Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tapping Into Your Talent

"I have no idea what to do with my life.  I'm not really good at anything." 
Has anyone ever made this statement in your presence? I admit I have said it myself and not just once, but it's something I've grappled with most of my life, and after doing this "mom gig" for the past thirty-one years, I have explored this subject many times with various personalities and stages of development amongst my own kids as well as others.
It's so easy to compare ourselves to others, and to embrace the deceptive lie that you were skipped when talents were handed out. It's not only kids who question their mission in life, but many adults as well.  In fact it's taken me a long time to finally figure out my own skill set. 
Raise your hand if you've ever compared yourself to someone else. Seriously, if we were in a room full of people, I'm pretty sure that if each person answered honestly, every hand in the room would be raised. How many people can relate to me when I tell you that I have spent my life sabotaging myself by believing that I'm not as well equipped as someone else I know.  Over the past few years I have prayed about this issue regularly. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 says
" Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths."
The more I prayed about this subject, the more God brought specific scriptures to mind, and began to change my thinking. He reminded me that He is the giver of gifts, and that any talent I have, comes from Him and is to be used and honed for His glory. I was also reminded of the parable of the talents spoken of in Matthew 25:14-30, and became convicted about my attitude towards my own skills.  He gave me gifts. He has equipped me, but I was burying the talents He entrusted to me. I was busy comparing myself to others, believing that I could only use my gifts to a point, and mainly behind the scenes. The truth is that I need to learn from those who are more skilled than I am, and be willing to share my gifts wherever He calls me to.  
He gives courage.  He gives strength. He fills us with joy, and He gives us a passion for the gifts He has given us.  I began to realize that the things I find the most joy doing, were things I was passing off to others that I viewed as more skilled. I didn't fully trust God or press into Him for wisdom, and further equipping. I was looking at myself and believing that these were my gifts and I had to be perfect at them before they could truly be opened to expose their full potential. God reminded me that He gave me the gifts and He would give me ability as I trusted Him by walking in obedience and humbly asking for His help.
We're all glory seekers, so it's natural for us to think WE have to be perfectly capable and self sufficient before we can excel at something, but God calls us to be humble before Him, and to depend on Him in all ways. Stewardship of the gifts He has given is key, and trusting Him to equip us, provide opportunities for their use, and humbly seeking opportunity for growth are all part of that.
Think about the things you enjoy doing. It could be writing, music, gardening, sports, speaking, mentoring, gardening, decorating, coordinating events, photography, teaching, infant care, care-giving, and the list goes on. What makes you light up? What do you have such a passion for that you are willing to give so much time to it, that you don't even realize how quickly the time has flown by?
For me the answers surprised me. It is exciting when you can finally put your finger on the pulse of what makes you come alive with passion! I was genuinely surprised as I made out my list and began to trust God as I presented my gifts to Him for His use. Suddenly, I became aware of the many opportunities to share and hone the talents He gave me. I was so excited to learn that I actually HAVE talents! I tentatively began to take action, and have found so much joy in the journey.
One of the risks I took a year ago, was starting a small choir at the school, and I'm so amazed each time we get together to practice, or as I am planning, or meeting with the leadership team, how excited I am about all that we are doing.  I love working with the kids, and they are each so precious to me.  I'm so thankful for the women God has brought alongside me to share their amazing talents, wisdom, and joy. We each bring to the table different skill sets and it's so amazing how God can use a group of imperfect people to bring about something truly beautiful. They have become very dear friends, and we have bonded quickly. I'm learning so much from them, and enjoy sharing all I can with them. When people come together, offering their skills, it's an incredible thing! We all add something special and unique to the team.
If you think you don't have talent, may I encourage you to stop that line of thinking right now?  It took until I was 50 to begin to correct wrong thinking.  God did give me talents and now that I can see that, embrace it, and offer it to others, I am amazed at the joy that has increased in my life, and the new friendships that are developing. I am not a classically trained musician, but I do have a passion for music, a background in choir, a love for worship, singing and teaching voice. God brought two women this year who have different abilities that fill in all the gaps I can't provide. They are both musicians, and our pianist is highly trained, and very skilled at teaching the musicianship aspect. Each of them are amazing at running sectionals and helping to perfect timing, and not only that, but we build each other up to become better equipped. Last year I timidly responded to a prompting God put on my heart to start the choir. It was a wonderful year, but not without challenges and struggles that were painful, yet produced growth and change. The results have been so rewarding. He is faithful in all things. I encourage anyone who hasn't yet truly tapped into their God given gifts, to begin to seek Him and allow Him to reveal to you what your own, unique, talents truly are. 

