Friday, December 09, 2011

Do you know?

Do you know?

Do you know, little fuzzy-haired boy, how loved you are by me who shares no DNA?

Do you know, boy with curious eyebrows, how curious I am at what your future holds, wondering if this time will be the last time I see you, begging God to find you and fill you?

Do you know, small child, of the prayers that I have said on your behalf, off-and-on for the last 10 months since we first met, of protection and hope, of miracles for your earthly Mama so that your life might not be so stinkin' hard?

Do you know, energetic little sprite, how tiring it can be to take care of you and thankless too, the pouring in, the kisses, the wrestles, the heart-love, knowing that there will likely be no earthly return on my investment?

Do you know, happy toddler, of all the memories we have made together, of crawling, and walks in the stroller, of screams I could not comfort, of laughing til you grew hoarse, of first steps and haircuts, of photos snapping instants in time, watching you grow?

Do you know, momentary son, how you turn our lives upside-down while you are here, but leave us with hearts gaping when you leave?

Do you know, innocent one, of the loss in this Mama's heart, so big and pervasive that it is a true miracle that I can even do this thing, this loving and letting go?

No, you could not possibly know. And I realize that you might never. But your knowing is not necessary. Your thanks is not needed. I know that He knows, even if you won't. And He is the reason, His beckoning to help little ones and Mamas who don't know about the light yoke.

And I am so glad that you came in time to remind me of this, that all that I do should be for His glory and fame. You give my heart perspective during this season, even if you will never know it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Tale of Two Wreaths

This was last year's DIY wreath.

It so fluffy and white and ruffle-y and best of! Plus, you can display it all winter long since it's not too Christmas-y. 

You only need coffee filters, a foam wreath form, and hot glue. Total cost is less than $10 (with the wreath form being the most expensive part). In 2010, I hung it in front of a big mirror, but this year it got relocated to the front door to make room for....

...this year's DIY wreath.

Go ahead and break into refrains of "Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful?" (I know I am. And I bet you are singing it now too, at least in your head.)

I am so happy with the way this wreath turned out! It's shiny and glittery and a nice diversion from the red & green-ness of the traditional holiday colors.

You'll need shatterproof ornaments and a coat hanger. Can you believe the hanger was the hardest for me to procure? Mine are all the hard plastic kind! I used one full bucket of 26 medium ornaments from Wal-Mart ($4.97), about 10-12 more medium ones from a second bucket ($4.97), and one full tree-shaped package of small Wal-Mart ornaments ($4.97). If you wait to find them on clearance after the holidays, your project will be even cheaper! (I can vouch for the WM kind that the ornaments are fairly sturdily attached to the ornament tops. If you buy another brand, you *might* have to hot glue all the tops to the ornaments so they don't easily come apart. But this is too much work for me so thankfully I didn't have to.)

Any questions? Other favorite DIY wreath ideas?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It has been exactly two months since my last blog post. It feels like time to break the blog silence. I have felt this way before. From hurting to healing to confusion to creativity....where to start? What to say?

...brought numbness. Disbelief. Thick seemingly impenetrable walls went up around my heart. I couldn't feel. I couldn't pray. I couldn't. Life resumed it's regularly scheduled program and I went through the motions. Loved ones wed, my niece had a birthday, laughter, joy. My body was present, but my heart...well, that's another story.

...brought celebrating. Our anniversary. I should have been...jubilant. Expectant. My husband planned this truly extravagant weekend of things he knew I would love, as a total surprise, complete with pre-arranged childcare! Dinner at the Signature Room. A Mario Tricocci massage. Splendiferous romantic details!! It was a big courageous attempt at moving towards oneness and away from the isolation that has plagued our marriage for so long. Have you been there? Isolated? Maybe you have been there for so long you don't even remember how it was...once upon a time. Things are good, but not excellent. You have settled and compromised and so has he. And then you stay there. But God had already gotten ahold of my husband's heart and had brought him to his knees by the time our anniversary came around. Although I still didn't really have any strong emotions because of all that had transpired the month before, I distinctly noticed something else happening. Those concrete heart-walls began to fracture.

