Hospitality: Why?

Why should you be hospitable?

You’ve spent hours cleaning your house, and there are still toys everywhere, dishes in the sink from your husband’s lunch, and you spot crumbs on the kitchen floor. Your baby is fussing and wanting to be held, but you still need to finish chopping a salad or making a sauce for the elaborate dish you’re making. What will my guests think of me if I’m still cooking when they arrive? If this sauce burns? If they see the crumbs on the floor or the dishes in the sink? If my baby is not perfectly happy when they step in the door? You begin to ask yourself a million questions, and stress and doubt begin to creep in.

You ask yourself, Why am I doing this?

The second time we ever had guests into our home after we got married, I asked myself this same question. I had only been in Romania for about two weeks, and I still didn’t know what I was doing. I agreed to have a couple over from the congregation one Wednesday night when I didn’t have anything in the apartment to cook, and the only food I had prepared was a spicy lentil stew, and Romanians typically do not like anything even slightly spicy. I was not comfortable with going to the store by myself yet, so Sam walked with me to get ingredients for soup and bread. Once the food situation was solved I began to worry about other things, such as how clean our house was, whether or not everything was in proper working order (such as the toilet or air conditioner), and of course, the fact that the couple only spoke Romanian, and I only knew two-weeks worth of the language.

I had a minor breakdown before we left to go to Bible study, wondering why I was doing this again?

First of all, being hospitable does not mean you must have a clean house or serve a fancy, elaborate dish. Second, there are many reasons for showing hospitality both for you and your guests. Here are just four reasons to overcome your stress, doubts, and worries and be hospitable.

  1. God commands us to show hospitality

There are direct commands and examples of hospitality throughout the scriptures, such as the example of Abraham in Genesis 18, and the command in Hebrews 13:12 to show hospitality to strangers in case we entertain angels as Abraham did. I Peter 4:9 tells us as Christians to be hospitable to one another without complaint, and Romans 12:13 also reminds us to be hospitable.

In addition to these examples, we can learn hospitality from the character of God. As Christians, our goal should be to imitate Him, and He is the perfect example of hospitality. He has created a beautiful earth for us and welcomes us into His family to partake in His feast, and He is preparing the ultimate home for us to welcome us into someday.

2. Hospitality is an excellent way to build relationships.

A wise Christian woman once gave me some advice on being a preacher’s wife, and she said whenever her family began working with a new congregation they made sure to have every family over for dinner at some point to get to know them. We implemented this practice in Romania, and we are trying to do it now (we’re still working through the list!) and I can attest to the truth of this advice. There is something about welcoming someone into your home and sharing a meal that bolsters a relationship.

3. Hospitality allows you to serve and grow.

Having people in your home is not easy. You may spend days cleaning the house or hours preparing food. You may only spend a few minutes on each. You may struggle with keeping the conversation interesting, continually checking to see if everyone is participating, or you may chat the evening away with ease. But no matter what, showing hospitality is a sacrifice and an opportunity for growth. It will not only bless those you welcome into your home; it will bless you and your family by giving to others.

Back in Romania, that second time I had people in my home when we left Bible study to eat together in our apartment the couple thanked us again and again, the excitement showing on their face. They stopped on the way to buy me a big bouquet of red flowers and ooed and aahed over our apartment. We figured out what to talk about and how to talk to each other, and they didn’t even laugh when I told them I was 12 instead of 20. When they left, they thanked us profusely and promised to have us into their home soon.

Our time together did strengthen our relationship, and the result was more than worth the stress leading up to it.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but these are the main three reasons our family continues to show hospitality.

Do you have any “whys” to add to the list? Why do you show hospitality?

Our Little Sunshine

“Mae, say mmmma-ma. Can you say ma-ma?” She just gives me a cheesy grin. “Da-da-da!”

“Say ma-ma-ma!” Again the sweet grin with upturned eye, her eyelashes nearly touching her eyebrows. She refuses to make a noise. As soon as I turn around I hear her sweet voice: “da-da-da! Ga-ga!”

She babbles all day long, and even though she won’t say “mama,” I think it’s the sweetest noise in the world.

Mae is growing so fast, so I thought it might be time for another Mae update.

Mae is doing great in the world of eating solids! I puree most of her foods, but she is getting started with finger foods as well. So far her favorites are toast, cantaloupe, and cucumber. She will eat just about anything if I feed it to her from my own fork! It is funny how she will act like she isn’t hungry when I give her something from her plastic baby spoon, but she will gobble up the same food from my fork, especially if I let her sit in my lap instead of the high chair.

She also loves smoothies! She will drink from a cup or from a straw. Again, these are her preferences over a baby spoon 😉

Mae is quite an active baby. She can move all across a room, though perhaps not in the most efficient way. She is so close to crawling. She hasn’t figured out the proper coordination with both of her legs, but I keep saying she’ll figure it out any day now. She certainly gets closer and closer every day.

She is busy all the time, but sometimes I still get precious moments like this when she sleeps on me. Mae has the sweetest personality and she is already so loving, joyful, and generous (she’ll try to put whatever toy she’s been chewing on in my mouth to share). She’s growing too fast, but it is such a delight to watch her grow and develop.

