Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I'm Loving

I left to join my husband in the Middle East in the middle of April just after a late season snow storm and the day before another. The grass was brown, the trees were bare, and the temperatures were below chilly so one of the things I'm loving on our return is

The beauty of spring--The blooming trees are covered with pink and white blossoms, the grass is "spring green", and the leaves are bursting out. I've broken out my summer clothes and put away my heavy sweaters. I love every season, but right now, the variety of greens is amazing! It makes me wonder how anyone cannot believe in a Creator.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Hugs from my grandkids--As a card-carrying Grandma, I have to say that the seven littles who call me "Grandma" are just about the most adorable things on earth! There is nothing like having a two-year old squeal when they see you and run toward you, arms open wide, and then be enveloped in their joyful hug! That goes for seven year olds, five year olds, three year olds, and one year olds! We are looking forward to a weekend this summer when we will celebrate my father's 90th birthday and have all of them together at once!

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, Proverbs 17:6
    
Sheet pan meals--Like this one or this one oooo, or this one! What a great way to cook lots of delicious vegetables and only have one pan to clean up for your whole meal! Plus if you line the pan with parchment paper or foil, there's not even a lot of clean up!

Four generation meals--Most Sundays we are in town both sets of our parents, our two in-town kids, a daughter-in-law, and two of our granddaughters come for Sunday "dinner" right after church. I can't believe the blessing of all of us being in one town. I grew up always living at least a thousand miles from my grandparents and my children grew up on a different continent from theirs, so the Lord orchestrating that so many of us are together now is a privilege!
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12

Veggies--Several members of the family have started working on eating healthier and are (finally) appreciating the roasted and stir fried veggies I've been serving up for years. They really are good, and good for us!

A full guest room--We arrived home from our latest trip overseas and a couple of days later had five Indians (as in people from India) staying with us for a week, the family of students at Emmaus Bible College, here for their graduation. Some we can talk to and some have much less English, although more than we can speak of Malayalam! Next week we have some people from Scotland and France and the week after that New York and California! We sure learn a lot from visiting with these people and get a little taste of heaven.


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2



Do you think any of these people are angels?

Scripture Typer--Last year I decided I needed to get back to memorizing scripture. I had heard about this app, so I looked it up and started using it. In the last year I've learned 75 verses! I love that it reminds me when to review verses based on how well I did the last time I reviewed and I review all the verses at least every three months. I also like the motivation of earning points and seeing how faithful I am to reviewing. (By the way, I get no compensation for this, I'm just telling you what I like.)


I have stored up Your Word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
Psalm 119:11


What are you loving these days?


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Family Begins with Fathers and Mothers

Does it bother you, too, to hear people on TV and in movies deny their blood/marriage/adoption families and tell a group of friends, "You are my family." Usually this involves not including the people they are related to in an important life event and instead asking coworkers or friends to step in. Family? No, good friends. 

I'm not naive enough to think that every family member is willing, able, or even deserves to be included. But family is the people we are related to.



I guess my problem is the way our society wants to redefine family as any group of people who love each other. I'm thrilled that people can have friends who will be there when they are needed, but they are friends, not family. In our culture, we often live far away from people we are related to, so we do need to have others who are not family around us. And God provided for that by placing us in the family of God with people we are related to by adoption

For example, Jim and I just returned from a trip for Emmaus International to five countries and stayed in the homes of Indian, American, Jordanian, and Dutch believers. We also had meals with Lebanese and Egyptians. Each one generously and happily welcomed us into their homes for a meal or even for weeks. They put everything they had at our disposal and served us the best things they could. What love! Family? Yes, God's family.

Meanwhile back home, my dad came down with pneumonia and a neighboring believer came over to help my mom get him to the hospital. My children and another member of God's family made sure she did not have to stay overnight with him as they took it on themselves to do that. (Dad has severe memory loss, so needs extra care.) Mom had visitors every day from our local church and texts and phone calls from Christian friends and family all over the U.S. Now that they are home, people from church are helping me provide some meals for them. Family? Yes, both God's family and earthly family.

I can't begin to say how privileged we are by being a part of these families! God has provided so many Christians to enrich and help us along the way. God's plan for families and the provision of His family is one of our greatest blessings on earth. But when it comes to who should help my mother care for my dad--while I'm thankful that the family of God can be called upon when I'm not able to be there--they are my parents and I have the responsibility and privilege of being their daughter. We are family.

