Top Ten: Life Lessons from a Navy Seal

I’ve missed a few of my ‘top ten’ days, but I’ve been saving this link for the right moment. As this is back-to-school time, I thought this might be the right time to share it. It’s time to get out of bed, make the bed, and start a productive day.

Navy Admiral William H. McRaven tells the top ten lessons he’s learned from being in the trenches. They’re so simple, but so true. Here’s the list, but the article is so much more than just the list. Read it here:

10. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

9. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

8. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

7.If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

6. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

5. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

4. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

3. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

2. If you want to change the world, start singing when your up to your neck in mud.

1. If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.


Top Ten: Life lessons from sandcastles

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10.  The obvious, it’s free! All that’s needed is sand and hands. Buckets and spades are bonuses!

9. The other obvious: imagination stimulation!

8. Unchanging physical properties– The force of water v. the strength of sand; construction qualities of wet sand v. dry sand; incline v. recline; condensation v. evaporation…the list is somewhat endless…

7. When to stop— There are limits to how much sand can be built up, how deep a shovel can effectively slice without causing a collapse, how much water can be added to make the correct ‘paste’. Observing such limits and working within them builds structural and personal integrity.

6. Where to start–Start too close to the tide line and the masterpiece will be washed away before it’s even built; start too far away from the water source and water will be distantly inaccessible. High tide? Low tide? Research and reconnoiter before beginning the task.

5. Use what you have–Hands are all that’s really needed, but shovels and pails are great too. Need a new angle or a deeper scoop? Manipulate what is available…squeeze the bucket, turn the shovel…make it work! Adaptation is a crucial life skill.

4. Get more–If the sand is too wet and slippery, add dry to soak up the water. If it’s too dry to stay in place, add a bit of water. Want decor? Go find shells and sea grass. Want a different dig? Might be time to spring for a new spade. Sometimes is best to seek other options.

3. Networking–If you begin to build it, they will come. Little boys, big boys, curious onlookers of every age. Helpful advisors, eager engineers, passing critics. Listen to the advice, accept the outstretched hand, ignore the scoffers. The sandbox of the world is filled with diverse friendships waiting to start.

2.Dealing with loss–Inevitably, the sandcastle will become part of the shoreline again. But crying over a flattened sand structure is as useless is crying because there is sand. Millions of architects have knelt in those tiny grains and constructed greatness only to have it washed away with the timeless tide. Beginning this job is knowing that this is a temporary investment but the memory of it will be long-lasting.

1. Beginning again–Survey the scene, take stock of materials, and plan for the future. Yesterday’s masterpiece was colossal…for yesterday. What’s next? Breathe the salty air, admire all the expansive greatness and have a seat. Start anew, start renewed…but don’t let the ocean keep you from your sandcastle.




Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

It’s been Vacation Bible School week at our church, as my past two posts have indicated. We’ve had an amazing week, with very nearly 100 kids in attendance, approximately 50 volunteers, $500 collected for Heifer International, and youth and leaders who have grown and shown the love of God.

After waking up at 3:38 this morning in an absolute panic because I totally forgot to sew 40 teddy bear forms for the youngest kids to stuff during our mission craft time, I realized that this week’s top ten list would be most appropriately themed around Bible school.

Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

10. You have stacks of magazines, cloth, coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and/or construction paper in various, yet strategically placed, parts of your house…and every one knows NOT TO TOUCH THEM!

9. You find foam shapes sticking to random parts of your body or clothing…while you’re at the grocery store.

8. Heading to the pool for an afternoon of fun with lots of neighborhood kids AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN THIS WEEK.

7. Figuring out a discipline plan that will work for 20 minutes of classroom time, for 5 days this week…not too strict like a school room, but structured enough to get stuff done.

6. Singing cutesy, memorable Jesus songs…24 hours a day.


4. 3:38am panic attacks about what today’s craft project is supposed to be…and if we have everything we need for it.

3. 6:51am text messages about where the Easter egg box is located at church (subsequent to #4)

2. An afternoon with your own (small) family is suddenly solace.

1. 2,000 toilet paper rolls

Props to Group Publishing’s VBS curriculum ‘Weird Animals’. The KidVid component with short video clips about how God has worked in the lives of real (vastly different) kids was an excellent resource to communicate the message of God’s love. The catchy songs and the dog tag Bible verses make the lessons from this week long-lasting in the lives of our kiddos. We loved this kit!


Top Ten: Things Marriage Has Taught Me

This week marks our tenth anniversary. 3,650 days and nights(give a few for leap years), 520 weekends, 10 of each holiday…and innumerable lessons. Here are the top ten.

