Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thrifty and Healthy Changes

While not really an article that many would consider to have great spiritual significance, I thought that I would share with you some changes that we have made over the past several months that have not only saved us money and kept us healthier but also caused me to evaluate my weaknesses when it comes to change.  
Cleaned out the toiletries
This was a BIG undertaking for me. I love great smelling lotions, liquid soaps, body washes, shampoos and conditioners but they all ended up in the garbage. It took two garbage bags to handle all of it. I have heard for quite some time how bad the ingredients are in standard lotions, shampoos, and conditioners but have reluctantly turned a cold shoulder to it. (Sound familiar to any areas in your life that you know better but refuse to do anything about?). Well, enough is enough and with the encouragement of my hubby and children the pitching began.  I started by making a list of no-no’s for our toiletries.  

Here’s a great resource in case you are interested in making safer toiletry choices and want to see the list that I used: http://static.ewg.org/skindeep/pdf/EWG_cosmeticsguide.pdf . The most common bad ingredient I found lurking in my toiletries was sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate which is toxic to our bodies yet found in nearly every liquid toiletry including baby wash!   So now that we had nothing left in our showers or by our sinks I had to figure out what to replace it with. There are options that can be found at the health food stores but they are expensive, so I decided to make my own. Here are the recipes of standard things we are using:
Combine 4-6 tablespoons coconut oil with ¼ cup baking soda and ¼ cup corn starch or arrowroot powder (I prefer arrowroot). I like to add a couple drops of lavender essential oil for scent. Mix it up and put into an old deodorant container. Once mixed, I put it in the refrigerator to firm up overnight and then store it in the medicine cabinet. This works great for me- no complaints at all.

Brad is using a crystal rock, which is a natural salt, and he's happy with the results so far. This crystal is pretty cheap and is found at nearly every store. It seems like it will last at least a year. He began using the crystal rock in the Fall, so he’s hoping that it still does well when he is working outside this summer.
We’ve moved over to good ol’ fashioned bar soap. It eliminates much of the undesirables. Fortunately, some store-bought soaps aren’t so bad. Of these, Ivory (best option) and Irish Spring are our favorites. Brad and I prefer the No. 72 Lavender Soap from Sprouts for our faces. At some point I would like to make my own, but that is for a different season. I have considered making our own liquid hand soap and have a friend that made it simply by grating a bar of soap and melting it down with water adding in a bit of glycerine. It makes a huge batch which makes it an even cheaper way to stretch a bar of soap. Brad has stopped using shaving cream and now uses the soap and hot water to work up a lather on his face before shaving. He was also using soap for an aftershave, but he is now cheating until he can find an alternative that he likes.
Dishwashing Soap
It goes on my hands just as much as it does the dishes, so unless I use gloves (which I don’t) I knew I had to change what I was using. I have been using a natural dishwashing soap from Costco (Kirkland Environmentally Friendly Dish Soap) that doesn’t have the bad ingredients. I suppose we could use this in all of our soap pumps even in the bathroom but we’ve just stuck with the bar soap for now.
Shampoo and Conditioner
This has been a BIG transition for us and I can honestly say that it took a few weeks before I was content with the change. I bought several condiment bottles from the Costco Business Center in Phoenix. For shampoo, I fill one nearly full of water with about 3 Tablespoons of baking soda. For conditioner, I fill another bottle nearly full with water and 3-4 Tablespoons of vinegar. Just rinse thoroughly in between steps and that’s all there is to it. My hair “acts” much better with this treatment and doesn’t get weighed down like it used to. The only thing I miss is the lack of scent, so I have been using a little rose water and spritzing my hair with it when I get out of the shower. Brad tried a sample of a more expensive lavender scented shampoo and conditioner found at Sprouts, but he said the expense wasn’t worth it.
I have to tell you that this was the hardest thing for me to give up. I was a lotion junkie but am now satisfied with my new lotion- coconut oil. Years ago, my sister mentioned coconut oil and how wonderful it was for your skin but I never really thought much about it. Now, I use it every time I get out of the shower. It is a solid under 76 degrees and over that it starts to melt. Just rub it in- for my face I just use a teeny tiny bit since it spreads so well. Remember, skin is your largest organ and if you wouldn’t eat it then you certainly don’t want your skin to.  This works great on the kids as well and it might work for the aftershave that Brad still needs to find an alternative too.
While put into perspective, changing our toiletries certainly is a minor issue but I have discovered some bigger truths while doing so.  I found yet one more example in my life of my tendency to just go along with the flow and neglect to examine what I am doing.    Even after I began to uncover the “truths” of what I was putting on our skin, I stubbornly turned my eyes from it and continued to indulge in what I knew was wrong.  It literally took months before I willingly acknowledged that something needed to change and even with that recognition, it took the prompting of my husband handing me a trash bag to get started.  So, now I need to ask myself “What other areas of my life need to be cleaned out?” Are there any areas in your life that could use a shovel and garbage bag to clean up?  It’s all a part of the journey and I am thankful to be on it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Past Season Of Regret and God's Grace

