Saturday, February 24, 2024

Minimalism With Hospitality In Mind


I was listening to a podcast about minimalism. I am a loose minimalist at heart and something about organizing and purging and living on only what is immediately used and needed makes me all giddy inside. Frequently going through drawers, bins, and baskets and getting rid of unwanted or unnecessary items in my house is both necessary in a home with so many people (for order's sake) but also brings me joy. I like being able to look my home and know the exact articles contained in that area. Maybe it's me. I can be a bit weird in this way. It's my toxic trait, ha!

Back to the podcast. I'm listening and nodding my head in agreement and giving all the "amen's" when it hit me. I love the IDEA of minimalism, but practically, in my own home, it doesn't quite look the same as the newest minimalist documentary on Netflix. It's more of a foundation where I build off of as I layer on our family purpose and lifestyle.

I live in a house with six other people. Each with their own opinion and perspective on what is unwanted or unnecessary. Some tend to be more sentimental than others and some could care less about the "heart" behind an object. And since this house is not entirely mine I have to balance my desire to keep our belongings to a minimum.  I have to respect the rest of the people who live with me, while still trying to teach our kids the art of releasing "things" that no longer serve a purpose in this home. This alone could be a whole other blog post! But today I wanted to touch on another area that makes living minimally a little bit tricky.

We have an open door policy at our home. Our revolving door brings in friends, family, and kids of all ages. I never know how many people I will be feeding at dinner or who will be spending the night. Not only that, but we bring in kids from all walks of life through fostering (as infrequent as it may be). I hate hanging onto articles of clothing or random items just because "I might need it one day", but if you hang onto it because there might be a child that enters your home needing that jacket or pair of rain boots, or when that gathering of 30 extra people from the worship and tech team come for dinner and you need extra seating or cookware it changes things.

So I have a few things I try to keep in mind as I walk around my home for the 8th time in the month seeing if there is anything that needs to be re-homed.

1 - SPACE: I would like to have the rule of one jacket and one bag hanging on the hooks for each kid in our mudroom, but sometimes I allow an extra jacket (or four) to hang around because not only do my own kids tend to lose things, but we may have a visitor who comes to play (or live) who doesn't have one and if my kid only has one, then I am stuck secretly hoping it makes its way back to us or I'll have to go out and buy a new one. And ain't nobody got the resources to keep doing that. 

In fact, an extra pair of too small rain boots is located in our shed with the rest of our rain boots that actually fit us. They will stay there until I no longer feel the need to hang onto them.

If the item is out of the way, fits into the flow of the rest of the house and doesn't add to a sense of clutter, it stays.

2 - PRIORITY: I keep plastic utensils (mostly because my kids have accidentally thrown almost all of our real ones away over the years. We have about 5 forks left, ya'll. Three real plates and million knieves...) and paper plates and even plastic cups on hand when the masses arrive, like 20 teenagers for a Friendsgiving or Super Bowl Party or 30+ adults for a worship team gathering. But when we just have a friend or three over for a few hours or sleepover I hate creating that waste so we tend to need cups. LOTS of cups. I can't tell you how nice it would be if I could open the cabinet in the kitchen and see seven cups. Just seven cups in the cabinet?! The space. The freedom. I can take a nice deep breathe just thinking about it! But that just isn't going to work with what we have created our home to be. So extra cups we have. 

Towels (and pillows, blankets, toothbrushes...) are another thing. Keeping up with just seven towels would be so much easier that having to find space for, lets say, 10-15. But people need showers you know?! And so that is something I will rearrange my closets and make space for in order for it to work for people to come visit or live with us.

If I find myself needing something over and over again when people are here, it stays.

3 - ZONES: As my kids have gotten older I'm not gonna lie, I have enjoyed clearing our home of all the previous stages of life to make room for the current ones. We cannot simultaneously have space in the girls room for Polly Pockets AND Hoola Hoops and various other circus apparatuses. Or Superhero costumes AND street hockey gear with a side of filming equipment. Our home has had to transition with the seasons. That being said, we still frequent littles and need to have things for them on hand. So up in the attic I have a pack-n-play, a highchair that attaches to a kitchen chair and a johnny-jump-up. Small, compatible items that give us a big bang for our buck. I also have a little bin that we use as a coffee table in our spare bedroom that houses sippy cups, baby blankets, a few pull-ups, toddler utensils and board books. Then under our stairs, in an area we call the "secret hideout", is our "playroom" with some drawers full of superhero figures and houses, nerf guns, cars, trains, tracks and magnet tiles.

