Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Home is Not a Place

When I was just a little girl, I longed for nothing more than to put down roots in the same small southern town where my family has lived for generations.

Love for that place and it's quiet, predictable ways convinced me there was no where on earth, save there, for me. Besides, every person I cared anything about dwelled between it's borders. I couldn't for the life of me think of a reason any sane individual would want to leave.

I assumed that safety and happiness were only found in the familiar surroundings and beloved faces of that sleepy little spot of earth. 

But as I grew so did the dreams God planted in me. Sooner than I would have guessed and earlier than Mama preferred, He began to call me out from that haven. One small step outside it's protective borders, and then another. Until I found my feet wandering all over God's green earth, and sometimes farther. 

And although I still adore that blessed little town and hail it as the dearest to my heart, I have discovered a truth that lets me leave securely: 

Home is where He is.  

Home is where He sends us. Where He keeps us. Home is where He calls us us. And sometimes where He drags us. Home is in the city and in the country. In the lush of South Alabama and the brown of New Mexico too. 

Dear ones, there is no place where God is not. We fool ourselves and idolize places when we believe that happiness lies only there, in that particular spot. Scripture would preach us another sermon. There is no place sweeter than His presence, and His presence is not tethered to a location.

Home is living fully right where He plants us. Embracing whatever with whomever He surrounds us. Home is simply being with Him. 

So let's be people who love where we're from and stay there if God so desires. For those He has called out, may we go back often and keep a sacred spot in our souls for where we started. 

But no matter where we find ourselves, may our deepest roots be in Him and not the dirt of this earth. Because home is not a place, it's a Person.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bracelet Giveaway

While at the Allume conference, I was captured by a sponsor table laden with eye catching ornaments and jewelry.

After looking into the non profit organization selling them, I was even more motivated to buy! Ornaments for Orphans gives men and women in impoverished countries the opportunity to work making beautiful handmade items. This offers them the chance to earn an income and make rent, feed their families, and send their children to school. 

Ornaments for Orphans then sells the pretties, using the proceeds to enrich the lives of vulnerable children who are at risk of starvation, trafficking, abuse, and abandonment. It's win win, ya'll! 

I spent every dime of shopping money I took to the conference at the Ornaments for Orphans table. Convicted that I should share the jewelry wealth, it seemed appropriate to give a piece away on the blog. I let the Just Beth Facebook followers decide which one. (You should "like" it...I give stuff away.) Ready to see what you chose? Drumroll please...

You did well. It's gorgeous. I might have tried it on just to see how it looks...

Are my arms really that hairy??

Are you ready to win it?

Just add your name to my Follow by Email subscription list, then comment below telling me you did. Easy peasy.

If you already follow by email, share this post on Facebook and leave a comment below that you did! You'll be entered to win, too.

The winner will be chosen Wednesday at 12:00 pm EST. I hope you win! 

*Disclaimer! Ornaments4Orphans did not solicit this post. I just like buying a giving their stuff away. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Quirky Side

I am tremendously excited to be attending the Allume conference next weekend! 

The women who attend fly in from all over the U.S. and Canada. Most are stepping out on a limb and sharing hotel rooms with other gals sight unseen. As in, never met face to face. Although you can be sure we've all been stalking each other on Facebook, Twitter and blog pages. 

So far my roomies seem pretty normal. Most people do until you get to know them. Since the weekend is short and we'll be on the fast track to friendship what with sharing a potty and all, I figured we should just cut through the superficial "get to know you" stuff and air our peculiarities on the front end.

 In an effort to dispel any myths about my degree of normal-ness I give you
10 Things You Could Care Less to Know About Me. 
Be blessed. 

#1) I have never not burned the bread for dinner. Toast...french loaf...tender yeast rolls. It doesn't matter. I burn buns. Every. Single. Time. My dear husband has begun to request crackers and untoasted loaf bread. Too bad he didn't get a real wife.

#2) I have been known to develop relationships with fictional book characters. More than once while reading Redeeming Love, I caught myself praying for Angel. And Hadassah in the Mark of the Lion....I considered naming my first born after her. But then he was a boy, so we went with Titus instead.  

#3) My favorite shoes are a pair of navy loafer Crocs. Three weeks after I got them, I left them on the back steps to dry after working in the yard. Enter naughty puppy. Now my Crocs look like this:

I still wear them anyway. Nearly every day. All over town. And often to church.

#4) Decisions. Oh the angst of decisions. Is there anything I hate worse than decisions? Menus at restaurants stress me out. Picking out a new purse? Stress. Beach towel? Stress. Please do not EVER ask me to choose where to eat. I will not divulge the amount of time I have spent trying to decide what to wear to this conference. Like it even matters!?

#5) In my quest for frugal living, I've attempted to make nearly every store bought item we like to eat from scratch:

  • Homemade Butterfinger bars. (Don't waste your time.)
  • Homemade granola bars. (Easy and totally worth it.)
  • Homemade Cheezits. (So much work I dared my family to eat more than two at a time. No repeat performance.) 
  • Homemade flavored coffee creamer. (Tasteless disappointment.)
  • Homemade baby food. (Simple and cost effective.)
  • Homemade Oreos. (Actually I have the recipe but never followed through.)
In the end, my motto is "Don't they sell that?" 