10. Always check pockets before washing clothes.  Flash drives, tax deductible receipts, and folded checks don’t jingle like coins…and yet they’re so much more valuable…

9. Food is important to men. I eat to live…a few crackers here, some fruit there. But he lives to eat…a meat-every-day kind of guy.  The importance of food has actually been a valuable learning experience for me. I’ve realized that taking the time to prepare food (not leaving him to fend for himself) is a way to show the big guy that I know what he likes. AND, it’s fostered communication between us about what he likes and dislikes (no cheddar cheese or yogurt…ever…ever). (If you’re engaged to be married, talk about food…it might be more important to your future spouse than you realize.)

8. ‘Organized’ is relative. I like neat and tidy. He likes to see it all…in front of him…at all times. I appreciate having a place for everything, and having everything in its place. He appreciates having everything in its place…in front of him. I can’t organize for him because it just confuses him. But we have established ‘areas’ for items that we jointly use…the office supply ‘area’, the tool ‘area’, the dirty clothes ‘area’.

7. Romantic comedies and country music are lies from the devil. Those men don’t exist in those forms. Women can’t change men to become those men. Movies and music are made for financial gain, not life guidance.

6. Men are sensitive. They may seem aloof and unaware sometimes, but they are not ‘stupid’. Sometimes they just don’t know how to respond in particular situations. They have emotions just as women do, they just display them differently. (Research actually shows that it takes men hours to process emotions that women only need seconds to process…they just need time.) Sentimentality exists beneath that tough exterior. They want to be the soldier heading into the daily battle for their damsel, but under their armor, they do have hearts. Again, communication is crucial to learning these areas about each individual man.

5.  Space is a vital frontier. Girl’s Nights are fun, but men need their Testosterone Nights, too. Be it in the man cave at home or the local pub down the street, they need time with their boyeeezzzz. When I have arranged time for the big guy to see a movie or go out for a drink with his peeps, he appreciates it greatly, even if he doesn’t say it. (see #6) It’s my way of telling him that I love him and I know his needs.

4. Get used to silence. While my mind is constantly racing with thoughts of the kids, the calendar, the jobs, the man, the relationship, his is just cruising along on its one track, usually focused on work. Silence does not equal dissatisfaction (the way it often does with females). He told me once (unfortunately recently), ‘I’ve only been mad at you once in the last six months. I’m usually just preoccupied with work.’ That was a strangely comforting statement. I could rest more assured that he wasn’t brooding about something I’d done wrong; he was brooding about work instead.

3. He has untapped potential. Marriage is a long time to be with someone. A lot of changes occur over the years. His job may change, his occupational focus may totally change. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…and sometimes fish jump out of the water and birds dip into the water. He may want to try something new, and he needs support to do it. My guy has started a side business and even bought out another one for expansion. He didn’t need my frowning disapproval or critique. He needed me as a sounding board and cheering squad.

2. A little talk never hurt, but a lot of talk did. Early on, when we had arguments, I would follow him from room to room, seeking resolution. But in a bizarre turn of events, the argument grew as we traversed through the house. After a shameful number of years of pursuing an end to arguments, he told me, ‘Sometimes I just need to process what we’ve said. I can’t give you an answer immediately’. As much as I wanted to avoid ‘not letting the sun go down on our anger’, I learned that the more useful solution was to just shut up. (See #s 4, 5, and 6).

1. ‘I love you’ isn’t always three words. The best thing this guy ever said to me was that I was ‘multi-faceted’. That was even before we were married, but he still believes it and sees it in me. I tell him, ‘You da man!’ when he accomplishes things. When he asks how the day has been when he knows the kids were off the wall, I know he’s being sympathetic and sensitive. I used to think that we needed to say those three special words at the end of every phone call, at the door every morning, at bedtime every night in order to have a healthy relationship. But now I know that hearing ‘Thanks for fixing dinner’ is really the same thing.



For more great love tips, read 1 Corinthians 13 here.

Top Ten: Summer Solstice Activities

Unlike previous top ten lists, this one is not in ranked order. Our family ignores the pagan origins of Summer Solstice, and we celebrate the beginning of summer just as that…the beginning of summer!!!!!!!!!!! We hang out with friends and let our kids stay up until the sun goes down, which is so far past their bedtime, it’s practically the next morning to them!!! Here are some of our ideas… do any or all of them to celebrate the beginning of summer! Share some of your own as well!

Top Ten: Summer Solstice Activities

10. Sunny Sun Cookies — Make a batch of these happy sunshines…and share some with neighbors!

9. Sharing the Shine — Another gift to share…a whole cookie mix! Spend the extra sunny hours mixing up these tasty concoctions to give away throughout the summer when someone needs a ray of sunshine!