If these things can stay out of the way and I don't have to keep moving them around to do life with our growing teenagers, but they are easily accessible and ready for sticky little hands to enjoy if the need arises, it stays.

These are the three things I try to weigh my purging urges through. If I lived in a home all by myself I would own one towel, a single set of dishes and utensils, and not much else. But I don't live by myself and I am so grateful for the atmosphere God has created in our home to be a safe place for so many. So I'm gonna keep hanging on to some extra just so you know there is a place for you here. You were thought of before you even arrived.

Monday, February 12, 2024

A Search For Happiness

 

I found it a bit ironic that these two books are the ones I grabbed from my stash to read next. I usually have two going at a time. One I read after my morning quiet time that is typically more heady or soul-sifting and then one leisure read while I settle down for the night.

I'm going to be completely honest. I HATE giving bad reviews, but this book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project was not my favorite at all. In fact, the last 1/3 of the book became a skim-read as I just needed to get through it. I'm not sure if it is because of the fact that it was coupled with this other book I was reading or not, but I found it hard to reconcile a focus of finding this self-gratifying illusion of happiness. The whole preface of the book was to break the year into month-long resolutions to hopefully find more overall happiness. It was an interesting experiment and you can see the things that filled the author and the things that drained her. But with each new month's goals she would say the things that would "boost" happiness or not. But that is the whole thing about happiness. It is fleeting and circumstantial and often doesn't last from one moment to the next. Or from one experience too the next. It isn't rooted in anything else but feelings and self. And that is literally what our lives naturally gravitate toward anyway. BUT, the books purpose was satisfied through the documentation of her experiment so it did what the author set out to do. After it was all said and done she said she did feel happier after that year and I feel like her biggest contribution to her own happiness was learning self-control. The one take-away I had was the reminder to live a present life and try to settle into those little things that do bring happiness and joy.

On the other hand,  Jen Othman's, Enough About Me was a cry for us to wake up to the selfish culture we find ourselves currently settling into and building homes in. A call for us to see the lies that we are enough and that we can write our own destinies. We are training our emotional pallets to "eat a steady diet of the praise of others." But the truth is, "The truth of the gospel is meant to transform us. And if it does not, then we do not really believe. The gospel has something to say about how we spend our time, where we spend our money, the goals we pursue, the careers we seek, the hobbies we enjoy the food we eat-everything. The gospel says we are not our own."

"We must be intentional about where our hearts wander, because a wandering heart has disordered loves.  It naturally gravitates toward what is seen, what is instant what is gratifying right now." And "it seems that one area of self-control in my life leads to further self-control in the other areas. And when I go out-of-bounds in one place, I go out-of-bounds elsewhere."

Bonhoeffer said: "Discipleship therefore means a...funeral of our own independence." And this is not a popular message. But man is it something worth fighting for!

One more quote from the book, but actually a quote from D.A.Carson says:

"People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."       Ouch!

This was an excellent book to recalibrate us and help us look up. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Guatemala 2024


With Josh being over missions at our church he takes many trips to visit and serve with our global partners all over the world. This most recent trip to Guatemala was supposed to happen in the fall, but with the political unrest they had to reschedule. Jude was able to go with him. It was his first time out of the country and even on an airplane (outside of my belly or his infant carseat at least). Josh said he did AMAZING! Josh's brother Jared, and his daughter, Hannah (Jude's age), got to go with the team too so that was really special. 

They held some women's conferences, had some fun things for the kids in the villages, traveled hours into the mountains to remote areas that the Bader's ministry works with. The church had baptisms in the river that Josh and the team got to witness, they went on house visits and did some building.

The last day was a fun day. They got to hike an active volcano!

Jude had ALL the words when he got home and said it was nice to be home, but he was sad to not be in Guatemala anymore. Josh kept up with the trip so you can jump over to his Instagram for more pictures and first hand updates.













