Farewell to 2016 {from the Simons Family}

As we head into the last weekend of 2016, our family’s reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Was 2016 as hard for you as it was for us? We will all collectively celebrate the turning of a new year in just two days, but some journeys and seasons in life simply don’t reset just because the calendar says it’s a new day.

As always, new beginnings start in our hearts. 

For me, it begins with giving praise for all Christ has done to redeem us and to give hope to our foolishness. But it also begins with tracing back through, and not forgetting, what waters He’s brought us through this year, and how we’ve learned to praise Him, even when they’re not waters we choose to tread. 

(Photo credit: Joy Prouty, Wildflowers Photography)
(Photo credit: Joy Prouty, Wildflowers Photography)

2016 gave new meaning to Job’s words: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
 

From the start of the year, when my oldest son and I traveled with Compassion Bloggers to Ecuador.

…To the unexpected opportunity to fulfill a family dream of creating a respite in Durango, Colorado,

…To Troy coming to the end of his 8 year journey as headmaster of a classical school we were part of founding,

…To writing and painting my first book, due to release in September 2017,

…To a painful season of goodbyes and new beginnings,

…To the best and the hardest moments in training young hearts,

…And to ending the year looking at one another as a family, and as a small business, and marveling at His bountiful blessing, first and foremost displayed in grace, everyday.

The One who’s birth we celebrated just days ago – Emmanuel – has been faithful and merciful at every turn. His hand has guided and provided for us as a family in both physically and emotionally.

Coming soon to GraceLaced Shoppe...
Coming soon to GraceLaced Shoppe…

And as a small business owner, I thank you, on behalf of my family and the GraceLaced Team, for not simply purchasing my artwork and products in 2016, but for joining us as we seek to adorn the gospel of Christ and make the beauty of God’s Word and creation known. He is worthy; we are honored to reflect His glory.

I’m excited for what 2017 may bring, but as we prepare to share these changes and things to come, I keep in mind: Let your will be done, Lord.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

— Proverbs 19:21

If there’s one thing I learned in 2016, through the fire of refining by the Lord’s hand, it’s that I want no plan that is not of Him and in Him and for His glory. 

To that end, Lord, lead us into 2017…to Christ be the glory for all that is to come.


In case you missed it in our newsletter, or on social media, we are closing out the year with a huge Inventory Clearance SALE!

GraceLaced Hope In the Desert 2017 Calendars are 50-70% off, popular prints and all Christmas products are marked down, and many prints are discontinuing. Prices good while supplies last! Sale ends 11:59pm MST 1/1/17!

Because of grace,

 

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Broiling Grapefruit and Thoughts On Family

My parents were in town all last week. It was the longest visit in years, and it was both amazing and unexpectedly challenging. Having family several states away means that time together always requires adjustment in expectations, and much grace as each person navigates the way history pairs with the everyday in one other.

That’s the best way I know to state this reality: Families are made up of broken people, and broken people have wounds, repercussions of sin, and healing that takes a lifetime to work through. And as God redeems families, sometimes that work is quick and clean, and sometimes it’s not. But God is faithful to be EVER at work.

So, time with my parents always leaves me grateful, and sometimes leaves me longing. I always have mixed feelings about many things that time doesn’t always afford me to work through. And so, I often find myself prayerful about God continuing the work he’s begun in us, and trusting Him to do so in whatever ways he chooses…and to give me eyes to see it.

My folks went back home the day before school was to resume after the Christmas break. The kids, Troy and I had all been a little edgy…both from being altogether in the same house for several weeks, 24/7, but also in anticipation of being separated every other day again.

Such is the mystery of family. Sometimes we can’t stand being together, but we always miss each other like crazy when we’re apart. (Think: moms after their maniacal children go to bed and we start missing those little stinkers.)

Back to Sunday. So, as I said, we were in a bit of a funk, and like any loving mom, I thought I’d bless my boys with a treat. I would love to be the mom that whips up a batch of cookies or rice krispy treats, but no. I never have those ingredients on hand, and really, I’m not all that great at baking. Plus, I don’t have dental insurance. However, I DO make a mean “Grapefruit Brûlée.” So that’s what I made for them as back to school comfort food.  I pray my children turn out normal.

But, as it turns out, no one’s really normal– children nor parents. All parents are quirky and do the best they know to do with what they’ve been given. And all children take the very best of what’s offered and learn to leave the rest. I’m grateful we don’t need to look much further than Christ for the example of what traits are keepers and what traits aren’t. 

The boys gave thumbs up to this recipe of sprinkling some sugar and broiling grapefruit. Of all that will be offered and passed on to the boys…I pray they will know the sweetness of unusual and unconventional pairings, and develop a taste for all that comes with being a family. 