As if one weekend away from the daily grind wasn't fabulous enough, I was treated (and surprised!) again the following weekend. The Husband whisked us off to Milwaukee for a Weekend to Remember conference. I was feeling...cautious & curious about what this weekend would hold for me as a wife and for us as a couple. It was *truly* wonderful. (Fracture...fracture...crumble) It was more like a "working vacation" than anything. The sessions were a good mix of humor and pointedness and heart-felt sharing and conviction. I came home feeling...changed.

brought more changing. Of slowly moving towards. God. People. The Husband. Of seasons getting colder. Of appreciating His brilliant spectrum of yellows, orange, reds and browns. Of caring for a baby who needed a place to stay for a week. Of loving reading again! Books, books, and more books! One in particular that has been particularly excellent is When Life is Hard by James Macdonald. Of walls continuing to come down. Of new habits of love and understanding. Of pruning the good in favor of the excellent. Of renewed creativity.

Quite the roller coaster, huh?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Big Enough

In nearly 48 hours from now, my little brother will be getting married. His bride-to-be is a wonderful young lady, who happens to share my exact first and middle name! I have had the privilege to get to know her over the last several months and will proudly stand beside her {in my guava colored bridesmaids' dress} as she marries the love of her life, my little brother.

I pray that He restores my joy and infuses my heart with happiness before Saturday.

Because life just doesn't stop. My brother will get married. My bestie from high school will wed her man only a few weeks from now. Another BFF is pregnant and is due only 10 days before I was. We shared only one day of joy and giggles over being pregnant together, which I am truly thankful for. She hesitates to share happy news, knowing that my heart is still broken.

But I think I am big enough.

Big enough to know that the world keeps on turning even when we're hurting.

Big enough to love & put other people first and be happy for them, even if I am only smiling on the outside. Because grief and joy do mingle.

Big enough to remember that I will not always feel the way I do today. Time will pass. My heart will heal. I will hope and laugh again. Joy will be restored.

Big enough to believe that He is BIG ENOUGH for all my sorrow, even if my heart forgets it sometimes. He is BIG ENOUGH to handle it all.

And that's the most important big enough of all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Tiny Blessing

I hesitate.

I hesitate to put fingers to keys, feelings to words, to give heartache a voice. Should pain be kept private? I remember reading once that a loaf of bread will feed only one, but broken, it will feed many. I do believe that allowing our brokenness to be shared can bring healing to other broken hearts, knits us together who have gone through similar trials, gives us courage to continue on the hard road.

I had a tiny blessing. We were expecting our fifth child! I was cautiously excited as this was our first pregnancy since our precious Olivia died. Time passed. Days. Weeks. We told our families. We told our children.

And then lightening struck. Miscarriage.

I had felt immune, I think, as if I had already endured enough horror and trauma with Olivia's diagnosis and death. Like I had used up all my allotted Bad Stuff and had only Good to look forward to. But the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

Sometimes much quicker than we prefer.

I am awestruck at the faith of my daughter and my future sister-in-law. Praying for miracles! Maybe all hope had not been lost! Not just faith to move a mountain, faith to move an entire mountain range. I am blessed by their belief and pray for Him to increase my faith, as it seems so little in comparison. I realized that when I heard the doctor's words on Sunday, verifying that there is no longer life within, that even I too had been holding onto hope. Maybe my faith is a little bigger than I thought.

There is comfort in knowing that Olivia has been joined by a sibling. Big sister and little living together amidst His glory. A strange sort of comfort which leaves in its ache. That I am mother of five, but parent to three. That I have children (plural)....children whom I will not know on earth. That I have a large family, although it might not appear so to the naked eye. 

And I grope to find Him. I try to convince myself of His continual goodness, even if my earthly eyes struggle to see it. I desperately search for His kind hand at every turn. I can not even begin to understand the "why" and the "what for". Maybe you are there too, friend. Crawling through the valley. Trying to make sense of the seemingly senseless. Hesitating to give feelings their voice.

Know that I am there with you. Hurting. Healing. Hoping?