She’s our little sunshine girl!

Friends, Festivity, and Fellowship at the Coke 10k

Loud music reverberates from speakers, attempting to overpower the lesser noises of runner small-talk, the pounding shoes from warm-ups and dynamic stretching, and the overall din of athletes preparing themselves to race.

The crowd of people gathered under a banner with “START” blazoned across in bold letters are a sea of colors and characters. From the professional looking elites with cut muscles and the simplest of attires to avoid any extra distractions, to the enthusiastic beginner decked out in all the latest running gear, with gels, water bottle backpacks, and phone bands to contain the necessary musical inspiration, to young kids dressed in their race shirt with faces filled with excitement and nervous anticipation.

What is it that draws all these people together of all ages, places, and walks of life? For some maybe it’s the thrill of competition or the satisfaction of achievement. Perhaps for others, it’s just an easy way to get in their quota of exercise for the week. It may be a forced event by a coach or parent for other runners. But for most people, I think it is the connection.

That’s why I love it, anyway.

I started running the Coke 10k when I was eight years old. Clay had gotten too old for t-ball so he and Daddy began to run, and I did not want to be left out. We ran a local 5k to get our feet wet; then we started to anticipate the Coke race. We had watched Daddy finish in years past, and he always took turns giving his finisher’s medal to different children. I still remember the feeling of awe when I considered the accomplishment of running a 10k. Six-point-two miles.

So in 2006, our family began our tradition of running the Coke 10k. Every year we looked forward to lining up at that start line with all the other fellow runners and running the familiar course throughout Corinth, lined with friends, family, and enthusiastic supporters. Music plays along the route and volunteers are always eager to hand you a cup of water, a cold towel, or give you a smile and word of encouragement.

The finish line emcee announces the names of the finishers as they cross the line, letting you know you are known, and you have completed the course.

Year after year we made our way back to that start line. Friends and family began to join us, and the tradition grew. We ran in the rain. We ran in the heat. We ran in the cold. We drove through the whole night to get from FC graduation on Friday night to the Coke 10k start line on Saturday morning. Our friends from Florida began joining us, and our Coke 10k tradition family grew even more.

The only year I missed the race was last year when I was six months pregnant and in Romania.  But the only thing that stopped me was being over five-thousand miles away. I certainly would have waddled my way along the course if I were there.

Perhaps missing for the first time in twelve years built up my anticipation even more for this year. Or maybe it was knowing I would get to share this tradition for the first time with my daughter. It could be because this race has been my fitness goal ever since I was pregnant. I knew my postpartum running goal would be to run the Coke race without walking and maybe even try for a good time. Perhaps it was just everything wrapped up in this family tradition that boosted my spirits and filled me with excitement.

The morning of the race I was nervous. I hadn’t run a competitive race in almost two years, and two years ago I was at my peak fitness. I was also excited and confident. I was not able to train as much as I would have liked, but I felt like I could still get somewhere close to my previous capability.

Sam offered to run with me and pace me, and Mama pushed Mae in the stroller. We started strong, and I felt like I would be able to keep up the pace, but as the miles went on my confidence began to fade and disappear. By the last mile, Sam asked me if I wanted to try to pick it up, but I didn’t want to. And I was okay with it.

I finished nine minutes slower than I did two years ago. Before, I would have been incredibly disappointed. I would have been discouraged with my lack of training and lack of discipline during the race. Instead, I was happy to be in this stage of life, with a precious baby and little time or energy to train. And I was delighted to be with my family and dear friends.

We were all dirty, sweaty, and exhausted. But we were together. I am thankful for the Coke 10k for bringing us together. And I already can’t wait for next year.

May Goals

Now that I am done with school, finally done writing pages upon pages of projects and papers, I decided for my May goals to focus on…writing.

Ever since I was very young, I have loved to write. The first “book” I wrote was called Best Friends, and it was all about the adventures of me and two of my friends. It had seven or eight chapters, each a full piece of notebook paper. I made a cover for it and drew illustrations and felt like a real author. After that, I continued to write story after story, usually about happy families and everyday adventures they had. As I got older my characters grew slightly more complex, and the stories had slightly higher stakes, and the chapter length got longer than a page of wide-ruled notebook paper.

Then, when I was fifteen, I stopped abruptly. I had been working diligently on a new story about a girl named Hannah and her life on a farm with her family. I had it all planned out, how I would create exciting twists to the story and develop the characters of her parents and siblings. I let someone close to me read the first chapter or two, and they lovingly gave me constructive criticism. The characters were too perfect. They needed realistic flaws. The story needed bigger stakes and a more interesting plot line.

I should have taken this criticism and used it to shape the story into something better and more believable, but instead, I just stopped writing.

Of course, I did not stop completely, because I love to write. I continued to journal faithfully every day, and I wrote countless letters to family and friends. I would think up story ideas in my head, maybe even writing down the bare ideas, but I wouldn’t put my pen to paper to write anymore.

