Thursday, July 20, 2017

Changing the Culture at the Kitchen Table--An Interview with Amber

What are mealtimes like in "real" households? People work at actually having meals together in families of every size. When is the best time to start having regular family meals? Tonight!

Here's what my blogging acquaintance, Amber Durgan, says about family meals with her young family.


Tell me who is around your table:
My husband, our 20 month old son, and myself. We are Christians and love the Lord first, each other second. My husband, Lance, and I take turns praying before meals. He is an engineer (and rancher, we have a family ranch) and I am a stay at home momma to our toddler boy, who is adventurous and loves all things boy!

If I came to your house for a meal, what unique thing would I notice?
Not that this is good, but right now the only way to get our toddler to eat is to play Winnie the Pooh for him. We only eat beef raised by our family, too.



How do you handle people using their cellphones during meals?
We really do our best to have the TV and cellphones off at the table. People who come over generally just follow suit when they see what we do. I've never asked anyone to not use their phone at the table.

What is your go-to meal these days?
I am a person who needs variety so we do not have go to meals, unless it is for our toddler who loves full fat Greek yogurt and non-sweetened applesauce together.

If you could bottle anything and spray it over your table, what would it be?
Relationship. I think the table is a great place for conversation and for fostering relationship with each other. I believe we can change the culture at the kitchen table.


What would be the best compliment you could receive about your mealtimes?
That whoever was at my table felt like they had grown in the Lord and in relationship with us.

What is one invention you would like to see to make mealtimes easier?
Something that completely does the dishes--ha ha!--it takes so long.

Finish this sentence: My ideal dinner would include
all the people I love most coming together in community to eat delicious food and grow in our love for the Lord and each other.

How do you bring Christ to your table?
We pray and often talk about Christ. We need to do it more.





Amber is the wife of four years to an engineer-rancher husband and a stay at home momma to their toddler-boy. She loves Jesus first and foremost, family next and this beautiful-crazy life we have been given. You can read her blog at www.embracethisjoyfulllife.wordpress.com







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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Things I Never Thought I'd See, But I Did in Cuba

My husband and I had the opportunity to go on a working ministry trip to Cuba last month. It's a place that has always fascinated me because I might have grown up there if things had been different. My father visited missionaries in Cuba before he was married and believed that God might be calling him there. But after marriage a variety of factors, including the revolution in Cuba, kept them in the United States.



We had heard that some German friends of our were visiting believers there and we had the opportunity to go to present our study materials so we jumped at the chance! I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting (and I can't tell you all we did and saw there) but I thought I would tell you some of what I never thought I'd see--anywhere--that I found fascinating to see in Cuba


  • Cuba! All my life the country has been closed to Americans, not so much by them as by our government. One of my very good friends was born there to Canadian parents. I've read books about it, but never truly thought I'd get to see it for myself.







  • * A motorcycle driver using a flashlight as his headlight. To save battery power he only turned it on when he got near us!
  • Uniformed people (military?) "hitchhiking" by holding out money instead of their thumbs.




  • * Cows that are illegal for nationals to eat
  • Professionals--teachers, accountants, etc--who earn $25 a month after working 20, 30, and 40 years
  • Mayo as the bread spread at breakfast (butter is scarce)
  • Ox drawn carts as the local delivery service





  • * No WiFi anywhere in the country (maybe in the tourist hotels, but we didn't go to any)
  • Cars from the 1950s--not just the show cars but most of the cars owned by individuals
  • Trash-less towns in a Latin American country
  • Ration books that allow each adult in a home to buy one bread a day, and having that piece of bread given to me for my breakfast




















  • * A man, who after recounting all the problems of his country saying, "But this is my country, the country God has given me to evangelize."


