Sep 16, 2016

Are You Inventive in Hospitality?

     Several years ago my family came across an absolute treasure of a find - my great grandmother's journals. I never had the pleasure of knowing my great grandmother so it's been a joy to read these journals and have a glimpse into her life.
     One thing that has stood out to me while reading her journals is how different communities were back then. There's not a day that goes by that she was not visiting someone, having someone over, baking a cake for a family, going to a women's club, etc. She gave herself to hospitality. She knew what it meant to gather with others, to love on them, care about them and take the time to listen to them.
     I can't help but think that our society has really lost a lot of that. We've gotten so busy and distracted that we fail to notice the people around us. In a society that's "in touch" more than ever, we are so out of touch with each other.
     You probably know that the Bible says we are to be given to hospitality (Romans 12:13). I really like the way the Message puts it - "Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality." Be inventive in hospitality. Notice it doesn't say be perfect in hospitality. That's a good thing for me because I can get caught up in what hospitality looks like. You know, is my house clean enough (never), can I make the perfect meal (uncontrollable laughter), will I say all the right things (nope, I still put my foot in my mouth several times a day). It's not about the perfection, it's just about gathering. Being inventive in hospitality means I need to be purposeful about it. I need to mark time on my calendar, I need to offer the invitation, and then, when we do gather, I need to be present, I need to listen, I need to laugh (and possibly cry) with my friends, I need to hug their necks (or give high fives if they're not physical touch people). The point for me is that I just need to do it. I don't believe people are on Facebook (or Fakebook as I like to call it) several times a day because that's their first choice. I think they're on FB so much because they're hungry for relationships, striving to connect, needing interaction.
     How can we be more inventive in hospitality? How can we gather more? Maybe meet a friend for lunch or coffee, invite a family over for dinner once a week (just don't get freaked out about everything being perfect), have friends over for a game night, invite your girlfriends to join you for a ladies night out, whatever it takes to gather together - just gather! If you ask me face to face beats facebook every single time. What are some ways that you are inventive in hospitality? Follow my blog for ideas on ways to connect and pre-order Karen Ehman's book  Listen Love Repeat for some great ideas.
     (Pic above is of one of my favorite gatherings - my family reunion held at my dad's church in MI every summer. As you can see, there are a few of us.) 

Jan 23, 2015

Happy National Pie Day - Our Caramel Apple Pie Recipe

Mmmm...pie! Are you celebrating National Pie Day today? My hubby is known for his caramel apple pie. Seriously, he gets orders several times a year for this pie. In celebration of National Pie Day, I'm sharing our recipe with you. Special Note - if you're going to make our pie, you MUST make your own pie crust! Do not buy a pie crust already made from the store. I promise you it will be worth it to make your own! :)

Pie Crust (makes 6 single pie shells):
6 c. flour
1 lb. lard
1 T. salt
2 eggs
2 T. vinegar
6 T. water
Mix together flour, lard and salt. In a separate small bowl, mix together eggs - beaten, vinegar and water. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and roll out into pie shells.

Caramel Apple Pie
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. flour
5 c. thinly sliced apples
2/3 c. white sugar
3 T. flour
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. lemon juice
20 caramels, halved
2 T. milk
Preheat oven to 375. To make taffy, in a small bowl combine brown sugar, melter butter or margarine and 1/3 c. flour. Mix well and set aside. Filling: place apples in a large bowl. Add white sugar, 3 T. flour, cinnamon and lemon juice. Toss until all ingredients are mixed well and apples are thoroughly coated. Layer 1/2 of apples, 1/2 of caramels, 1/2 of taffy mix, repeat. Place top pastry over filling and seal well (this is very important - if edges are not sealed caramel will leak out all over). Cut steam vents and brush top crust with milk or light cream. Cover with foil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil, bake another 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Jan 16, 2015

I Dare Ya

I triple dog dare ya! We all know that line from A Christmas Story, right? You know, right before the boy puts his tongue on the flagpole and gets stuck! Some dares are like that - just to get you to do something crazy. But then there are dares that people give because they've done something that's made a huge difference in their life and they want you to experience the same thing- this dare is THAT kind of dare.

I am currently reading a book by Ann Voskamp entitled One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. If you haven't already read this book, oh, how I wish you would! This may surprise some of you, but I am not always a happy, bubbly, positive person. (SHOCK) I find myself grumbling and complaining more times than I care to admit. Can anyone else relate to that? And a lot of times it's not over substantial, awful, dreadful things - it's just the in and out, everyday happenings of life. How can I change this? How do I stop being so critical and negative?