A Former Teacher and Daycare/Preschool Director Reflects On Her Mistakes

We all have areas in our past that we regret and while I am fully reconciled to God and my family, I felt it timely to share with you some of mine. 
After receiving a Bachelor's degree in Education, I jumped right into a career of full-time public school teaching. After five years of teaching I learned that the church we were attending in Flagstaff was evaluating whether or not to start of a preschool/ daycare program.

The Ark Daycare and Preschool
I found myself ready for a change, so I transitioned from the public sector into the private sector and was thrilled to be in the more "protected" environment of a church.  I was on the start-up committee and was highly instrumental in the decisions that were made for the creation of this preschool/ daycare. 

Zachary and Momma 1
Zachary and Momma sharing a special moment together.
I remember vividly one meeting with the pastors and a few ladies of the church where we discussed the mission behind this program.  All of us with the exception of one lady had the expectation that this preschool/ daycare would serve to meet the needs of families with two working parents.  It seemed like an ideal situation to have a safe and secure place to bring your child as early as 6 weeks of age.  We promised to use a Christian curriculum beginning with our infant room all the way to our preschool room.  

Sending the Wrong Message to Moms
The lady who opposed the idea was a mother of three children and she shared that it would be better to carry out a Mom's Day Out program that would give stay-at-home moms a little break once a week for a few hours.  She was concerned that by offering a traditional daycare program that we would be advocating moms in the workplace. 

I regretfully recall my response and the response of those around me.  I shared that we had done some polling and it was quite evident that there was a need for daycare/ preschool services in our community and despite the ideal of a mother staying home it was not realistic in our expensive community to do so.  With this we proceeded forward with no further dissension.  The preschool and daycare opened up in August 2001.

Zachary is Born and Everything Changes
About a year into my role as the Director of the preschool
Zachary and Daddy 1
Zachary and Daddy at a campground near Show Low, AZ.
and daycare I became pregnant with Zachary.  It was assumed that I was in the best position because he would be able to come to work with me and we would be close throughout the day. 

No one can prepare a childless young woman for the bond that develops between a mother and her child after birth.  All of my "so-called" ideals from before were thrown out the door.I brought Zachary into my office and kept him there with me the majority of the time while doing my work.  He was strapped onto me or on my lap as I worked throughout the day. 

