Just Open The Door: a book review

Hospitality can sound like a big and scary word. Images of appetizers, a table set with matching cloth napkins, a fancy meal plan, and a freshly cleaned (like every square inch) house.  Jen Schmidt breaks apart our preconceived notions on what hospitality is, and deals with each of our personal roadblocks to welcoming people in. In her book, Just Open the Door, Jen deals with topics such as available space, financial limitations, getting to know neighbors, hospitality on the sports field, the impact of one person trickling down to others, creating a culture of hospitality for your children, and spontaneous vs. planned hospitality (the benefits of both).

I loved this book! I had first heard about it from author and blogger, Crystal Paine, who had read the book, implemented the lifestyle/heart changes, and was so glad she did.  In her post, she shares that there is no one specific way to open your ‘door’.  It may involve inviting a single person for coffee, a group over for dinner, new people and old friends, play-dates for kids, and hosting birthday parties.

As you can tell from my picture, there were many pages I earmarked as ones I wanted to come back to later. Hospitality basically means welcoming people in as they are, and meeting them where they are at. For me, sometimes that even means meeting them at their house. As any mom of littles can attest to, sometimes it’s just easier to have the play-date at your house so you don’t have to pack everyone up to go visit someone.

Ideas mentioned in the book included:

  • having an extra blanket and snacks at sports practice
  • picnic at a park
  • neighborhood outdoor movie night
  • spontaneous ice cream sundae bar (bring a topping to share)
  • keeping extra pizzas in the freezer for impromptu guests
  • inviting a new person over for coffee
  • having a couch available for your kids’ friends to join your family for the weekend
  • using candles and favorite foods to welcome your own family in for supper (making them feel like special guests)
  • “Come as you are” nights where your friends come in their gym clothes or pj’s for snacks.
  • Walking alongside people in grief (meals, notes sent months later when everyone else has moved on except those who actually experienced the loss)

I received this book as part of the blogger review program with B&H Publishing Group/Lifeway . I was very thankful for the opportunity to review this book as it met all my expectations and will go on my recommended read list!

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Longing for another home….

I have a list of characteristics on my “In my next home” list. Do you make those lists too? In my next home, I want room for a play room, space for chickens, space so the geckos don’t have to live in our room, room for a second dog to keep ours company, etc. The secret is in finding a balance between having goals, and being content in your place in life.

The dream gives you motivation to make the most of your season. But I have to remember that I still live in the present, that the dream is ‘not yet’.

When my dog goes crazy because of all the foot traffic on our street, or the neighbor kids ring the doorbell and leave, or I have to downsize the garden because I can’t keep hauling my littles to the community garden surrounded by busy roads, or I keep throwing away produce clippings instead of feeding my dream chickens, or I run out of space to keep the preschool materials organized, or I have to explain to my toddler that the people in the parked car right out side our front gate are making bad decisions, or our firewood is stolen……..then my dream calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now…..and how I live now will determine if I will be ready for the dream when it comes to pass. Or if I will look back with regrets at how I wished away the time.

It’s like waiting for this baby to come.   It takes forever!  The sickness, tiredness, emotions, and back pain make me feel like I will finish this marathon crawling the last 100 feet to cross the finish line.  I told my husband that I just wanted to be left alone so I could binge watch shows and eat ice cream for the next couple weeks…because I’m so weary.   That dream of holding our little one calls me with a fierceness.

But I live in the now……where toddlers still need to be raised, dishes washed, people invested in, and social events coordinated. And how I live now affects my life when that dream comes to pass. I don’t want to wish this time away nor have regrets.

Jesus is coming back! Each night I pray with earnestness for that to happen soon. As I see footage remembering 9/11, or hear weather reports for the hurricane hitting the coast line, or even just read the news…I long with a fierceness for Him to return. But I live in the now…where people still need to eat, be loved, encouraged, healed and given the good news of His return. He offers victory over bondage and sin today, and the promise of eternity with Him.

How I live now has an eternal impact. I don’t want to wish this time away.

Let your dream fuel your motivation to make the most of your current season. Do all you can to be faithful in the present moment, here and now….so when that moment comes you’ll have no regrets.  You can embrace that moment knowing you were faithful to complete all you were called to do in your present season.