8. Tie Dying Summer Shirts  — Got friends? Wear shirts? What a fun way to spend this sunny evening together…making bright shirts to wear the rest of the summer!

rainbow-tees-craft-photo-420-FF0603DYEA11 (Photo from Family Fun magazine via

7. Bike Ride through the neighborhood— Enjoy the late evening sunshine and you may make some new friends who will share summer fun with you! Make up silly bike races or relays…ride through obstacle courses or yard mazes. Find a new way to enjoy the ol’ familiar bike…you’ll have lots of summer time to enjoy it!

6. A new summer drink— Sangria for you, seltzer and juice for the kids…mix up a little refreshing beverage fun. Set out ice, fruit juices, fresh fruit, seltzer, mint leaves, and some little umbrellas for the kids to create their own summer blend. Give it a special name and it may become a family tradition! Peruse Pinterest for scores of yummy summer treats for mom and dad’s sipping pleasures!

5. Save some sun for a gray day— Take the kids outside and let them splatter paint some blank paper/notecards. Save this ‘stationary’ for notes to someone another day! paint

4. Just add water!!— Most places are in the thick of summer heat by the time summer even begins. Water activities are always a winner for summer fun! Sprinklers, squirters, wading pools…the ol’ standards. But what about water balloon tee ball, water balloon pinatas, sponge balls…and the scores of ideas found on (again!) Pinterest?? So many new ideas, you’ll be set for the whole summer!

3. Scavenger Hunt— choose a theme: summer fun, colors, beat the heat, numbers…and then choose your objects within that theme. Plan it ahead of time…or tell the kids to count to 20 and throw the items randomly around. Then, turn ’em loose to find them. This activity can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be…

2.  Dance in the Street!!–the neighborhood may rejoice at the ice-cream truck’s jingle, but you can keep on dancing with your own playlist. Let the sun shine and the music play on this long sunny day! Here’s a sample playlist, with some kid-friendly songs…

1. Plant Sunflowers— Start the summer by starting a sunflower patch. Pick a place with lots of sun and room for these tall soldiers of the season to stand. Start a tradition of enjoying nature on this night and you’ll see it’s beauty throughout summer!



Top Ten: Things that are more magical than Magic Kingdom


Today I am writing from sunny/stormy Orlando, where we are visiting Disney World. The kids hadn’t been before, and the grands wanted to take them for Grandpa’s 75th birthday.

Being around these bazillions of people in the ‘happiest place on earth’ and observing the varying levels of happiness, I’ve created this week’s top ten list.

Ten Things that are more magical than Magic Kingdom

10. Seasons-oh my, the humidity of Florida! It makes me thankful that we live in the mid-Atlantic where we can experience the ‘magic’ of all four seasons in relative moderation. Warm spring, hot summer, cool fall, and cold winter…Variety is welcome.

9. Authentic outside play-pool time, tag, running for no reason. I love the sun’s effect on my children’s hair and skin and attitude. I love their enjoyment of the ‘magic’ of a natural setting over the necessity of the theme park entertainment.

8. Naptime-sweet heaven! Naptime is pure magic in the way it transforms beasts into beauties.

7. Patience-The acquisition and usage of patience can ‘magically’ turn a nightmare situation into a humorous wait. Long lines abound everywhere here. We are learning how to cope and these lessons will leave with us, I hope.

6. Good judgement– This week, I’ve watched my kids take turns, make toy choices, make activity choices, and share, and I’m so proud of them for enacting the lessons that we’ve strived so hard to teach them. Good judgement isn’t instant magic, though; it’s one of those long-awaited, multi-step life-altering tricks.

5. Love of family-The look my daughter gets on her face when her daddy comes home from work far surpasses the look she has given any princess or over-sized mouse. I love that she (and my son) love their family, and that the feeling is magically mutual.

4. Imaginations-I spent 45 minutes watching an magical light show…in my darkened bedroom. Sponsored by Target’s $1 tube of glow sticks and two rain-trapped children. Walt Disney’s corporation wouldn’t have made it’s jabillions of dollars were it not for imaginations. I hope and pray my children’s imaginations will take them far and wide…and back home again…in their lives.

3. Value of people-My son has been collecting the autographs of random workers around this place. Not the over-sized mice, chipmunks, dogs, or whatever Goofy is. Not princes or princesses, but the John Hancocks of the Common Joes. Monorail pilots, security guards, map distributors…’the people who really make this place work’, he said. The people who make the magic work.

2. Understanding of God-‘This place is hunormous…but God is bigger’, observed my four year old daughter. ‘Nuf said.

1. God’s love-This mortal life is not always magical and definitely not always ‘happily ever after’. But one seemingly magical thing is the unconditional, unmistakeable, unchanging love of God. May my children carry the true tale of forever love with them long past the memory of this vacation…and always want to see God’s face in firework displays.