And mothers and fathers are where families begin. As I look at the earthly family God has given me I am amazed by the strength my mother has shown as my father needs more and more care. She gently and wisely has taken over the things my father used to do in ways that continue to give him dignity, love, and show her respect for him. Yesterday at the hospital he was not supposed to get out of his chair because of tubes attached to him. The third time we had to tell him and the third time he said, "I want to go upstairs," she lovingly asked him, "What do you want to do upstairs?" instead of just snapping (as I might have), "You can't! You are in a hospital." I recognize that I am blessed to have come from this kind of earthly family and to have a mother like her as an example. Not everyone does. 

And so, I want to honor God for creating families and giving us His family. 

And I want to honor my mother for allowing God to work in her life to make her the woman she is today.

Perhaps Mother's Day is a difficult time for you because your mother was not there for you either physically or emotionally or because you are not a mother and you want to be. But if you know the Lord, you have the best Father of all and have been adopted into a worldwide family--a family you are related to. 


Get connected with your family.


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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Singing at the Table

One day I was talking to the second grade teacher at our children’s school in Bogota, Colombia, and she told me that in social studies they were studying social norms. In order to teach the children what norms were, she thought she would ask them about the mealtime rules in their home, assuming she would bring to light many norms that they all knew. So she was surprised to find out that among her dozen or so students the only rule they all had in common was: No Singing at the Table.


Im not even sure why that’s so often a rule, or at least something mothers say when children start singing at the table. I looked it up and couldn’t find an answer. My only guess is that it interrupts conversation or annoys parents.

But at our table we do sing. We dont sing at every meal (nor while we're eating!), but we always sing during devotions near Christmas and Easter and on other holidays like Thanksgiving and even the Fourth of July. 

In the summers we purposely chose hymns to memorize. My husband and I picked out about half a dozen hymns we wanted our children to know and I typed or photocopied them and glued the sheets into a notebook. Since the hymns often had words that weren't in our childrens everyday vocabularies, I put those words in bold type and I made a glossary for them to use to learn the meanings. 

When we sang each hymn--one everyday for a week while learning it and then once in a while after that to keep it fresh--we talked about what it meant and how it encouraged us.

The year when my husbands brother was dying of cancer, God led us to several songs that had verses speaking of the end of our journey, Gods faithfulness, and our hope for the future. We sang some of those songs when we had our own private memorial for Pete after he passed away.

During that difficult season, hymns were a special comfort to my husband, his parents, and Pete's widow.


When we have singing planned as part of the after dinner activities we provide the words to the hymns we'll be singing. In that way our guests from other countries or who didn't grow up with a hymn singing background can join in. Besides, our singing always sounds much better when others add their voices to ours--especially if those voices are the melodious ones of my parents-in-law and sister-in-law! 

My father's memory is failing, but he too learned many of these hymns as a child and when we sing, he may not remember what holiday it is, but he knows the songs and he knows the One to and of Whom we are singing. Recently I've noticed that as we sing, tears stream down his face. Clearly singing these hymns touches him in a place that we don't often see any more.


That's my prayer for my children, too, that these songs will play on their mental playlists all their lives and will touch their hearts. I pray the Lord brings them to mind when they need them, when they want them, and maybe, most especially when they don’t want them.

Connect with your family through singing. Choose songs that are easy to sing without music, or if you are blessed enough to have a musical family, bring the instruments along! 

Just don't sing with your mouth full.


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This week's hack comes from Maureen:  Set dinner times and meal planning. If we don't have a meal planned and just do "whatever", we tend to eat "whenever". So, a plan and a reminder of how valuable it is to have that time together.







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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where in the World

"Where is Kyrgyzstan?" we asked our friend.

She stood up and took a step to the framed NatGeo map we had hanging on the wall above our table and studied Asia for a moment. Then she pointed to a country just south of Russian, also bordering on China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. We all focused on that part of the world for a moment to get our bearings.


As she sat down, we peppered her with more questions. What was it like? Were there lots of people? Was it mountainous? Was it desert? What language did they speak? What was their religion? When she didn't know the answers, together we discovered them by referring again to the map and some of the other information it offered, then later to the Internet for more answers.

When my husband began his world wide ministry with the ECS Bible Courses (thanks to praying 'The Prayer of Jabez' one too many times!), I finally found the perfect birthday gift for him. This  wall map. With it we could find out where the people he was writing to lived and follow his travels from our dinner table.