I'd love to tell you more about what I saw and the people I met, but I'd need to do it in person. Please just remember this: 
Pray for Cuba
Pray for the people of Cuba to be saved
Pray for the believers to walk close to the Lord 
and
to be bold in their witness


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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Our Nation Still Needs Prayer

Almost a year ago I wrote my election advice. It is time to repeat it. It's the same advice as last year--pray for our country. There are plenty of problems, divisiveness, unwise actions on both sides to pray for, but I'm reminded of Jeremiah who was in a truly impossible situation: the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by Nebuchadnezzer's army, and God had already told him that the city would fall and the king would be carried away in captivity. The situation was hopeless.

Then God told Jeremiah that his cousin was coming to ask him to buy a piece of land (a piece of battlefield really) and he should buy it. Jeremiah obeyed, but then he talked to God.

The thing that impresses me about his prayer is that he didn't launch into a plea for God to make everything better. Nor did he complain to God about the ridiculous, and apparently pointless, act of paying top sheckle for land that was about to be lost to the enemy. Instead he begins with true prayer, worshiping God for who He is and what He has done. Listen in on his prayer:

Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day. You brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders, and with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with great terror; and gave them this land, which You swore to their forefathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. Jeremiah 32:17-23 
This is how I want to pray, worshiping God, reminding myself Who He is and putting things in perspective. 



 

The Bible says, "[God] changes the times and epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding." Daniel 2:21 

Since it is God who puts them into power (and takes them out again), I need to be talking to Him about it, asking Him to do His will on earth as it is done in heaven and to show me what my part in it is.

Whether to reward, punish, or guide, God puts or allows rulers to come to precedence according to His plan, for His glory and our ultimate good. We can't always see what that good is, and sometimes it doesn't seem like there could be any good at all. But that is when we get to walk by faith. Once we get to heaven, we won't be able to walk by faith any more, it will all be sight! So here on earth is our opportunity to honor God by trusting Him and obeying Him even when it doesn't make sense. He is something to truly believe in.

God has told us, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings who are in authority..." I Timothy 2:13  So when we pray for the authorities and that the right ones will be put into power we are obeying God.


  • Do you pray for your nation's and the world leaders in your private times of prayer?
  • Do your children hear you pray for these leaders in your family devotions?
  • Are they prayed for publicly in your church?

I urge you to do this and to encourage others to pray as well. Feel free to download and use this "election sign" on social media. Use the hashtag #AppealtoaHigherAuthority to encourage others to be praying for the United States nationally and locally, and all the nations around the world.




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Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Chore Chart Sytem That Works

Today's post is guest written by the daughter-in-law of friends of mine, Anna Shepherd.  This was originally written three years ago, and is one of my most popular posts so I thought it was time to post it again.

Oh!  There's the dryer.  I need to fold these clothes before they wrinkle.  I have GOT to wash those dishes before the playdate.  Little man, could you please empty the recycle bin.  It's overflowing!  You did it the last two days?  Hey!  Who's turn is it to empty the can?  Oh yeah, fold laundry.  Could someone please load the dishwasher for me?  Where's your sister?  I can't think about dinner yet.

I am a homeschooling mother of four (6,7,10,11), and I am NOT a naturally organized person... on top of being a little A.D.D.   I crave organization (who's with me)!  Everything in a common-sense place, all laundry folded and put away, no clutter.  For YEARS I struggled with a practical plan to get close to my grand goal.  But there are so many people living in this house!  Is it possible to have chores done well by little ones?  It may be easier to just do it all myself, but should I?  I found myself relying too heavily on the "helpful" child, while the baby and the easily distracted children ended up doing less than their fair share.  How frustrating for the "helpful" child.  How wrong of me, when God is trusting me to rear FOUR future adults with character.  



My husband and I truly believe that chores are important for a child's character development.  They learn good work ethic, responsibility... and maybe get to earn some money (earn being the key word).  I needed to find some way to delegate age appropriate chores.. with the kids receiving accountability for the chore to get completed... and motivation to do their best.  I looked in stores for a workable chore chart--they were either designed for one child, pre-filled in with standard chores, or in some way simply "not what I was looking for".