Farewell Summer

Can you believe that summer is finishing and fall is beginning? It’s the transition stage where we still wear flip flops and paint our nails, yet we change our decor and dream of Pumpkin Spice everything (or at least I do!). August was spent trying to soak in as much summer as possible! My husband told me I needed to rest more, but I countered it with I would after summer ended. 🙂

Some of my friends are teachers, so we worked to squish in zoo trips, park dates, and lake trips before they headed back. At one point, we were making plans everyday so my daughter assumed that was the new normal, and started asking, “Where we going today, mama? Where we going tomorrow?” Needless to say, she’s had to adjust back to having “home days” too.

(our farewell trip to the spray park)

During August, my husband and I had the blessing of taking a weekend away while the littles stayed with grandparents. We read, talked, played board games, and (gasp!) slept in! It was some much needed time away to breathe, that probably won’t happen again for months to come. We specifically chose a farm place where we could enjoy the quiet time, but that also had state park hiking trails near by.

What I’ve loved about August:

~summer sunshine and time with friends at the zoo, spray park, etc.

~Garden produce!!!

~Watching my toddlers develop a love of reading, especially the two of them reading together. 🙂 Today, the oldest was retelling a familiar story to the younger and I was impressed with her recall of story details! It melts my heart to hear her reading/singing, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be” from Love you forever by Robert Munsch.

~Working more on Preschool as the days get cooler and summer activities slow down.

~Reading: I’m currently reading Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt, and loving it! One of the main points is how we make “hospitality” overtly complicated and think we need everything (house, meal, timing, activity, etc) just right to be able to have people over. And how people just want to feel welcomed….to your mess, your life, your blanket at the sports practice, your hotdog and potato chip picnic, etc. In her book, she shares how life changing simple invitations can be, which match her book tagline, “How One Invitation Can Change a Generation“.

~Watching: Nothing at the moment, but This is Us resumes shortly!

What are you enjoying about this transition from summer to fall? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Journeying with you,

Felicia

The Better Mom: A book review

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered a copy of “The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess” by Ruth Schwenk.  The title intrigued me and I respected many of the ladies who wrote endorsements in the book. Honestly, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did! 🙂

(Proof of all the pages I loved!)

This book isn’t a ‘how-to’ manual for being a mom or tricks on how to perfect our motherhood. Rather, it deals with our hearts and points us to the One who has power to make us a “better mom”.  The chapter titles were rather fitting!  They included “I miss my friends!”, “No one appreciates all that I do!”, “I need some alone time”, and “I have no idea what I’m doing!”.  I totally understand those feelings! 🙂

One of the sections I love in the book talked about what we feel we are missing out on when we focus on our kids.

“I need the reminder, so well stated by Andy Stanley (cited in book), ‘Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God might not be something you do, but someone you raise.’  At different times and in different ways, God has reminded me of what kind of ambition matters most. Our greatest ambition is not getting the next promotion, the next sale, or another paycheck. Our greatest ambition is raising up another generation of children to live for God’s glory and the good of the world. As moms, we are not just getting by. We are fulfilling God’s mission and purpose by shaping kids today for the sake of the world tomorrow. ……..What we are doing counts both outside the home and inside the home, but who we are becoming is just as important.” ~ Ruth Schwenk

It’s not just being a mom, it’s about contributing to society’s future by investing in it’s future members. It’s the calling given each of us personally by God.

I also loved the chapter I finished yesterday called “I want to make a difference”. We each have gifting/talents that it feels like we are wasting when we are busy with the mundane everyday details of life. I have many dreams including writing books or courses, that simply don’t fit into my dishes, diapers and toddler season. In this chapter, Ruth emphasized that there are seasons to life. The key phrase is “not yet”.  Dreams that don’t fit in this season, simply are “not yet”. God has missions for us to complete today…but they aren’t the only missions God will give us. He has future plans for us as we move into different seasons.

I’m thankful to Zondervan and Booklook Bloggers for letting me receive a complementary copy of “The Better Mom” for review purposes. As you can tell by my folded corners, there were many loved pages! This book will definitively go on my recommended list, and in my collection to loan out to others!

Finding a balance: appreciating the noise from within the quiet.

“There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:…

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4-8 (NIV)

This last weekend, we had the blessing of spending some time away while the babies were loved on by their grandparents. The main thing I was looking for this last weekend was “quiet”.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the noise of toddlers, a dog, cats, and city traffic/sirens, it’s just that it makes me appreciate the quiet even more.

I like noisy toys for this reason: when I’m working in the kitchen, I know where my kids are and what they are doing. When one of the kids, or the dog, or the cats isn’t here, my home feels incomplete. With all the noise, I can strangely rest. That being said, I have no interest in noisy ‘things’.  My family makes enough noise, without adding ringing clocks, music/tv background noise, etc. No thank you!