Praying that we can find Him together,

Friday, September 02, 2011

Pieces of Me: Summer Sips

Even though it's still in the 80's around these parts, I feel like summer is slowing slipping away. We have been back to school for 2 weeks now and the evenings are growing cooler. The thing I will miss most about summer? Cold Drinks! I have an assortment of drinks that remind me of summer or are a great cool down on a hot day. Here they are, in no particular order:

#1: Iced Tea
I'm a huge iced tea fan and I've converted my mom to be one as well. She actually gets a little sour if she comes over and the iced tea pitcher is empty. I have brewed homemade iced tea so many times, I could do it in my sleep. My simple recipe is this:
2 family size iced tea brew bags (W-M brand)
1 quart water
1 quart ice/cold water
1 c. sweetener
Put the 1 quart water over the 2 tea bags in a glass measuring cup and microwave for 5 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes more to steep (or 2 hours, if you're anything like me and forget it's in there!). Add the sweetener. I like to use 1/2 Splenda and 1/2 sugar. Not only does it cut down on the sweetness a bit, but the calories too. Stir well to dissolve. Add 1 quart of ice cubes & cold water. Stir to blend. Drink over ice!

DELICIOUS VARIATIONS: Add one regular sized flavored tea bag for super yummy flavored iced tea. I have tried (and liked) Celestial Seasonings Country Peach, peppermint (put the bag in AFTER you've microwaved it for only a few minutes), and my new FAVORITE Lipton's Island Mango & Peach White Tea. It reminds me of the iced tea served at Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney.

#2: Iced Chai
I don't make it nearly often enough, but I love a really spicy chai like the one I posted about here. You would just serve it cold. With whipped cream on top. And freshly grated nutmeg. 'Cuz that's how I roll.

#3: McDonald's Caramel Frappe
Cheaper than Starbucks, but just as tasty! Yes, there's probably like 2000 calories in there, but that's why I only get them once in a blue moon. 

#4: McDonald's Pineapple Mango Smoothie
Cheaper than Jamba Juice and very refreshing!

#5: Cranberry/Pomegranate Juice & Fizzy Concoction
I must have the love-to-concoct-my-own-drink gene, well......maybe just a little. (Sidebar: My little brother was the sort that would take a little bit of soda from every single dispenser and drink that big cup of weirdness. Anybody else do that?) Anyways, back to my tasty drink. I like Aldi's Cranberry/Pomegranate Juice and even better if I can find the Fit 'n Active version. Old Orchard (national brand) also makes one called "Healthy Blend" that I believe only has 5 calories per serving. I like to mix that juice with about 1/2 of a no-calorie fizzy drink, like Aldi's key lime club soda or the Sierra Mist 0 calorie that I scored on clearance for 50cents for a 2 liter. Serve all that with lots of ice! It gives me the taste of soda without all the sugar and the tartness feels very refreshing.

#6: Panera's Lemonade
I have made my own lemonade in the past, but it just seems like such a pain. I do love homemade and there is nothing like it taste-wise. Panera's seems freshly squeezed. Too bad there's no free refills!

Got a favorite summer sip?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hospitality: Part 3

I dug up this old post that never got completed, but I tweaked it and think it still reflects my thoughts on the subject. So without ado...

This weekend I had the privilege of serving a family in need by delivering some meals....and a refrigerator too. They have been living without a fridge at all for the last several months. Can you imagine? Anyhow, here are some ideas for taking your hospitality skills "on the road"..

Idea #1: Split up the work! I put my head together with another fabulous gal and we worked up a menu together, then divvied up the work. I made bread, she made soup. I made Easy Baked Ziti,. Oh, and some cupcakes too! This also works if you're joining someone for a spontaneous meal. My friend S and I have done this before....we both rummaged through our cabinets/fridge over the phone and talked about what we could contribute to a joint impromptu family meal. Don't shy away from the "last minute" get-together!

Idea #2: Add something unexpected or over-the-top! Not everyone has the time or inclination to cook or bake, but there are some great pre-made items that would add an extra dose of love. Make the family's favorite meal or dessert. Add some home-made milkshakes to the mix. Serve up some make-your-own pizzas or a do-it-yourself ice cream bar!

Idea #3: If you are bringing a meal for a family in need (circumstance, new baby, grieving, etc), consider bringing something that can be or already is frozen. Make sure you check with the family first, but many people deliver large meals with lots of left-overs and a meal that can be made later is usually greatly appreciated. I like to use disposable pans or even just a gallon sized ziploc bag. A batch of cookie dough that has been scooped into balls & frozen makes a tasty, thoughtful addition to a menu. Don't forget to include cooking/reheating instructions!