What I didn't realize was that we would refer to the map nearly every meal. Living in South America at the time, our children already had a larger than normal world view because many of their classmates came from countries other than Colombia (where we were) and the U.S. (where we were from). 

We learned how far apart Austria and Australia are when two teachers each hailed from one of those countries. My younger daughter's best friend moved to the United Arab Emirates. My other daughter's best friend moved to Venezuela. One son had a friend go back to Texas and another classmate was from Sweden. 


Some conversations arose from opportunities to travel with our family as well. I remember when my 5 year old daughter, taking an interest in maps, placed her hand on an island and said, "'B' What country is that?" 

I answered, "That's the Bahamas." 

"Oh, I've been there," she said as she carefully wrote a "B" on her paper. And she had been there. Our family was flown there by a supporting church for a missionary conference. We would never forget the effects of hurricane Floyd or being served all the lobster we wanted!

The news sent us looking at our map as well--where had that earthquake taken place? What city just had another car bomb go off? Which country was having disputed elections? How were the borders in Europe changing again?

I love to read and I really have a hard time understanding people who say they "hate geography." It's all about people and places and how they intertwine.  So I read books like "Peter the Great: His Life and World" and learned so much about Russia, it's history, geography, and climate that I wrote my husband a nine-page single spaced summary of the book before his trip to St. Petersburg! Of course I told my family about it over many dinner times and we stared at the map open mouthed as we realized how far north he would be.

When we moved back to the states, the people who bought our house, asked us to leave the map for them, so one of our first purchases when we got a house was another map for our eating area wall. We've been privileged to have many visitors from all over the world around our table and they are always delighted to point out where they live. 

I could tell you many more stories of our enhanced family dinner times and exotic and stimulating conversations encouraged simply by putting a map on the wall. Am I saying you should have a map above your table? Not necessarily. I'm just saying that having a flat map on our wall has definitely helped us connect more as a family at mealtimes than a flat screen TV ever could!


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This week's hack comes from Maureen: It can be hard to gather together because of jobs and extra curricular activities. It used to stress me out until I let go of the need for it to be between 5-6:30...we gather for supper at 7:30-8:00 simply because that’s when we all land for the night! We dine like the Europeans and it works. Everything is done and we get to just enjoy family time. 







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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Intentional Spontaneous Hospitality

Have you ever been an answer to prayer?

Back in the 80s when we lived in Lima, Peru, an American man and his two teenage sons showed up at our church one Sunday. Ex-pats tend to gravitate toward each other, so of course we talked to them. During the course of the conversation, we asked if they would like to come to our house for lunch. Three hungry men being offered home cooked food? Yes, please!



We found out that the father was a representative for a mission seeking to find unreached tribes to bring Christians to them with the gospel. The father-son outing they had just been on had taken them to the jungles to look for almost unseen trails and broken twigs in hopes of finding an unreached tribe. Not your basic father-son camping trip, that!

While we were eating dessert, the father said to us "Actually, this meal is an answer to prayer. We fly back to the states tonight. We have enough money to get a taxi to the airport, but didn't have any cash to buy lunch, so before we walked over to the church today, we prayed that God would provide lunch."

Wow, we were an answer to prayer. Thank you, Lord, that You put it in our hearts to obey, even if we were just looking for a chance to speak English to some Americans

One time when we were on furlough an immigration situation for our adopted child left me in a missionary apartment with three small children while my husband traveled to meetings outside the country for 10 days. 

Sunday morning I got the kids ready to drive to church, but I just didn't have the energy to think about lunch. I prayed, "Lord, could you please have someone invite us for lunch?" To show my faith I packed extra diapers and the little ones' bibs in the diaper bag.

As I was putting the kids in their coats to leave church a woman looked at me and said, "Would you like to go to lunch with us?" I hope I didn't startle her with my enthusiastic response! We went to a fast food roast beef sandwich place. It was perfect--kids fed quickly, a toy surprise, and some adult fellowship for me. Thank you, Lord, for answering my prayer.

Want to get in on the fun?

Some suggestions:

  1. Have plenty of food ready. If you don't end up having someone over, you've got leftovers for another night!
  2. Have the fixings for back-up salad or veggie in the fridge. They can fill up on the variety.
  3. Serve bread.
  4. Don't apologize -- not for the quality, quantity, state of your house, or late invitation. Just welcome them into your home and they'll be thrilled.
  5. Plan to have an unplanned guest (or two). Ask God to make you aware of those around you who could use the blessing. You might see them at work, the store, or church. 


You never know when you'll be an answer to prayer!


