S.O.S. – Save Our Sanity

sos messToday, “S.O.S.” could stand for “Save Our Sanity”. It’s hard for me to stay focused when there are baskets of laundry and piles of miscellaneous clutter gathering in my not-so-cozy prayer corner.

Then, when I walk out to the kitchen to find dishes filling the sink and a scattering of socks, books, toys, and various signs-of-life across the living room, I can easily slip from “gentle and quiet spirited woman of prayer” into “slave-driver” mode, ordering my kids to “tidy up this pig sty”!!!


If you’re feeling overwhelmed with sloppy habits and messy living, here is a challenge that my kids and I have enjoyed!

S.O.S. Challenge #5:  “Get your cabin in order!” 

We’re gonna’ get this place ship shape from stem to stern.  (Gather your crew of kids to help and you’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish in just a few minutes.)

Think of each of these songs as a “less than 5 minute mini-challenge”.  Let them be your “timer”; so see if you can accomplish each task before the song finishes.

Let’s Get Started!!!

sos home 11. Begin in your BEDROOM

  • open the curtains and make your bed
  • scoop up all the dirty clothing into a laundry basket
  • begin putting away any clean clothing
  • spend any time remaining giving your nightstands and dresser tops a quick tidying (taking any odds and ends that need to be removed to the rooms where they belong, glasses and coffee mugs seem to multiply in my bedroom)
  • if you still have time left, your room wasn’t very messy to begin with, and you can sweep or vacuum your floor

(WITH KIDS:  You can either put your older kids in their own rooms on this one, or play the song a couple times working together in each little one’s room.)

My Lighthouse – Rend Collective

If you can’t bear to move on, just play the song again.  Your bedroom is the “holy of holies” of the home.  Let it be your “sanctuary”!  You can always come back to this page tomorrow.  (Let this be a liberating tool, not a legalistic burden!)

sos dining room2.  Out to the DINING ROOM / KITCHEN

  • fill the sink with soapy water
  • empty the dishwasher if it is needed
  • clear the table and counters by loading the dishwasher and putting crusty pots and dishes in the sink to soak

(Before you start this room, drink a glass a water.  It’s good for you!)

Be My Rescue – Nicole Nordeman

sos kitchen3. Still in the KITCHEN

  • wipe down the counters and stove top
  • sweep the floor
  • spray any yucky spots on the floor and let it set while you…
  • wash the dishes that were soaking
  • last, with a Swiffer or an old rag and a spray bottle, give the floor a quick wipe down

You Won’t Let Go – Micheal W. Smith

sos living room4. On to the LIVING ROOM

  • begin by collecting everything that does not belong in this room into baskets and set them to the side
  • straighten blankets, pillows, remotes, magazines, etc.
  • sweep or vacuum
  • if you have extra time dust, Windex the TV and windows, etc

I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) – Vertical Church

  • now play the song again and quickly deliver all the items from your baskets

sos home5. Heading to the BATHROOM

(NOTE:  Never use bleach and ammonia products together!  — Remember:  some glass cleaners have ammonia!!!!)  It seems everyone has a different system for cleaning the bathroom (for example, I always spray a bleach mixture on the floor around the toilet first); so here’s a simple checklist:

  • mirror
  • sink and counter
  • toilet (top, inside, and outside)
  • tub & shower walls
  • floor

Your Love Never Fails – Newsboys

sos entry6. Almost finished.  Now for the Mud Room/ Entry / Hallway

  • tidy up the shoes and coats
  • gather into your basket the items that don’t belong
  • sweep and wipe down the floor
  • deliver your basket-items
  • if you dare, peek into the coat closet (put mittens and hats in their basket, coats all on hangers, etc.)

Let the Waters Rise – Mikeschair

sos door6. Finally the WALK-THROUGH…

This song is the longest song, and hopefully this task will be the most enjoyable.

  • Step outside the front door and close the door.
  • Then, enter your house with fresh eyes… really “SEE” your home and all that the LORD has blessed you with.  You are a steward of all His good gifts.
  • With a basket on one arm and a bottle of Windex in the other hand, gather anything that is out of place and wipe down smudges on walls and light-switches or any other place that catches your eye.
  • Enjoy your home!!!  As you walk through the rooms putting away those odds and ends you’re collecting, pray for yourself, your husband, your children.  Bless them in your heart as you “bless” your home with your hands.