Idea #4: Use a cooler! This is fairly obvious to keep cool things cool, but it'll also keep hot things hot! Foil wrapped baked potatoes, loaves fresh from the bread machine, or that tasty casserole just out of the oven can all be kept HOT while in transit to your destination. This is especially helpful if you have other errands to run or if it will be a bit of time before you are able to deliver your meal.

You can see the first two parts of this series here and here!

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I Did on my Summer Vacation - Part 1

a.k.a. The Nature Edition

We loaded up our "new-to-us" hand-me-down Ford Explorer for her maiden camping voyage! The Explorer had been camping before, but she has spent most of her life living in Chicago. Not only did she move to the country, but now she would be doing what she was made for: off-roading!

We were super excited because several other families from our church's life group would be joining us. There was a little hiccup with our reserved campsite, but we got it straightened out and ended up with a perfectly gorgeous & secluded site with full view of the lake. (We went to Blackhawk Lake; our go-to spot for fabulous family camping!) 

 We ate lots of tasty food & both the little kids and BIG kids made great memories together. My son discovered a love for hiking; I think he wore out my poor dear husband! And the girls renewed their love for tree climbing as there were some great climbers just a stone's throw from our tent.

We haven't spent too much time outside this summer because of the brutal heat that we had experienced. Also, heat exacerbates Sebastian's eczema, so we try to keep him as cool (a.k.a. indoors) as possible. With much of my days spent inside, it makes me especially appreciate amazing summer sunsets. God has a paintbrush that man will never be able to replicate!

Stayed tuned for more editions of WIDOMSV, including the Party Edition and the Wedding Edition!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


The other night, I looked on as my husband tenderly hoisted my sleeping son out of our bed to carry him back to his own room. I watched as my little boy tensed up at first, but then completely relaxed as he realized that his daddy was carrying him. It reminded me of my own childhood, when I would fall asleep in the car coming home from somewhere and my mom or my dad would carry me inside and tuck me into bed. Even when I was probably awake enough to walk, I loved the feeling of being carried. I felt safe because I trusted the one carrying me.

And just watching my three year old softly curled up in my strong Husband's arms made me think about being carried. Moments of struggle throughout my life slowly drifted through my memory. Heartache. Brokenness. Grief. Even now, looking back, I seriously wonder how I ever survived some of these things without dying of a broken heart. And I believe the answer is...carried

The thing about being carried though, is that we must allow it. We must depend on the person carrying us. It will do no good to thrash and struggle, to demand that we get through it on our own strength, to resist it because we have something to prove. We can feel safe in the arms of the One who knows the valleys, who intimately knows our hearts, who loves us enough to carry us if only we will let Him. The world is so broken and I am so thankful for the times when I didn't have to walk through it.

I was carried.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lessons from a Horse

The movie Seabiscuit isn't just about a racehorse. It's about being broken and finding healing. It's about the underdog. It's about being down-and-out and someone giving you a chance. It's about loss. It's about optimism when facing an impossible situation. It's about "choosing life". Maybe it's because May has swiftly come and is nearly gone, bringing with it the second anniversary of Olivia's death, that I'm feeling particularly...thoughtful.

When Seabiscuit's owners first find him, they, along with the horse trainer, take him for a run around the track to see how Seabiscuit performs.
"He seems fast."
"In every direction."
"He's so beat up it's hard to tell what he's like."
And sometimes people can be the same way. The are so broken, bruised, and beaten down that it's hard to tell. Hard to tell who they really are underneath the layers of pain. Hard to tell what strength and beauty lies beneath. Hard to tell how wonderful they might be to get to know or to embrace in a relationship because all we see is the hardened, prickly exterior.
"He just needs to learn how to be a horse again."
I think sometimes as people, we need to relearn how to live again, especially after suffering or trials. We need to rediscover joy, remember our blessings, risk love again. Time has been a healer for me, but sometimes we don't allow ourselves the room to mend. We jump right back into life's chaos without stopping long enough to reflect, to bring our wounds to God and soak in His healing salve.
"You know, you don't throw a whole life away just 'cause he's banged up a little."
I am fond of quoting this movie line, time and again, because I don't believe that any person or any circumstance is beyond redemption, even if all seems lost and beyond repair. If there's life, there's hope. It might seem naive to some and foolish to others, but even after all that I have gone through, I still believe in miracles. I believe that He can change anyone and anything. I am willing to look beyond the exterior and see to what could be.
"You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other too."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lots of Bits & Pieces