Sending Mixed Messages
This was successful for awhile but then I had my evaluation with one of the pastors at the church. The evaluating pastor was a woman, which is unbiblical, who could not have children or chose not to have children. Even though I was running an "incredible program," she shared that there was one area that needed to be addressed: Zachary needed  to be in the infant room. She said that it sent mixed messages to prospective enrolling families when they saw that I didn't allow my own child to be in the infant room. 
Baby Zachary
Baby Zachary
My heart ached.Sure, I was the one in charge and was the one that hired and fired the staff for all of the rooms, so I should have complete peace over handing my son over.  I was just down the hall and could check in at any time.  Also, Brad  worked at the same church as the Youth and College Minster, so he could stop in as well. Why couldn't I just relax and count it as a blessing?  The reason is that it was contrary to the role that God designed me for. 
No More Pep Talks for Mothers
For years as a kindergarten teacher and now as a preschool/ daycare director I gave some of the greatest pep talks to parents while shuttling them out of their child's presence in the mornings.The moms would drop their child off for the first several times in tears and I would assure them that it was completely normal but that if they made it a quick separation that it would be best for both of them.I shared that their child would be fine within 15 minutes of their leaving and by most standards they were.The tears were gone and they were distracted by the activity and other children around them. 

But now as a mother I knew that there was a reason that all mothers have this ill feeling of neglect when leaving their child on a regular basis to pursue a career.No amount of explaining would appease me.  I needed to figure out a way to be with my Zachary.

Zachary and Momma 2
Momma holding Zachary
A New Vision
Not having this vision for our family until now threw our budget for a loop.  We crunched the numbers on paper and there was just no way that I could quit working.  We did manage to have me cut back to ¾ time and then I brought on an assistant director.  This helped but it didn't alleviate the problem.  When Zachary was 15 months old I had to have a tonsillectomy which kept me home for nearly three weeks to recover.  He was with me for the majority of the time despite the intense pain.  I just couldn't bear to be apart from him. 

During this time I felt such a peace over being with him full-time and struggled to see how I would manage to return to work.After many tears, Brad decided that we would try going to ½ time and see how we did.  Again it helped but the problem wasn't solved.Things got worse over time especially after walking past the infant room and seeing one of my staff members spanking a 15 month old.  

My emotions were unleashed.This was someone that I trusted and she had taken it upon herself to spank another person's child out of frustration!How often had this happened?What was I going to do?I shed several tears over this, but kept my professionalism and solved the matter. Even so, there was no way things could continue as they had been.

Zachary eating
Zachary eating
A New Start
Brad decided it was time for him to look for new employment in an area of the state that was more affordable.  I was eager to be home and had no qualms over picking up and moving to a new community. 

In December 2003, Brad accepted the position of Youth Pastor at a large church in Prescott. On Christmas Eve we squeezed into a small two-room duplex in Prescott Valley. To make ends meet on one income, we sold a motorhome and our second car and shared one vehicle between the two of us.Eating regularly at restaurants was now a thing of the past and clipping coupons was a new hobby.Despite the challenges we felt at peace in knowing that I was finally caring for Zachary at home as God had intended.  

No Regrets!
There isn't a day that goes by that I regret having made the decision to stop working outside the home in order to care for Zachary.My only regret is that it took us 18 months to make it happen. In fact, I honestly don't think there would be one mother that would ever say, "I wish that I had focused on my career more when the children were home."  It just doesn't happen. 

What we do hear from many moms though is how they wish that they had devoted themselves without any distractions to the raising of their children.These moms are now in a special place where they can encourage new moms to stay home with their children based on their experience of having done the opposite.

So, how do I feel about having promoted daycare and preschool programming? Saddened over that past failure to truly seek out the Lord's direction. Had I taken even a brief moment and ignored the polling of the world around me that screamed "We need childcare for working moms!"and sought out God, I would have seen so very clearly that the responsibility of raising children is not one that should be abrogated by parents and delegated to others.

Although only a new believer at the time, Brad has also admitted his lack of leadership in this area and apologized to me for it. Today we are solidly on the same page and we have made numerous sacrifices to make sure that I can focus my energies on the work God has called me to do at home.
I am so thankful for God's mercy and grace in my life. We all make mistakes and so long as we come to Him with a repentant heart He generously will pour out his forgiveness on us.Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Zachary turns 9
Zachary at age 9

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homeschooling in the Melton Home

What is homeschooling like for us?  With my past experiences as a public school teacher and virtual school administrator/teacher and now with my experience as a homeschool mom, I am often asked questions on homeschooling.  If I could sum it all up in one phrase I think I would point to Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  The reason we homeschool is to obey God’s mandate to raise our children in the faith. 