At the beginning of last summer I decided to just make my own using a large piece of poster board, some index cards, glue, and markers.  I glued white index cards (on three sides) to the poster board to make about 20 pockets.  On each of the pockets I wrote chores like:
  • Take laundry to laundry room
  • Put books on bookshelf
  • Take out garbage
  • Empty dishwasher  

Things the kids could DO, and do well.   At the bottom of the poster board, I made a pocket with each of my kid's names on it.  I found some smaller, colorful index cards  and wrote Aaron, Austin, Ally, and Aiden on their colored cards.  Guess who's pink?   Last pocket had blue "Done" cards!  



Now, let's get organized.

The first morning, I took the kids' name cards and stuck them in all the pockets.  Some chore pockets like "clean your room" got all of their names.  They were under strict orders to only ever touch their name cards. (This taught them personal responsibility).  When a chore was finished, the child was to take out their name card and replace it with a "done" card. 

They were excited!  It's kind of fun for them to see their names on something, and it sure felt good to show mommy a chart full of blue "done" cards, especially when the "clean your room" chore pocket got all of their names eventually traded for four "done" cards.  



The beauty of this little system is the elimination of, "He's not helping!  He's shoving all his stuff to my side of the room!"  When they cleaned up all mess that belonged to them, they were free!  Everyone had to carry their weight and be accountable to ME!  

Now for the accountability part:  When each child finished all their chores, I double checked that they had been done well. It's important for kids to value doing a quality job.  The kind of kid they are is the kind of adult they will be.   



It took two weeks before "the baby" realized that doing it "well" mattered.  If the chores were done well, I'd give the child a point for the day.  10 points = $5.  "You know what, kids, when daddy doesn't do a good job, he doesn't get paid; a man is worth his wages."  That's life... in capitalism.


One more tip:  I originally set up the chart rotating the kids from chore to chore every day.  That was a bad idea.  Ha! Within the first few days I noticed a trend of all the kids finishing their chores to earn a point, but making no effort to maintain the organization.  Why should they work above and beyond if the sibling tomorrow would have to pick up their slack? If you've ever worked in an environment like this, you can understand that this built resentment.  



Week 2, the rules changed.  Each child would be doing the same group of chores for the whole week.  It then behoved them to keep caught up, to not let the garbage can overflow or the bunny's water bottle empty completely.   

This system works for us (for now).  Maybe it will get you thinking about what would work for you! There IS a plan for organization that will fit your family!   "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."  James 1:5 (my favorite "parenting" verse)  

Okay, now it's time to think about dinner...

Anna Shepherd has been  married for 12 years to a charming, godly, outdoorsy man.  They're both "foodies", so love to cook together (and experiment).  Cooking is fun; the dishes that it produces are not fun.   Their family vacations by camping/fishing; they're so blessed to live within easy driving distance of the beach, the Redwoods, the snow in Tahoe, Lavabed tunnels, model rocket launching events...



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Did you know that there are entire cultures that are happier than other cultures mainly because they teach their children to work? Learn about this and many other ways your family can connect at mealtimes in my book Around the TableWhat do mealtime and chores have to do with each other? How about setting the table, clearing the table, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor!


Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page! 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Does Your Family Meal Look Like, Betty Predmore?

Can family mealtimes happen with teenagers, younger kids, and grandparents? They can! Betty Predmore, a fellow blogger and speaker, tells us how with humor, hope, and honesty. Join me as I talk to her.

Tell me about who is regularly around your table:
My husband, myself, my dad, my 18 year old daughter Emily, my 13 year old son Bryan, my 9 year old son Jovanney, and my 8 year old daughter Lizbeth. (And of course the 2 dogs are UNDER the table!)



What unique thing I would notice about your mealtimes if I were at your house?
It is one of the noisiest times of our day.  Everyone wants to be heard, there is laughing, arguing, and event sharing going on all around the table.  At least 3 people will be trying to tell me something at the same time.


