What’s Up

So the blogging is sporadic but it is happening and that’s good, right? It’s something anyway.

It’s been a busy few days around here.

Last Thursday was Grandparent’s Day at the kids school and then on Friday we had our annual gala/auction. It’s one of the two major fundraisers we do each year and a personal favorite because it’s an excuse to get all gussied up and be fancy. My friend loaned me her dress and I looooved the lacey bottom!

Saturday morning the girls and I went to a baby shower that had a woodland theme. How precious is this little hedgehog cheese ball and cute owl veggie tray. Pinterest is the bees knees for ideas, y’all!

Saturday evening I spent some time with a lovely family doing some generation pictures. Those are some of my favorite sessions. There is something really special about seeing where God has taken the love of two people and multiplied it.

Sunday was a lovely reformation celebration at church complete with games and face painting.

The church also surprised Rob with a really fun birthday gift. There is a long running joke within the church and suffice it to say that among other things Rob will be the proud owner of a pair of cowboy boots as soon as he can get to the store with his gift certificate.

Monday was a fun Halloween night complete with friends, hot dogs and mac-n-cheese, and giant marshmallows. One hundred thirty-five chocolate dipped giant marshmallows to be exact along with 4 gallons of lemonade and three pitchers of ice water. Everyone is always so grateful for the drinks and I wonder why it took me so long to come up with the idea of that simple show of hospitality for the neighborhood?

Hoping things will slow down a little but we’ll see. November is here and that pretty much puts the holiday season in high gear.

So what are you up to?

A Back to School Tea

A few weeks ago Emily hosted a tea for the 9th through 12th grade girls. I didn’t have to do much but talk through the planning stuff and then she pretty much handled everything else. She enlisted the other sophomore girls to help with the food after deciding on the menu, she wrote out all of the invitations, and figured out the decorations.

Originally she was thinking something along the lines of a vintage chic look with old books and paper flowers. But in the process of looking at proper table setting ideas we came up with an idea that changed the direction but she pulled it off beautifully.

Instead of using place cards to seat the girls in a way that would encourage the girls to mix and mingle she made them all a name plate. Since she would need to use Sharpie pens and they only come in certain colors she nixed the vintage look and the plates became a charger with a clear glass plate on top for eating. The girls each got to take their plate home with them as a gift.

pinterest_charger_sharpie_plate_craft

crafty_plate_chargers_personalized_Sharpie_pinterest

She added some bright colored flowers to the table and kept things simple but quite lovely.

The idea for using Sharpies on plates is all over Pinterest but I’ve never seen anything like this. It took her a little over a week to make the plates which were 88 cents each from Walmart. The really fun thing to me is how adaptable this is. Can you imagine the holiday plates you could do? A bridal shower with monograms or using paper plates for a kid’s party with clear plastic plates on top? So fun!

This one sat on the front porch with a bouquet of flowers to welcome the girls.

Why I Should Be Critical

It’s been so quiet here on the blog lately, hasn’t it? Not for lack of words or ideas and stories; I have those in abundance swirling around in my brain. So much so that I am having a hard time keeping them from running into each other and becoming an incoherent mess. As I typed that out it dawned on me that what I need to do is write it down and sort it out. But, like most of us, I find it easier to let it all rattle around in my head without actually committing to one train of thought and following it through to a conclusion. I have greater success in creating my reality, whether correct or not, when I keep all my thoughts jumbled and incomplete.

But that really isn’t helpful, is it? Or profitable. I’m reminded of the prayer found in Psalm 19:14 ~ “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight…” It sounds good to say that I am spending a lot of time thinking about gracious living and what that looks like but if I am not willing to really sort out what that means, and sincerely look at my life through the lens of true Truth and not just my own rambling thoughts, then my words and thoughts probably aren’t very acceptable to anyone, much less a holy and just and gracious God who calls me to live a holy and just and gracious life.

I think what I need to cultivate is a critical eye. We shy a way from that word as if  “critical” has become the new “judgmental” and the whole taken-completely-out-of-context “judge not lest you be judged” is applied the same way. The word critical has fallen on hard times in our society but it’s helpful, I think, if we push it into the I-do-not-think-that-word-means-what-you-think-it-means spot light.

The definition that we’re most familiar is, of course, negative – one of disapproval and judgement. That’s not the critical I am speaking of. Unfortunately this is the critical that comes most naturally to us. Our bent, because of sin, is toward the six foot log in my own eye but all I see is the teensy weensy splinter in your eye kind of critical.

But there is another way of interacting with being critical; a way that is healthy and profitable. It’s being able to assess the good and bad of something. When I do a family’s pictures I practice this kind of critical when I go through their images later and determine which ones I will give them.

It falls more under the realm of critical thinking and our culture is not real big on that. We leave that to the egg heads, the more studious and analytical types. The average person focuses more on how they feel about something rather than any kind of critical (thinking) evaluation of circumstances or things.