I can so easily get wrapped up in choosing whether to use washable or non-washable markers; glue sticks or glue bottles; reserving library books; stocking up on 15¢ notebooks; scheduling fieldtrips; scope and sequences; daily, weekly and yearly schedules; organizing materials in cubbies and a myriad of other things.  All of these things play a role in our schooling but if they become so time and energy consuming then I have missed the entire point.

Here’s a glimpse into a typical day for us:
7:00ish     Wake Up---We are late risers compared to most but that is one of the many privileges of homeschooling.  There’s no bus to catch and no lunches to pack, so we can have a leisurely morning.

8:00ish     Breakfast---I usually make up some eggs and turkey bacon or oatmeal.  If the price is right we’ll have some cereal, but it’s ridiculously expensive to get the non-GMO stuff right now.

Get ready--- Everyone has the responsibility to make their bed and get dressed for the day.  I usually help out Madison, but there are times when she dresses herself and I just sit back and delight in her willingness to take on that task.  Who knew that an inside out red shirt, pink dress, and blue pantaloons could be such a fashion statement?

 9:00ish    Morning Devotions and Catechism--- To try and keep God as our central focus, we begin our day around the school table where I lead our Bible study.  Right now we’re working on the Ten Commandments and I have some coloring sheets, a song to sing and some stories to teach with.  We also take this time to work through our catechism using the Truth and Grace Memory Books.  We used to do this in our evening family worship time but found that it was getting too lengthy.  We close with a prayer that God would bless and multiply our efforts throughout the day.

10:00ish School--- Here’s the time when we work through our individual Bible study, reading, writing, spelling, math, geography, science and history.  This current school year I have done some juggling with separate curriculums for Jonathan and Zachary, but as Jonathan develops into a strong reader we will be combining all of the subject material while making adjustments for their varying levels. 

I’m going to take a minute here to share one area that I was struggling with earlier this year in case anyone finds themselves in the same position.  As moms we watch our children grow and mature throughout the years and with homeschooling we begin their schooling with a strong role for ourselves.  We are the ones doing all of the reading and pointing to the workbook pages, leading the experiments and so on.  Trying to do this “Mama-driven” schooling with an 8, 6, and 3-year-old was a real challenge.  I went to a dear friend that has had more experience in schooling multiple children (in fact she has 7) and her words were so helpful to me.  She recognized that I was not letting Zachary take on responsibility in his schooling.  I changed things the following day and my life is sooooo much more manageable.  Zachary is pleased with the independence and opportunity to show his maturity while Jonathan and Madison appreciate my attention without long interruptions.   Every day I provide a written checklist/ schedule for Zachary that outlines his assignments for the day.  Because I am not sitting beside him and hearing him read through each of his texts I now have him write me a short letter at the end of his school day where he shares what he has learned.  I check over his work and we work together if he is struggling in an area.  I still sit with Jonathan for his reading and writing time to ensure that he is developing into a more solid reader, but there are many times that I can get him started on his math and leave him to work independently while I spend some time with Madison.  Because Madison is younger, her schooling is less formal.  I have some packets that I made up years ago for preschoolers and I use these with her to develop her fine motor skills and phonemic awareness.  We use scissors, trace pictures, make little booklets, read and sing songs.  I have trained Madison to work quietly on an activity close by me while it is school time and it has been a blessing.

Lunch---We are usually finished with our schooling at this point but there are times when we have been a bit sluggish and we have to carry on with school following lunch.  We’ll enjoy our lunch together (Daddy usually joins us) and then move onto the remainder of the day.  The rest of the day is far more flexible with a possible trip to the library, run to the grocery store, meeting with friends, cleaning the house, working outside in the yard, playing with our puppy, reading books individually or together, or resting while listening to the Bible on CD.

