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What we talk about…Hospitality At Home.

June 18, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hospitality at Home...

What We Talk About
When We Talk About
Hospitality at Home…

I remember being asked on a “get to know you” questionnaire one time, “What brings you joy?”  While other people answered “My job” or “My kids”, my first response was, “Having people in my home.”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my kids too, but I sincerely mean it when I say I love having people in my home. For dinner, for coffee, for playdates, for absolutely no good reason at all.  That is what brings me joy.  To feed and nourish and create space — whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

We all have different gifts and different personalities, so it stands to reason that hospitality at home comes more naturally to some of us than it does to others.  Some of us (ahem…me) get a strange thrill out of planning and decorating and cooking purely for the benefit of others.  Even if it does mean we run around like an absolute maniac two hours before everyone is due to arrive. (Not that I’ve ever done that).

But if your idea of hospitality is a scene from Martha Stewart or Better Homes and Gardens, I might beg you to NOT show up at my house.

Because here’s what you need to know about hospitality:

It isn’t about you.

It has little to do with you or your personality or your gifts or your home or your cooking ability.  That takes some of the pressure off, right?

Hospitality at home is about the people you invite into your home and your life. It’s about the guest and her needs, not the host and how spotless her home is or how good the food was.  It’s about caring for people’s basic needs to create a safe space.  A place where people can cry, laugh, be vulnerable, and walk away knowing they are loved.  Hospitality shouldn’t be draining.  It should be life giving!

And here’s something else you need to know about hospitality at home (brace yourself because you might not like me so much after this): if you claim to follow Jesus, it’s not optional.  

But here’s the other piece of good news.  Hospitality at home doesn’t have to be complicated.

You see, hospitality at home can happen around a simple cup of coffee or a gourmet meal.  It can happen in an immaculate mansion or a sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment.  It can happen in the midst of crying babies, messy kids, piles of laundry, and to-do lists.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up my less than perfect home and I was the only one who truly noticed that things were out of place.

If you’re like me and you simply adore having people over (like your husband has to limit you because you’d have people over every day kind of person) then you probably don’t need much help from me.

But if this is new for you and it’s hard, that’s okay!  Start small.  Put on a pot of coffee and invite just one person over.  Maybe someone you already know and connect with well.  Go ahead and clean as much as feels necessary for you to be comfortable and enjoy your time.  But make it about their comfort and their needs instead of yours.  The first time might be hard, but the second, third, fourth times…they’ll be easier.

And yes, store bought cookies are completely acceptable.

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By Amanda Boils
Amanda writes from her beautiful country community in Michigan surrounded by her husband and 2 small sons.

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What We Talk About…Relaxation

June 16, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

red-vintage-old-chair

What We Talk About When We Talk About Relaxation…

Lost. The Following. Downton Abbey. The Paradise (my newest obsession). House of Cards. Bloodline. Seriously, I could keep going. Really. I LOVE binge watching TV. And, yes, these are all shows I’ve watched – to completion. It’s kind of a tragedy. Or is it?

I’ve recently undergone a life change. For the last six years, I’ve been a high school English teacher. Two of those last six years have been spent being a mama to two babies – two and fourteen months currently – and being a Shakespeare-slinging, grammar Nazi. (Ok, really more of a Steinbeck-slinging, grammar Nazi since I’ve taught American Lit the last four years. I love Steinbeck. If he was alive, we’d hang out on the reg). In addition to being the average working mom, I was also driving (with my husband), making a forty-five minute commute each way to work. Man, those days were looooonnnnggg. Because, you know if you work outside the home, your job doesn’t stop once you arrive at your home sweet home; it just changes. Kids picked up, dinner made, dinner fed, dinner consumed by an exhausted mama in two minutes, kitchen cleaned, babies bathed, maybe have time and energy to play with babies, babes in bed. In my life during that time, the kiddos went to bed really early because we had to awaken them each morning at 5:45. Horrific tragedy, I tell you. So there we were: 6:30, and the kids were in bed. We had the potential-filled hours of 6:30-10 to do WHATEVER we pleased. And, let me tell you; we did good deeds for those who needed it, we baked extravagant goodies that we pinned from Pinterest so that we could keep up with the status quo, we had LOTS of sex, we cleaned the house in tip-top shape from dusting the highest shelf to the nasty grime no one likes to talk about that lurks on the bottom of the toilet. (You know it’s there). If you aren’t one-hundred percent perceptive, you’ve probably used your high-level critical thinking skills to infer that I was might have been being slightly hyperbolic – I’m a former English teacher after all; the traits die hard. I’m being brutally honest here. That time from 6:30-10 was mostly spent watching TV. Binge watching shows on either one of our drugs of choice: Netflix or Amazon. I accept the fact that you, dear reader, are probably judging me right now. There are so many other things I could’ve been doing, like the aforementioned list. But hear this; I was beyond exhausted each and every night. I truly needed these three and half hours to become a zombie, checking out of my life and checking into someone else’s. That sounds so terrible after writing it, but, oh, is it true for me!

