Thursday, October 20, 2016

Acknowledging the Hard

This post is difficult to write, not because I'm nervous about how it will be received, but in the sense that my words may be construed to mean something else entirely.  I believe what I'm about to say is true, but it is not an excuse to wallow in pity or make excuses for ourselves.

We need to acknowledge the hard. 

I've admitted that life with a baby is hard, but this year has been hard in other ways, too. Buying a vehicle made finances a little tighter.  We started high school and had a bumpy start with our chosen curriculum.  In fact, we're still smoothing the bumps.  We've had to do extensive training, talking, and praying with two of the kids who have relationship issues with each other.  Another child has struggled with attitude over schoolwork. Brian has worked long hours.

I hesitate to share, even with my real-life friends. It's not necessarily pride or wanting people to see me as having it all together, but it is knowing there are people going through things far worse than what I'm going through.  And is it disloyal to my kids to say that their activities, growth, exuberance-- their very existence--  make some days difficult?   I choose this life, didn't I?

I believe it is important to acknowledge that what we are experiencing is hard.  We don't need to brush it off and paint a rosy picture for ourselves.  We need to understand that yes, this is hard.  The path I'm walking every day is not easy mentally or emotionally or physically.  Even if I've chosen it, or even if I believe it is precisely where God has placed me, it is hard

At the same time, I want to remember that hard is not the same as bad.  

"And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4 HCSB

One of my friends wrote recently about her strugges with singleness.  My mom wrote last year about the difficulties of walking the path of poor health with my dad 

God has given each of us hard things.  He says in His Word, "My grace is sufficient for you. for power is perfected in weakness."

Let's each of acknowledge our hard and then let His grace wash over us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hospitality and Community, pt. 2

I mused about imperfect hospitality about a week ago and shared how it is so easy for me to come up with a list of excuses why it would be easier or better to avoid having people into our home.  I talked about why I've decided it is important despite my shortcomings and how our family fits guests into an already full schedule.

Today I want to take a few paragraphs to address one of my biggest hang-ups:
  How am I going to feed these people? 

The food

The food itself can be a big concern when you are pinching pennies (me!) or when you don't feel like a good cook (me, again!). I've found in most instances, guests want to help contribute to the meal so no one person is responsible for the cost or the planning. We hosted lunch guests this summer and ate simple dripped beef sandwiches with potatoes and a bowl of watermelon.  One family brought tomatoes from their garden to slice and another brought a pan of brownies. 

We had friends for dinner the day my water broke with Macie, too.  (What an adventure! You can read more about that here!)  That day I made ham and poppy seed sandwiches and our friends brought a fruit salad, and we ate before I headed to the hospital!

Another time we invited over friends with small kids so each family made two pizzas with a variety of toppings.  (I have a trick or two for baking pizza at home.) We baked all the pizzas in our oven and paired pizza slices with a big salad.

At the beginning of this month, friends came for dinner on a school night so I simmered a pot of  chicken and rice soup in the afternoon and made a pan of garlic and herb flat bread (a non-dairy variation of this recipe, using olive oil). One guest brought a salad and another assembled dessert and baked it in our oven after she arrived.  

We've also hosted people and served only snack foods.  I had a ladies' game party and offered desserts.  Ben invited friends over on his birthday morning and had donuts.

I served a walking taco bar to a group of hungry kids and teenagers. 

Feeding a crowd does not have to be expensive.  I employ a few go-to recipes that I am confident taste good and I use them over and over. (There are lots of food ideas on my blog if you dig into the recipe archives.)

Setting the table

Our dining room table holds eight and there are eight of us.  Macie uses a high chair so that only leaves one extra seat at the table.  Our solution is to serve the meal buffet style from the counter.  Usually the kids claim the seats at the table (often squishing in more than eight!), and the adults eat at the living room coffee table or on their laps.  Other times we switch it up and let the adults enjoy the table.  Once we borrowed a folding table and a few chairs so all sixteen people could score a spot at the table. 

And you know what?  If none of those ideas appeal, inviting just one person to fill that one empty spot at the table is still hospitality! 

What about the plates and glasses and silverware for extra people?  I bought an inexpensive set of white plates to supplement the dishes I already have. I use mix-and-match bowls and glasses, too. Nothing is a perfect match, but it all coordinates. Sometimes it is easier to use paper plates and plastic utensils. That is more than okay. Plus it eliminates the need to wash dishes when my guests go home

It doesn't have to be about food!

I always assume that hospitality equals feeding people, but if my goal is relationship, being together is more important than what we put in our mouths.  One spring we invited three other families over to dye Easter eggs with us.

Other times we've had people over just to talk and visit, or to take a walk.

...which leads to the next topic...

Who should I invite and what do we talk about?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Macie turned 9 months old yesterday.  She has been on the outside longer than I carried her inside.(She was born over two weeks "early" so she had a head start on life!)

She is no longer a skinny baby, struggling to maintain her weight.  At her well-check today she weighed 19 pounds, 10.5 ounces.

She is a mover. She speed-crawls through the house, finding and picking up all the teensy-tiny specks on the floor.  She pulls up and cruises around furniture so not much is out of her reach. 

She loves books, but finds paper books much more fascinating than board books.  If we can draw her away from those, her favorite books have pictures of babies or animals.  I enjoy reading her books that we saved from when the older kids were babies and toddlers.