5:00ish Dinner---It is important to us that we eat dinner together every night as a family. We’ve chosen  not to participate in team sports or other activities for a variety of reasons and one of these is that a family with multiple children can be pulled apart almost every night of the week. In addition to our normal routine we also like to engage in Biblical hospitality. The Bible commands believers to engage in hospitality and it talks about how the early church went house to house during the week. We apply these principles by hosting other families in our home for dinner, fellowship, and worship at least once or twice a week.  It is such a delight to invite other families over to develop relationships, strengthen the body of Christ, and worship God.

6:00ish Take a walk or spend some time outdoors.  Even with the hot weather, we find ourselves drifting outside around this time of day.  The grass seems to be calling the children to run, the trees are asking to be climbed, and the trampoline wants to be jumped on.  This is a restful time of the evening being surrounded by God’s handiwork.   

My husband loves history and he sometimes reads a book to the family on various topics from Christopher Columbus and Lewis and Clark to Heroes of the Faith. He’ll find other books at the library to supplement the reading with pictures and he’ll even follow the progress of the people in the story with a wet erase marker on a laminated map or by opening an atlas. The boys really enjoy when Daddy does this.

7:00ish Family Worship--- This is led by Daddy.  There are times when we’ll all surround the patio table outside and sing songs, read the Bible, apply the passage to our lives, and pray together as a family.  Other times we’ll move inside and sit on the couches in the family room.  Regardless, this is a very important time in our day to regroup as a family and set our hearts on the Lord, which is why we do it every evening except for Sunday.

8:00ish Prepare for bed.

I mentioned at the beginning of this schedule that this was a typical day but as I reflect there are often days that don’t measure up to this timeline.  It isn’t rare for our time with friends to last until 10 or 11 at night, so we might find ourselves sleeping in the following morning.  Regardless of the circumstances all of the events take place daily.   We do take breaks throughout the year as needed and have decided to work through the summer months since moving to Buckeye.  Who really wants to be outside in this heat??? A fabulous perk to homeschooling is that we are not bound by a schedule that someone else created- we can choose to take a vacation day or week anytime we choose to.  This also helps in getting cheaper off-season rates!

My thoughts about Homeschooling
So, how do I feel about homeschooling?  Really feel?  I really count it a privilege to be called by God to instruct my children during the day.   Many women wonder if it is a burden and think that I would need a break from it all.  It’s not like a typical job where you are craving for the clock to strike 5:00 or for your vacation days to set in.  These are my own children and there is such an investment that I don’t feel a need to quit.  There are so many rewards in being able to see concepts “click” and watching as they develop their walk with the Lord.  There is nothing sweeter than watching a child read his Bible independently and spend time in prayer.

Are there times when I feel like I want to pull my hair out?  Sure.  We all have those moments.  Most of the time when I feel like this it is when I have forgotten that I have two boys.  Boys are different from girls. Period.
Homeschooling boys
Boys need to move around.  Asking one of my sons to sit in the same chair for thirty minutes without fidgeting would be torture.  I have come to recognize that a mini trampoline and big exercise ball are wonderful tools in a homeschool.  When my son gets antsy and the learning seems to be coming to a screeching halt, I have him go to the trampoline and jump one hundred times.  He comes back ready to learn again.  Even sitting on the exercise ball while schooling helps as he is able to use his lower body muscles to stabilize the ball while working with his upper body on the assignment I have given him.  We also change the scenery.  I like to give my children ownership of their schooling in areas that are not critical.  Having the choice to do reading on the couch, bed, table or even under a table seems like a big deal to my sons.  If that’s all it takes to provide motivation, I’ll keep doing it.