I couldn't resist taking a few pictures yesterday. We practice hard, and we believe the kids need to have time to hang out and have some fun together each week, as well.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Five Ways To Build Family Relationships Through Hiking

We don't often have the opportunity to take our family and get away to travel.  Over the years we have developed some great ways to get away (inexpensively) for a few hours, or a day at a time, that help us feel like we have actually enjoyed a nice vacation as a family. Hiking is one of our family favorites. We live in an area with beautiful scenery and there are plenty of wonderful hikes to choose from that are within driving distance. There are easy, short, hikes, longer hikes with flat terrain, short, challenging hikes, and there are hikes in between and of course the choices include trails for the very advanced, hikers.  We like to take our Golden Girls (AKA Golden Retrievers) along whenever possible, so finding a hike that meets the safety requirements of taking them and our kiddos along, is key to how we choose which ones to tackle.  It's also imperative for the photographer in me, to have plenty of great shooting targets, since the main motivation (besides being with my family and hopefully getting fit), is coming away with some beautiful pictures to add to our family collection of memories. Over the years we have discovered some ways that hiking adds to the family relationships and bonds us closer together.
1. Relational Bonding
Hiking produces plenty of opportunity to build relationships with our kids and each other. Some of us are slower hikers than others, which can be frustrating to both the one who wants to blaze trails at lightening speed, and the caboose who struggles to keep up. These moments bring an opportunity to show grace and compassion, and put aside our own desires in order to care for someone else. To be perfectly honest, we don't always handle those moments perfectly, but we do learn a lot about each other through the physical stress that hiking can produce. Hiking as a family provides plenty of opportunity to show grace and compassion, and to develop/talk about character as a family.
2. Hiking is Inexpensive Entertainment
Some of the most entertaining experiences have happened during a hike as we've watched our kids interact with each other, race each other, enjoy splashing in a creek with our Golden Girls, and each other, and drink in the beauty around us.....for can't beat that! Okay,'s not always free if you count the gas we use to drive to our destination, parking passes we purchase annually for the state parks, and the snacks we bring with us, but it's very affordable.

3. Memory Making
Getting out in the great outdoors and pushing ourselves a little bit, physically, is a fantastic way to create memories as a family. Good memories of beautiful, sunny, days with perfect weather and "that perfect hike" may be included in those, but they are rare, and they are also the memories that don't seem to stick with us as well as the ones where there was a struggle that stretched each member of the family. Many times the hardest struggles result in the best memories for many years to come, and often the more times we "remember when" the more hilarious those memories become, creating a bond that nobody else has with our family.




*Side note*
Taking in breathtaking views of God's creation is one of the best benefits of hiking.
"He builds his lofty palace in the heavens
and sets its foundation on the earth;
he calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name." Amos 9:6

On our last hike, we watched a hang glider take off from the top of the trail. It was amazing entertainment for our kids.


"Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you."  Jeremiah 32:17 


4. Exercise
Choosing to get outside, explore, and exercise together, sets a good example and (many times) produces a life, long, habit of physical fitness for kids. The old adage "actions speak louder than words," really is true. If your kids are included in regular exercise with the family, and/or see that their parents value taking care of themselves in that way, they will most likely have positive memories of and a high value for, physical fitness.