Oceans – Hillsong UNITED

sos quiet spotOne Final Thought as you end this Challenge

Your home is your battleship.  You will be fighting battles over the next couple months, and your family is not the enemy. Remember, your “big guns” are prayer, thanksgiving, worship, scripture… So, get yourself ready for war! The safest sailor is not the one that has never sailed through a storm; rather, it is the experienced captain that has risen through the ranks facing the roughest of winds and waves.    If you feel tossed about, you’ll get your sea legs soon enough just by staying on board.  You become a more competent sailor with practice; so begin today!  Just keep showing up to meet with the LORD.  He’s your Captain.  He’s seen it all, and you’ll find no better teacher. So, on that thought, go enjoy your home, and ask the LORD to “teach you to pray”, to be thankful, to worship, and how to approach His Word.

Don’t Miss It!

It happens so fast…

The red buds fall.

drive not blooming

The flowers bloom.

drive blooming

The petals fall.

tree path bright green

And, the bright green leaves burst forth.

Day after day on our walks together, Little One and I took pictures of the same scenes, being attentive to the changes.

birch buds early light

Barren trees grew buds,

spring 2014 lancaster, walks 348

and in a day, leaves opened like fans.

spring 2014 lancaster, walks 541

And, then, grew fuller and brighter overnight.

tree  bright gree

In one week, we saw a miracle.

bud starting

tree buds starting 2

tree lots of leaves

And we could have missed it.

rose bush buds starting

If we had started walking and taking pictures just one week later,…

rose bush with leaves

not only would we have missed the red buds pushing through,

fort trees buds

we would have missed the white flower blossoms too.

flowering tree

Sunshine and showers… they bring the flowers, but

walking in the rain

those steady spring rains also wash the blossoms away… all too quickly.


This is the day to take a walk with your Little One; because

fan unfolding

just like spring…

birch leaves

in a blink this all too brief season of magic and wonder will be gone.

rain rain

Don’t miss it!

Finding Footprints and More

(S.O.S. Challenge #4)

All alone on a deserted beach;

no shells, no people…

Just sand and waves,

and then something catches my eye:


the remains of a lonely starfish washed up on the shore.

starfish and foam

I’ve walked countless beaches around the world and have only seen starfish in the Philippines; so what a special thrill it was to see this ocean treasure!

But what if I were shipwrecked?  What would I rejoice to see as I scanned the coastline?


Signs of life.

Some friends and I went to the beach this year full of expectation; though hoping for beautiful weather, seashells, and a glimpse of a few dolphins or maybe even a whale, deep down we were looking for something more:  fellowship, encouragement, rest, direction, hope, truth, insight…

starfish tracing

I have long been familiar with the life and writings of Paul, but I feel as though I have just discovered him.  In previous “studies” of this extra-ordinary man, I believe I have misjudged him, putting him on a pedestal, over analyzing and criticizing.   I see him now, as an ordinary man who never got over grace.  He was broken and restored, shipwrecked and rescued, and it changed him forever.

He knew grace and lived grace, and extended grace to others.  More than a “Bible Character”, he has become my very dear mentor, my friend and brother in the faith.

I’ve found his footprints in the scripture, so to speak.  The further I follow the tracks he left behind, the more I want to continue the pursuit of understanding who he was and his motivation.

  • The more I know him, the more I see Christ in Him.
  • The more impressed I am, the more humble I find him to be and the greater my Savior appears.
  • The more I come to love and appreciate him, and the more I love my Jesus and marvel at the sovereignty and infinite grace of the Father.


In the Words of Paul –

  • “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
  • “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17)
  • “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Phil. 4:9)
  • “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”  (1 Thes. 1:6)

footprints 2 sets

So, walk with me.  Let’s follow the footprints of Paul: a man following Christ, who was shipwrecked, rescued, and never could forget the One who saved Him.

In his darkest hours (literally), he found new hope as the Holy Spirit helped him see the path of salvation through the Old Testament that led to the cross.  Paul began following the steps of his Savior to where he would be “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), and the life that he lived by faith in Christ Jesus has been an encouragement for this “forlorn and shipwrecked brother” (- Psalm of Life).  And seeing, I have taken heart again.


Challenge #3

Print or artistically copy the poem “A Psalm of Life”.

Read it.  Ponder it.  Then, place it in your S.O.S. “survival bag”.

If you are at all familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, you know that this man had a love affair with the sea, lighthouses, ship, and the shore.  I hope as we set sail on this adventure you will begin to see how this, my favorite poem, relates to life of Paul .

(public domain) Illustration by H. Winthrop Peirce for "The Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(public domain) Illustration by H. Winthrop Peirce for “The Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real!   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
        Be a hero in the strife!