But the noise makes me appreciate the quiet, as much as the quiet makes me appreciate the noise. 

Solomon wrote that there was a ‘season’ for everything. The key is in appreciating the ebbs and flows and the rhythms of life, and in finding a balance. It becomes tiring to appreciate the noise, if I never have a moment of silence. And believe me, the more noise we add to our family, the more I treasure the sacred moments of silence during nap time!

How many other things in life require balance as well? If I always spoke my mind, then those around me may become deaf to my words. But if I never spoke, then I would miss the opportunity to speak words of truth and blessing. “a time to be silent and a time to speak”.

There is a time to hold on to memories or dreams, and there’s time to move on to the next step in the journey. There’s time to stand up for your beliefs, and time to wait in quiet prayer. There’s time to comfort others and time to rejoice with them. Time to discipline and time to act in mercy.

The key is in knowing which time is needed…now. I’m so thankful that the Creator who balances the earth on its axis, rotates it around the sun, makes the sun rise and set each day, and brings in each season in its proper time (though I’ll still complain when spring takes too long to arrive), knows everything I need for my own rhythm and seasons. I can trust Him to help me know when it’s time to speak or be silent, to be in the noise or in the quiet, to hold on to something or to let it go. And I can trust Him to hold….me…when the season becomes too hard.

What season are you in now, friend?

Journeying with you,

Felicia

A month of celebrations: July

I wanted to write a  monthly review last week, but I was eager to send out the book review of 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting.

Since I finished that one, I just started The Better Mom: Growing in Grace between Perfection and the Mess. 

Funny thing, it was a rough day the first day I opened this book so it seemed very fitting that this sentence was in the first chapter: “So what if being a mom who seriously wonders how she can handle the mess that is on her plate is exactly where God wants her to be?”  Well, sounds fitting!  I’m about chapters in and have not loved it as much as 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. but I definitely have earmarked some pages in it. Stay tuned for a future review.

July started off with supper and fireworks at my brother’s house for July 4th, then a quick trip with my mom and sister for my cousin’s bridal shower. Both were great times of conversation with family!

One of the big highlights of the month was our (hopefully) annual sibling reunion in a restored 100 plus year old farm house with plenty of space!  Living 7 hours away from each other hinders the amount of get-togethers we’d love to have, so we try to meet half-way to even up the driving. We love doing AirBNB’s because they are so economical and spacious!  And this one provided us with a playset and trampoline for the cousins. 🙂

We had amazing sunsets with frogs croaking in the background!  I posted a video on Instagram of the frog pond. We stayed up way too late each night after the kids were in bed, trying to soak up needed conversation and board games. And most of us agreed….it was simply way too short of time.

 

We try texting, calling and using Marco Polo videos, but nothing compares to living life together for the weekend, and seeing each other’s parenting adventures, joy’s and challenges. It’s interesting to observe the similarities and differences we have, though growing up in the same family. Equally interesting is discussing our personal perceptions of our childhood, and how that affects who we are now.

The other big highlight was my birthday which involved LOTS of food and family time.  My husband surprised me by taking the day off so we got free birthday coffee, food at Culvers, Chevy’s, Slim Chickens, and Ruby Tuesday’s.  Like I said…..lots of birthday food!  The best part was the time together as a family at our favorite geese pond, and time out with my husband that night.

 

( a dear friend surprised me!)

Much blessings to you! Hope that your July had at least one happy adventure!

Felicia

936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting (a book review)

When you start a new book, it’s a risky relationship. I hesitantly turn the first couple pages as I decide if this is my new best friend or if I’m going to hurry through it just to mark it off my list.  Well 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting is my new best, best, best friend!

Look at that!  See all the dog-eared pages?  (PS. why is it called dog-eared?) There were literally tons of quotes and thoughts I wanted to remember and be able to come back to.  As I read through the pages, I got so excited about this vision of intentional parenting and really…intentional living. Parts of it I read aloud to my husband or simply gave him my summary of it.

Eryn Lynum writes 42 mini chapters revolving around a life event that showed her an eternal principle. She discusses topics such as spending time in nature, dealing with anger, having a house filled with laughter, helping kiddos learn to entertain themselves, setting boundaries between work time and play time, being mindful of what our kids observe us holding the most (our phone, a book or their hand), investing in a child’s dreams/interests, building memories, and many other topics.