Find the recipe in the GraceLaced Kitchen

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoy this blog and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email.

Shaping Family Culture on a Road Trip

I can’t remember the last time I took two weeks off from writing here at the blog. It was an unplanned, but lovely break, but I am eager to give a quick update on what we’ve been up to. 

We spent the last month working diligently around the clock to get our house back on the market…this time, more intentionally, and listed with an agent. It is such a difficult decision to finally take the plunge and commit to moving from your home of 10 years, a home that you have loved and grown from a family of 3 to a family of 8. 

And so, to give our best effort in staging and presenting a home for sale, we moved our boys out of the master bedroom boys bunk room, remodeled the master bathroom, and moved no less than half of our belongings and furnishings out of the house. (You may remember the Christmas home tour here, as well, for reference.) 

And that’s where we’ve been for the last month. 

On Father’s Day weekend, we touched up the last of the paint, packed up all the kids, and headed out on a three day drive + 2 week road trip to Orlando, Florida for an ACCS conference for our school board. 

A ton of you, who follow me on Instagram, gave me amazing travel tips and game ideas for a cross-country road trip with kids. I had great intentions to use all the ideas and to even blog about them….and with the chaos of preparing to travel and to list the house, I didn’t implement even one. 

But amazingly, we not only survived the three day road trip…we loved it.

Enjoying the hospitality of friends and meeting each other’s families was definitely the highlight. I love that the boys longed to spend more time with both families we stayed with. They spoke so highly of our new friends and cherished the memories made with them both…

The conference proved to be a blessing, and while I missed that continuing education I usually enjoy for myself, I was grateful for extended time alone with the boys by the pool. Half of my boys are non-swimmers, so that time by the pool each day was a little less than relaxing…but even so, I knew to soak up the blessing of vacation and time away.

Any family of any size in the same room, vehicle or space for days…is a perfect context for learning humility, patience, service, and forebearance. We never set out to purposely learn these things as reason for a trip, but somehow, the blessing of sanctification and growing as a family always comes as a byproduct, whether we’ve asked for it or not. And, I’m always grateful that the Lord knows what I need without my asking…

And from Orlando, we headed to Cocoa Beach, where our friends invited us to stay with their family at their home along the Banana River. I’m looking out on to the water right now, as I write, and recognize, this is just what our family needed. We chose simple pleasures for this trip. There’s no shortage of amazing, entertaining, wonderful things to do in the Orlando area; but for us, this time–with our family culture goals in mind– decided to draw the kids’ affections toward things of nature of wildlife, of family and friends…of slowness and simplicity.

When 8 imperfect, sinful, broken human beings make up a family…and go on vacation…you realize that family vacations are less about experiencing culture around one another; but rather, it’s forming your very own family culture together with purpose. 

The home we are staying in belongs to the parents of my friend, Leah. (It’s a wonderful 3 bedroom home with a pool and a private dock…And, it’s one of the few of it’s kind available for rent in Cocoa Beach on VRBO!) While the home and the environment has been idyllic, the most significant part of our stay has been the deliberate investment Leah’s dad has made to teach my children (and Troy and me!) everything he knows about this area, the history, about kayaking, fishing, wildlife, and of enjoying the Lord’s presence in nature. I think Troy and I have felt that the relationships and the memories made through special people in our lives truly make a trip like this more than a vacation, but a shaping of our family culture.

Shaping of our family is our ultimate goal for any and every opportunity to travel and step outside of our everyday lives.

No amount of fun, entertainment, luxury, or time away can “fix” messy circumstances, mend broken hearts, or change an outlook…unless it is a change of heart. I’m grateful that there has been some true rest of heart and a fulfilling of goals in our family culture and values on this trip. I’m grateful that we have been more than able to reflect and receive the wonder of God’s glory as we gaze upon his creation and enjoy the fellowship that He has provided. For these, I am forever grateful…as they have given our weary bodies and minds fuel for the road ahead.

I invite you to follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook for all the behind the scenes photos and posts of our trip. Thank you for joining me here. I’m honored to be a part of your life…

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoy this blog and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email.


P.S. Friends, thank you for your orders from the shoppe! I look forward to completing your custom orders and fulfilling your print orders as soon as we return back home! Thank you!

Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy

When we decided to take all six of the boys on a plane to San Francisco in order to celebrate my grandparents’ joint 95th birthdays, my heart was to introduce them to the heritage they’ve been given…and to establish the legacy we will choose to leave as a family. It was likely the boys’ last chance to meet and spend time with their last remaining great grandparents.

Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy
Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy

When we decided to take all six of the boys on a plane to San Francisco in order to celebrate my grandparents’ joint 95th birthdays, my heart was to introduce them to the heritage they’ve been given…and to establish the legacy we will choose to leave as a family. It was likely the boys’ last chance to meet and spend time with their last remaining great grandparents.

