For When You Need a Break from the Same Old, Same Old


IMG_3824“Mama, I think today’s a good day for a date with Papa,” My Blessing said as she licked the last morsel of breakfast from her sticky little fingers. 

I glanced across the table at my dad, deciphering his thoughts on the idea. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for some time with my girls. He nodded, ‘yes’ leaving the decision up to me.

For a moment I weighed my daughter’s request with all I had planned for the day: homeschooling, laundry, afternoon naps…was there space and time for a lunch date?

I looked at her hopeful face. “I guess a short lunch outing would be okay. We could do Steak N Shake, McDonalds, or…”

 “Or Barnes and Noble?'” she asked, ever my little event planner. It was clear she had the day mapped out.

I checked the clock and smiled. “If we hurry, and if it’s okay with Papa, we can make story time…”

Belle Toes“Did you hear that, Hope?'” She cried to her sister. “We’re going to Barnes & Noble for story time. I’m so excited!”

Just shy of an hour later we were loaded in the van and on our way, my dad, my girls, and I. For the rest of the morning, we enjoyed story time, craft time, and snack time. Dad laughed as the girls designed and executed two funky looking art pieces. I laughed as Dad did his best to help.

Next we huddled around the train table as the girls played and looked at books.

“Ten more minutes,” I called as we closed in on noon. “It’s just about lunch time. Time to head home.”

“Or time for a cookie?” My Blessing piped up, eyes never leaving the long line of cars she carefully pushed up a hill.

Again I glanced at my dad. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for cookies. Again he nodded, ‘yes.’

Minutes later at B&N cafe I watched as my girls dove into gooey chocolate chip cookies the approximate size of their faces. Not wanting to leave ourselves out Dad and I sipped coffee and enjoyed a treat of our own. We totally spoiled our lunches but for once I didn’t care. 

IMG_5847“This is nice,” I said. “Thanks, Dad.” Then looking at my girl, “And thank you, Blessing, for coming up with the idea.” She smiled a chocolaty smile and beamed, “It was a good idea, wasn’t it?”

It sure was.

When my girls were really small I often read them a book at bedtime titled, What Could be Better Than This by Linda Ashman. One of my favorite verses from the story went like this:

“And when they could listen and move at your pace,

the world held a new sort of grace.

It seemed quite a magical place.”

 As I sat at that cafe table with my girls and my dad these words came to mind. Homeschooling and laundry seemed worlds away and everything before me seemed tented with magic and grace. It was like looking at the world through sunglasses, everything a different hue. The hue of childhood wonder.

As a parent, a mother, a homeschooling teacher it is certainly my job to keep us on track. To dictate our days, stay focused, stay fruitful. But days like this remind me that it’s also my job to teach them how to live, how to enjoy the good things God’s given us, how to chase after wonder on Tuesday mornings.

Belle at BeachFor this I’m hardly a teacher. I try but more times than not I find I am merely the student sitting in THEIR classroom where simple grace and fun are always the topic of study.

Finding yourself longing for a break from the same old, same old? Spend a morning, an afternoon, a day following the plans, the ways, the eyes and heart of a child. There’s no better way to make the world seem new. To wake up to life and living, laughter and joy, magic, enchantment and wonder.

On this Tuesday morning laundry piles waited at home. 

Schoolbooks remained untouched.

Class was in session at Barnes and Noble. And as I listened and moved at their pace I learned it all over again…

How the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 

Today Was a Fairy Tale

100_2033Today I’m welcoming back my friend and fellow writer, Jessie Heninger, to Once Upon A Writer. I hope you enjoy her beautiful account of finding fairy tale magic in everyday life as much as I have…and then…go for a walk in the woods!

~Post by Jessie Heninger~

Monday is my favorite day. The kids go back to school, the crazy, that is our life on Sundays, is over and it’s Brian’s day off. An entire school day to spend as we please… wonderful.

Autumn in Michigan is spectacular, a color extravaganza before the dreary months of winter. So this week we dropped the kids off at school and drove to Holland. We stayed off the highway, and for once the weather cooperated. It was gorgeous! We did a little window shopping (seriously $80 for a baby outfit!) dreamed about retiring to Lake Michigan, ate gluten free pizza for lunch. It was lovely, but oh it gets better…

I was under the impression that downtown Holland went right up to the lakeshore, it doesn’t. So we asked Siri to take us to the beach (which she did not do, she hates me). Eventually we made our way to Saugatuck State park. There were two trails leading into the woods and we chose perfectly. It was a golden trip that wound through trees alight with color and a forest that was practically dripping with magic.

