Dear Soren: Age 9



Dear Soren-

Today you turn 9!

Happy Birthday! It was fun looking back at pictures of you from this last year. I noticed how many new things you tried. BMX racing, flag football, dirt biking, hunting and a lot of small things in between. I can tell how much you've matured just by watching you in all of your new activities. You approach new things with more confidence and aren't as upset when you fail. You're learning how valuable failing can be and I hope you never forget that. You will always learn from failure. Don't be afraid to fail. I hope you will always get back up and try again.

Your heart for service has not dwindled. You continue to love making people feel welcome, special and loved. I love the drink bars of juices or teas you set up for guests and family. You're not keen on thank you notes and prompted giving, but you love random acts of kindness. Whether its baking something or framing a picture you've drawn, people will always love gifts that are unexpected and from the heart. You have a huge heart!

You are cautiously adventurous and as a mother I couldn't be more thankful for that combination.
You love to tell stories. Even if they're a bit exaggerated.
You are fascinated with rocks, nature and science.
You are a loyal friend.
You love to swim.
You like showing off your magic tricks.
You like puns.
You've got a great laugh!

You've accepted your challenges in school. You've met them head on and are learning to accept them and see what a gift they truly are. You may not recognize those blessings until you are older.  Don't ever let people put you in a box. Don't put yourself in a box. God is bigger than our societal labels.

The best part about this last year is that you gave your life to the Lord! You accepted him into your heart. On your own terms, when you were ready.  Jesus will always be the best thing in life. You won't always understand him, you may not always sense his presence, but he will never leave you. He delights in you Soren.

Happy Birthday Bud! I love you so much. I am so thankful I get to be your mom!
















(If you're wondering where your letter from your 8th birthday is, well, I didn't write one last year. Please forgive me.)

Teaching Kids Hospitality



Salad and drinks, prepared, styled and arranged by my son. Two years after posting this article, he continues to amaze us with the way he welcomes people into our home. 


One of my mothers many gifts is making people feel special. She never just throws a party, she welcomes each person in expectation. She never just leads someone to their room for the summer, she puts their name on the door, has the light on in anticipation, with fresh flowers on the nightstand. When you step foot in my childhood home there is no doubt my mom is excited for your visit. You can’t help but feel welcomed.
There were always people in our home. It felt strange when it was just my parents and siblings around our dining room table. I remember helping my mother set up the dining room table. Folding the napkins just so, sprinkling m&m’s on the table for birthday celebrations, writing out names on place cards and filling water pitchers. I was involved in many aspects of hosting our friends, family and guests. I didn’t always enjoy it; I’m sure in my teenage years I would have rather been doing something else. But now as an adult I find myself setting up for parties and guests just as my mother would, as well as bringing my own ideas.
One of my most embarrassing moments as a parent was also the moment I realized my son was learning how to be a proper host. At just three years old, my sweet boy looked up to his great grandmother and asked, “Can I get you some wine? Maybe a beer?” I wouldn’t normally be embarrassed by such a gesture except for the fact that my son’s great grandparents do not drink. In the midst of my embarrassment I couldn’t help but also be proud. It has been a joy watching him help set up, but he is already adding his own ideas. At only seven we have seen him chalk out parking lines on the driveway, add pictures to the guest room, create a treasure hunt for kids, post a sign directing guests where to go and so much more.

If you want to teach your child hospitality, lead by example. Try not to stifle their creativity. It takes a lot of restraint on my part as a perfectionist not to tell him his ideas don’t match the theme or style I am going for. Trust me, it was not easy when he buried that treasure right in the middle of the flowerbed. But to see the joy on his face when he led those kids on his own treasure hunt was priceless. We have also taught him to ask guests “Can I get you anything to drink?” And leave the choice up the guest.  

Dressember




Peppermint white mochas, fireplaces, Christmas carols, presents, snow, Jesus. These are the images that come to mind when I think of December.  A dress is the last thing on my mind. Maybe for an occasional holiday party or fancy New Years celebration, but not for an everyday outfit. That is what I am thinking about again this December; wearing a dress everyday in December. It’s known as Dressember. Started by a woman named Blythe Hill. I’ll let the words straight from the Dressember website tell you more…

Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women. 

The Dressember Foundation exists to inspire and empower a global community of like-minded women who are locking arms to face one of the greatest injustices of our time. 
THE HEART OF DRESSEMBER IS FREEDOM-- THAT EVERY WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE A VIBRANT AND AUTONOMOUS LIFE.
What began in 2009 as a quirky style challenge with a clever name spread like wildfire. Dressember is a month of wearing dresses, but it is so much more. At its core, Dressember is an embracing of the inherent freedom and feminity of all women.