5. Great Conversation Time
I took these pictures while we were out hiking last week-end.  This was one of those hikes that stretched me, personally. On this particular outing, we took our boys and one of their friends with us.  I was the only female in our group that included five rugged, males and a highly energetic pooch.  We chose to leave two of our Goldens at home that day and just take Dallas. She was loaded with energy! Dallas and my husband headed up the group and they took off at a pace that left me gasping for air and very frustrated.  I have some hip problems that have plagued me since my child bearing days, so my hips were on fire, and my legs were literally shaking as I struggled to keep up. There was a lot of uphill, some switchbacks, and uneven footing that only exasperated the problem. I felt frustrated at the idea of holding everyone else up, yet irritated at the pace. The beauty that came out of that struggle happened when my fourteen year old son planted himself between the rest of the group and me. He noticed my struggle, and became protective and extra helpful.  He offered his hand when the going got rough, continually checked on me to see if I was okay, and made it his personal job to take care of me throughout the entire hike.  He had a friend along, but he still made his mom a priority. If the hike had been a little easier, and slower, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this character development in him, but the struggle provided an opportunity for me to allow my son to take care of me, and for him to see a need on his own, without anyone pointing it out to him.

The beauty of their smiles and the joy they find in picking huckleberries along the path, are gifts....rewards of the hiking in my mind that will embed themselves as life long, precious memories.





"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

 If you haven't been hiking lately, it's not hard to plan a hike.  There are plenty of resources that make choosing a hike simple. You can do an online search of your area, or ask some locals what their favorite hikes are. Choose one that fits your families abilities and timeframe, enjoy the experience of planning together, then gather your family, some snacks and water, and go make some memories!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Preparing Your Kids For LIfe

As another school year comes to an end, I've been going through pictures I took of all the events our kids have been involved in from September through May, and! Is it any wonder I am exhausted? It's amazing to think that so many activities could be packed into an eight month span of time on top of school work, piano lessons, grocery shopping, company, errand running, meal preparations, and two days a week attending classes. As I looked through pictures and videos, my thoughts were of gratefulness.  Gratefulness for all the opportunities for our kids to explore their interests, and hone the skills God has given them. It's so worth all the running around and exhaustion. In the beginning, we knew that our goal as their parents, was to pray for them, observe them, interview them, and learn where their strengths, talents, and interests were, and to facilitate opportunities for them to grow and become skilled in these areas. 
All of them are musical, and all of them have had opportunity to take piano lessons
Natalie just completed her eighth year of piano and she taught three students this year, including two of her younger brothers.
For the spring recital this year, the kids played a special and fun piece, and wrote compositions. Natalie played "Linus and Lucy" and her composition was her own arrangement of "April's Child" from Rigaletto
They played their compositions by memory, and had their written work on display for the audience to enjoy.

All of the piano students who performed that night

Natalie and her students

Natalie and Levi, playing "Grand Old Flag"

Noah's "composition" was an ear tune from Les Miserables called, "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

Braelyn's song was "The Ninth Symphony"



Christine and Tim both play.  Tim is no longer taking lessons, and Christine took a year off, but started taking again last winter, so I don't have a current video, but this one was a favorite from a few years ago..
Christine and her friend, Rebecca singing "Feed The Birds" from Mary Poppins at the Spring concert
Some of our kids really love writing, so we made it a priority for them to have plenty of opportunity to read, write, and learn good grammar and language skills. All of our girls have enjoyed writing in their spare time since they learned how to form letters. This year Natalie and Christine won first and second place in the Writer's Conference for the 11th and 12th grade division for doing what they love to do.






Since they were little, Natalie was constantly singing and desiring to learn how to be really good at it.  As a result, she took voice lessons, sang in small groups, did duets, and sang solos for voice recitals.  Now she is able to combine voice and piano.


She sang "Lonely Goatherd" with her best friend, Elizabeth in the spring concert.