A time existed when I felt guilty for these copious hours spent, surrendering my brain to a talking box. I should be doing something, right? Like making lunches for the next day, doing another foreboding load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, picking out my clothes for the next day, reading a book, exercising, or, the one for which I feel real conviction, reading the Bible and praying. Sidenote: I have gotten better about the last, and most important, item on the list, but that’s a post for another day. But that, with the exception of the previously mentioned sidenote, is the problem. These are all activities I could do. As we all know, the American way of life is to do, do, do. When, at the end of a frazzled day, all I wanted was to be, be, be. All day, I ran from one activity to the next; I talked, listened, organized. I was simply tired of doing; at the end of the day, I just wanted to sit. And, you know what, I think that is totally permissible. I was talking with a good friend once about this very topic, and she said something to me that basically rocked my world on this subject, altering my guilt for zoning out for three blissful hours each night. She asked, “How many hours are you awake?” I thought for a moment; ok, maybe several because I can’t do simple math. Don’t forget that I was an English teacher. My answer? “17.” Full of wisdom, she continued, “Of those seventeen hours, roughly fourteen of them are comprised of you doing something. What’s the big deal if the last three are spent doing nothing? You need to have time to rest and recharge.” I could’ve kissed her I was so happy. My guilt regarding those three hours each night started to fade. And, the more I thought about it, she’s totally right (as usual; she’s one of those friends I compare to Mother Teresa). If I am to work and think and fret and do for fourteen hours, you better believe that I need to rest for at least a couple hours in order to do it all over again day in and day out.

Rest, relaxation. Why is it so difficult for us to do? By nature, I’m a doer, so it’s counterintuitive to who I am. Several years ago, when I was working for a great missional company called YouthWorks, my supervisor told me that I had issues taking breaks and resting. Since then, I’ve always known that resting is challenging for me and that I need to take more opportunities to do it. When I would, though, I’d often feel guilty, like my aforementioned guilt for binge watching TV. It’s also so difficult for us to rest because of our culture. Almost every daytime TV show or magazine constantly advertises things for us women to do: lose twenty pounds, bake this gluten-free, paleo, nut-free something (I call it a monstrosity), etc. To add to that pressure, Pinterest reminds us of all the cool food we “should” whip up and  the 101 projects we “should” make out of pallets to do for our kids. And the worst just might be Facebook. Through the comfort of our dirty shorts, stained T-shirts, and dust-ridden houses, we can peek into others’ lives – into what they’re doing. Whether that’s the type of people who post their superwoman-like to-do lists they’ve accomplished or the fun pictures of moms doing awesome things with their kids. As a culture, we think we “should” always be doing something more. However, as I constantly need reminded, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the ways of the world; our lives should be defined by a different  paradigm. I recall that after seven days of creating the world, for goodness sake, that the LORD rested. I’m also reminded of the time that Jesus fell asleep on a boat and, upon waking, promptly commanded the storm to cease. And, I think there might be something in the Bible about a Sabbath, a day of rest. (Another post for another day). Now, we might not be creating the world or telling storms to back off, but we are all doing important work everyday. God’s work. The work of loving, healing, restoring, forgiving, thanking, giving. And that, my friends, needs rest.

Earlier, I mentioned a life change I’ve undergone. I’ve recently changed career paths from a high-school teacher to a full-time teacher of my own children and of other little ones, providing day care. It’s relatively new, as in two weeks, so I’m still in the adjusting phase. However, I will say that I still do enjoy zoning out by watching some TV in the evenings after the kiddos say goodnight. Granted, that checking-out process isn’t as long as it was before, but I’m still a regular customer to binge entertainment. And do I feel guilty? Nope. No matter what phase or stage of life we are all in, we have to admit, although begrudgingly at times, that we are all human; shock, I know. We need rest. If our Lord and Savior needed rest, then, heaven help us, we surely do, too. So, if you’re tired, rest. Sleep, read a book, take a walk, binge watch hours of Pretty Little Liars (Wait. I must’ve typed in the wrong show). Rest. And, whoever said “no rest for the weary” was truly ignorant of the best four-letter word there is. REST.

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By Katie Tanner
Katie comically shares her stories in between kids, life and some needed TV time from her lovely home in Central IL.

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What We Talk About…Rest

June 8, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

I recently found myself in a room of around 2500 people. It felt like the most rest I have had in months.

What we talk about When we talk about Rest...

What we talk about
When we talk about
Rest…

What exactly do we talk about when we talk about rest?