Permits, Birthday Parties and The Kitchen Sink



January was full of adventure. A mission trip, a successful DMV appointment, a birthday, indoor soccer, and lots of togetherness. It was cold and cloudy but we did have some warmer, sunnier days that were so good for the soul. 

Rainy is always bringing home fun circus toys to play with. It always makes for a very entertaining afternoon, lol.


Alethia was invited to a fancy 15th birthday party. It was so sweet to watch Rainy help her get all dolled up. She was gorgeous, but alas, she didn't want me to get a picture. You'll just have to take my word for it.

I've decided that my favorite sport to watch is indoor soccer. It's like a mix of hockey and soccer. It is super fast-paced, no off sides and no out of bounds so they play off the wall and it is SO intense.  This is Cai's first time playing indoor but I'm pretty sure he's hooked!


Alethia got her level 1 permit! Now to clock those hours to get her on the road to independence.


This was the view for a week without Jude in the house. He and Josh headed to Guatemala on a mission trip and the whole house felt empty. Nobody to play hockey or keep conversation going non-stop! Even Berkley missed him.


I celebrated my 45th birthday and Josh took me to Crawford and Sons restaurant downtown Raleigh. It is the second time we've gone and it does NOT disappoint! They even reserved the window seat for us since it was my birthday. Rainy continues to bring fun circus toys to learn and practice. 


So this happened. Our sink completely came unglued and without the supports underneath (which were actually never installed) and without the proper instructions from the installer not to use the sink for at least 24 hours after installation (they said nothing after it was installed last year, so it was just a matter of time) the sink just fell through. I ran to the sink to hold it up off of the plumbing underneath, yelled to Zeke to go run out to the shed and grab a big bucket from the shed to prop it up on while we figure out what to do. So I did what every normal person does when their spouse is out of the country and a catastrophe happens...I call my friends who are pros at all the house things to come and save the day! I literally don't know what I'd do without Paul and Martha. We were back in running water order within just a couple of days.


While the boys were in Guatemala we got addicted to this fun HGTV show called Styled. It's fun to watch them transform spaces. Before and afters are our favorite and it even got our own minds thinking creatively about our own space as we learn from Nicole and Caffery.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

January Book Reviews


For the past two Christmases I have created a system for an easy Christmas list. All year long as I'm listening to podcasts or reading other books, if there is a book mentioned that sounds even remotely intriguing I will find it on Amazon, stick it in my cart, and then move it to the "save for later" section,. This becomes my Christmas list at the end of the year. I ask for the cheapest, most marked up and used book available so that I can get as many books as possible. So by the time Christmas comes around and I open my 20-ish books I sometimes have no idea who I heard about the book from or why I thought it was interesting over the course of the previous year, but it's here now and I'm gonna read it!

My reading always ebbs and flows with life. This month found me sick for no less than a week, and also  the fact that we were coming off the holidays, so this gave me more chunks of time for reading so I'm actually on my 6th book this month! This is NOT typical but true none-the-less.

I already posted about my new-found love for Fredrik Backman on Instagram, but I decided to bring the other reviews over here so I could say a few words about each without taking over my instagram account all at once. Who knows, maybe I'll recap over here at the end of each month now!

First up, Drama Free, by Nedra Glover Tawwab. This was for sure a good read. Not biblically based by any means, but any book that helps communicate and practically implement boundaries I am ALL ABOUT!

I must begin with a caveat though. I hesitated publicly reviewing this book because I think it could be a trigger for people who are in the midst of uncovering some deep-seated familial dysfunction and I am a HUGE proponent of not doing that alone. Yes, searching yourself and digging deep into family trauma has become very trendy these days, but done without the grounding and root-system of Christ coupled with a trusted counselor or wise friend, I believe, can do so much more harm than good. And here is why I say that...we become so much more prone to believe our own story than truth.