The premise of the book is that with each child we are (ideally) given 936 weeks from birth to age 18, and our question is: “How will we spend them?”  I say ‘ideally’ as time is never guaranteed to us.  Some may only have one penny or 237 with which to invest. The author was given a jar of 936 pennies at her son’s dedication, which started her journey of being intentional as she transferred a penny each week from the future jar to the ‘time spent’ jar.

I love her perspective at the beginning of the book.

“As I counted them out, I placed them into the new jar, and this is when it hit me-we had not lost those weeks. We had used them We were using them for the creation of something beautiful. These pennies, and the weeks they represent, were not being cast to the wind. They were being invested. And we wanted to invest them wisely.” (Counting Time, pg. 18)

I haven’t been on this parenting journey very long, so I have much to learn. I’m thankful for books like this one that give me vision for how it could be. This book gives me goals and dreams for how I want to intentionally invest each one of my pennies. Things like listening carefully to my children’s dreams and taking steps to help them pursue them, recognizing the beauty in the simple moments such as our “Poetry Tea Times”, setting down my adult tasks or goals to enter into their world, and being careful what I communicate through actions, what’s constantly in my hands, and through my words so they hear my love for them loud and clear.

How will you invest your 936 pennies?

I was given this book by Bethany House Publishing for review purposes as part of their blogger program. However, all of the opinions were completely mine.

All my friends are superheroes: the importance of being faithful today.

What if I told you I was friends with superheroes in real life?  They can’t shoot webs out of their fingers, nor do they wear red capes or battle aliens trying to take over our planet……though I’ve seen some children who strangely resemble aliens trying to take over our planet. No, my superheroes are a little more ‘normal’ looking.  They are the quiet unsung heroes who were just trying to survive and somehow did it marvelously.  And if I were to tell them that I have figured out their secret super hero identity, they would laugh it off and quickly list their personal faults.

They are the moms who managed to keep multiple children alive through the toddler tantrums and potty training years, and who are still smiling.

The friend who has four boys (3 running and climbing, and 1 baby), yet still manages to surprise me with flowers and chocolate for my birthday, and invite people over for supper.

The friend who welcomes and mothers four foster care children, pours out her life for them as if they had been hers since birth, and bravely raises them through the drama ridden preteen and teenage years.

The friend whose children receive complements from strangers at the zoo, because they treat the other children with such kindness.

The friend who tirelessly works to provide healthy food choices for her family, has has volunteered in the classroom/fieldtrips, and still has a heart for lifting the burdens of her neighbors.

The friend who graciously provides respite care for foster parents, dog sitting for people on vacation, and who is willing to help anyone out day or night.

The friend who raises a plethora of children, enough to fill her own sports team, yet her kiddos are know for their sweetness and obedience.

The friends who have spent years doing foster care or investing in area kids and teens through church ministry.

The friends who work full days, then come home and pick up a book, ball or start wrestling with their kiddos instead of picking up their phone or remote.

The friends who live with chronic or terminal illness/pain, yet still ask how you are doing.

They would all disagree, and probably point to someone else as the hero. But being a hero doesn’t mean you have some supernatural ability to go through tough things without being affected. Rather it’s continuing to choose what’s best, even when it’s hard. Simply put, it’s putting one foot in front of the other to keep walking even when the way is stormy.

It’s being faithful today.

Honestlyright now it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed by a number of situations. I feel too weary to keep walking (both figuratively and literally). But I’m trying to remember that I don’t have to handle everything in front of me yet.  I just have to be faithful…today.

One day, all of the today’s we were faithful in will fulfill all of the tomorrow’s  that overwhelmed us.

Today, let’s do two things.  First, look around and notice how many of your friends or coworkers are ‘super-heros’, and sent them a note/text to let them know you notice.   Finally, let’s just put one foot in front of the other and be faithful in our current situation. For you never know when you may be someone’s super-hero.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Mat. 6:34

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”  

1 Thess. 5:11

Pace yourself: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I often get too impatient and feel like this exact moment determines my overall success or failure as a human being. Because I didn’t work on “_________” project today, then ‘I will never finish it’. Or because the dishes aren’t done, and the floor is not swept, then I’m a ‘failure’ as a homemaker.  I tend to jump to dramatic conclusions, and have to take a moment to step back and reevaluate my perception.