Sometimes rest is a physical need. Late nights, earlier than early mornings, long runs, big events and 40++ hours of work a week can all make someone physically tired. For this we eat for nourishment and sleep for refreshment. We may even exercise for health.

Sometimes rest is a personal need. We are all wired quite differently yet we all need re-energized. Some find this in large gatherings and events while others will find it in the cozy corner of a bookstore. We learn to listen to ourselves and restore and call it rest. When we’ve re-energized we usually feel emotionally full and ready to give to the people and needs around us.

Sometimes rest is a soul need. In a room full of 2500 people who have gathered to talk and plan and connect all around the topic of justice, I had come to listen. To learn. To put myself in an environment outside of my own. To be challenged. Ultimately though, I went to rest.

To rest my soul. To take all the shoulda, coulda, woulda in my life and lay it bare to be examined. To take off my rose colored glasses of marriage and motherhood and see the world from a different angle.

Anne Lindbergh said that “It is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself that one is estranged from others too.” (Gift From the Sea)

Soul rest does not have to be complete solitary isolation. What we do need to look for is a place that pulls us from the wilderness in the mind and the desert wastes of the heart and connects us to the unique person we are.

I am a thinker. It is how I am wired. I do dishes and think, play with children and think, fold laundry and think. It is a wilderness and it becomes lonely and weary and sad when there is no plan to execute or job to be done. When the thoughts are just whirling and swirling ‘for fun’. With so much thinking it becomes hard to differentiate between thoughts and feelings, knowledge and self.

Rest for the soul. Rest for the soul looks like listening for me. It is putting all of my thoughts and whims and passions to a firm HALT and hearing the thoughts and whims and passions of others.

It is seeing the beauty of the bigger world we live it. It is being inspired from those so different from myself that I can’t help but be amazed at how unique yet how beautifully connected we are as a Body.

It seems like the practices of meditation and liturgy are creeping back up into the lives of many younger people. There are many assumptions about why this is and I would also submit my own. Meditation and Liturgy forces us to LISTEN and in listening we assume the posture of soul rest.

To slow. To stop having the next great idea, or creating the next big adventure or dreaming that next grand goal. To quit Googling ‘how to’ and asking siri ‘where to’ and checking our text for ‘who to’. Listening for the holy voice and calling it meditation and repeating words of the ancient Scripture and calling it liturgy. In our time, this may be the exact rest a whole generation needs.

For me soul rest looked like 2500 people passionately pursing the call of love and justice and sharing their adventures with each other.

What does rest look like for you?

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What We Talk About…Creativity

June 4, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Creativity

What We Talk About                                           When We Talk About                                 Creativity

“I’m not very creative.” Have you ever said this? Thought it? Heard someone else say it?

This is definitely a thought I have fairly often. My home decor is alright but not stellar. My personal style lacks the style part of personal style. Even as a pseudo-writer type I just don’t feel “creative.”

So what exactly are we talking about when we talk about creativity? Is it a visual sense for beautiful things? Is it out of the ordinary ideas? Is it the eccentric crowd of people we know?

I don’t think creativity can be that easily quantified. I think creativity is a who, not a what or a how.

Somewhere along the line humanity decided we needed to quantify just about everything. We felt the need for everything to have a definition, a weight, a measure. Creativity became those things that we couldn’t clearly define, weigh or measure but still carried deep cultural impact.

At different times in history various things have been defined as “creative”. Technology through out time has been defined as “creative invention”. Impressionists were “creative painters”. Even in Medieval Christianity God’s act of creation carried a heavy weight as being the only true “creativity” of the period.

If creativity in our actions, such as art and poetry, are generationally redefined, what then is creativity?

What if creativity isn’t something you do but a part of who you are? 

No two humans are alike. At some point this means I think or say or do something that no one else in this world does. This is my creative contribution to the world.

Maybe creativity is wholeheartedly living out exactly who we are and humbly and willingly sharing that with the world around us.

For some this means being the fun mom with all the cool ideas or the artistic business owner with the cutest shop in town or the passionate attorney craftily bringing reconciliation and justice into the world.

When we talk about creativity we most often think of some thing that we see or hear or taste. Creativity is so much more!

Creativity is me. It is you.

Creativity is the living out of who we really are.

Creativity is unapologetically sharing the beauty of being you, your unique person, an Image Bearer, with the world.

Creativity invites each and every person around us to live out their own creative life, to be exactly who they were intended to be too.

You are creative. I am creative. Our collective creativity reminds the world of what is coming. Restoration. Perfection. Life.

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What we talk about: Friendship

June 3, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide insight. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

Friends

Friendship has been redefined for me this year.

Don’t get me wrong, friendship has always been valuable to me. I have realized over the years just how incredibly blessed I have been in that area. Friendships among women can be difficult to find and maintain, but I have more than my fair share. Yet I believe we are created for community, women especially so.