Is there a way to be critical that is bad? Of course there is. We are a magical people with a boundless capacity for turning something good into something bad, and equally good at hypnotizing ourselves into believing that it’s all good and not bad at all.

One critical is looking for perfection to it’s own standard and pounces with a mighty “Aha!” when it sees perceived sin. The name of the game is control and getting things they way we like it.

The other critical is careful judgment; for the purpose of refinement or, if there is sin involved, for the purpose of restoration. Because sometimes it’s not sin. Sometimes it is just immaturity and a rightly critical eye will learn to look for and know the difference.

As a parent I want to turn this kind of critical eye on my children. One way that this looks in my life is our Sunday afternoon lunch at church

each week. When we’re getting ready to eat, are my girls looking to help with the younger kids as they go through the line? Are my children always first in line? Is Claire taking only the food and amount of said food that she can and will eat? Are they helping in the clean up afterwards?

I want to assess these things not so I can tell my children they are being selfish and rude, but so I can steer them into the better way of being part of the community. I want them to be thoughtful participants within our church family.

I need to  turn that critical eye on myself as well. Am I being a thoughtful and kind member of our church family? What about within my home? One of the biggest ways that I can do this is by being charitable in my thoughts of others. Am I willing to assume the best behind the actions of others? Or am I immediately taking offense at something said or done?

Being rightly critical is a skill long neglected but surely needed in our world. It is a powerful tool that used correctly can strengthen and encourage the body of Christ.

The Cost of Hospitality and Community

toddler feet messy floors happy babies

Last week’s mom’s group was a little bigger than normal since we had several families with kids out of school for spring break. It was a little bit louder and a little bit crazier.

And somehow, in the midst of the chaos, Sarah’s computer screen got busted into lots of little bitty cracks.

Now there are several different scenarios that could have played out at this point.

Sarah could have been over the top sad and/or angry about the broken computer. She worked her first real job all last summer to make that major purchase. For many in her position pitching a fit would seem entirely justified.

Instead, after her initial shock, she checked the extent of the damage and was thrilled to learn that she could still access her school work. More than that she said she shouldn’t have left it on her bed.

The mama’s could have scooped up their babies and made excuses. Instead, even though they weren’t sure who was responsible, they all apologized for not watching their kids closer. More than that, they’ve all offered to help defer the cost of the repair.

It would have been easy for everyone involved to overreact and shift blame but instead everybody owned their piece of it. We all recognized that we could have and should have done a few things differently.

There will be a somewhat costly end to this incident for all of us but not nearly as expensive as it could have been. I am not talking about money either.

Sometimes it’s not a computer screen that gets broken but rather the relationship and when that happens it is usually far more costly than anyone is prepared for.

It costs something to practice hospitality and it costs something to be in community.

Sometimes it’s literally your stuff and sometimes, spiritually speaking, it’s your life.

Your heart is bound to be bruised and your feelings are guaranteed to be hurt at some point along the way.

Sometimes everyone involved will own their piece of the fiasco and forgiveness and restitution will be sought and given. Other times you may find that you are having to bandage your own broken heart and work to make sure that the infection of bitterness isn’t allowed to fester.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this though. We follow an example of the greatest act of hospitality mankind as ever known…a life given in death to create a holy community. We are asked everyday to imitate what Christ did…it’s who we are and it’s what we do in our families and in our churches. Our death to self nurtures that holy community and it changes the world.

Tell His Story

Day Eighteen ~ DPP

I have the joy of spending a morning each week with a group of really great moms and their super cute babies. We gather to chat and visit, share food and recipes, stories and laughter. Sometimes we talk about some serious stuff and some times not. It is sweet precious fellowship.
We’ve had a baby boom recently. We’re even missing one of our little friends in this picture.

Once we did the above picture we noticed our little friend setting up her babies for a photo op.

 Besides eating and visiting some of the moms crochet, knit and do other stitching work. I just take pictures and offer food 🙂

The kids are really good at playing and getting along for the most part.

They can be pretty goofy.

I’m blessed by my friendship with these young moms. They make me a better mother…friend…they bless me more than they know.

The Great Autumn Debate

It’s that time of year. Leaves are beginning to change colors and fall from their trees. Sweaters and fuzzy socks are closer to becoming the reality than sunscreen and swimsuits. The cooler weather brings about what I call the great Autumn debate and it isn’t whether you want a tall or venti pumpkin spice latte. In a few weeks there will be laughing and squealing children in all manner of attire running up and down the street knocking on doors and asking for candy.

That means it is also time for finger pointing and lines being drawn in the sand, pronouncements of self-righteousness and mission mindedness or heaps of condemnation thrown in for good measure.

Trick or treating.

Halloween.

Do we or don’t we?

A mockery of a defeated foe or a night belonging to the devil?