What are some of my favorite non-essentials of our schooling?  Fieldtrips.  I love fieldtrips.  We’ve had opportunities to tour a fire station, visit the zoo, visit the Botanical Gardens, go for hikes, see a printing press, tour a city sanitation/ recycling department, play at area parks with friends.  I have a long list of fieldtrips which I hope to get scheduled soon.  Some things we do with our own family and others we invite friends to join us.  We are hoping to start more mission-minded fieldtrips such as serving in the local foodbank to fill food boxes or to help out at a women’s shelter sorting clothing.  Some of the other families in our church also take their older children out evangelizing once a month. These opportunities to be in the world as a family are priceless.  We can share our faith together and hold one another up.

So, what is homeschooling like for us?  It is a God-driven adventure that we undertake as a family every day.  There is no other application of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 that comes close to fulfilling the requirements as does homeschooling and there is no other form of education that provides such blessings!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shoes and Pantaloons- Lessons on Modesty

Today in America we have lost the concept of modesty. Nothing is kept hidden anymore. It doesn’t take much to be bombarded by bare shoulders, bare thighs and often nearly-bare chests and bottoms. (And that is just at the local junior high school.) Someone once said “I feel that if you’ve got it, you should flaunt it.” in reference to how her young daughter dressed. She has no problem in allowing her daughter to wear mini-skirts and tight fitting clothing. But why should she? She herself wears jeans that are so tight that nothing is left to the imagination.

And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. Proverbs 7:10 ESV
I have to wonder when Solomon wrote this proverb what the visual was of a woman dressed as a prostitute and how that might compare to the average American woman today.

My question is why? Why and when did this change take place? Why are we so desensitized to this? I reflect back on my own life and while I was brought up in a rather conservative Christian home I still chose to wear clothing that was not entirely modest. I readily admit that I wore clothing that I thought would make a statement or attract attention. How I wish I could go back and change those days. But we are all under the refining hand of God and our eyes are blind to His will at times in our lives.

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. I Timothy 2:9-10 ESV
As I have matured in my walk I have felt convicted over the years to wear clothing that is functional, feminine and modest. Some may have differing standards as to what types of clothing are “allowed” or “forbidden” which is perfectly fine. While I choose to rarely wear pants because I find skirts to be more feminine and modest, I completely understand that there are other women that may choose to wear pants. Looser fitting pants can be modest in my opinion but tight jeans just don’t fit in line with “respectable apparel”.

On the rare occasion that we venture into a mall with our children we are usually heard saying “shoes” several times. It’s our shortened way of saying “look down at your shoes- there’s something immodest that you should keep your eyes away from”. It works perfectly with everyone obediently looking down (even Daddy does this) until we pass by the area. I seriously doubt that my young boys would actually get a thrill out of viewing a scantily dressed woman nor do I believe that my little girl would care to imitate it in her own dress but we are going to do all that we can to protect their innocence.

Our little girl loves wearing dresses as do most little girls. It is only with time and the pressures of society that girls begin to complain and conform to the feminist and liberal agendas seeking to wear masculine and/or immodest apparel. I have heard it over and over again, when people see Madison that once she gets older she won’t have anything to do with dresses. How sad to think that she would willingly choose to cast off her femininity and modesty! Yet I am comforted in seeing a resurgence of young ladies that continue to hold fast to the standards that they were brought up with.

“A woman shall not wear a man's garment, nor shall a man put on a woman's cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 22:5 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Corinithians 6:19-20 ESV
Does a dress always constitute modesty? Not at all- there are dresses that are tight and short and the way a dress is worn can certainly cause some issues. For example, nearly every little girl I know loves to twirl around with their dresses high at their sides. It’s just part of girlhood. The only problem is that the faster they turn the higher the dress goes. Then there are the gymnast girls that tumble around or climb up playground equipment with no care in the world. Unfortunately, we live in a sick world where some people get their thrills by seeing private areas of even the youngest of girls. What’s a girl to do? It’s so simple but often neglected nowadays. Make up a few pairs of pantaloons. Their full shape lends itself to modesty and the lacey bottoms make a little girl smile.