Take our road trip home on Sunday, for example. My children don’t nap much in cars on long road trips. It makes no sense!  Take them to the grocery store or zoo, and they will nap the 5 min drive home. But take a 4 hour road trip during normal nap hours, and they will cry, sing, whine, ask for snacks, ask for books, whine, play with a toy, ask for snacks…….and maybe nap 20 min. Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay awake (because I want to nap) and keep them calm enough to not bother my husband (so he can drive safely).  It would be easy to think in that 4 hour moment, that life stinks, that nothing we are doing as parents is making any difference, or that we should never make a trip again.

If you throw in “Mega Meltdown Wednesday” (that’s what I’m going to call last Wednesday at our house with a 3 year old), then you especially feel that nothing you are doing is making a difference.  But then I would be forgetting all the progress like her helping little man with his shoes, making sure brother has enough food, cleaning up her toys for papa, and helping to clean the table after supper.

You can’t compare how much water is in the bucket compared to the ocean, but rather how much water is in the bucket compared to the water the bucket held before. 

 

Being prego, energy and stamina are two longed for friends that I hope return someday. Even after just climbing our stairs at home (albeit they are steep), I have to sit and rest a minute. It’s easy to see all that is lacking in homemaking, instead of all that has been accomplished that week.

I’m not sure how the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day’ came about, but it’s true. They didn’t just build Rome on Monday and move in on Tuesday. Rather each day they went out and laid another brick or poured another layer of concrete.

Remember one of my favorite phrases “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  If we don’t take that first bite, we’ll have just as many the next day. But if we keep taking a bite each day, or laying a brick each day, eventually we’ll reach our goal.

Masterpieces are painted one stroke at a time. 

One of the main lessons I learned as a teacher, is the importance of celebrating any progress no matter how small.  I (or the student) may not be who I want to be, but I’m not who I was.  Progress is made in the every day action of taking bites and laying bricks.

Let’s encourage each other when it seems overwhelming, when we come to drastic conclusions about our success/failure in a certain area, and when everything that is yet to be done clouds our vision of all that has been accomplished already.

Let’s lay another brick, eat another bite, teach another lesson. Let’s remember today is not the finish line, but just another step in the race.   Some chapters may be frustrating or overwhelming, but the book is not complete yet.

I’ll remind you if you remind me. 🙂

Remember the goal, hold on to your dream!

12 weeks. Just 12 more weeks. But honestly I’ve been counting down since I still had over 20 weeks to go. Today I’m sick again. My husband told me he understands if I don’t want any more, since pregnancy is so rough on me. But I would do it all over again……

Some goals are so valuable, that we press forward no matter the struggle.
I’m part of the lucky few who get to be sick all nine months, whose toddler gets accustomed to praying for “mama not be sick” and who has googled all the remedies. I don’t enjoy the pregnancy process……but I would do it all over again.
Some goals are worth any struggle.
My dear friends who foster parent, don’t do it because they love the hard conversations about birth families, the tears or anger the kids feel, or the stress of bringing someone new into their home.  Rather they see the potential to provide those children with a safe and loving home, to help them learn boundaries, morals, good decision making, responsibility, to succeed in school, etc.
Some goals are worth sacrifices.
Most teachers don’t work long hours because they love sharpening pencils, correcting papers, writing behavior plans, or typing up one more lesson.  They do it for that look in a child’s eye when they accomplish a personal goal, or for that squeal when kids get excited about a topic.
Some goals require you to wait for them.
The other night I told my husband that “I missed my chickens”. He looked at me funny, and said “you don’t have any chickens.”  I shared how I was tossing out bad lettuce in the trashcan earlier, and thinking if I just had my dream chickens all this old food wouldn’t have to go to waste. So I ‘missed my future chickens’……my dream that is yet to come.
Some goals may make you feel like they will never happen.
Remember my garden pictures? How all the bare dirt and scrawny plants made me discouraged, and wondering if they would grow?

 

Some goals feel like they will never happen, they require sacrifices, struggles, and waiting. But those are the goals that are worth it! They are worth waiting and struggling for!

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before him (Jesus) he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  He pressed forward no matter the struggle.  He decided his goal was worth any struggle, any sacrifice, any wait time, and that He would do whatever it took to accomplish it even if it looked hopeless. His goal was ….us. We were and are the joy set before Him.

May that give us courage and strength, to remember that Jesus pressed on to accomplish His goal in us! So we can likewise persevere in our goals to serve others.

Let’s press on with our most important goals.  Keeping our eyes on that target.  Reminding ourselves of what’s at stake, and what’s in store for us if we persevere.

Some goals are worth everything.

PS. What are some of your goals that you are working hard towards?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!