My kids would always say I am on their case about:
Having patience to let someone else finish talking before they begin, and about eating everything they are served.


How do you handle cellphones at the table?
There is a NO ELECTRONICS rule at the table.  My son has even tried to bring his tablet to the table...but that didn't fly!

When have you found yourself channeling your mother?
Once I was trying to get my son to realize the importance of not wasting food and the same words my mother used to speak to me came right out of my mouth... "There are children starving all over the world and you want to throw away your vegetables?"


What is your go-to meal these days?
With 3 kids in baseball, and two parents hospitalized, not to mention our regularly hectic schedules, I am ashamed to say our go-to meal of late has been Mac-n-cheese.  The kids love it, it fills them up, and it is relatively quick.  We are so looking forward to our schedule slowing down beginning this week!

If you could bottle anything and spray it over your table, what would it be?
It would be peace.  We are always in a rush, everyone is always trying to over talk the other, and I lose my patience. I would love a peaceful meal.

What makes celebration meals special at your house?
They are special at our house because we really try to make the one we are celebrating feel loved.  We take photos and videos, and always try to serve their favorite meal. Typically, the adult kids try to be there to share in the celebration.



What running joke do you have about your mealtimes?
You can't leave your plate alone for even a second.  Our littlest dog will be up there in a flash, consuming the entire plate of food.  The kids think it is hilarious!  Me...not so much.

What is the best compliment you could ever receive about your mealtimes?
The best compliment I could receive about our mealtimes is that we are a crazy, chaotic bunch of love.  The youngest three are adopted and have blended so well into our family. We are truly blessed.

What is the most unusual meal you have ever had?
That would probably be the time my husband made risotto stuffed pork chops with a carrot-pineapple glaze that my husband created as an entry into a cooking contest.

What is one invention you would like to see to make mealtimes easier?
A machine that would not only wipe the table, but sweep and mop the floor as well.  Oh wait...I have that...it's called my children!!

Finish this sentence: My ideal dinner would include 
every single one of my children, my parents, my husband and I gathered around my huge farm table that was built by my husband, eating spaghetti...which is a family favorite.  


How do you bring Christ to your table?
By always praying a blessing over our food, and by talking about Him during our meal.  There are also many opportunities in mealtime conversation to teach the principles of the gospel.





Betty Predmore is an author, speaker, blogger, and ministry leader. Betty has dedicated her life to sharing God’s Word in an inspiring way, sprinkled with honesty, humor, and encouragement, and reflecting the love of Jesus to all she meets. Find her blog at https://momsense.blog/  Interact with her through her Facebook page or visit her website at www.bettypredmore.com. 



If you would like to be interviewed about your family mealtimes, please write to me at aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com. If you have a blog or website, I will be happy to provide a link.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

10 Reasons for More Picnics

It was our first time back in the states after three and a half years in Lima, Peru. My mother-in-law kindly (and excitedly) asked us, "What things do you want to do? Where do you want to go to eat?"

Our answer? We want to go on picnics!




Lima, Peru where we were missionaries is in the middle of a coastal desert on the western side of South America. It doesn't rain there. Everything is brown. Everything is dusty. And what few parks there are mostly weren't places you want to have lunch and let your toddler run around. So we were honestly craving green and outdoor eating.

Today we live back in the states and have a wonderful backyard and several nice parks nearby and I'd still rather go on a picnic than to a restaurant.

You might think a picnic is more work. But think about it. If you have to work at your job for 1-3 hours to pay for a dinner for two at a medium priced restaurant, you've worked pretty hard. 

Here are 10 reasons I think picnics are better:

1. I'm eating healthier--I can make veggie salads and I don't deep fry anything! My potato salad isn't mostly mayo. Whatever I make is probably going to be fresher, cleaner, and healthier than average restaurant fare.

2. I'm wearing off calories instead of putting them on--Picnics lend themselves to walking around or even actually playing sports. Whether it's strolling over to the fence to watch the boats on the Mississippi, playing a game of bean bag toss, or an all out game of touch football, I am walking far more than I would be between the car and the restaurant booth.