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This week's hack comes from Shannon: No phones, no tv, and we bought a conversation starter game. We made it work. It was a struggle at first but you have to want it enough to make it happen. Stand your groundl







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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

12 Secrets Family and Faith Bloggers Won't Tell You


I'm thankful you are reading this! Truly. I don't want to write into a vacuum. Many of you are faithful readers who have signed up to get the email version of my blog (see end of post for directions) or who have liked my blog Facebook page and get notifications of new posts there. 

In this blog I have shared a lot about myself and our family, but there are probably things I've never told you about me as a blogger. Today I'm going to share some of those secrets with you!



There are days when we don't know what to write about
Coming up with new ideas each week (and for some bloggers every day!) causes us to rack our brains at times. I pray about it and think about it quite a bit. And that is why...

We would love to get post ideas from you
When you read our posts, thoughts and questions must come to mind. We love it when you ask a question that can be an impetus for another post. I don't pretend I have all the answers about family mealtimes and faith--far from it--but I can ask others, think about it, and maybe help you as well as others. You are not the only one with those thoughts or questions.

We love to hear your stories that relate to our blogs
If you have tried something we suggest or have an alternative thought or have a fun story along the lines of our topic, we would like to hear it! If you are up to it, we might even ask you to write a post with your story. I like my posts to be stories as much as possible, but either way, your comment or email is a huge encouragement, even if you disagree with me. That can start a conversation. And who knows, you might change my mind!

When you really like a post, we'd love it you would share it on your social media
If you are touched by something, and you share it with your friends on Facebook or Pinterest or whatever, they are more likely to read it than if they stumble across some kind of generic announcement. And, like I said at the beginning, we want people to read what we write. Not because we are so wise and witty, but we want the connection with people. 

We would also like it if you would tell your friends that you read our blogs
This goes along with the previous one, but applies to friends you see face to face. You've probably thought of someone when you read some posts. Do you tell them what you read? I know I tell my friends about books, magazines, and even blogs. Then you can text them the URL so it's easy for them to find. 

We don't have perfect lives and try to be transparent, but we have to think about our families, too
We might come across as having it all together. Let's be frank, we aren't going to tell our deepest darkest secrets for the whole world to know. But we try to be transparent and not come across as know-it-alls. However, my family reads my posts, and even if they didn't, I have an obligation to them and their right to privacy. So, sure, I'll tell you a lot of good things and what works for me, but I will try to tell you my own failures and shortcomings without saying anything that would embarrass my family.

When we share what God is teaching us, it's not just another devotional
Most of my posts are about family mealtimes, but sometimes God teaches me something that I want to tell others. I'm not just filling space with yet another devotional, I am sharing from my heart. It is humbling to let you in on what God is doing in my life. Please take time to read it thoughtfully.

We don't all make money on our blogs
There are professional bloggers who make a good income from their blog. That's great! But many of us write because we love writing, want to encourage others, and think it is what God wants us to do. If you read my disclosure (at the end of every post), you will see that I have never earned a penny from my blog. I do offer my book, but even that doesn't give me royalties any more as I took a one time pay out. I write because I think families are important and I want your family to connect in the best ways possible. Which is why...

We are truly passionate about what we write about
I know I am! Family meals were an important part of our life when our kids lived at home and they still are when they come over. So many essentials can be included in mealtimes: conversation, manners, hospitality, chores, and devotions! It's not the only thing you need in your family, and I try to cover more than just mealtimes. But I do think it is important.

We would love your questions, comments, and input--a real conversation
If you read what we write, it is pretty easy to respond by commenting on the blog, posting on the blog Facebook page, or even emailing. We love it when people do that and when readers actually have a conversation with us. There are many sides to every point we make and we are open to hearing yours.

We have full and busy lives off the Internet
I don't write about everything that happens in my life or every aspect of my life.  My life is not all blog and Internet. Don't worry about us not having a life except online. And we want you to have one too. So we understand if you don't read every post or comment every time.

We are thrilled when someone writes a guest post that is on topic
Like I said, we can be stumped about what to write or in our busy lives just not have time to post when we want to, so if a reader has an idea for a post, we are open to reading and editing. See my guest post guidelines to know what I'm looking for. Give us a try. You might find you like it!



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This week's hack comes from Emily:
We have a house of adults. Even here, if we cook even some part of it together, then we always eat together. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone mashing potatoes or making salad. Plus cooking together makes it more fun and faster to prep. 







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