Here are some directions and photos for the pantaloons that I make. I realize that there are patterns out there but I am a basic sewer and this makes it simpler for me. I can put together a pair of pantaloons in about an hour. The best part is that these are super cheap to make if you use old sheets. The only thing left to buy is a bit of elastic and lace for frills. If you happen to have a friend with a serger (hint-hint to all my friends) then try and have a pantaloon making party- it’ll go even faster and you’ll have a great time doing it.  Happy sewing!

Pantaloon Directions
Step 1: Take a pair of pants that fit your daughter.  Fold in half and use as a template to cut out of the sheet adding at least 2 inches all the way around.  Make two panels.
Step 2:  Fold over the ends so there will be minimal fraying and sew.
Step 3: Measure lace to match up with the end of the pant leg.  Sew onto the bottoms on both panels.
Step 4: Fold over leg panel wrong side out and sew from the end up to the seat and stop there.  Do this on both legs.
Step 5: Turn one panel right side out leaving the remaining one wrong side out.  Insert the right side out one into the wrong side out panel.  Just stuff it in there and then straighten it out so the pieces match up in length.
Step 6: Sew up the seat up to the waist being sure to go through both panels.
Step 7: Pull the inserted panel out and now you have a pair of pants ready for trimming.
Step 8:  Measure your daughter's waist and ankles with elastic and cut allowing about an extra inch.
Step 9: Make a simple casing for the elastic around the waist and ankles.  Insert elastic through using a safety pin for help.
Step 10: Dress up your little girl and let her dance, dance, dance!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your Place or Our Place?

What comes to mind when you hear the word hospitality? Some may think of hotel staff that provides a warm greeting to the new arrivals that are ready to check in. Others may think of restaurant staff that is eager to seat you at a table so you can order food. But what about hospitality in our homes and churches?

I was beginning to think that it had all but disappeared until this past year. We’ve attended several churches over the past 15 years and while we’ve invited others into our home for food and fellowship it was only on rare occasions that it was reciprocated. This left us feeling isolated and longing for true friendships that went beyond the “’How are you?’ ‘I’m fine’” stage.

How is it that we can be in churches with 300+ people and yet we don’t really know one another? I honestly believe it is because we have put church into this little box and we don’t allow it to spill over into other areas. Do you remember the little fingerplay:
“Here is the church.” (hands clasped together with fingers tucked inside.)
“Here is the steeple.” (forefingers taken out and put up.)
“Open the door and see all the people.” (invert hands and wiggle fingers to represent the people.)

That little rhyme has it all mixed up. The church is not simply the structure that people go to but instead it is the believers that come together. The fingerplay would be better if it said: “Here is the building. Here is the steeple. Open the door and see all the church.” For this reason we have tried to be more deliberate in our speech when we are talking to our children and instead of saying “We’re going to church.” We say “We’re going to be with the church.” Of course, it’s not a big deal to mix up the phrases but it is important that we always remember what the church is.

Over this past year we have been in and out of the homes of so many members of the church (both from our local church body and others) and have had the privilege of hosting many in our home as well. There are so many joys to be had over a simple dinner, games and sharing family worship with others. It takes us beyond the rote conversations and digs deeper where relationships begin to grow. We were once feeling starved for friendships and now we are so blessed that we couldn’t even imagine moving away from Phoenix (despite my longing for green).

