Thursday, December 11, 2014

Be You, Less Busy


I like my holiday traditions. I love the after-Thanksgiving decorating, the walk down Christmas Tree Lane, the decadent desserts and dinner parties, the wrapping and unwrapping of Christmas books each night of advent, the doorbuster sales, the white elephant gift exchanges, the homemade cinnamon rolls and Christmas Day ravioli. I love Christmas cards and endless twinkling lights and Pinterest projects. For years, I have pushed through to get it all done, get it all right, get it all accomplished and then chalked up that ragged, worn-out feeling as being just part of the bustle of the season.

But this year I know I need to slow it down.

Slow down our schedule, slow down our commitments, slow down our hearts.

When I hear the same message resonating from a lot of different places from different people I respect, I know it's time to start sitting up and paying attention. This is often the way God tries to show me something important. Truth be told, God's been whispering this message to me about slowing down Christmas for the last few years, but I didn't really want to listen. 

This will be a different Christmas for my family - our first Christmas without my husband who died in September from cancer. Some might be tempted to cancel Christmas in our circumstances, but with a 3, 5, and 8-year-old I know I can't do that.

I do know I have a perfect opportunity to do something different, to slow it down and be more intentional.

Author Brene Brown wrote this in a recent blog post, "We live in a world where life can easily become pageantry, and the best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there’s no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people’s red velvet curtains at holiday time, you’ll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy. I’m convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not canceling the holiday, but giving up the show."

I was convicted by that. On Thanksgiving, I started thinking through our long list of Christmas traditions and asking myself why each one is really important. I found myself dwelling on a few key questions: What am I really longing for this season? What traditions are just part of the show and which ones really matter to me?

I realized that every year I long for two things: quality time to enjoy the story of Christmas and a meaningful way to bless others. 

Looking through my list, I knew I needed to cut back on at least a third of our holiday traditions and then cross off a few more that were really meaningful but just made the season far too busy. It was hard work but there was great freedom I felt in doing it.

It's December 11 and none of my Christmas decorations are up. We are slated to go get our tree tomorrow night with friends. Our tradition has always been to put everything up the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't do that this year. And that's ok. It's one example of a way I gave myself grace and permission to slow down.

Instead, I've spend these first two weeks of Advent reading through a new treasured book called UNWRAPPING THE CHRISTMAS STORY by Ann Voskamp with my kids. There is a story and beautiful illustrations lighting each night of Advent. This book has encouraged some amazing conversations with my girls. We haven't finished every night's reading or every question, but we have slowed down most nights to enjoy it together. I have treasured this time. It's a new tradition that really matters to me.

My challenge to you (and myself) is to slow down for five minutes and ask yourself: What can I cut out these next few weeks? When can I say no graciously? What can I take off my to-do list so I can say yes to the heart of Christmas? If Christmas is about the birth of Emmanuel, meaning "God with us," I know I don't want to sprint through this season all bleary-eyed and miss out on the moments I could have with that God-baby.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS. She writes books for children and also teaches at California State University, Fresno. She is a mama to three active girls.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Be You, Creatively

On Friday, I took my kids to a birthday party. One of the activities was painting. The hostess mama had paints and paper and brushes for each child. She boldly let them go to town. My three daughters, who are wild about painting, filled up every inch of white space with thick, swirling colors. Crimson crashing gold melting green. My littlest even got some fingers in the action. As they painted, I noticed something extraordinary: a light in their eyes. This was the “creator light,” the satisfaction that they were creating something with their own hands.

The legendary painter, Pablo Picasso, said this: “Every child is born an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

This is the difficulty. We learn to edit. We start to look around and compare. We recognize other great artists, and we feel the weight of expectations. We squelch the creative for the practical.

David writes in Psalm 139: 13: “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

As I read the words of this scripture and others, I discover two things: God is our Creator. He created us to create. 

When I first became a mama, I discovered the urgency of everyday demands often trumped time for myself, time to be creative and unwind. With each child, this time proportionally diminished.
Through the years I have come to understand that I have to be intentional about creative space for myself. God has wired me to create. I bring Him glory when I create. This has looked different in various seasons of my life. My creative seasons have included writing blogs, painting canvases, making jewelry.

In other seasons, it’s been knitting. I love knitting because it involves a beginning and end. I start with a delicious ball of yarn and end up with a little baby hat or chunky scarf. There is something deeply satisfying about holding that finished piece in my hand. I created it. Perhaps it isn’t perfect or what I thought it might look like but it is my creation. I don’t find this deep satisfaction in doing the laundry or scrubbing toilets.

I have had seasons where cooking was my creative space. Sure, it was practical: we needed to eat. Yet I afforded myself some extra time for perusing cookbooks and making something more involved because I knew I need the cooking therapy. I knew the chopping and mixing and tasting was something my creative mama soul needed.

Do you allow yourself creative space?

For you, maybe it’s gardening or arranging bedroom furniture or sewing or making someone feel welcome in conversation or playing guitar. I urge you to stop making excuses about your kids and your shortcomings. Stop “pinning” and start creating.

I love the way writer and pastor Erwin McManus puts it: “When you allow the living God to shake your life loose from all that holds you, and recreate and remake you, you are once again stepping into your artist’s self.

I challenge you today to be you, creatively.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Courage to Embrace Your Child's Individuality

As a mama of three girls ages 2, 5 and 8, there’s a lot I’m still learning. In fact, every day is a wild journey of discovery about my girls and myself. One thing I do know for sure: we are all different.

That may sound obvious but it’s a big deal. It’s something I have to constantly remind myself as I navigate the waters of parenting. Each one of my girls is a masterpiece – uniquely wired and created by God. 