3. I'm in the fresh air--Fresh air and sunshine is good for you, right? Not just your lungs and your vitamin D, but it's just good for you mentally to get out of doors and enjoy nature. I'm pretty sure that's why God created it so beautiful.

4. I'm appreciating God's handiwork--Nature is amazing. I love watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and sometimes other animals. The variety of greens that God has created is amazing. I just look around at everything I see and say, "How Great Thou Art!"

5. I'm saving money--See comments above!


6. I'm actually able to have a conversation--Restaurants are crowded and noisy and so many of them have TVs going now that it's hard to carry on a conversation--especially when you have hard of hearing people in the family, a demographic I'm becoming part of too quickly!

7. I have a quick escape from the ordinary--My husband is game for anything. So if I want to take a picnic to the park at the end of our street (really a very pretty place!) he's willing to take an hour and do that. We don't make a big deal, just go there and eat, maybe take a short walk and then come back to do our yard work or whatever we need to do at home. It's a wonderful change of place.

8. I can make the menu whatever I want--Do you have a signature sandwich of something like Nutella and cucumber? You can have it on your picnic! I enjoy lots of fresh veggies and fruit that restaurants can not keep on hand, at least not at an affordable price!

9. I'm relaxing more than in a noisy restaurant--The noise, the activity, the constant questions about if everything is fine (or the stress of trying to get your server's attention), is just not relaxing. Sitting with a sandwich or a simple casserole of mac'n'cheese and iced tea, is much calmer.

10. I'm having more fun--Whether or not we have kids along, we have fun. We can laugh, get up and walk around, play a table game, play a lawn game, visit, or do whatever we consider fun...things we wouldn't be comfortable doing in a restaurant.

Make it a goal this summer to eat out once a week...outside, I mean!

Looking for ideas for eating outside this summer? Click here.
And here are some picnic ideas for kids and adults.



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Thursday, May 11, 2017

One Small Change

Most of my dishes and my tablecloths are hand-me-downs. 

Don't get me wrong. I love the pink flowers on ivory Franciscan "Desert Rose" my mother-in-law gave me. I probably wouldn't have chosen it, but this was her wedding china and we've used it for nine years now so it is part of our family legend and I'm not about to get rid of it.



In all the world, my favorite color is blue, but I also really like yellow, and spring green (real spring green like the grass and trees right now), and red and...but blue catches my eye. My blue and white dishes are a treasure. They were actually "handed down" from my daughter-in-law who in turn was given them second hand. The Johnson Brothers "Coaching Scene" dishes are fascinating to find the detail in. 

To go along with those, my sister-in-law found some Spode "Blue Room" china at Marshall's and bought me six place settings so I would have enough along with the others. Each one is a different design so I can intersperse all the blue and white plates and feed quite a few. They are beautiful and perfect for Italian food.



My Dollar Tree fake Fiesta Ware is a lot of fun. Bright solid colors in red, blue, yellow and green. For everyday, I probably use these dishes more than any others. 

And my tablecloths come from my aunt, my mother, and my mother-in-law downsizing. They are very nice and I can use them on Sundays and for certain guests. But I was looking for a "casual" tablecloth. Something that would work when we have more than six (because more than six placemats just doesn't work) and yet I don't want it to say "fancy" like lace or shiny damask does.


I finally found one. It is the perfect shade of blue. It goes with all my blue and white dishes and my dollar store ones as well. It fits my table with one leaf, the most common size when we have more people. And you know what? It made me excited to have company over! It was just one small change, but I looked forward to making dinner and sitting down at my nice looking table.

If you think you have no motivation to make dinner for your family. Think about one small change for your table. For you it could be fresh flowers in a vase, a pretty candle centerpiece, new placemats, eating outside, using your "good" dishes, or making lemon water instead of regular. Think about what could make you happy and give it a try. You might be surprised at how happy it makes you feel.


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