Monday, June 21, 2010

Heavenly Hammock

I have a good friend who is one of my true confidants. She is in a stage of life much like me as a stay at home mother with 3 young children. We catch up fairly regularly and definitely rely on each other during those times when we need wisdom, counsel, or support. Our conversations are always encouraging to me; often it's that one of us says just the right thing at just the right time. More often, it's just good to be reminded that we're not alone--we're not going through something that is completely foreign. What I find really encouraging is when she tells me about some good times with her family, and she'll say, "It was just heavenly." When I hear my friend say this I often wonder how we can describe earthly, simple experiences as heavenly.

I've been thinking a lot about that recently. My family and I had a really good weekend! We celebrated my baby's very first birthday and were able to visit with family both near and far. Sunday was Father's Day. From start to finish it was a fabulous day: we went to church, played outside, napped a bit, hiked at the park, played games, and ate lots of food. It was simply heavenly. As I've reflected on my weekend and several moments since then I have realized that heavenly truly is the right adjective for these times.

One definition of heavenly in the Webster's Dictionary is "causing or marked by great happiness, beauty, peace." Well that's it! It is acceptable and even true and correct to describe some of these wonderful experiences, times, and moments with our family (or others, for that matter) as heavenly.

I had a heavenly weekend with my family. I've likely had many of these. I've had heavenly times with my children. I've experienced heavenly moments. One such moment was earlier this morning. My 2 young girls, overly tired from their busy weekend, went down for naps in the late morning. My boys were happily playing in the backyard. I went out with them and decided to lie down in my hammock. (It was my Mother's Day gift 2 years ago and I've lain on it maybe five times.) We have a small backyard but we have several large trees. As I was lying on the hammock I could hear my boys playing together nicely; I could hear birds singing prettily; I could hear the gentle wind causing the leaves to whisper. And the view was beautiful--looking up at a canopy of green leaves and blue skies. It was an absolutely heavenly moment! In that moment I was astonished at the beauty around me. I was completely at peace. I was happy just to be alive! Heavenly!

My husband is such a gentle, wonderful man who loves me and loves his children immensely. Following Father's Day, I feel compelled to acknowledge that he is truly the most wonderful father to his children. They could not have asked for a better father. He loves spending time with his children--playing with them, talking to them, and just loving on them. He often gets a look in his eyes and a smile on his face and tells me "I just got butterflies." For a while I didn't really understand this. I think I've felt butterflies in my stomach before, but for me it's generally been before I sing publicly or prepare for an interview. His butterflies are good butterflies--a feeling of intense and overwhelming thankfulness, peace, and joy. I have begun to understand that his butterflies are the same as my heavenly moments. They are times of supreme peace and happiness. All is right with the world! (Although when he finds out that I shared his butterflies with the world, all may not be right....)

I realize that all weekends can't be and probably won't be heavenly. And I can't think of the last time that I could say an entire week felt heavenly. But, I am filled with gratitude for the heavenly moments that life gives me. Whether it's celebrating a birthday, watching my kids give each other an unexpected hug, relaxing in my husband's arms, or lying in a hammock looking up at the trees...heavenly weekends, days, and moments are available continually. Maybe I don't feel the butterflies exactly as my husband does, but I treasure all of life's meaningful and beautiful heavenly moments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Get up! Go outside and play!"

Well, in the Hinz household, we just finished off our very first soccer season (possibly of many to come). I have never been in too big of a hurry to involve my children in organized sports, or any other organized activities for that matter. I love helping my children learn to foster their own creativity and imagination! They can play together for hours without the help of a video game, TV, computer, or soccer team. While all of these activities and others are fine, I guess I tend to be more old-fashioned in this way; I love giving my children many opportunities to create their own games and activities. It's amazing what they come up with sometimes. I guess I could be categorized as the kind of mom who tells her kids, "Get up! Go outside and play!" Okay, generally I accompany them to the backyard because they are young but even when I don't they play as kids should play.

