The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



Living the Story You Want to Tell (October’s Dare Accomplished)

Living the Story - The October Bucket List Life Dare AccomplishedI rolled down my car window to see the Starbucks menu better in the foggy morning air. I never remember the name they use for the extra-large drink. Venti. With a free drink on my card, I could splurge and go big. Then I glanced in my rearview mirror. An older model Buick had pulled up behind me with two women in it wearing head coverings. Would they go big and get Ventis too? My hand shook with giddiness as I put the car in drive to pull up to the window. I was more excited about what I was about to do for those women behind me than I was about the Venti Salted Caramel Mocha the barista handed me through the window.

My completion of the October Bucket List Life Dare to commit a random act of kindness might sound cliché. But I have always wanted to surprise someone by paying for their order somewhere. So that’s what I did.

The funny thing about it was how much the barista at the drive-thru window thanked me. It was a dreary morning, so I had hoped to make someone’s day a bit brighter with this treat. What I hadn’t expected was that it would start with the barista. It was also serendipitous that I had the free drink on my card for myself. And that I’d made a bit of extra cash that week selling an old Halloween costume. A confluence of events that set the stage for my paying-it-forward adventure.

Here is what impacted me most about taking the step to actually pay for a stranger’s order: I was living out the story I have been wanting to tell. You see, what has kept me from doing it before was the story I have always told myself about myself – the story that said I’m not one of those people who does that sort of thing. Even though I have always wanted to do it. And so paying for the order of the person in line behind me at the Starbucks drive-thru was more than just a feel-good gesture to complete the month’s dare goal. It served as a means of being myself more fully. Living out who I want to be.

Maybe that part shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, I believe very strongly in the concept of making bucket lists because of how they help us ground ourselves in our identities and let us live out who we were created to be. But I hadn’t seen how sometimes we can hamper our own progress by simply buying into the notion that we aren’t, or can’t be, the people we most want to be.

For some more inspiration on paying it forward (and living the story you want to tell), check out what one man has done at his pizza shop in Philadelphia.

Did you complete the October Bucket List Life Dare? If so, how did it go? If not, why not jump in now – just because it’s not October, doesn’t mean it’s too late. Chime in on the comments below to share your story (or the one you want to live into).

November Bucket List Life Dare: Express Gratitude

November 2015 Bucket List Life Dare: Express GratitudeDoes it ever feel to you like Thanksgiving is here and gone in a flash? Like the blessing over dinner that we pass off as “giving thanks” isn’t proportionate to how much we have to be grateful for? It bothers me, but I have to admit that I’m not very good at doing something about it. Sure, I am quick to say “thanks” on a daily basis to people who help me. But I’m not as good at taking it deeper and really reflecting (and acting) on the abundance in my life that I have to be grateful for.

It makes sense that we ought to appreciate what we have more. Thankful people are more satisfied, less aggressive, and more giving. Not only that, but research shows that grateful people actually get further in life. Gratitude expert Dr. Robert Emmons of U.C. Davis says this:

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

If we want to live more meaningful lives as individuals and as families by reaching our bucket list ambitions, we need to be practicing gratitude regularly. That’s why I decided this month’s dare should challenge us to make something more of our gratitude.

So here is this month’s Bucket List Life Dare: Name one person you have been wanting to thank – for something they did or an influence they had on your life. Take time this month to write or otherwise express your gratitude.

If you want to take it a step further and build off Emmons’ gratitude list research, you could make your own list, adding one item each day that you are grateful for. Then note who you have to thank for that item. Did someone help you obtain, attain, or maintain what you’re grateful for? Choose one of those people to express your thanks to this month.

I will be sharing about how the October Bucket List Life Dare went for me, and asking you to chime in on your experiences, later this month. In the meantime, let us know in the comments if you’ll be joining in this month’s dare.



Why Do I Do This?

Black Cat Pop

I made these cat pops for my daughter’s ninth birthday this year. See the end of the post for where you can learn how to make them too.

Three times a year I put myself through the finger-numbing task of creating and decorating my daughters’ birthday cakes and treats. It’s often a four- or five-hour process, during which my shoulders cramp up high around my ears as I hunch over my masterpiece. My tembles throb from the effort of concentration. And my hands spasm from overexertion. At about the three-quarters mark toward completing the task, when the aches and exhaustion rise to a fever-pitch, I question myself.

Why am I doing this? I think.

But I press on, piping row after row of buttercream stars or painstakingly dipping cake ball after cake ball in melted candy drops. My hands shake and the work becomes sloppy. I stop to rest, get a drink, massage my wrists.

