this year in your home?  Go buy a tablecloth and some fabric markers today!
    6. Make it Thank You Thursday every week.  Matt McWilliams is a friend of mine from the blogging community.  Last year, Matt wrote about starting a Thank You Thursday Revolution.  In his post, he encouraged readers to write a handwritten Thank You note each Thursday.  Since his post, I’ve been writing a note (or several notes) every week to put into the mailbox of a co-worker.  It’s been remarkable to see the reaction.  We don’t need to be thankful one Thursday of the year.  Why not join the Thank You Thursday Revolution today?  It will change your world and the world of those around you!

    This is a start!  What other ideas can you add to the list?  How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?  How can do you plan to transform your holiday?

    7 Ways To Help Your Marriage Today

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    A successful marriage does not happen by accident.  A marriage that works requires intention.  You have to be intentional in cultivating your relationship so it lasts and sustains the ups and downs of life.  Leanne and I don’t have a perfect marriage.  We have plenty of things to work on when it comes to improving our marriage.  But over the past 17+ years of our marriage, we have learned the benefits of being intentional, and we have discovered some tools which have helped to build up our marriage.

    Today, I’d like to pass along some of the things we’ve learned so far.  And I’d like to encourage you to take action today with your marriage.  It will require intentional effort on your part, but it will be worth it.

    7 Ways To Help Your Marriage Today

    1. Pray together.  We aren’t perfect with this, but we do our best to pray together twice a day.  Before I leave the house for work, we pause to pray together.  At bedtime, we pray together.  This simple discipline pays huge dividends.  Praying together keeps us on the same page.  Praying together helps us support each other.  Praying together gets us through good days and tough days.  Start praying together today.
    2. Make church a priority.  Church attendance doesn’t guarantee a perfect marriage, but I believe it’s a great place to start in giving your marriage a solid foundation.  A church family provides a place to grow and to serve with others.  A church can also provide encouragement or accountability when necessary.  This doesn’t happen by attending church on Christmas and Easter only.  Instead, church should be part of your regular weekly schedule.  Decide today to plug into a church together.
    3. Practice a regular date night.  Leanne and I do our best to go on a date weekly.  This was definitely a challenge when our kids were younger as we juggled finances and childcare.  It’s easier for us now as our kids can be at home for a couple of hours by themselves.  A date can mean going out for dessert, playing tennis together, or taking a walk.  Making our weekly date night a priority shows our kids the importance of  marriage.  And it gives Leanne and I a fun opportunity to connect each week.  Dating should not stop when you say “I do.”  Dating is a discipline for your marriage as well.  Schedule a date with your spouse today.
    4. Serve together.  Finding places to serve together has been helpful in uniting our marriage.  This happens through our H.O.P.E. group on a monthly basis.  And our trip to Guatemala was a great place to serve together.  Helping others together has been a great way to connect and encourage each other.  It’s also another great opportunity to be an example for our kids (and others).  Find a way and a place to serve together today.
    5. Listen to marriage and family focused programs.  I listen to a lot of podcasts.  Two podcasts in my regular rotation are the FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey podcast and the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast podcast.  It may sound hokey or old-fashioned, but these programs are a great encouragement.  Each of these daily podcasts provides suggestions to help your marriage and family.  Filling our minds with positive information about marriage is important.  You can’t find many positive messages about marriage on television, in the movies, or in society today.  Listening to marriage focused programs like these is a place to slice through the negativity.  Go on-line today and download one of these podcasts or find our when and where you can listen to these programs on the radio today.
    6. Plan today to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference.  The most popular post of all time on The Stretched Blog is Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember.  Leanne and I have been to a few of these conferences over the years.  I’m not going to sugar coat it.  These conferences can be a lot of work as you listen to speakers and spend time talking about your marriage.  But we’ve found these conferences to be so helpful in building up our marriage.  We’ve collected valuable tools for enhancing our marriage (books, activities, and other ideas).  FamilyLife has made it easier than ever to sign up for one of these Weekend to Remember getaways which are scheduled throughout the country.  Find a getaway near you by clicking here.  When you register, use the discount group code “Stretched01” to receive $120 off the regular price of the conference (per couple).  If you live in my area, the next getaway weekend if November 22-24 in King of Prussia.  Sign up today.
    7. Find a mentor couple.  Early in our marriage, we were blessed to hang around with people like Paul and Dorothy Keisling and Jeff and Glyniss Murphy.  Couples like these took time to invest in our marriage.  They spent time with us, and they showed us what marriage looks like through their example.  I remember sitting in the Murphy’s family room during the first years of our marriage listening to Jeff and Glyniss teach about marriage.  This may require you to be a little uncomfortable asking another couple to mentor you, but it’s worth it.  To learn more about marriage mentors, I’d encourage you to check out a book by Jeff Murphy and Check Dettman – The Solution for Marriages: Mentoring a New Generation (affiliate link).