Did you know we can change from being pessimists to optimists? We can! It's all about focus, all about what we notice, what we choose to say, what we choose to focus on. Ann talks about this in her book - how we're surrounded every day with these wonderful gifts, and yet we fail to see them, to notice them, to name them, to thank God for them. We have to renew our mind - how does that happen? It's a daily practice - the renewING of our mind - notice the ING. That means it's still happening, it's a journey, it's something we have to work on - on purpose! That's where my dare comes in. Ann's friend dared her to write a list - not a list of things to do, not a list of things to change, but a list of God's gifts - of the little things that God gives her every day. One thousand gifts. I'm taking that dare! I've started my list, and does it surprise you that I'm smiling more, that I'm noticing more of the "little" things that God gives me, that I'm a more positive person? I haven't arrived, but I'm renewING my mind. As I write items on my list, I'm renewING and it's becoming easier to notice and be thankful for the little things.

Sweet sister (and brother) loved by God, I would love to have you join me! I triple dog dare ya to get a notebook and start listing:

1. Extra hugs from my precious son this morning
2. The sun shining in our breakfast nook and warming my back as I write this
3. Spiced cider - mmm.......

Mar 3, 2014

Don't Let Your Memories Remain Jpegs!

Happy March! Spring is on the way - woo-hoo! I think everyone is ready for it this year - what a winter we've had! It's 25 degrees and we are under a winter weather advisory here in NC as I'm typing this. I have to chuckle at my southern friends who have complained that they're so sick of the snow and the cold. I know most of my northern friends would trade places with them in a heartbeat!:)

A new month means new place-mats on the table at our house. I have different place-mats for almost every month of the year. No, don't be impressed. The reason I do this is because it gives my children a chance to see some pictures throughout the years (because I am CRAZY behind on my photo albums - can anyone relate). I do know the many advantages of having printed pictures of my children and our family memories (example - did you know that it can increase a child's self esteem), but I just never seem to have enough time. So, monthly placemats was a quick and easy solution.

I created these with my Heritage Makers business, but you could create them on construction paper too. March is my oldest sons birthday month, so we have a place-mat for every birthday with pictures from that birthday. 3 birds with one stone - a way to make his birthday month special, printing out some precious photos so we can enjoy those memories AND placemats for dinner! Remember, don't get caught up in perfectionism - make some placemats with photos of your memories from March for the last 10 years, laminate them and ENJOY! Bonus - once you're done and they're laminated you already have placemats for that month next year - just make sure you make new ones for the new birthdays. Which reminds me, I need to go make placemats for Jordan's 12th and 13th birthday. :) Hope this helps you CELEBRATE the memories with your kiddos. Remember to ENJOY the journey!

Mar 1, 2014

March - Lucky Pennies

Here's a fun idea for you to do with your kiddos for the month of March.

Get several rolls of pennies and hide them all around the house (the individual pennies, not the whole roll). ;)

Every time somebody in your family finds a penny, they have to share something they're thankful for and then put the penny in the penny jar (just a mason jar or any other jar that you've created for this purpose). You also could have a notebook set out by the penny jar (doesn't have to be fancy, just a spiral notebook will do - remember, perfection is not required for great memories) and have your kiddos write what they're thankful for in the notebook as well. At the end of the month you will have a huge list of things your family members are thankful for (mom and dad should participate too). Keep the journal out and write in it throughout the year, or bring it out every March and repeat this activity every March.You can figure out what you want to do with all the pennies in the jar at the end of the month - maybe use them to help pay for a special family activity, or give them to somebody who needs them more than you do (church offering, shelter, homeless, etc.)

NOTE - You may want to hide pennies throughout the month, a few a day, so you're not done with this activity in one day! ;)

What I love about this - I am constantly trying to teach my kids (and myself) to be a little more appreciative. Talking about what we're thankful for is a great way to do that. I also love the idea of having a family thankfulness journal that I can refer back to in years to come - it will show my child's interests at different ages and will also remind me of some tough times that God has brought us through. ALSO - as a result of this activity, when my boys find pennies on the ground while we're out and about, they will no longer be "lucky" pennies, they will be thankful pennies!

Feb 21, 2014

Flashlight Stories

What is it about kids and their LOVE of flashlights? You can take a normal activity that you do with your kiddos, add a flashlight to the mix, and BAM, it's an automatic hit!