I suffered through the stomach flu last week. It was several days of discomfort and one day of total misery and yuckiness. I recovered in time to make some fabulous food for Easter weekend.
We went to an Easter egg hunt and won an ipod shuffle in a raffle! I felt like I was on The Price is Right, complete with waving arms, whooping, and running towards the front.
The Husband is jobless again. It is disappointing in many ways, but not unfamiliar territory. I am relying, not only on God, but also on all the hard earned lessons learned in difficult seasons past. I am leaning hard into focusing on the positives (family time galore!) and enjoying the reconnection with my lover. I know God will not let me go hungry and does care about even my smallest needs.
This is our last week with our current Safe Families baby. I think I will actually be sad to see him go! We have decided to expand our acceptable age range to 0-8 and are looking forward to who God brings us next.
April 20th marked the two-year anniversary of our devastating ultrasound with Olivia. There was only lingering sadness and a few brief times of painful memories. One comment that still stands out in my mind is when speaking with one of OBs by phone, she said, "Don't do anything heroic." (They wanted to admit me to the hospital because of high blood pressure for the duration of the pregnancy.) Little did she know that I would do the most heroic thing I could think of: continue to love a daughter that was destined to live a brief life. It's an irony that I still shake my head at.
We are building bunkbeds! Remember the farmhouse bed we built for ourselves last fall? We are doing farmhouse style bunkbeds (with an arch) for our girls and I couldn't be more excited! We have had the materials for some time now and now that the Husband has lots of free time, we are getting them made. I can't wait to show you the final product!
The Husband and I are becoming increasingly interested in pursuing training in Biblical counseling. We have taken an introductory course regarding this and have purchased a book which we are studying independently. We really feel God moving us forward together in this area of ministry and are both looking forward to serving Him together as offer help and healing to hurting people.

I think that catches you up on most of the big happenings in our corner of the world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Glimpse of a Visit

A word from the baby...

"Strange faces. Strange sights. Strange smells. Everyone is smiling, but no one looks familiar. Where is my mommy? Where is my brother? Get me out of my carseat! NOW! Which reminds me, I'm hungry. waah, Waah, WAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Why can't these people understand me? No, I don't want my pacifier. No, I don't want any rattley toys. No, I don't need my diaper changed. I need my bottle! !Oh, yes, it looks like they are getting out the formula. Wait, no, I don't like it warmed up. Why aren't you doing it like Mommy does it??! Oh dear, this could be a long few days...."

A word from me...

"Cute baby. Seem totally harmless. This might actually be fun! I know how to take care of babies. I know how to fix formula, mix rice cereal, bounce, sway, and shush. I know how to buckle carseats, change diapers, and take leisurely walks in strollers. I just don't know how to care for this baby. I don't know his cries, I don't know what he does when he gets tired or bored. There is comfort that only Mommy can give, but I will do my best. Wow. This is more work than I remember. Thankfully I have several extra hands to help. WHAT??! You're only 7 months old and you don't fix your own breakfast? Or watch movies? Or entertain yourself with playdough or run off by yourself into the backyard? So this is what I've been missing since my youngest left babyhood behind. But, Oh, the chubby cheeks! The little fingers! The toothless grins and giggles! The even breathing of a sleeping little one, snuggled close, grasping my hair for comfort as he drifts off peacefully. Yes, this. This is what I've been missing."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I vividly recall last winter. Driving down country roads cocooned in grey clouds. Overcast skies matching a slightly frigid heart. I clung to winter knowing that Spring represents life, cheer, sunshine and the last thing I was feeling was sunny. And now, it's happening again. Change. The thermometer slowly creeping up, the world around me thaws. I thaw. Slush and mud will soon turn to green teeming with life that has been hidden within and beneath. Blue skies reappear, although, they've been there all along. It's just that now the clouds are parting.