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
        Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,— act in the living Present!
        Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.  

Open to this Moment

Who has time to stop and “smell the roses”?

There are no roses at this time of year anyway, right?

But, there are dandelions.

open 03

It’s the end of the school year.

  • Portfolios need to be completed.
  • Evaluations are upon us.
  • The laundry has been neglected for far too long.
  • The house could sure use a good spring cleaning.
  • The “urgent” of life is calling.

open 5

When I’m in the homestretch of a project, I tend to fall in to a warped survival mode:  a myopic tunnel vision.

“Do only what must be done, because there is so much that MUST be done.  Everything else can wait.  We’ll just get by until this is behind us, and then we’ll get back to normal.”

(The problem is that without the help of the Holy Spirit slowing me down and reminding me to “seek first”, “just getting by”, moving from one perceived crisis to the next, can become the norm. So that even when one project is complete, I can have a strange stressful anticipation of the next deadline or the avalanche of all that has been postponed looming in the shadows.)

open 6

While visiting a church in Lancaster, I heard a pastor read a poem about Grandmothers written by a child, and one line still echos in my mind:

“Grandmas are the only grownups who have got time.”

opening 4

I wondered, do my children feel that way?


I know they do.

I feel that way.

At grandma’s house, Little One gets to play all 10 phases of Phase 10.  She plays round after round of the Mexican Train, Memory, Old Maid, Go Fish, Checkers,… and sometimes all on the same day.

I know that time only goes faster the older you get, but some how, my mother with “less time” has “more time” than me.  Why?  Because she makes time.

She makes time…

And so can I.

So, every morning at 8:00 (10:00 on Saturdays, and whenever on Sundays), Little One and I have been going for a walk.  One mile, at a fast-slow, stop and go pace set by how we feel and what we see.  The same delightful path day after day.  It usually takes about half an hour.

Because of this little habit, we’ve seen Spring in all its glory, the world waking up.

open 8

  • We picked dandelions.
  • Tossed them into the pond.
  • Saw how many landed “right side up”.
  • Watched them float as the slightest breeze silently carried them across the water.

We noticed the flowers in the shade were still closed from their dewy slumber; so we watched and waited for them to ever so slowly open with the warmth of the sun.

opening 01

opening 3

Oh, the wonder of the world from a different perspective.  Slowing down, bending down.

open 02

open 01

(I’ll never understand why these are “weeds” and marigolds and daisies are not.  I think I’ll just start calling them “maridaisies”, and maybe somewhere down the line folks will start packaging and planting “maridaisy” seed. )

open 04

There is so much to see:  natural beauty, miracles of life.

  • the tiniest baby newt that tickles our palm with teeny toes

All around is beauty, life, …countless miracles, impossible wonders that no human could dream, much less create.

open 05

  • the smiley face ant pile, a happy sort of “welcome home” to the world of tunnels

open 06

  • the perfect robin’s egg fallen from its nest

open 07

  • the ever so small, here and there color on the forest floor
  • not to mention the bright spring green blades of grass just starting to push through the damp soil

And so much more…

All this, in just one morning, one mile, less than one hour… Just a mama and a little girl with their point and shoot camera walking with eyes open, expecting to find.

open 08

They say a task expands to fill the time allotted.  I believe it.

So how is it that I get more done on these days after I’ve “wasted” an hour with my daughter?

Make Your Journal

(S.O.S. Challenge #3)

We all need a place for collecting treasures while we are seeking; so today’s challenge is to get a notebook for writing down your questions, thoughts, and discoveries.

  • You can open a Windows folder on your computer,
  • buy an fancy journal,
  • decorate a three ring binder,
  • use a yellow legal pad,
  • whatever you want.

journal 2

In a previous post, I showed you how I made my journal with a brown paper bag and coffee stained printer paper.  Now I am taking on that challenge with my kids.


You don’t have to make it complicated, but whatever you do, be creative and have fun!

And, in case you haven’t started using your “special bag”, make it your aim to take it with you and visit one of your “special places” everyday. 

While you’re there…

  1. be still
  2. listen
  3. pray
  4. read the Scripture
  5. work on a Bible Study or
  6. go through a daily devotional
  7. (and if you have your journal)  write down a little something everyday:
  • a verse that resonates with you
  • a prayer or a list of things on your mind
  • a quote from your study
  • a line from a worship song
  • a question
  • a list of a few things you are particularly thankful for

Here is a link to the journal prompts used for our 2014 Spring Retreat.