It's tempting to get caught up into what other people think about our kids - how they should look or behave or think or act. I have been that mom. It's been a journey for me to learn how to celebrate each one of my girls and embrace their individuality.

I know that my oldest, Meilani, feels wholly alive when she has a colored pencil or marker or paint brush in hand. She’s also a planner. She loves to know what’s on the agenda for the week. She loves to set up her room for friends to come over and have every stuffed animal, every Lego creation in its place. I also know that my sweet girl sucks her bottom lip when she’s nervous or thinking hard.

I know that my middle daughter, Giada, is a snuggler. She thrives on hugs and tickle time and cuzzling before bed. She loves to be active. She spends more time standing on her head than she does sitting right side up. She loves gymnastics, basketball, soccer. She also loves to make new friends. She’s the girl you want with you on a long trip to a new place because she can win over any stranger.

I know that my youngest, Zayla, oozes joy and passion. She’s a whiz at puzzles! She scrunches up her nose when she smiles and erupts with contagious giggles. She is independent, needing to buckle her own seat belt or serve her own dinner.

My girls recently lost their dad to cancer. We anticipate seeing Daddy again in heaven one day and gaining a greater understanding for the heartache we now endure. As a family, we are learning how to grieve both individually and collectively. Recognizing that each of my daughters is unique proves important now more than ever. 

My oldest doesn’t like to cry in front of people while my middle little needs someone to hold her close when those tears come. When my 2-year-old misses her daddy, she is comforted by pictures on my phone and videos with his voice. They each have their own unique grief journey. It's different from mine and other kids who have experienced something similar. These are all things I’m learning.

I believe part of our job as mamas is to lean in close, to listen to what our kids are telling us with words and body language, to get to know what pushes their buttons and what makes their hearts beat. I believe a large part of our job is to embrace their individuality and teach them to be themselves, bravely, in light of that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Hi Mamas!

Mark your calendars today for our Fall 2014 meeting dates. We have some fun activities and meaningful topics planned. Be sure to invite a friend!

Registration is $35 for the year, which includes all the supplies & goodies offered during our meetings as well as a welcome package from MOPS international, their monthly magazine and special gift to encourage you to BE YOU, BRAVELY this year as you mother. Sign up today right here. We also do have childcare classes available!

August 14 - Jump Around event at Aerosports Trampoline  - All Families Welcome! (Come register for the MOPS season, bring a friend and reconnect with other mamas!)

September 11 - Be You, Bravely: Facing your Mama Fears (speaker: Dorina Gilmore)

September 25 - GAME NIGHT: Fun competitions forging new Friendships

October 9 - Courage to Embrace your Child's Individuality (speaker: Cori Schmidt)

October 23 - Be You, Creatively: CRAFT NIGHT (speaker: Emily Hope Baker)

November 13 - Courage to Balance Work & Mothering (speaker: Noelle Golling)

November 22 - MOPS Holiday Boutique (Host a table selling your own goods or come shop & snag some fabulous gifts for your family & friends!)

December 11 - Be You, Generously: CRAFT NIGHT (Creating Christmas Crafts & Gifts)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Navigate Transitions with your Mama Heart

This time of year my mailbox fills with invitations for graduations, birthday parties, weddings. My Facebook newsfeed crowds with prom photos, teacher appreciation events, and my personal favorite, Mother’s Day gatherings!

May marks the end of the school year for many.  May speaks of a closing season. May hints at summer days to come. May is a month of transition.

In high school, May was the month our yearbooks arrived. I was always on the yearbook staff, and we had the privilege of paging through the books first. We got an early glimpse at the layouts, the photos, the funny and memorable frozen in time from the past year.

I remember spending hours cutting out pictures and copying down quotes for friends. We used it as an excuse to tell people how much we admired them or to jot down favorite memories with them from the year. We would sign with cute sayings like “K.I.T.” – Keep in Touch – or “2 Cute 2 B forgotten.”

This time of year is always bittersweet for me. It’s a month full of celebrations, but also goodbyes. When I was younger it was about saying goodbye to my school friends. I would often be returning home to be with neighborhood friends or during college years I would be starting a new job or internship.

As a mama, it’s different. I have to help navigate these transitions for my kids. They, too, have to say goodbyes to friends and teachers at school. Our whole family has to adjust to more time together and being in each other’s space more. Siblings are forced to remember what it’s like to play together. 

Transitions can be tough.

Every summer our family heads to Haiti, where our family feels called to serve and bless and be blessed. We must say goodbye to our California friends and family every year. It’s hard. We shed some tears. Our hearts long for those we love the most. Yet, we have the unique opportunity to return to a place we have built relationships.  My girls look forward to their summer days – carefree and unbound by schedules – to jump rope and dig in the dirt with their Haitian friends from the orphanage next to our home.

My challenge to you is to embrace transition. Expect it. Carve out time for yourself and your little ones to adjust. Don’t be surprised if they have some days of irritability or acting out. Plan some down time to reminisce about the past season, the highlights of the school year or that dance class they took.

My girls love photos; I take lots of them. This is another way I help them navigate transitions. We go through photos together on the computer or we make special photo books to help us remember the people and the places that have become meaningful to us. When we travel we take a few of these photo books with us. 

I also give my girls blank books. They can use these like a journal to document their new adventures. If they can’t express themselves in words kids can draw pictures. I challenge them to draw or paint one picture a day. I found this helps them when they are missing friends or having a hard time embracing a new place or season.

In our home, transition is the new normal. How about yours?
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS group in Fresno, California. She and her family serve in Haiti each summer with the non-profit Christian Friendship Ministries & The Haitian Bead project.