Case in point - I like to read bedtime stories to my nieces and nephews when they're over for the night. My sister and her family came to visit us and stayed for about a week. During their visit, I had the idea to turn all the lights off and use a flashlight while reading a bedtime story to my niece. This was an automatic hit and I was asked to read a "flashlight story" every night she was here. How easy is this?

Whatever your bedtime routine is - maybe you sing a special song with your kiddos (I know my sis-in-law, Stacy, has a special song for each of her 5 children that she sings to them every night), maybe you read a book together, maybe you pray together. It doesn't matter what it is, just try it with a flashlight this weekend and let me know what the kiddos think. I bet they'll love it! Remember, it's the LITTLE things that make a BIG difference! Oh, and we don't make any $ for recommending this, but one of our FAVORITE bedtime stories is Nighttime is Just Daytime With Your Eyes Closed by Mark Lowry.

I have a NEW flashlight story idea that I'm going to try out during my next family visit - more on that tomorrow!

Feb 14, 2014

Peculiar Jewel

I've had this post swirling around in my head for a bit and was waiting for the right time to sit down and write/post it. What better day than Valentine's Day!

Let's start with a confession - I have journal envy. That's right - I am so jealous of those of you who take the time every day or once a week to write something sweet in your child's journal. I've had that desire for my children since before I even had children. I remember sitting in the living room of my parent's house with my mom and her friend, Amy. Amy was talking about how she'd kept a journal for her 2 boys since they were tiny - she'd write the funny things they said or did, things that made her proud, thoughts she had - whatever. What an absolute treasure, right? I remember thinking - that is SO awesome! I wish I had a journal like that from my parents (who are the parents of 9 children mind you, HA!). At that time I knew - I am going to steal that idea and have journals for my children. boys are now 13 (almost 14) and 11. I DO have journals for them. I mean, I have the physical book you can hold in your hands. I DO have a few posts in them - most posts are in January of each year since their birth and pretty much say the same thing - this year I have decided to make it a point to write in your journal at least once a week. They may have a couple posts in there from February, March is highly unlikely, and hey - we have pictures to prove what they did in the summer so I really don't need to journal all of that. Pause - shout out to all of my fellow sanguine personalities!!! We love to jump into things with both feet - we're excited about it, we have great intentions, we do it for a bit, and then we get bored with it, right? Yep, story of my life. So, sadly, my boys don't really have great journals that I will be able to give them when they're 18.

Side note (I'm also a little A.D.D. so just smile and jump with me here) - there are a couple GREAT apps I know of that can help with journaling. There's an app called Posterity (pictured below) - you can create a "book" in their app for each kid and every time your kid says something funny you just type in their quote and it will save it for you, and even date it for you. What a GREAT idea! Also, there's a program that my friend, Angela, shared with me that helps with journaling (Penzu). You can type your journal right online AND you can even set it up to have the program send you email reminders to write in your journal. You'd think those things would help me, 

Ok, so here's where I'm going with all of this. I was reading a few weeks ago and came across this verse. Hebrews 6:10 - "For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name's sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do." So, this gets me to thinking - God does not forget the things we do. Why is that? Well, He must be keeping a journal about us. He must be writing down the things we do that make Him laugh, what we do that makes Him proud, the unique things about us that He absolutely loves. Of course, the verse didn't say anything about a journal, but wait - there's more! 

Around this same time my sister, Dawn, posted a passage on her Facebook page. Here's the passage - Malachi 3:16-17 - "Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worship-fully feared the Lord and who thought on His name. And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him." Ahhh - He DOES write a journal about us. I don't have to be jealous because some of you have journals from your parents - God's got one on me! What?!? Beat that! Not only does He have a journal about me, did you get what He calls me? I'm not just Shari, I'm His jewel! His special possession! His peculiar treasure! :) You know what's great? Jordan and Justin are His special possession and His peculiar treasure too - so He's got a journal on them (so why am I worried about it)! Seriously, how cool is that?

THIS Valentine's Day, I pray that you will know HIS amazing love for you! His thoughts about you! His adoration of you! YOU are His precious jewel! Live like it, speak like it, believe it!!!  He's put some people in your life that can demonstrate His love to you, but they are not the answer -HE is! They will fail you, He will not! They will not fill every single void inside of you, HE will! Happy Valentine's Day - don't forget to make it the best Valentine's Day ever by spending some quality time with your TRUE Valentine!