“Why do I do this?” I ask, this time aloud. One of my daughters is passing through the kitchen and has stopped to admire my work.

“You know you say that every year,” she says. “So why do you do it if it bothers you so much?”

I pause, fingers locking back into their tight grip around the frosting bag. I swipe my free fingers through some dripped buttercream on the countertop and savor the sweetness as I think.

“It doesn’t bother me so much…” I say, my voice trailing off as I ponder the reasons for putting myself through the agony of the cake-decorating process.

My daughter raises an eyebrow. She’s overheard my mumbled grousing during the past hour as I’ve frosted and re-frosted one section of cake.

“Okay,” I say, answering her look. “It can be a pain. But it’s so worth it. I can’t imagine making you a plain cake or paying someone else to do it when I know how. It’s a way for me to show my love to you.”

Just then her younger sister sweeps into the kitchen and stops to look at her cake.

“Go away,” the elder says, shooing her from the room. “It’s supposed to be a surprise. For later. At your party.” She looks conspiratorily over her shoulder at me.

I shift my body around the kitchen island to shield the view of the cake as I work.

“She’s right,” I call out to my departing child. “Don’t look until it’s done.”

I turn back to the cake. It does look remarkable. All those little pointed stars crammed close together, hiding the cake beneath. Only a small square of velvety-brown cake remains visible. Almost done. It’s then I feel it – that rush of excitement over seeing the work come together. It will be… well, not breath-taking exactly. But it will be special.

And maybe that’s why I do it. Because all those little stars and all those hours of cramped fingers come together into something that reflects what the recipient is to me: special.

In fact, it’s why, as parents, we get up in the middle of the night for feedings and fevers. It’s why we sit on damp, chilly soccer fields, while our kids chase down the ball. It’s why, late at night in a dim living room, dozing upright in a hard chair, we wait for our teenager to return home.

Our kids are precious to us. And because of that they inspire us to take on tasks and chores and obligations that sometimes make us wonder what we were thinking. And I believe that the occasional sacrifice involved in parenting communicates a unique message of value to our kids. “You are worth this,” it says.

Why do I do this? Because my children matter to me. They’re worth the sleepless nights and chilled noses. They’re worth anxious waiting. They are worth hours of sore knuckles and stiff shoulders.

Why do I do this? Because I’m a mom whose knack at cake-decorating allows her to show her girls love in a unique way.

For instructions on how to make the cake pops pictured above check out Bakerella’s book, Cake Pops.

So tell me, dear reader, what is it that you keep doing for your kids even when you ask yourself why?

Celebrating a New Book

I’m so excited for my friend, Sharla Fritz. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her new book, Bless These Lips, come together chapter by chapter in our local writer’s group. This week she’s been celebrating the launch of the book (with a fun giveaway – check out the details below) and today is my turn to host her here. But before we talk to Sharla, I want to tell you why I think you should read her book:

Bless These Lips

New from Concordia Press, Bless These Lips

Do you ever say something and then wish you could take it back? Or maybe you don’t realize what you’re saying or how it’s being taken until later – and then it’s too late. Do you wish you could think of an encouraging thing to say more often? That’s where Sharla’s book can help. She gently offers instruction – from her life and from the Bible – on how to have a winning way with your words. I’ll let Sharla tell you more, but from my perspective, Bless These Lips is a great daily tool for getting a better handle on what comes out of your mouth.

To win a great prize package leave a comment at the main launch host site:  http://www.cindybultema.com/ (you can leave a comment here too, it just won’t be entered for the prize).

The prize package includes:

  • a signed copy of Bless These Lips
  • a pretty cosmetic bag with lip balm, lip liner, and lipstick
  • a handmade bookmark
  • a $15 Amazon gift card
  • a framed print of a quote from the book “God has given you a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.”

Let’s talk to Sharla and learn more about her and her new book:

1)      Why did God prompt you to write this book?

I began writing Bless These Lips because I was the one who needed a Mouth Makeover! I always seemed to be putting my foot in my mouth and I was tired of the steady diet of sock lint and shoe leather. I wanted my words to be the kind that built other people up, but instead I often used ones that tore them down.

So I studied what the Bible had to say about our words and read other books about interpersonal communication. I learned so much and decided to share how each of us can make a difference in our worlds through what we say.

2)      In your own words, what is a “mouth makeover?”