#6) I like to eat dessert after the kids go to bed. Even if I offer something sweet to the rest of the fam at dinner, I wait until 8:30 pm to eat my share. And if there's not a sweet treat in the house, I indulge in a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. I see it as my reward for surviving another day. 

#7) I sleep with a box fan running on high every night. Even in the dead of winter. It's not about temperature control. It's about noise reduction. This chick is a super light sleeper and without some white noise I hear every dern thing. I usually travel with my beloved sleep aid. But for this particular conference, I'll just be packing the benedryl. Don't throw stones. You'll like me more if I sleep.

#8) Until a few months ago this whole writing dream was a closely guarded secret. I've been a boarder line nervous wreck over letting people in on it. Just ask my husband.

#9) I love the sound of my children playing...OUTSIDE. Their darling little voices quickly escalate in this no carpet house. It doesn't take many decibels to push my limits. So for the love of mama's ears, go play in the great out-of-doors! 

#10) I sleep in the nude. KIDDING! I'm a pajama pants and t-shirt girl. It's late and I couldn't think of anything else.  

There you have it ladies. Looking forward to next weekend!

*How about the rest of you? Tell us one of your quirks...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lord, This Is What I'm Giving You Today.

Lord, I tend to want to hold on. To hoard them near myself for safe keeping. But it's an illusion. The only safe place for anything that matters is in your hands. So this is what I'm giving you today;

My mind - May it constantly dwell on what is true and right. Help me to train it toward constant gratitude. Protect it from the enemy who wants to poison it with subtle lies and faithless thoughts.

My heart - May it beat for you, loving you first and best. Let it treasure what your treasure, and make it broken over what breaks yours. Knowing the mouth speaks of what fills the heart, pour it full of you. 

My husband - May he want you more than anything else on this earth and may his satisfaction come solely from you. Let him lead with humble confidence, knowing you are his King. Help me to remember you have given him a great weight of responsibility, and to respect him with this is mind.

My children - May they be soft to the gospel and eager to walk in your ways. Give me the wisdom to train them in the way they should go. I don't want to embitter them, Lord, so let my parenting be done in love. They are yours, therefore help me to shoot them out straight and strong in you when the time comes. Remind me to trust that they are in your constant care.

My dreams - May they find their root in you. Forbid that I should chase what would draw me away from you. Rather, cultivate that which will take me to the depths of you. You alone know all that churns in this heart. I trust that what you purpose will come to pass, and that no plan of yours can be thwarted. Help me believe that you love me like a father, and that you care deeply about the desires of my heart. 

My Future - May I rest in the fact that my times are in your hands. Nothing will happen that you have not ordained or allowed. Help me remember that I need not fear the future, because you promise to be there with me. Through mountain high and valley low. My life is yours, do with it as you please.

What do you need to give God today?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dear Minivan Mama

I saw you today in a minivan not very different from mine. 

You were waiting for traffic to clear so you could turn left into the parking lot I was leaving. Looking straight ahead into your van, I had the perfect view of the exchange that was taking place. 

That thing where you look in the rear view mirror to yell talk sternly to the kids in the back. You were doing it. And then the tell-tell forehead into the hand. I didn't need to hear the words to imagine what was going on:

Image via newsbeatsocial
Mom, she's touching me!

Mom, he's looking out my window!

Mom, I need to make an animal habitat for school. By tomorrow!

You had the look of weary exasperation. I recognized it because I was wearing it myself. Just 5 minutes before I had been that parent who made true on the threat and pulled over because the kids were fighting. Again. Over a green mardi gras necklace.

As I watched you clutch the steering wheel and take deep breaths, I wondered if you were thinking what I was thinking. 

Am I going to live through raising these children? If so, are they? 

Why do I get so frustrated? Shouldn't I have more control and energy for this?

What I'm doing isn't working. Is it my fault they aren't better behaved, more respectful, kinder kids?

There we were. Two mama's in minivans. Struggling with this mess of a thing called motherhood. 

That half a minute glimpse into your van put a tiny smile on my face, though. I saw myself in your struggle and felt a little less alone and a little less crazy. I wanted to hug you and say "Solidarity, sister! I'm on your team." It was instant camaraderie and I longed to invite you to coffee so we could lament together. Because this thing is hard, and we need each other. 

You finally got the clear and turned left, passing right by my van. For a brief second our eyes locked and something passed between us. 

It felt a lot like understanding. And it was wonderful. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What My Foster Son Taught Me About Hospitality

When He first came to us, the house was a mess and dinner wasn’t ready. We didn't have much time to roll out the welcome mat, and only Anna and I were here to greet him. But of all the guests I’ve had in my house, this little one has taught me the most about offering our home to others.