In 2013, Dressember took on new meaning: opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women. In its first year as a fundraising campaign, Dressember aligned with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Those who participate in Dressember are supporting the abolition of modern day slavery. Beginning in 2015, the Dressember campaign will expand to partner with other anti-trafficking organizations.


In committing to a month of wearing dresses, I am also committing to raising awareness and allowing the opportunity for others to give to these amazing organizations.  Would you be willing to walk along side me and support me as I do this? If anything, please check out Dressember.org  IJM.org and A21.org to learn more. If you would like to give you can go directly to my page to donate.  Thank you so much!!

Define Enough


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I think it's because it is such a time for pause, reflection and gratitude. Life seems to slow down for a bit that long weekend. The focus turns to the food, taking time to cook knowing the bites will be savored a little longer. Families linger and friends are welcomed in as part of the family. For me it is a set up for Christmas. A beginning of the slow down from the hurried pace of fall. It seems that Thanksgiving can get hurried over in society. Today I will set out to look for some decorations for our Friendsgiving this weekend and I already know I will be sadly disappointed by the lack of decor for this holiday, yet be bombarded by Christmas everywhere and Halloween sales in the back.

With all that to say, I want to talk about Christmas today. Not to look over Thanksgiving and not to rush towards Christmas, but as an effort to make Christmas more meaningful and less harmful, if you will.  I get it. We live in a consumerist society. While my kids know the true meaning of Christmas, let's face it, they are already talking about what they want. The toys, the gifts, their wants they've held out for all year may just happen. I have no one to blame but myself. I get it.  But right now, with 44 days left until Christmas I have the opportunity to pause and really think about what I want for my kids and family this year. Do I want to stay in step with society or do I want to do things differently? Don't get me wrong, I don’t think things are in and of themselves bad. Jeff Shinabarger says in his book More or Less “When I define enough, I step off the conveyor belt of consumerism and create my own rhythm of life.” I have a chance to step off the conveyor belt. My kids have enough, more than enough.  When asking my daughter to put her clothes away last week she said with authority “I have too many clothes!” I am already burdening my children with stuff.

I’ve stepped off the conveyor belt and I am taking a look around, thinking about how do I want to spend Christmas and how do I want to give? Now what? Here are some ideas.

-Take the next 44 days to really give items away. Thoughtfully. I don’t want to just throw my stuff at Goodwill to make them deal with it. Is there a pregnancy center that could use our unused baby items? Is there a furniture bank that can take the chairs gathering dust in the garage? Is there a local women's shelter that can take my “I’ll wear these someday” clothes? I want to make room for the pause. I want the holidays to be filled with more than rearranging, cleaning and managing my stuff.
-What do my kids need? Socks. My kids need socks. How can the gift of socks mean something more? I could buy them a pair of Bombas socks. For every pair purchased a pair is donated to a homeless shelter. To my kids a sock is a sock. But if I tell them the story of those socks it means more to them and they begin to learn about the power of our purchases.
- Order items online, be ahead of the game as much as possible. This allows me to make purchases like the one above.
- Get the kids involved. The World Vision catalog came in the mail and my husband suggested we show the kids and let them pick something out for someone. Teaching them along the way.
- Ask yourself: Who made this? Where was it made?  When we take the time to really think about our purchases we realize that someone is behind that product, yes an actual person. Am I promoting slave labor? Is someone sitting in a factory with failing health putting this item together? Is this item helping or hurting someone? Do your research.
-Define for yourself what is enough. Yes, it tends to be more expensive to buy ethical items. But when we say this is enough, we step off the cycle of never ending spending of cheap crap and end up spending less in the long run.
-Give yourself and others grace. It is really difficult to step back and change spending habits. It takes time and you have to re-train your brain to ask new and different questions. The definition of enough is different for every person.

I want to create a new rhythm for ourselves this Christmas. When my kids run downstairs early Christmas morning in anticipation of seeing stockings filled and gifts wrapped under the tree, I want them to be excited for not only what they received but how those gifts have positively impacted someone else’s life as well.

Hayley Morgan on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey


           Last fall a friend of mine introduced me to the podcast "The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey." I wasn't really into podcasts then except for the occasional sermon. Jen Hatmaker's new book had just been released and a group of us were talking about it when my friend told us to listen to The Happy Hour #63: The Christmas Special with Jen Hatmaker. I was hooked after that and I don't think I've missed an episode since. I used to listen to podcasts when I would walk the track at the Y. But since dropping my membership (do I really need to pay $90 a month to walk?) I have found other ways to listen throughout the day. I carry my phone in my pocket and listen as I fold laundry, do the dishes, work on a project, driving or let's be honest, when I play candy crush.  Which brings me to yesterdays episode #101 with Hayley Morgan. Hayley and her husband started the ethical kids clothing company Wildly Co. We love the clothes in our house. My daughter loves the skirt with the built in shorts and my son loves the varsity shorts. It was so great to listen to this podcast to learn more about the company, the clothing industry and Hayley's heart behind what she does. Hayley not only owns Wildly Co., she has co-authored the book Wild & Free and helped start The Influence Network.  A lot of links for you today, but check them all out, I promise they won't disappoint!