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It had been five years since I’d seen my grandparents, and they had aged so much. I cried happy tears to have these memorable moments with them, but honestly, there were some regretful ones too...tears over the time lost due to distance, language barriers, and family fissures.

There are so many stories my kids and I will never know about them, because sometimes it’s not just the language of the tongue that is standing in the way of communicating, but the language of the heart…

Recording an interview with my grandparents
Recording an interview with my grandparents

…and so I pulled out my iPhone and captured 34 minutes of interview time with them. It was everything I hoped for, catching their voice and thoughts digitally…and yet, so far short of what it could have been. I think we assume that the heart softens and the bitter memories fade when one is old and approaching the end. But, that simply isn’t always so…

…and it reminds me of what Randy Alcorn has said:

If your treasure is in heaven, then with every day that passes, you are moving closer to your treasure. If your treasure is here on earth, every day is sadness as you move further away from what is most valuable to you.

I asked about their childhood…about how they met…and what they would tell their younger selves…

Photo Nov 02, 5 27 46 PM
Photo Nov 02, 5 27 46 PM

And some of their responses were surprising to me. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of joy that accompanied their responses. I pictured a beautiful collection of wise words and fun untold stories. But what I have recorded are memories of regret, pride, and what could have been. They were not answers I’d like to give at the sunset of my life, but they served to remind me that the Lord is at work to heal and bring fruit to future generations as HIS name is honored and shame and culture no longer serves as gods in our family…

I left the voice recorder running while I took a deep breath and spoke words of truth to my 95 year old grandparents…words that reflect a life transformed by the hope of the Gospel; a life not bound by culture, guilt, and self-worth.

At 38, I have a fraction of their life experience and life lessons, but know the redeeming love of Christ exponentially deeper and greater. That is hope indeed.

My grandparents’ words are not the end of the story. Jesus’ words through the testimony of our lives redeemed IS. And our 34 minutes included those words of home and gratitude…and my grandparents’ subtle acknowledgement of that hope. I pray that acknowledgment would bear fruit in these remaining years of their lives.

Christ came for the ugliest of all family histories. In fact, he so stood for redeeming the dysfunctional family that he chose to use the most colorful genealogies to accomplish his good will in redemption.

Every generation in every family knows heartache and brokenness. My family is not all that different from yours. You have your stories…and your untold stories.

But, God….

I love those two words.

…but, God…he redeems families, and is turning what was ALL ABOUT THE PAST to becoming  ALL ABOUT WHAT IS TO COME.

And, therein, lies the hope for every family. Every war-torn family marked by strife, hurt, shame, loss, and unbecoming secrets. Because of the cross, change can happen in YOUR generation. He is our only hope.

Hope for Reshaping The Family Legacy
Hope for Reshaping The Family Legacy

By Way of River, Trees, and Capri Sun

http://oascentral.blogher.org/RealMedia/ads/adstream_jx.ads/ReviewBadge/OID5591_Kraft_Capri_Sun_Q3_ReviewBadges_013/@x13

_DSC0024 When the sun rises on a Saturday morning, there’s one thing the boys want…more than sleeping in, more than Saturday morning cartoons, and more than a hefty pancake breakfast. What they are always in the mood for is a trek among the trees that engulf our stretch of the Rio Grande river. This beautiful area is called The Bosque. For the boys, it’s adventure. For Troy and me, we head down to the giant forest of cottonwoods, seeking rest, refreshment, and a little rejuvenation.

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I have six boys and one outdoorsy husband. All of them, including the baby, are truly the happiest and the most in their element with rocks beneath their feet and rustling branches overhead. The boys chase lizards, climb fallen trees, and spot coyotes. It’s every boy’s wonderland, and they can explore for hours.

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Active boys need refueling, however, and that’s where Capri Sun 100% Juice pouches come in handy. I love that they are 100% juice and naturally delicious, they love that the shiny colorful pouches are fun to drink and fit in their cargo pant pockets. 🙂 They each pack a pouch and help themselves when they get thirsty.

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You know what tickles me the most, though? It’s that big brothers love helping little brothers with their straws and juice pouches. And when they are all done…they flatten the pouches, roll them up, and collect the empty pouches in their pockets so not a trace of litter is left in the beautiful cottonwood forest.

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To be honest, the boys were rather pleased that the folks at Capri Sun chose us to share about how we enjoy their drink pouches. Capri Sun 100% juice pouches are considered a treat for the boys. In a family where they share almost everything, there’s something special about picking and packing your own juice pouch…and savoring the sweet little respite all.to.yourself.