    What suggestions do you have for being intentional with your marriage?  What is one thing you can do today for your marriage?

    The Power of A Positive Attitude

    My daughter, Hannah, has been running cross-country this season for our local high school.  This is her second season running at the high school level.  Last year, she was probably running 13th – 17th on a very deep team.  The season was a great opportunity to learn her capabilities, to meet her coaches, and to become more comfortable with the girls on the team.  She started the year out somewhat slow, but she showed improvement as the season went along.

    This year, she entered the season with higher expectations.  She ran over 250 miles during the summer in preparation for the season.  She definitely came in with higher goals of running faster and being ranked higher on the team.  One of her goals was to run under 21:30 (for 5K or 3.1 miles), and another goal was to crack the varsity line-up.  Each week, Hannah has shown improvement, and it was obvious she would meet the first goal before the end of the season.  She has been close on the second goal, but this goal seemed to be just out of reach.

    In a typical meet, varsity is made up of the top 7 runners.  A couple of weeks ago, she was scheduled to run with the varsity runners for the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University.  This race allows 10 runners from each team to run varsity.  Unfortunately, this race was cancelled due to unseasonable heat which caused many runners to go to the hospital in earlier races.  Hannah was disappointed, but she kept going.

    The next week, she had her last dual meet of the season.  Before the race, we talked about her goals for the race, and she hinted about cracking the top 7, but she knew it would be tough.  She ran very well, and ended up finishing 7th on the team (and 8th overall).  She was so happy.

    This left the coaches with a tough decision heading into the conference championships.  Should they go with the runners who had performed best throughout the entire season?  Should they give Hannah a chance to run on the varsity squad based on her last race?  I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision especially since our team had a chance to win the event given a combination of great races by our best runners.

    The race was Thursday, and we were waiting for word from the coaches as to which race Hannah would run – the Varsity race or the Junior Varsity race.  Obviously, Hannah was hoping to run with the Varsity team, and she kept an optimistic outlook heading into the decision.  On Wednesday afternoon, I received a text from Hannah, “Jv-so plan 2 win the race!”

    What a positive attitude!  I know I would have been disappointed, but she kept her chin up with the decision.

    Thursday afternoon arrived, and she kept smiling.  She definitely knew she had a chance to win the race, and she also realized her performance at the conference meet could still win her a spot on the Varsity team for the district meet later this week.  The coaches seemed to think Hannah had a chance to win the race as well.  They were excited for this possibility when they spoke to Leanne and I before the race.

    The race started and Hannah moved towards the front of the pack in the first kilometer.  She kept the lead and even extended the lead as the race continued.  It was so exciting to watch Hannah throughout the race.  She ran with grit and determination the whole race.  When she broke the tape at the finish line, she was grinning from ear to ear.  Her time of 21:08 beat the closed JV competitor by nearly 30 seconds, and it also would have been strong enough to medal in the Varsity race.

    She did such a great job maintaining a positive attitude.  She could have sulked and complained when the coaches made their decision to keep her at JV.  She could have hung her shoulders in defeat.  But she didn’t!

    When the race finished, the coaches mentioned she would most likely be running with the Varsity team for the district meet on Friday.  Obviously, Hannah’s running ability and hard work had a lot to do with this turn of events, and I think her positive attitude was a huge reason she reached this goal.  I can’t wait for Friday!

    How has a positive attitude helped you succeed in reaching a goal?