Wildly Co.

                      This past winter I discovered, I think through instagram, the company Wildy Co. The more I learned about Wildly Co. the more I fell in love with it. They produce ethically made kids clothes, including all the staples your kids need. They make it simple for you to find great children's clothes online and a no-brainer for your wild ones to get dressed! The part I love the most, besides that they are ethically made, is their concept of a capsule wardrobe. I've heard of this for adult clothing, but never thought to incorporate the concept into my kids closet. And here Wildly Co. has done it all for me!  
        I have ordered a time capsule each for my son and daughter. We already have the swing top and perfect tee. They wash well and are super durable. This is great for my kids who are really active and who always seem to be outside.  

So easy a kid can do it. Mixing and matching for every occasion. Your kids will be able to pick out their own clothes because nothing can be mismatched.
       

Less stress. For the mom who already has other things to focus on like food and shelter for her tribe. You will only have to shop one time per season to create your kid's wardrobe but it will hold up and carry over into the next season.
Clothes that will last. In order for your the capsule to work, only quality, durable items should be purchased. That way they have a better chance of holding up through the whole season even with the inevitable ice cream spills, grass stains, and mud pie smears.
The key items in their closet may be small in number but certainly mighty on the playground. Just like your wild ones, their capsule wardrobes will be resilient, dynamic, and ready for anything.
COUPON CODE
Here is the best part. When you order a time capsule and use the coupon code LINNEA20 you get 20% off of your order. I get a bit of a kick back too. Win for you. Win for your kids. Win for me. And win for the people that are treated well making the clothing!  
 Go to www.wildlyco.com to see all that Wildly Co. has to offer and don't forget to use your coupon code. When your clothes arrive I'd love to see them on your cute kiddos. Use the hashtag #dresswildly. 

glass cabinets




I have a love/hate relationship with our kitchen cabinets. I know that sounds silly. Why am I writing (or even complaining, kind of, about kitchen cabinets)? Here is why. Half of our cabinets have a solid door, while the other half has glass doors. When we first moved in I didn’t think much about that. I put whatever made sense into each cabinet. After having enough people over I began to become self-conscious of people seeing our plastic cups and plates mixed with ceramic bowls and glasses.  I took an afternoon and reorganized these cabinets. Nice plates and dishes only in the glass cabinets and all the other random stuff in the solid cabinets, tucked away for no one to see. I loved the transformation. I felt less self-conscious when having people over. It seems silly, but it put a little extra skip into my step to walk into the kitchen and it was one less mess in my day that I didn’t have to look at. Everything had a place.

While emptying the dishwasher one day and putting dishes in their respective places I had the thought of how similar my social media life is like these cabinets. I want only the good stuff to show and to throw all the other junk behind closed, solid doors. It made me uncomfortable at first. It didn’t seem right. I don’t want to present my life like I always have it together, as if all things in my life have a rightful place. But the more I wrestled with this and unpacked this idea I became more comfortable with it. I realized people kind of need to earn the right to see behind my solid doors or I want to be the one to decide when to open up those doors.  There are also certain things that don’t need to be opened up to the public, ever. Especially as my children get older, I want to protect them more as they become more human and more complex. It is becoming less and less my place to open their closed doors to the world. 

I have a dear friend who invites herself and her family over. I love it. Seriously. I absolutely love it. Sam and I want nothing more than to have people in our lives that just stop by unannounced or invite themselves over.  They can see our home in the midst of spring break when it looks like a tornado has ripped through our home and property. I watched as one friend was chopping vegetables, barefoot in our kitchen, brush a crumb off her foot against her leg. My floors were unswept. While there was some embarrassment that crept up while I watched this, she didn’t say a thing and I didn’t apologize. Deep down I wanted to and I think there is a part of me that will always want to. These women have earned the right to see behind my solid doors, literally and figuratively.  It didn’t start this way. I’m positive I made sure the house was sparkling from top to bottom the first who knows how many times they came over. But as our relationships have grown and I’ve slowly revealed myself to them I have felt safe and loved. And they have begun to open their doors to me as well.

I see social media differently now. While I still get jealous of certain instagram feeds and find myself wanting what they have, I am quick to remind myself that their beautiful photos are just their glass cabinets. They have solid cabinets as well. They are choosing not to show those and/or I haven’t earned the right to see behind those doors. I also remind myself that I have a tribe of people that do let me see into their real lives and I can enter into their homes and lives, sticky counters, unswept floors and all.