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Sometimes the most relaxing thing you can do on a Saturday morning (or when you are really needing a break) is not to be numb on the couch, but to come alive in the wild. Adventure and exploring the beauty of nature is rejuvenating. And, thankfully, Capri Sun offers our family an equally natural on-the-go form of rejuvenation. Saturday morning refreshment? Done.

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Much About Doing Nothing

Much About Doing Nothing
Much About Doing Nothing

Summer was simple when I was a child. We had very little resources financially and an abundance of time. Summer days felt long and deliciously conducive to the lost art of thinking.

As a child, I have vivid memories of hanging off the edge of my bed, staring at the ceiling, and imagining a world of bare white floors with no furnishing. An upside-down world. I remember being so entertained by the silly thoughts that were filling my imagination. I have memories of writing “a cookbook” of what I believed to be the most delicious recipes in the world…for a seven year old. I read books and slept under a tree. My brother and I made forts, copied master works of art, and listened to books on tape. It wasn’t that we didn’t like television– there was just hardly need of it with all the creativity flowing about.

When did summer vacation become so complicated? When did summer begin to feel rushed, frantic, hurried, exhausting? When did we make summer about squeezing in as much entertainment, fun, and activities as the schedule could manage?

One of my boys said to me the other day, while fiddling with a Lego spaceship he was creating, “Mama, I love it when we get our chores done and just stay home and do nothing.”

By nothing, I’m sure he did not mean lining everyone up on a bench and sitting with their hands on their laps; doing nothing meant being unhurried, relaxed, and free to explore and create. He wasn’t asking to go to a movie, another water park, a summer program, or the store– he was just enjoying home.

We live in a culture that equates doing with learning, entertainment with engaging, and busyness with living. We know better– even if sometimes we forget.

There are so many opportunities for our little ones to be busy and entertained these days. While there are so many wonderful experiences our children can have through special events, activities, and programs, what our children often really need during summer break is just some time to BE. To think. To discover something about themselves in the midst of perceived boredom. To simply “do nothing.” And, frankly, mamas need the same.

Here are some ideas to get you started in DOING NOTHING today:

1. Send everyone in your family off with a notebook and pencil for 30 minutes. No talking. Write or draw. Create a topic or make it freeform, but enjoy time alone before coming together and sharing what each came up with.

2. Try doing a family digital media fast. No TV, video games, ipods/ipads or computer for a week (or even a day!). And see how much fun kids can have when they think they are bored.

3. Let your kids create snacks or plan a meal with just what’s available in the house.

4. Sit on the couch and listen to classical music on Pandora.

5. Have a conversation with your kids over afternoon tea.

6. Get down on the ground to read a book or play a game. (It’s so much more intimate and less distracting.)

7. Do a back rub line, moving each person at the front of the line to the back after a few minutes, until you go through the line. (Why? Because everyone loves a back rub and fun conversations form when serving one another.)

8. Sit and look out a window, and pretend to read a book.

9. Write a letter.

10. Do nothing.

What are your favorite ways to “do nothing?”

Belong {Five Minute Friday}

I am so overwhelmed by the amazingly kind and encouraging comments you all left on my 6 year blogiversary post.  (If you haven’t entered the awesome celebration giveaway-there’s still time!) I am so thankful for each of you. What a joy it would be to meet you  face to face someday! But for now, I look forward to spending time with you here through words and glimpses into the grace in each other’s lives. Thank you for celebrating what God has done here…

 

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Today, I’m joining in–for the first time—at Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. The rules: Write for five minutes on the prompt given. No editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

This week’s prompt (by guest host, Ann Voskamp):

BELONG

Go:

I stepped foot on the Eastern shores of the United States at three years old with no understanding of the new language, no Cabbage Patch doll, no home, no friends, and no English name. I had no idea that I didn’t belong until I understood the universal language of mockery, embarrassment, and rejection. I so wanted to feel belonging, so I became a little expert in dressing like others, speaking like others, and having what others had. And, the funny thing about belonging–at 3 or at 33–is that you feel that you belong when others treat you…like family. But family doesn’t extend your membership based on how current your clothes are or how similar your tastes. Family hems you in because they’ve chosen to. They’ve committed to loving, committed to forgiving, committed to accepting, committed to belonging.

And there is no belonging, like belonging to Christ– to the Family where we are welcome and chosen. I may be tempted to look the part, speak convincingly, or possess what others might possess in faith, but that proves–again and again–to add nothing to my place of belonging at the table. I’m loved and welcomed because my Father is hospitable and generous with all that his Kingdom offers…in forgiveness, in acceptance. There’s no vying for belonging here…the Redeemed are nothing less…than family.

Stop.

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5-minute-fridayHave a lovely weekend, friends. May you remember once again the great riches that are yours in Christ this weekend…simply because he’s chosen to draw close and to make all that is his, yours. You belong to him; you belong.