And this year I've found that I'm clinging less. I did relish the last grey day. My bits of melancholy will always find a home in the winter. And although with Spring comes haunting memories, I am looking forward. Ahead. To another season, more growth, blue skies, and blinding sunshine. To a full heart, joy unexplainable, blessings aplenty.

I'll probably even smile and put on my sunglasses.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Good Word

The good word is that we were approved for our Safe Families homestudy and are now officially a Safe Family! We could get a phone call any day about a child needing a temporary place to stay. My heart stutters into an irregular pattern every time the phone rings. CAH-RAZY, I tell ya. Because of our geographic location (rural outskirts of the two major metropolitan areas where the SF offices are located), it seems that we might not get as many placements as if we lived in "the city", but we will be open to whatever He has in store for us.

There are lots of online training videos to work through, which I am doing a little at a time. I am still amazed at the working model of being the "extended family" to these biological moms. Can you imagine being a single mom of a few little ones, living at or below poverty level, in a city where you have no family, no support, no one to come along side you? Imagine you get seriously ill, lose your job, or get in a car accident with no aunt, cousin, or stable close friend to call in your time of need? Alone. Lonely. Scared. Depressed. Hopeless. Homeless.

How often do I take for granted that help is just a phone call away?! A large cushion of family and friends just standing by. I am *seriously* so blessed and I realize it more and more every day.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Exciting News..., I'm not pregnant. But to me, the news is just as good. 

Tonight will be a big step in an exciting direction for our little family. We are having our homestudy to become a host family for Safe Families! Even before we both met nearly a decade-and-a-half ago, the Husband and I have felt a pull on our heartstrings for hurting children and have felt drawn toward foster care. God has prepared our marriage to take on this added task and a part of me even feels that this might be some of the "goodness" coming out of our suffering in losing Olivia. Now that our youngest (living child) is 3 1/2 and our hearts have healed immensely, we felt it was time to move forward under His direction.

"State welfare emergency hotlines throughout the nation reportedly receive over 5 million calls each year of suspected child abuse or neglect. Of those calls, about one million meet the criteria for state intervention. What happens to the remaining four million families that don't qualify for help? "

Safe Families is similar to foster care in that we will be providing care for a child(ren) on a temporary basis. However, SF is not governed by the state and the biological parent retains their parental rights. They are placing their child in care of the safe family voluntarily. This could be because they are finding themselves temporarily homeless, in drug rehab, having another baby with no other family nearby to help, hospitalized for surgery, etc.

I have been working over-time to prepare our home. We put away the little guy's toddler bed and the Husband assembled his big boy bed & trundle. I have decluttered, reorganized and cleaned. But, I am slowing down. I am praying and preparing my heart. Good enough will have to be just that. Good enough. Because my inside is more important than my home's inside.

If you think of it this evening, would you pray for our homestudy? That everything would go smoothly. For the child that needs a safe place to rest. That soon enough, he would be laying his head on a pillow under our roof.

Be Blessed!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Superbowl Recipe Round-up

The big game is Sunday, do you have a great appetizer recipe to add to the spread? I think hearty main dishes are great, but I am an appetizer-lover through and through. I just dig the idea of having a multitude of tasty things to choose from instead of one big dish. Here are a few "apps" (as they say in restaurant lingo) that are either tried-and-true or look too delish to pass up:

Jalapeno Popper Dip (tried & true!)

Antipasto Squares (tried & true, Man Food!)

Restaurant Style Buffalo Wings (over 1000+ reviews on allrecipes)

And for some sweet inspiration....

image from

I'm doing hot wings (the recipe above), pigs in a blanket, garlic garlic dip (Tastefully Simple), and...maybe some football cupcakes too!

Rah, rah, sis boom bah,

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Hospitality: Part 2

Some questions I ask myself or consider while planning for guests:

What time of day is best suitable? Do they still have napping little 'uns? Bedtimes to consider?
Are there any food allergies? And just as likes/dislikes! I enjoy making peoples' favorite foods. Also, what did I serve last time?

I like cooking seasonal/festive foods depending on the time of year. Considering the reason for the visit, I may ask my guests to bring a dish to contribute, but more often than not I like to have them "just bring themselves".