Jessie Headshot

Author Jessie Heninger

For me in a forest like that, smelling the wonder of the woods, I feel a presence. It’s so strong it almost feels tangible. Everywhere I looked I saw what my imagination is trying to do for the characters in my novel. Only it was better. I pointed to a spot and told Brian, “Giants, right there, I mean that’s exactly where they’d come through.” He laughed at me good naturally. (Thank God that man thinks I’m quirky in a charming way and not just completely nuts). We continued to hike through shadowed forest and then suddenly the woods brought us to the beach. Dark grey, cold waves practically touching the majesty of that forest.

Lake Michigan is really special to me, and being there with my husband on a kind of unexpected trip…there is so much wonder and magic in this world. Sometimes all we see is the darkness and the sadness but there is so much color just blazing and waiting to be discovered. I love it when my eyes are opened to that. When the sacred comes and touches us in a moment of beauty and awe. Pure wonder when the heart feels something we can never put words to. Bliss.

To read more of Jessie’s writings please visit her blog Confessions of a Housewife at

Three Reasons Why I Love Snow (and Why You Should Too)

The first snowfall of the season came to my Southwest Michigan home yesterday afternoon.

Like many northern folk, I have a love/hate relationship with snow. I love it around Christmastime, as most people do, but soon thereafter I begin to tire of it as the Michigan winter drags on. Lately, however, I have begun to notice a difference in my attitude toward snow. It seems the scales have tipped in favor of love for the crystal white bounty, and yesterday as I watched it float to earth, I considered three reasons why.

Reason No. 1: Snow Slows

I know that snow itself isn’t always the most practical thing in the world, but I love the subtle message that seems to linger in the air whenever a significant snowfall comes. “Careful now, go slow,” it seems to say. I love to step outside and listen to it whisper. To listen to it fall quiet, peaceful, and gracefully slow.

To me, it’s mesmerizing, and makes it nearly impossible not to follow suit. At the first sight of snow, I want to grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, a book, a blanket, and curl into the moment that God is giving.

It is a gift on snowy days to be at home, but even on the days when I have to be out, shopping for groceries, making appointments, fetching this and that, the snow and ice require a slow and careful approach to the activities of the day. Is it convenient? Hardly, but I rather like the excuse to go slow. In today’s hectic world, it’s a welcome change of pace.

Reason No. 2: Snow Keeps Me Young

In a world of wrinkle-free this and age-defying that, snow brings youth and childlike joy. Sledding. Snowmen. Snow angels. Snow ball fights. “Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes…”

Tell me, what else brings youthfulness as instantly and completely as playing in the snow.

In recent years this joy has been heightened by my daughter’s awareness of the fun snow brings. To watch wonder fill her eyes as she gazes out cold window pane at snow piling deep brings wonder to my eyes as well. She is three. I am 31, but when the first snow flurries begin to fall we are made the same, and our giddy hearts cry joy.

Reason No. 3: Snow Is Pure Beauty

It is snow beauty that gets me every time; that I love most. Whether it piles in inches and feet or softly dusts the earth, snow always comes radiant and speaks to me of its creator.

Who but God could make snow? Who but God could create the soft kiss of heaven that composes each unique flake? Who but God could paint a snowy morning and make the most barren landscape shine new?

Living in the north it is all too common to hear people around me commiserate together on how much they hate the snow. I’ve done so myself, many times, especially come March when I’m tired of the cold and long to see something…anything green.

Here’s a little secret that I myself am learning: God is in the snow. His glory, beauty, creativity, and ability to make all things new can be seen in each and every flake. Don’t we miss something wonderful, when all we do is gripe and complain? Don’t we miss the wonder that God is giving, that nature displays? Despite the cold and the length of the season, I don’t want to miss out on God’s special brand of wonder.

It happens every year, when the cold bites hard I am taunted by the love/hate feeling that winter brings.  But my love for snow beats strong, reminding my heart to slow, feel young, feel joy, and relish in His beauty.

After all, the Michigan winters are long and the snow is going to be here for a while, I might as well bundle up, grab my cup of cocoa and enjoy it while it lasts.