From the time he was three years old, Tim would pick up a toy microphone and entertain anyone who would listen.  He is very musical and has always loved singing and performing.  We were able to put him in voice lessons a few years ago, and this helped him learn about the voice as an instrument, stage presence, and how to play his vocal instrument well. 
All of our kids love to sing, and enjoy drama. We have been praying for an outlet for them to use these skills and to enhance them.  It's been our desire for the kids to have a true choir experience, and last year we finally found choirs in our area that they were able to participate in. Unfortunately, the teen choir folded after the first year our kids were in it, which was really heart breaking for them as they loved it!
We ended up putting them in a private school this year, and last summer I couldn't get the idea of starting a teen choir enrichment class off of my mind.  I kept pushing the idea away because I didn't feel adequate for the job, but God continued to lay it on my heart.  I finally talked to the head teacher at the school about it, and then asked a friend who plays the piano if she would like to accompany the choir and help out with some of the musicianship.  She agreed, and before I knew it I was writing up the class description and turning in paperwork for a choir class.  The vision God laid on my heart for this choir is continuing to grow.  It has been an amazing year working with these kids. I have seen them grow in personality, in friendship, and most of all spiritually. We started out with seven kids, and it grew to eleven kids over a short time period.  Our kids have had an opportunity to use the gifts God has given them, build amazing, solid, friendships, and grow in their abilities to harmonize, lead, perform, and enjoy being part of a wonderful team.
We put on a spring concert and fortunately my daughter, Brandi, managed to snap a few pictures with her phone.

"So Long Farewell" from Sound of Music was the last song of the evening
We chose the name of Hill Creek Harmonics, and it works well since its not simply a choir, but we have some kids involved who have acting skills and the name doesn't limit us to simply singing. Part of the vision I have is for choreography. It's fun, keeps the audience engaged, and is good for enhancing drama skills and stage presence in the kids. One of kids' moms (Kim) and I have become friends over this school year, and it was really fun working with her as we implemented choreography into some of the music. The kids did a fantastic job and it's been awesome to see their skills improve and to witness their growth as they blossom and become comfortable on stage.
Natalie and Alekai performed "Love is An Open Door" from Frozen. Their choreography was beautiful and fun. Kim put the choreography together on this song. She is amazing!

The full choir performed music from "Sound of Music" and my granddaughter joined in as Gretl for "So Long Farewell." The kids had a great time with the choreography on this one and did a wonderful job.
My friend, Kim, made the costumes. She did such a great job!

Another shot from "Love is An Open Door"

Unfortunately Alekai's lapel microphone got caught under his collar.  He has a great voice, and did a fantastic job, but it sounds a little bit distorted in the recording. Our camera should have been in a better location because the video is shot from just below stage and doesn't capture all of the choreography or the stage set well, but you can click on the video to watch it if you would like.

Daniel  and Natalie sang "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" from the Sound of Music. Daniel didn't have time to put the lapel mic on, but he managed to belt it out and did an outstanding job!
"God of Heaven" was beautifully performed by the whole choir.  We opened with this one.
I'm grateful that God gave me the courage to start the Harmonics.  I'm thankful for my friend, Kris, who was willing to jump in with me and get it off the ground, and for her help with teaching musicianship. This has been such a fun and exciting experience, and it has further solidified my faith in God's ability to be strong where I am weak, and to provide all that is needed to fulfill a mission He has planned through imperfect vessels.  The amount of opposition I faced this year has only deepened my faith in His plan and that I can trust Him for the outcome.  It has been such fun to get to know all the kids, and to see our own kids finally have an opportunity to explore their talents in a safe environment. Sometimes we parents have to make it happen for our kids.  Sometimes God calls us to provide opportunities for them to try out their wings. If God puts something on your heart, trust Him and follow. He'll take care of the rest.
Levi is very musically inclined as well, and he is enjoying his first year as a piano student, but he also loves dogs and we are thankful that we've been able to give him plenty of opportunities to become educated about them, and to experience raising and training them from the time they are whelped. He is our right hand man with our puppies when we have a litter. He is there during the whelping process, and helps with daily weighing, feeding, cleaning out the kennel, vet trips, training the puppies, bathing, grooming, etc.  He and Noah help with daily handling of each puppy, and all of the boys have taken over the cleaning out of the kennel for each litter during the day when their Dad is at work. The kids have all been involved with our Golden's since they were little and have learned how to train them as well as the hard work and cost involved in raising them. It's a great way for the kids to learn good work ethics and responsibility. Now that they are older, some of our kids have been hired to house and dog sit for people when they are on vacation.