Looking back though, I realize that for years I lived with this idea that friendship is rooted in joy. There’s some truth to that. Some of the best days I have experienced were celebrating marriages, births, educational and career accomplishments.

Celebration comes easily to us. No one has to explain to us how to rejoice when circumstances are good. For most of us, that comes naturally. We know how to buy gifts, send flowers, take pictures, smile.

But what I have learned this past year is that friendship is truly forged when life tests us.

When a friend tells you that her marriage is falling apart. When she loses a child to cancer. When she expresses the pain that comes from raising a child with autism or special needs. When life with work and little kids becomes so overwhelming it threatens to swallow the joy.

It has been those moments that have truly shaped my friendships. The times when I don’t know what to say and I can’t fix it and all I can do is pray and cry and let you borrow my faith for a little while. Or more recently the times when people haven’t known what to say to me, but they showed up anyway. In their beautiful, encouraging, unique, and even practical ways.

If worship is about honoring God, it makes sense that when we honor our friendships, we worship Him in the most beautiful, profound sense.

When we cry or simply sit in silence. When we join in pain and grief without having to fix it. When we answer that middle of the night phone call or take her kids for the day. It’s not just about “being a good friend.” It’s about serving and loving and honoring those who have been created in the very image of our Creator.

Choosing to walk through the valley and the darkness alongside someone else might be scary and vulnerable and painful. Grief and pain are messy and complicated. It can be awkward.

Do it anyway. Because one day you might find yourself needing a hand to hold as you walk through the valley of the shadow. And because sometimes we need our friends to teach us how to worship in the midst of life and heartache.

And because you might just learn something about worshipping the one who created us along the way.

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By Amanda Boils
Amanda writes from her beautiful country community in Michigan surrounded by her husband and 2 small sons.

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What We Talk About…Support.

June 2, 2015

“What we talk about when we talk about _________”  is our series for June. Words and language have meaning and provide great insight into who we are. What is revealed when we reflect on the words we say? Check out the whole series HERE.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Support.

Support

“I’ll take care of it.” I’ve probably said that to my husband and kids at least a thousand times. It is what I do as a mom. I take care of stuff (dirty clothes, spilled milk, the checkbook…regular mom stuff). It is one way that I show support to my family.

As I sit across from a friend over coffee I hear myself say, “I totally support you.” This is different. This moment, this thought.

It occurs to me as I drive home supporting someone and being supportive are not the same thing. Just like caring for someone and taking care of someone are not the same thing.

When I talk about supporting my family and caring for my family I am most often talking about the million and one things that I do. From carpool to camp registration and baseball to ballet. In this season of my life supporting my family is all about the sweat equity from hour to hour and day to day.

Yet, when I really think about needing support and giving support, I think about compassion and care.

I recently saw a quote that said “The ministry of presence is so powerful – we hear, we have listened, we are present and we’re not turning away. “

When I need support I need presence. I need my husband to physically stand by me. I need my best friend to listen to me. I need the steadfast arms of the Body to hold me up.

When I offer support I am offering the ministry of presence. I am offering to listen with my ears, to hear with my heart, to do with my hands and to keep at it until you don’t need me anymore.

In another era support was defined as the work of the weak, the forgotten, the unwanted. In this era, we are learning the hard way that support is not the work of the weak , forgotten or unwanted, it never has been.

No, support is the burden we carry for one another. Each and every person, Image Bearer by design, both needs support and is support.

What do we talk about when we talk about support? Presence. We talk about presence.

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What we talk about when we talk about ______________.

June 1, 2015

Words

In 1981 American writer Raymond Carver published a collection of short stories. Among them was one titled “What we talk about when we talk about love.” 4 friends sat around a table and talked about love. As one of the friends talks about love for a difficult person the other friends wonder why and how she could love this person. One persons view, response to or act of love (in this case at least) was not be the same as another’s.

The idea is that as we casually converse we use a lot of words. Our words all carry a literal, dictionary meaning. A personal meaning. An emotional meaning. A philosophical meaning. The list goes on. There is something deep and powerful in the words we use.

In the month of June I will reflect on what some of the many words in the world carry for me…

Community. Is a location? A group of friends? People who hold a common interest?

Friendship. What is a friend? When do friends matter most? What does it teach me?

Support. What does it mean to take care of someone? Or something? Is it just giving?

Justice. Should we all fight for justice? Is it a cultural ideal? Just a fad?

And so many more…

I don’t expect that each word will hold deep insight or meaning.  I do hope that as I share my own stories that you will consider your own words.

What do you mean when you speak and do the others around you understand?

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Have a word that carries special meaning or a funny story or deep thoughts? To Be A Mom is accepting guest submissions on our topic this month!  Find us on Facebook and send us a message for details.

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