He’s taught me that the mess doesn’t matter. He could care less if the toys are put away and the fact that I haven’t deep cleaned the fridge in months doesn’t bother him in the least. He is at home here because we want him here, not because the house is tidy and well kept. Laughing and playing and loving happen despite the disorder around us. And when the focus is on the people in the house, rather than the looks of the house, magical things happen.

He’s taught me that fancy isn’t needed. Seasonal decor and perfectly kept furnishings are not necessary for him to be blessed by his time here. In fact, his crib is borrowed and the toys he enjoys have been well loved on before. The table where he dines has scratches and nicks, but the company he keeps while he eats loves the stew out of him. Plain things don’t hinder the show of affection. We offer what we have, mainly ourselves, and that is enough for him.

He’s taught me that letting go of the ideal is important. Ideally, he would have his own room. Ideally we would have extra space to store the wall to wall baby gear. Ideally we would have had everything in order before he came to us. But if we had allowed what was “ideal” to rule the day when we were deciding about inviting him in, we probably wouldn't have taken him. But we would have missed out on the supreme blessing of loving and being loved by him. 

He’s taught me that showing true hospitality is worth the effort. Having him here definitely requires more work. Everyone in our family has had to pitch in and give of themselves to make this thing happen. There is more to clean, more to cook, more work to do! But in that work a marvelous process is taking place; a little boy is finding his place in a family. And that family is discovering that life isn't solely about taking care of their own. 

He's taught me that when God asks us to share, He gives us everything we need to do it.  When we first learned that he would be joining us we had 36 hours to prepare, and exactly one thing ready for him; a crib. Within 6 hours, God delivered mounds of baby gear and clothes. And in the last 6 months, He's kept up a steady stream of deliveries. Through faithful friends and perfect strangers, God has provided what is needed to care for this little one. He's the best dressed and most fully equipped little darling in the area!

One little fellow has taught my family loads about inviting others into our home. We’ve learned that it’s not so about how the house looks or what's on the menu. Because of him, we now understand that offering ourselves and sharing what we have is the essence of true hospitality.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hospitality 101: 7 Ways to Stress Less When Inviting People Over

I have always enjoyed having people in my home.
Some dear friends who were often in our home when we lived in New Mexico. Sitting on "the couch" no less!
(Don't kill me, Meg)

From my teeny collage apartment to our first house, my living space is constantly a gathering place for friends. Barbecues, bridal showers, casual get-togethers and large crowd shindigs, we've had it all under our roof at one time or another. These days having 30 people in our home is often a weekly occurrence! 

Along the way I've learned a few things about how to stress less and enjoy the art of showing hospitality more. 

1. Get Organized - At least a week before an event, I make a plan. I write out four lists: names of those coming, the menu, a grocery list based on the menu, and everything I want to do to prepare. Sometimes these lists are no big deal, like when we're only having one other family over for dinner. But if five or six families are coming, I dare you to get between me and my lists!!

2. Start Early - After I make the lists, I determine what can be done in advance. I try to have as little as possible to do the day of the get together.  This means making the dessert, fixing the tea, even chopping salad fixings beforehand. There is always more to do than I anticipated the day of, and having some margin in the day leaves room for the inevitable "life" that happens. 

3. Keep It Simple - It only took a few elaborate menus to realize that trying to get and keep multiple foods hot at the same time was a delicate balance. One that is impossible with toddlers underfoot! I now go for a very simple menu; a main dish, one side or salad, a bread and a dessert. Doing a few foods well beats having most of the meal being either burned or cold.

4. Share The Love - Early on I made a major mistake when having people over. I would insist that I do all the cooking for the meal. I didn't want to burden those I was trying to bless! But over time I have discovered that most people enjoy contributing in some way. Many feel downright awkward arriving empty handed. These days, if others offer to bring something, I let them! 

5. Let Them Help - One of the most wonderful things about having people in my home is inviting them to be part of our family for the time they are here. One of the best ways to do that is by allowing them to help finish meal preparations once they arrive. Ask them to put ice in glasses, fill a tray with bread, or set out plates and silverware. They will be glad for a chance to participate rather than simply observe. 

6. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - Take a deep breath and say it with me, "Everything I want to get done will not get done." If you stress about things that aren't important, like the fact that you didn't have time to mop or didn't set out all your fall decor, you will only succeed at working yourself into a state. (Please tell me you know what I'm talking about here...or am I the only one?) And when you get bent out of shape, that pleasant and inviting atmosphere you want to offer goes out the window. Why? Because hospitality is much more about the state of the people in the house, than the house. 

7. Don't Forget Your Family - More than once I have been guilty of being so focused on preparing to have people over, that I leave my family on the back burner. Worse, I can be short tempered and have unrealistic expectations of little ones who are still in the process of learning. Offer gracious hospitality to your friends, but don't run your family off in the process. 

There you go dear ones. Now go call a family you haven't seen in a while and invite them over for a meal next weekend! 

*I love hearing from you! What other good advice do you have about offering hospitality?