A mouth makeover could be a visit to the cosmetics counter where you walk away with multiple layers of lip liner, lipstick, and lip gloss. You’ll look fabulous for awhile, but that mouth makeover only lasts until your next cup of coffee.

A true mouth makeover is a transformation of your speech. This Mouth Makeover begins with God’s grace and forgiveness as He scrubs off the guilt of our harmful words. The makeover continues with the use of the Lip Balm of Encouragement, the Lip Liner of Truth, and the Lip Gloss of Thankfulness. This type of mouth makeover can last eternally as God enables us to use our words to share His grace.

3)      I think everyone can relate to struggling with what come out of their mouths. How could doing this study help?

How true! As women we love to talk—and so our mouths often get us into trouble! Ann Landers has a great quote, “The trouble with talking too fast is that you may something you haven’t thought of yet.”

Recognizing our love of words, this study approaches the topic with a sense of humor and combines it with fun lip product analogies. First you’ll assess whether you’ve been wearing the shades of Motormouth Mocha or Foot-in-Mouth Fuchsia too often. As you go through the study you’ll learn to wear the Shade of Grace and the Lip Sealer of Discretion more consistently.

4)      Who will take the most away from this book?

I think anyone who wants to have more control over her words and anyone who wants to make a difference in her world would benefit from this book.

Often we think we need to do something monumental to change our world. But while I was pursuing my own Mouth Makeover, God showed me that I can make a difference by simply noticing hurting people in my life and offering words of kindness and encouragement. We can all change the lives we touch every day by simply providing a caring word or a listening ear.

5)      What one thing should potential readers know about this book?

The most important message I would like readers to take away from this book is: God has given each of us a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.

We may sometimes question the purpose of our lives, but God has placed each one of us in a strategic place in time and space to be able to use our words to bring others closer to Him. When I keep that in mind, it changes my heart and what comes out of my mouth.

6)      Tell everyone a little more about yourself.

I’m a Christian speaker and author who loves to communicate the truth of God’s transforming grace. My first book Divine Design leads women to a spiritual makeover.

Sharla Fritz

My friend, author Sharla Fritz

I live in the Chicago suburbs with my amazing, amusing husband. Together we shared the adventure of homeschooling for 15 years with our two children. They are all grown up now and live an average of 3500 miles away. Our son lives nearby, but our daughter and her husband live in China (and they had the audacity to take our grandchildren with them!)

In my other life I am a church musician and piano teacher. I love traveling (especially to China!), going out to lunch with friends, and reading. If I’m not sitting at the piano or my computer you might find me at the thrift store stalking fabulous fashion finds.

6)      Anything else you’d like to share about this book?

This book shares stories of my own struggles with my mouth, but it is also an in-depth Bible study. When I began my quest for a Mouth Makeover I was amazed at how much God had to say on the subject. In the book of Proverbs alone there are 108 verses on our lips, mouths, and tongues! God thinks our words are important.

Bless These Lips

Oops. A mouth mishap. The words just slipped out, and there is no taking them back.
Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. They can affirm and teach or criticize and condemn.

By God’s grace, a mouth makeover can improve our relationships and affect our attitude toward life. Our words can enrich our connection to God as we spend more time in prayer and praise. Most important, God desires that we use the gift of speech to give Him praise, encourage others, and verbalize our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal examines things we say that get in the way of our relationships with God and with others. Each chapter draws on lip product analogies and uses humor, anecdotes, and observations to introduce Scripture passages that address common behaviors and attitudes. And each day’s reading includes Bible study questions and suggestions for personal reflection.

Bless These Lips is divided into eight weeks of study with each week having five days of readings and Bible study questions. It can be used for individual study, but would be even more fun to do with a group of gabby girlfriends!

7)      Tell everyone a little more about yourself.

I’m a Christian speaker and author who loves to communicate the truth of God’s transforming grace. My first book Divine Design leads women to a spiritual makeover.

I live in the Chicago suburbs with my amazing, amusing husband. Together we shared the adventure of homeschooling for 15 years with our two children. They are all grown up now and live an average of 3500 miles away. Our son lives nearby, but our daughter and her husband live in China (and they had the audacity to take our grandchildren with them!)

In my other life I am a church musician and piano teacher. I love traveling (especially to China!), going out to lunch with friends, and reading. If I’m not sitting at the piano or my computer you might find me at the thrift store stalking fabulous fashion finds.

You can connect with Sharla at:

Website: www.sharlafritz.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharlafritzauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SharlaFritz

Remember to go leave a comment at http://www.cindybultema.com/ to be entered in the giveaway.