Here's what I mean. Do you remember Brene Brown's famous phrase, "the story I'm telling myself" from her book Rising Strong? It basically helps to validate FEELINGS but places the feelings in their right place. Sometimes you can FEEL something, and while those feelings are valid, and should be validated, they may not actually be true. For example, I may FEEL like my friend no longer likes me because we never hang out anymore. So the story I am telling myself is that my friend doesn't like me. And that can spiral into my deep insecurities about feeling like I'm not needed, or important, or less than, or extra, or...you fill in the blank. So yes, I FEEL this way and those feelings are REAL. But the TRUTH is that my friend actually has a super overpacked schedule. She'd love to hang out but her to-do list is completely overwhelming and her unread messages are paralyzing and never even saw my text come in. Do you see where I am going with this?  Using this phrase has been instrumental for our family!

This book also didn't leave much room for the conversation to ever look inward to any personal things that might need to shift and change. Which would in turn help the family dynamics as a whole.

While reading this book I was reading it through several different lenses and perspectives. I thought it was super beneficial and helpful from one perspective, but because of the lack of leaving room for personal interpretation into history, pasts and family dynamics I felt like it could be a bit dangerous and lead to more finger pointing than reflection on independent choices and lifestyles.

That being said, Nedra Tawaab, being the queen of boundaries that she is, has written a fabulous book. So read with caution and an open mind to what the Lord might be saying to you through it.


This book felt so intimate and close. During our time in Uganda, Katie actually lived just down the street from us (no I don't know her but her first book was just getting popular so I'd heard of her) and I'd see her in town with some of her kids sometimes. Because her stories are rooted in Jinja, which is like another home to me and so familiar, I felt like I was reading words from an actual friend who I understood so deeply. Safe All Along is a beautiful story. Katie allows us glimpses into her life as she learns to loosen her grip of control and release it to her Heavenly Father. Even when life looks so different than expected.

"Control is our addiction."

"We make time for Jesus with such a full life because our peace depends on it. Our very lives depend on it."

"It's okay to be sad, it's okay to lament, but it's not okay to stay there forever."

"Our work will never end, and so we must learn to trust God with the things left undone."


Next up, The Life Council, by Laura Tremaine. The whole idea of this book is to look up and see the various people you are surrounded with. There are actually some helpful categories you could place these people in, not for label-sake, but to see the support system you have.

I liked this book but there were some things I just simply didn't agree with. She has a whole (firm) section about how your husband is NOT your best friend and CAN'T be your best friend. And I'm like, "You have 10 categories for 'best friends' and not one of them is allowed to be a slot for a husband?" Josh is absolutely my bestest of best friends. When we are good, I know everything will be alright. But I know Josh can't be my savior. But neither can ANY friend I see in any of these categories. My God is my steadfast anchor, my north star. My husband is my life-mate who knows every good and bad thing about me. And the other categories in this book are added bonuses when the Lord allows their spaces to be filled. 

But, that being said, I did appreciate this book. It was a catalyst to helping me see specific roles people play in my life. Quite honestly, just from listening to the podcast of this book before I had even received it, was enough for me to release some of the closest people in my life from the position I was trying to fit them into, a category that they weren't made to be in. It helped me "release" them to be who they are! Which made me see them as the friend for me they were really meant to be in this season.

Not all of my seats are filled. Actually, in this present moment, many of these seats are vacant, but I feel full with the people I have been surrounded with, even if I don't physically see some of them nearly as much as life permits.

So I do recommend, but don't feel guilty when you don't see all your life council seats filled in every season of your life. This isn't supposed to be a book that brings on a guilt trip. It is a great book about overall relationships.

"There is really only one important requirement in our friendships...presence."

"Deeming other people 'toxic' has become so common that we're now applying the term to people we disagree with or with whom we have a conflict."


Last, but certainly not least: A Non-Anxious Presence, by Mark Sayers. This book has been SO very refreshing! Over the past couple of years I have tried to be a "peaceful presence" when I come upon a tense or stressful scene. So this book is giving words to the very person I am trying to become in this very chaotic world we live in. The author is speaking to the current cultural moment we see ourselves in and is bold enough to say we aren't ever going back to the world we once knew. This "gray zone" we find ourselves in doesn't need a leader because of their "charisma, drive, intelligence, training or achievements", but rather a non-anxious presence that is grounded in God's peace.