I was by no means a tomboy as a child, but I did love being outside. I'm pretty sure that we spent most of our spring, summer, and fall days outside. Yes, I liked playing inside too with Barbies, my doll house, and Holly Hobby Bake Oven, but some of my most fond childhood memories are outside memories. When I was 8 we lived in a neat neighborhood in Lynchburg, Va. There was a tree to the side of the backyard in which my brother built a makeshift ladder to climb up to the first branch. He was quite the little monkey so I'm sure he then climbed up as high as he could go! I was fully content to climb the ladder to that first big branch and claim my perch. I can still picture the view from that branch. I felt like I was so high I could see the world! Most likely if I were to revisit that home today(and if the tree was still there) I would be amazed at how close to the ground that first branch really was. But, I not only felt like I could see the whole world, I remember sitting there imagining that the whole world was open to me--that the possibilities were endless! I did some of my very best dreaming from up on that tree branch in Lynchburg, Virginia.

In that same neighborhood there was an area up the street that we called a bamboo forest. Thinking back on it, I'm not certain what all was there, but there seemed to be a good deal of bamboo wood and to us, it was very tall and full of adventure. We loved going there. On the other side of the neighborhood was a small park. There was a big hill at this park with several bike trails (really they were just divots from kids repeatedly riding their bikes down the hill). A couple seemed very steep and one was just right for the not-so-daring (that would be me). But, we loved riding our bikes over to this park. We often spent time playing in the woods behind our backyard. We loved being outside! Sure, we could make fun inside too, but playing outside is what we wanted to do.

My kids are the same way! They want to head outside as soon as they finish breakfast. I often hear huffs and sighs when I tell them they need to first brush their teeth. They could stay outside from sunrise to sunset if I let them. And, as I said before, when they don't initiate it, then I'm the one who will kick them outdoors....gently of course! Not only is the fresh air and vitamin D from the sun good for them, but something else happens outside. It's that same something that happened to me as an 8 year old girl each time I sat on that tree branch. The sky opens up! Literally! Whether you live in a breathtakingly beautiful part of country with hills a plenty, or by the vast blue sea, or inside the city limits, the sky is big and beautiful. Sure, most of us wouldn't mind a change of scenery occasionally. (I live in Toledo, OH so I can attest to this.) But go outside and look up. Look really far up. Look up so that it hurts your neck. The sky is the limit!

We're all children at heart! Life can beat us up a bit. But, we all still need to envision that the sky is the limit--that our realm of possibilities is endless. From this vantage point we can do great things! We can conquer the world! We can change lives! We can live that dream that's within us!

My 4 year old finally learned how to pump on the swing yesterday. We've been practicing with him for months and he finally got it! It's all he wants to do. Thankfully we have a swing in our backyard, along with a never-ending fort, a huge sandbox complete with a crane, and a coffee shop (not an ice-cream shop or a house, mind you) on the first level of the fort so that mom can have an endless supply of pretend decaf mochas while outside! My husband cannot stop expanding my children's play area! He now has plans to put seats on the upper deck of one of the forts so that our patio chairs can remain on the patio. His mind never rests when it comes to what he can do to improve our kids' outside experiences. We live in the city and have a small backyard, but my kids do not have a small mindset when it comes to playing outdoors. Just like their Dad, they're constantly creating things and coming up with new ideas. Just yesterday Jaden, with my husband's help, installed gutters to the coffee shop in case it's raining and someone wants to order a coffee. He designed them, nailed the wood together, helped Dad caulk the pieces together, and had a plan for the downspout (with his trucks catching the rain). They're constantly envisioning their world as bigger and better. And why shouldn't they?

When I watch my Luke, proud as can be, pumping his legs on the swing and getting higher and higher all by himself, I remember that feeling. It's been a little while since I've been on a swing because I'm usually pushing a baby on the swing, but I remember the feeling as a child swinging so high. Just like the feeling on that tree branch! I could see everything and conquer the world! I love sending my children outside to play. I hope that they experience the exact feelings I always did: adventure, excitement, hope, creativity, and tranquility. The sky is the limit!

Send your kids outside to play. Even better, go outside with them. Wherever you are look up! Look way up! Take a long, deep breath and inhale the beauty of the sky and the endless possibilities of your life and theirs. Sit on a tree branch, ride a bike, or swing as high as you can. Remind yourself of that childhood optimism and innocence. The sky is open to you!