If I'm having a baby over, is there anything that needs baby-proofing? Breakables? A staircase to block off? Do I need to bring up the highchair? Is there a quiet place to nurse or change the baby?

How much prep time do I have when it comes to entertaining? This often determines my menu and day/time of visit. It doesn't have to be complicated. A frozen pizza and a caesar salad can make a lovely dinner. Boxed brownies finish the evening off on a  sweet note. Of the other hand, I've also made much more complicated menus such as a Thanksgiving Feast for 25, a birthday grill-fest complete with creme brulee for dessert, a Memorial day party with virgin mango coladas, grilled thin-cut ribeye steak, delectable grilled chicken, key lime pie, and lemon blueberry bars (all home-made of course)! If you keep meals/sides/desserts on-hand in your freezer, it's even easier to accommodate those last minute guests!

What is the reason for the visit? If some serious adult-conversation needs to take place, I'll set up a small round table for the adults within earshot of the kiddos. If we're all celebrating family-style then I'll make sure to combine a few tables so everyone can be together. If we're just casually hanging out, then the kids and adults can eat in shifts at the same table.

And after all that, I pray. That I don't get so caught up in the details that I forget about the hearts of the people that matter.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hospitality: Part 1

It was only a few months ago that I was helping to plan a food related event. We were starting to get into the nitty gritty details of our menu when one of the ladies said,

"Well, let's just serve some food and be done with it. They will be happy just to have a meal."

And it was all I could do not to rebuke gently correct share my personal opinion. The philosophy that I've adopted when it comes to hospitality involves so much more than just food. It's about creating an atmosphere of love and care for those that enter my home. Yes, food usually plays a starring role, but it's not the only role and many supporting actors make for a well-rounded cast.

This idea behind entertaining had taken several years to evolve. As a new wife, I probably did really focus on the meal and forget the "other things" that would make for loving environment. I have observed how others have hosted me, I have read books and blogs, and I have really come to enjoy creating a special experience for those visiting in my home.

"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Choice

Friday marked 20 months since we said goodbye to Olivia, our third daughter, our fourth and last child, thusfar. That might seem like a long time to most, but there are moments when it feels like it all happened not that long ago. Time is a good cure, but it does not heal all wounds. After much reflection on the subject, I've come to believe this one simple truth: healing is a choice.

Some physical wounds are shallow and nearly inconsequential, take a paper cut for example. It might hurt for a few seconds, but then you scarcely notice it even happened. Other wounds require more attention, but probably can be handled on your own, like a scraped knee. You wash it up, apply a little antiseptic and a bandage, and you're out riding your bike again in no time. Some injuries require professional help, like broken arms and deep lacerations needing stitches. And other situations, say a severe car accident, might need surgery, a hospital stay, and months of rehab.

I think emotional wounds are somewhat similar. Some are shallow and quickly forgotten. Others might require a little more attention. And still deeper wounds....need work and maybe even professional help.

I've often wondered why some people that I've encountered still seem truly bruised, battered, and broken, even years after their loss. Their personal pain appears raw and fresh. While others, although forever changed by their loss, seem to be working towards healing and reclaiming their joy. I remember feeling angry that after all I had endured, I had to actually work towards mending my heart and spirit. WHAT?! It just doesn't seem fair. But fair or not, I believe it is what is required.

One month after Olivia had died, I remember reading something that convicted me into making a distinct choice: I would focus on Christ instead of on my suffering. And it is a choice I have had to make again and again.  

A choice to heal. 

A choice to live. 

A choice to find joy.

Praying for the choices you face,

Friday, January 07, 2011

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

surfing the net

completing a BIG custom etsy order

eating too much

resting too little

wrapping presents

cleaning up after aforementioned presents

assembling (and re-assembling) a large wooden train table

refinishing a buffet (!!)

painting the hallway

candy-making extravaganza with one of my Besties


Christmas day at a waterpark resort up north

breaking in our new Wii

driving around town to obtain accessories for said Wii

loving on my children

stealing precious moments with the Husband

cooking a gourmet meal with another Bestie for New Year's Eve

enjoying an appetizer feast on New Year's Day

a visit to the cemetery