Just a few shots of the Hansel and Gretel performance last fall, that all five kids performed in with the Skagit Opera












One of the activities the kids have been learning this year is Contra Dancing. For Christine's Sweet Sixteenth Birthday, we surprised her with a Contra Dance party. This is another skill they can use in many different ways in the future.  It's wonderful for coordination, and developing musical skills with beat and timing, and it's FUN! This brings up another point. Facilitating opportunities for your kids to get together with their friends in a safe and fun environment while doing things they enjoy is important. It's always easier to let them go somewhere else, but it's a privilege and honor to host them in our home and to get out and do things with them.






The Virginia Reel was the only song that required them to keep the same partner all the way through.  Christine chose her Dad as her partner.


This post could easily sound like a bragging parent post, and I freely admit that I am proud of my kids, but my point is not to brag, but to encourage parents to be in prayer for your kids' futures.  Remember to look long term as your raise them, and to watch for what makes their eyes light up.  Facilitate opportunities to explore their interests and address character issues while they are young with consistency.  You never know what God has in store for them, and its the little moments and day to day living that all add up to prepare them for their mission in life.  Allowing them to pursue their interests and to hone their natural abilities is key to their futures. Be open to what God might call you to do to provide them with opportunities and remember that even if you don't feel equipped, God does equip those He calls, just as He has provided all that I have needed to direct the choir He placed on my heart to start.
Character Counts
We ended the school year with an Awards Ceremony at our school. Our kids worked harder than ever before, and it was not easy.  Along with that hard work, they had fun.  They were all completely surprised at the awards they received, and the grades they made. One of our kids has a learning challenge. His language teacher honored him with a "Perseverance Award" because he plodded along, working hard, and not giving up. Many times he hit the books at 7:30 a.m. and worked hard until bed time, skipping social events such as youth group. She said he had tenacity. What a compliment to his character and such a pleasant surprise to him since we live in a world where good grades are held in high esteem. A kid like him can sit and warm a chair during awards night and not receive any recognition when he worked much harder and put in much longer hours than most kids need to. What a blessing that our teachers recognize character in kids and are sure to award them. He didn't make honor roll, but he was honored for service as part of the set up team that he was regularly a part of in the early mornings before school, as well. Encouraging character is important. Even when they don't seem to be getting a lot right, notice their strengths and acknowledge them.
Hard Work Pays Off
Teaching your kids good work ethics is important. For the rest of our kids, this has paid off with good grades and they were awarded accordingly.  The girls were inducted into the National Honor Society, and made honor roll.  Christine received the award for the highest grade in her Life Practicum Class, and all three of the older kids received awards of excellence for their participation in leadership, drama, solos, duets, and full participation in Hill Creek Harmonics.
Noah and Levi struggled the first half of the year, to understand what was expected of them in the new school environment, but after the first semester, they turned it around and ended the year with straight "A's." They worked very hard, and they did extra credit.  Their math teacher honored them with the  "Most Improved" award. 
However you are choosing to educate your children, the most important responsibility for us as parents is prayer and staying plugged into the Word.  For true wisdom, it's a gold mine and peace comes through a solid relationship with God.  This parenting gig is hard, but He has shown me time and time again, that He will  be my strength and my source of wisdom, and peace, as I allow Him to lead and guide.