She sleeps through the night or wakes up once to cuddle and nurse. (And on a rough night, sometimes she wakes up two or three times.)

She has three teeth and two more on the way.

She loves to eat.  We've practiced baby-led weaning from the beginning so she prefers to feed herself. The only food she has turned down is turnip greens.  She loves chicken, avocado, applesauce, carrots, green beans, oranges, beef, banana, chicken and rice soup, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, Cheerios, and bread. The recommendations have changed since my older kids were babies so Macie also enjoys a thin spread of natural peanut butter. Her absolute favorites, though, are pasta with meat sauce and broccoli!

She loves the bath but doesn't like to get dressed afterwards.  She loves music.  She loves, I mean loves, the vacuum cleaner.  She loves to screech and hear her own voice. She says "ma-ma" and "bye." She waves. She has a temper and doesn't like to be told no.  She doesn't like to sit still for a diaper change. She doesn't like her car seat straps. 

She is 3/4 of the way to a year!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Notes on Hospitality and Community, pt. 1

I was all set to record my thoughts on imperfect hospitality when I logged on to my computer to see that my real-life friend, Ginger, had already expressed many similar thoughts here.   When I consider hospitality, I can come up with a list of excuses:

I have a baby.  My house is too small.  No one wants to drive to our house 15 minutes outside of town.  Our dining room table is already at capacity.  I'm not a great cook.  I don't know how to start small talk.  

Don't we all have a list of reasons why it is easier to say no to hospitality?  

The Lord has been showing me more and more the need for and the importance of relationship. I want my children to grow up knowing people, loving people, ministering to people, and simply sharing life with people.

Over several posts, I want to share what I'm learning about hospitality, not because I've got it figured out and have no insecurities, but because I am still stretching and learning myself.  

I'm going to begin with a few ideas on timing.  

Weeknight vs. weekend

I always thought entertaining was better on the weekends, but when Brian pointed out that our weekends were booked through October and partly into November,  I had to think outside of the box. In September, we had a dinner guest on a Monday evening.  After dinner, he played chess with my boys over dessert.  This week, we had three people over for soup and bread on Tuesday evening.   One friend brought a salad and another brought dessert.  After dinner, the ladies and kids chatted in the living room and played games with my kids while the men continued to talk at the table.  

I only mention the minutiae because it proved to me that we can have a regular school day, welcome people into our home, go to bed, and get back up to another regular day.  It also proved that we can eat simple food and do simple things and still have a good time because the people are more important than the details. 

Planning vs. spontaneity 

Sometime it requires advanced planning to get people in the same place at the same time.  Other times, a last minute gathering is best.  I am a planner by nature and I love penciling things onto the calendar weeks ahead of time, but at the end of the summer, my kids wanted to have a big group of friends over for a movie night.  I texted a few moms early in the week and was pleased that almost everyone was available on Saturday.  The kids played a bunch of Twister tournaments in the living room while I prepared a super-easy meal. Then they watched the movie and we sent them all outside until the party was over. It was a blast!  

10 of the 12 kids in our living room

Next up: How can I feed these people?

Do you have any thoughts on hospitality?  Share them with me!

Monday, October 3, 2016

a month of Firsts

We started our school year at the beginning of August. We do that so that we have enough days banked to give us a long winter break from Christmas through the end of January.  We do our best to keep August flexible if we need or want to take a day off.  Academics are important but so are relationships.  We want to be open to fellowship when our friends are still enjoying their summer breaks.

September, though, is the month to buckle down to our studies.  It's also the month when our activities start.  This thrills (most of) my kids. Maddie, especially, loves when her social life and academic life mix!

At the beginning of the month, Wednesday night classes at church started for the school year.  We share dinner and then break into smaller groups for an hour of missions-based classes.  This year  I am co-teaching the baby through preschool kids and I absolutely love it. 

I realized last year as I was homeschooling my own kids that I struggle with middle- and high-school learning.  Algebra and world history just don't thrill me. I find the early elementary ages-- picture books, animals, shapes, crafts-- a lot more enjoyable.  (That doesn't mean I give my older kids any less of me, but as they age out of elementary school, I miss it.)

On the first day of fall, we had the first day of gym. The air was a little warm and sticky for autumn, but there was a pleasant breeze so we walked with friends who live several blocks from the campus. Maddie reluctantly moved to an older class this year.  Alaine reluctantly stayed behind while her slightly older friends moved to new classes.  It's all about socialization for my girls!

Even though it didn't feel very fall-ish outside, we read a favorite fall book to celebrate the new season.  

Then there was the first day of book club.  Two years ago, the theme was decades.  Last year it was geographic regions. This year the girls are reading seasonal books so in September they could choose any book about school, teachers, or friends.  It was appropriate because one of Maddie's closest friends joined the club this year. 

And then last week marked their first day of homeschool choir.  Alaine, Ben, and Owen are in the "younger" choir with several of their friends, two cousins, and a smattering of kids they don't know yet.  Maddie is in the "older" choir with an aunt, several friends, and at least a dozen more potential friends.  (Gavin is choosing to sit this one out.) If the first day was any indication, they are going to learn valuable musical skills this semester, and it is going to stretch them all in the best way possible.

Happy October, everyone!

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