"Our gray zone will not be a fleeting moment but rather an indefinite period of ongoing disruption and instability as the patterns that have defined the world for the last half-century are radically reshaped."

"A networked world lunges us into a new social situation in which 'identity is becoming the main, and sometimes the only, source of  meaning.'"

"screens disciple"

"To the emotionally immature everything becomes at best a slight, at worst a direct assault. Feelings become all-powerful and fragile all at the same time."

"Waiting for the Lord, seeking His voice, is an act of revolutionary stillness."

"In the shepherd we find a biblical model of leadership, a non-anxious presence, which is not dependent on reserves of personal power but on the presence of God-encountered in the wild places."

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

In The Sickness. In The Waiting. In The Stillness of the House.


We've been passing something around our family because we like to share, even if it's germs. And as much as I HATE seeing my family sick, and as much as I hate being sick myself (I'm not trying to sound like this has been fun and I'm just sitting here counting my blessings through it all, lol) we've had a lot of time to just sit and be. Sickness does that to you. It demands that you come face-to-face with your limits. To acknowledge that you really don't have as much control as you wish you had. It insists on making life stop (at least your own life) and on bringing to light the things that really matter. And often times the things that just don't. 

It's good to be reminded of these things. 

It brings a healthy sense of perspective.

I'm on day five of whatever this is. The first two days there wasn't much reflecting. Just sleeping. Lots of sleeping. And then I started coming back to life. Slowly. Ever so slowly. I still don't have any energy to do much of anything "productive" or do I?

As I sat in some solitude before the changing of the year I looked back over the past year as I always do. Reflecting on the things that worked, some things that didn't, and used my memories, like a viewfinder, highlighting the highs and lows of the year. One question I ask during this process is, "What fills me up?". And my answer came quicker than normal this year. I love to write. Most of the time it's just in my journal and actually, even that has been scarce over the past couple of years. I want to get back to this blog. To writing my days, my thoughts, my questions, our moments. 

So over the past couple of days, as I've sat here in the sickness, in the waiting, in the stillness of the house (that is finally starting to come back to life) I have caught back up on the memories of our lives. Mostly just in pictures simply to get me caught up, so words can start flowing again. If not for anyone else, for me. And I'm ok with that.

I know, I have Instagram, but there is something about feeling as though I'm a competing voice in the masses over there. Here I can just be me. You can come and go as you please, or not even come at all, but I can be here and show up in my little corner of the internet with no strings attached.

When I first began the blog, oh back in 2007!!!!, I had 2 littles, we traveled full-time as musicians, I posted about cloth diapering, couponing, product reviews and life as a young mom in the trenches. I can't even believe how much time I spent on here. Our lives look so very different now. We have a house full of teenagers that stay up 3 hours after Josh and I have gone to bed, eat all the food from my grocery run as I'm literally unloading it out of the bags and we have been faithful in our ministry for the past 14 years. The Lord has taught us so much. We have been through a heck-of-a-lot in our ministry, marriage, parenting, faith, relationships, health...but one thing remains. God and his faithfulness through it all. 

So welcome to the unpolished, no-agenda meanderings of my current life.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

December

 December was full of all things Christmas. From Jingle Jam at church at church to ginger bread decorating to Christmas parades and Christmas lights. It was full and it was fun. We even had a visit from the Hambrick boys and then they took Jude and Zeke back with them for a couple days. They were EXHAUSTED after their adventures.

I can't forget to mention Zeke ran an all-nighter with his buddy Garrison. He clocked nearly 43 miles total!

We had a quiet Christmas morning here at our own home and then my parents joined us in the afternoon for dinner and togetherness. The next morning we packed up and headed to join the Via family in VA for our next Christmas.


















Thursday, November 30, 2023

November

 November was spent getting into the Christmas Spirit. Lots of baking and decorating. And we had another birthday! Alethia turned 15! We ended the month up in Maryland with my family to celebrate Thanksgiving. While we were there Deedee took us downtown Fredrick to look at the boats that were all lit up for the holidays. I felt like I was walking around in a Hallmark movie!

I also got the chance to do a concert with our new friends the McCray Brothers as they did a song release worship night. I have no pictures but I'll never forget that powerful night.