We’ve been on every side of the issue. We’ve just done it because that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve turned the lights out and pretended to not be home. We’ve only passed out candy. We’ve let the kids dress up but not as anything scary and headed to the local church “Hallelujah” night. We’ve dressed up and gone around our neighborhood like a Charles Dickens’ beggar.

Have I forgotten any position on the subject? We covered them all I think. And you know what I also think?

Who cares?

Now, I know there are people who say it is a big deal and that it should matter. That this is hill worth taking a stand on; one that possibly alienates people and breaks friendships over at worst or at the very least sets up some serious boundaries and restrictions on those relationships. I know others that say get over it already. It’s no big deal and harmless; let the kids have some fun and eat candy for crying out loud.

Want to know what else I think about all of this? If you’re still reading I am going to assume so and tell ya.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Say what?

If you do indeed feel that it is not right to participate in such festivities then please, by all means abstain. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to abstain. Imagining that you are somehow more spiritual or holy because you disdain such nonsense certainly gives no glory to God. He is honored by your obedience that is faithful and humble.

If, however, you feel that there is nothing wrong with costumed panhandling for sweet confections then by all means knock on those neighborhood doors. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to take part. Do not assume that you are somehow living a more enlightened missional calling because you’re dressed up like Glenda the Good Witch passing out Snicker bars. God is honored when you enjoy the simple and good things with thankfulness as coming from His hand.

In the above mentioned passage the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to not seek their own good but that of their neighbor. I’m convinced that whether you abstain or take part you can be a blessing to those around you if you are choosing to abstain or take part for His glory and not your own.

As for our family?

We’ve chosen to see this time as an opportunity to practice some neighborhood hospitality. We invite any of

our church members to come and eat hots dogs and macaroni  & cheese with our family. Their children are welcome to dress up and meander up and down the street with our own, knocking on doors and getting candy.  While that’s happening I’m standing at a table at the end of my driveway passing out cups of hot cocoa and chocolate dipped jumbo marshmallows and chatting it up with people that normally I just wave to in passing. It’s what we have discovered through the years that works for us and we believe is a small way that we can display God’s great hospitality and generosity to us.

Hospitable Grace

Romance is not my beloved’s strong suit. This is not me speaking out of turn either…he’d tell you the same thing. But yesterday he was preaching on husbands and he wore the same tie that he wore on the day we got married almost fourteen years ago. Pretty sweet, huh?

During his sermon he talked about the two Adams we find in Scripture. The first Adam, so happy in Genesis chapter two over the helpmeet God had created for him that he sang, abandoning her in chapter three. We see how he failed to protect her, how he stood by as she was deceived by the serpent. We then read his words as he shifts the blame to her when confronted by God.

The second Adam however, speaks of a different groomsman. This Adam resisted the sin of His bride but laid His life down to pay for those sins. This Adam died to redeem her.

I heard every word of my husband’s challenge to the men of our church to evaluate what sort of husband they are. I listened to him tell them all the things they needed to pursue in order to be like the second Adam.

And here is a simple truth. I know all the ways he falls short of being that husband. Better than anyone else sitting in that room, other than himself,  I know when he acts more like the first Adam than the last. I know his sin just as well as I know my own.

Just like you know all the times and ways your husband has failed you.

But my husband doesn’t need me to tell him when he fails. Neither does yours. They know just as surely as we know when we’ve sinned. What they need is Grace.

Not cheap grace either. Not the kind of grace that we may be willing to extend someone because we know we’re bound to screw it up and this way no one can hold anyone accountable kind of grace. Not the kind of grace that is self righteous in it’s long suffering; that lords it over his head forever that he sinned against you and fails to be all that God has called him to be. Not the pseudo grace that looks like you’re willing to forgive only you’re not…the one all wrapped up and disguised by bitterness.

It’s the kind of Grace that accepts the wound of his sin. The kind of Grace that will cause you to let your guard down and risk being hurt again. It’s the Grace that washes white as snow and gives him his eleventy hundredth second chance.

It’s the kind of Grace that is hospitable. Think about that moment. Grace that is hospitable? Yes, this Grace that our husbands need is hospitable, welcoming and generous. It’s open and full of promise. It’s the Grace that leaves you trembling and vulnerable. It’s Grace that is tender and fierce, offering forgiveness and sanctuary when all you want to do is run and hide.

It’s the same kind of Grace that hung on a tree. It’s the kind of Grace that was rejected and despised and spit upon. The kind of Grace that has it’s roots in death but yields life.

Why should we extend this Grace to them? Because it is the Grace that was given to us…because there was death that we might have life. Because we walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called no matter what kind of husband he is.

We are the wives we are called to be not because he deserves that kind of wife but because He is the Bridegroom that we don’t deserve.

Because it’s the kind of Grace that we need our husbands to extend toward us. See, last week Rob preached on husbands. This coming Sunday he’ll be preaching on wives.

I know I need that kind of Grace.