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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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ten Best Kid Conversation Starters

I'm sure you have asked you kids, "What did you do at school today?" 

And the answer you got? "Nothing."

It's frustrating. You love your kids and you don't want to pry, but you want to know what is going on in their lives--achievements to cheer with them for, disappointments to hug them over, people who are influencing them, topics they are interested in, activities they are good at, what tickles their funny bone, or a topic you'd like to have input on. So, yeah, maybe you do want to pry, but not really, you just want to be involved.

So how do you get your kids to open up?



Don't start an interrogation. It is so tempting to quiz them down about their day. But that might seem like an accusation. Give them time. Maybe just listen to music they like on the ride home. If you have several kids in the car, listen carefully. It's hard to resist the temptation to chime in, but if you do you will learn a lot and it might even seem like they have forgotten you are there. 

Engage fully. When your kids are talking, put down your phone, book, calendar, or whatever is preventing you from giving them your full attention. Listen to what they say. "We started reading a new book today." Then respond with a full sentence that shows you are listening and interested. "Does it seem like it's going to be a really good book?" "What is it about?"

Model sharing about your day. "I talked to Grandma and Grandpa today. They said they got a sandbox for when we visit this summer." Let them overhear you talking with your spouse, "Guess what I learned today at the library!" When they hear that talking about one's day is interesting to others, they will want to share, too.

Don't overreact! My face gives me away every time! Then they say, "It's okay, Mom!" A gasp, an upset expression, a minced oath, a fearful question can make a child not want to share. They don't want you to be upset, and possibly not even over excited. Practice keeping a poker face and saying, "Mmhmm," to give you time to come up with a gentle reaction.

Pick the right time.  If your child comes home tired, hungry, or overwhelmed that is not the best time to start asking questions. So when is?

  • Car rides--If you have errands to run take one along, especially if they are old enough to sit in the front seat with you. Don't have earbuds in anyone's ears, just start talking about what you see and let them comment, too. I always talk to my 2 year old granddaughter about everything we go past in the car. One day a few months ago I was quiet and she started chattering. I asked if she wanted music, "No!" Did she want me to talk? "Yes!"
  • Play time--Take time to play with your kids and read to them. Whether it is cars, hide and seek, or Candyland, that time you are with them lets them know you are there and provides opportunities for memory jogging ideas to pop into their heads.
  • Chore time--There is something about working side by side that gets people to open up. They don't have to look each other in the eye so they can say things they might not say when looking straight at you. This is why doing dishes together is such a great idea! (Not necessarily a fun idea, but a great one!)
  • Dinner time--If you sit down together to eat you can all tell each other about your day. Not everyday will be a great conversation day--in fact, it can seem like this is a horrible idea that should not be repeated until they are adults. But that is too late. Let them talk to each other and you talk to them. Try hard to keep things upbeat. This is a great time to have a conversation starter to two ready to go!
  • Bedtime--If your children are still young enough that you are putting them to bed, they might realize that opening up will get them an extra ten minutes before they have to turn out the light. Be open to that. We had some of our most important conversations with our children right before bed. 
Ask a good question. Here are ten Mom-tested questions that have worked for other women to get the conversation going. Try using one or two of them at an appropriate moment each day. You might find one that becomes a family favorite, too.
  1. What made you laugh today?
  2. Did anything make you sad today?
  3. What was something silly that happened at school today?
  4. Did you give or receive any compliments today?
  5. Who did you hang out with?
  6. What did you do well today?
  7. Who did you thank today?
  8. What new thing did you learn today?
  9. How did you help someone feel included today?
  10. What did you hear that you disagreed with?
I would love to know what questions you use to get your kids talking about their day!


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This week's hack comes from my friend Mariah: Making dinner time easier? In my house this means planning a menu for the week ahead of time and also using the crockpot to be able to start it in the morning. Oh and the earlier we eat- the happier we are. We can tend to be a hangry bunch (especially me!) 







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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space near the top right side of the blog, below the picture of the book: 
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