There are many excuses that we make to not have others over and I thought that I would take a moment to address some of them.
• The number one excuse is simply a lack of intention. When you have that conversation on Sunday with the person sharing the pew with your family and they say “We should get together sometime” stop right there and make plans for that current week to actually get together. So often we say that we want to see someone but week after week goes by and then we simply stop saying it because it’s a bit embarrassing to say it once more. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
• We are simply too busy. It’s a common fact that Americans are busy and we are great about overloading our schedules with sport practices and games, music rehearsals and concerts, and church programming. If we say that we are too busy then it is time to do something about that and begin eliminating activities that draw us away from our home. Carve out at least one night a week that is open for having people over.
• We don’t have the space or a home of our own. I can absolutely sympathize with this statement and can share what we have done to overcome. Don’t feel limited to the walls where you reside to invite people into. Arrange for dinner at a local park or consider meeting at a cheap restaurant. We have also been known to bring all of the ingredients for dinner over to a friend’s house and prepare it there.
• Funds are tight and we can barely feed our family let alone feeding someone else’s every week. Don’t worry- no one seems to have money these days and beans and rice go a long way. Here’s one of our favorite meals that stretches the food easily:
Chipotle Chicken with Beans and Rice
 Cook dried pinto beans in a pressure cooker for 25 minutes and place in a bowl.
 Cook brown rice for 30 minutes on stovetop.
 Toss in four or five boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (you can usually get these on sale for $0.99/lb) into pressure cooker.
 Puree a can of chipotle peppers and spoon in about a third of it onto the chicken. (Freeze the rest for future vistors.)
 Slice up an onion and throw that on top of the chicken along with some cumin and fresh garlic and a cup of broth.
 Pressure cook for 15 minutes and viola your chicken is ready to be shredded up with a fork.
 Tear up some lettuce and have everyone pile the beans, rice and chicken on top along with tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, cheese and avocado (on sale typically for $0.25 each).
We rarely serve a dessert (sometimes people who are coming over offer to bring one) and always have water with our meals, so there is no additional expense.
• No one has ever invited us over. Start a new trend in your church and talk to your pastor about the importance of hospitality. Maybe you can get him on board and the church can get some motivation straight from the pulpit!
• I wouldn’t know what to do with visitors. This is the fun part!  Have fun! Learn a new game. We love playing card games but there are tons of great games to be discovered. Visit Goodwill (my favorite store) and pick up a game super cheap.
o Do Family Worship together. We make it a goal to share our family worship with anyone that comes over in the evening. We stick to the same routine but just add them in so they can choose a favorite song and pray with us.
o Do an activity together. The past couple of years I have coordinated a Gingerbread decorating event for friends. The only problem is I don’t have a home of my own to host this in. So what’s to be done? I asked a dear friend if we could use her home and she was thrilled to help out with this. Now, several parents and their children get together with ooey gooey icing and candy treats to create masterpieces while making a joyful noise in singing.

Showing hospitality isn’t just a matter of courtesies that we ought to extend to one another but it is something that God specifically chose to show us in His Word. For instance in 1 Peter 4:9 we are told “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” In the Bible hospitality is often in the form of proving lodging for the traveling teachers. This need is still here and I am thankful for the times when Brad has had to travel distances to teach that made it where he couldn’t make it back to our home that night and someone in the congregation offered him a place to stay. These overnight visits provided him a respite before starting the journey back home and at the same time he has gained friendships with the host families. Even if you are unable to host someone for an entire night, God still directs “Let brotherly love continue.” Hebrews 13:1. What better way to show brotherly love than to extend hospitality.

This is the perfect time for launching out in hospitality. Look around your church and see if there is a widow or older couple that may enjoy having dinner with you. Could there be a new young family in your church that just moved across the country and has no extended family close by? You could be an “adopted” aunt, uncle or even grandparent! Consider inviting a church leader and his family over for fellowship. Remember, they need friends too. Start filling in your calendar and you will soon see your heart filling with brotherly (and sisterly) love!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making Homemade Tortillas

We had a super time making our own tortillas when studying about Mexico. I can't tell which were the cheesiest- the tortillas or the smiles on Jonathan and Madison!

On a side note- while it was a fun project, I think I am content to allow Costco to keep providing me with the uncooked tortilla dough. These are hard to roll thin.

How to Get Boys to Use Soap

I finally discovered the best way to get my boys to use soap. Give them a knife! Okay, my boys really aren't that repulsed at the thought of being clean but they definitely had a great time carving soap. We've been studying Canada and one of our projects was to carve as the Inuit did. Here's some pictures of our polar bears.