I also continued to write for school, of course. English was always my favorite subject, and I loved choosing my words and watching an essay take shape on my paper (or on the computer screen as I shifted more to typing instead of longhand writing). I began college pursuing a degree in elementary education, but after a fantastic experience with my teacher in English Composition II, I changed my major to English so I could keep on reading and writing papers about the literature other authors had crafted so beautifully.

As I have taken courses and written my way through my degree in English my love for writing has grown, and my goals have expanded. I love writing for this blog, and I dream of improving and using it to help others through my experiences and ideas. I dream of writing a memoir of my experiences as a missionary in Romania for a year, mostly for myself, but also for others if it could help them. I dream of writing fiction for young adults with characters and messages that will help them become better people. I dream of writing poetry. I dream of writing for the glory of God.

So I chose to focus on writing in May because I no longer have to worry about deadlines and specific topics of papers for school, but I can write whatever I want. Some of my goals for this month include:

  • working on my Romania memoir (I have already written about 10,000 words since I left Romania, but I haven’t been able to focus or be consistent.)
  • experimenting with writing more poetry (again, I have been writing poetry for a while, though nothing worthy of sharing publicly, but I want to be more consistent.)
  • reading books on writing, such as Your Life as a Story by Tristine Rainer, Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser, and The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn, among others.

What are your goals for May?

Done!

Done.
Several times it felt like this day would never come, but today it did. I finished my last term for my Bachelor’s degree. The term officially ends on Sunday, and the graduation commencement is May 11, but I am done with my coursework, and now all I have to do is wait for grades and for my diploma to be mailed to me. I won’t attend the commencement ceremony and I won’t have a cap and gown, but I could not be more excited to finally complete my degree. Even though I have finished in the “normal” amount of time (four years) it has felt like forever in many ways.
As I have been nearing the end of this degree I have been reflecting a lot on how far I’ve come. When I began my college career I never imagined that four years later I would be where I am now, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Around this time four years ago I was graduating from high school and preparing to move twelve hours away from home to attend Florida College. I was inexperienced, nervous, and terrified. I was worried about making friends. I was worried I wouldn’t know how to study, or I would fail a test. I wasn’t confident in my degree choice and I had no idea what I would do in four years.
Thankfully, God knew, and His plans are always amazing.
My first week of classes at FC I met this incredible guy that I liked right from the start, and my life forever changed. We secretly liked each other for a semester, talked nonstop over winter break, and began dating the second semester. Then three days shy of a year after we met we were engaged, and nine days later Sam boarded a plane to Romania.
I completed another year at FC, and although I missed Sam terribly and wished I could be with him instead of at school, I am forever thankful for the two years I had at FC. I made some of my very best, eternal friends, including, of course, my wonderful husband. I grew socially as I got out of my comfort zone to meet new people, participate in events, be captain of the cross country team, and be the vice president/president of a club. I grew spiritually as I was surrounded my wonderful Christian friends who studied with me and had deep conversations with me, challenging me to be the best Christian I can be. I grew spiritually as I was challenged my my Bible professors, fellow students in Bible studies and devos, and by my amazing church family at school. I grew academically as I learned how to study and didn’t fail any tests, changed my major to English because of my love for reading and writing and my admiration of one particular teacher, and as I helped other students as a writing lab assistant.
Less than a month after I graduated with my AA from FC I got married, and seven weeks after that I moved to Romania with my new husband. I enrolled in SNHU’s online program so I could continue my education while moving across the world.
Going from FC to an online program was difficult. I was used to having much more interaction with my teachers whom I knew and loved, and the impersonality and distance of online teachers was hard. The classes were not as in depth and I began to question my decision to pursue this path.
But it got better and I began to settle into the routine of online coursework as I acclimated to life as a wife, homemaker, and missionary in Romania. “Our plan” was to wait until I was done with school before starting a family, but God had a different plan in mind.
I continued school throughout my whole pregnancy. My last term officially ended two days after Mae was born, but thanks to the nature of online courses I was able to finish the coursework the day before she was born (I was induced, so I knew when she would arrive). I took off one 8-week term, then started again when Mae was two months old.
These last six months have been a rollercoaster for sure. I have wanted to quit so many times. I have stressed and cried and lost sleep over trying to balance life between school, a baby, and a home to keep. I never, ever could have done it without the help and support from my parents, siblings, and most of all from Sam.
I may never use my degree. Maybe someday I will. I am glad that I pushed through and finished, and I am absolutely elated to be done!

Mae is excited for Mama to be done too! 

Simple Activities with Baby

My focus for March was simplicity, and as with all of my monthly goals, I am still trying to keep them through the rest of the year.

One thing I tried to focus on in March was single-tasking and focusing on what I was doing in the present. The area most important area for this goal was with Mae. So often I will try to multitask as I play with her, feeling like I need to be “productive” at every possible moment. But relationships are productive. Focusing completely on Mae and providing for all her needs is productive.

Of course, I still cook supper while I play with Mae, talking to her and handing her toys as I go about the kitchen. I still hold her and dance around as I dust the house or let her sit on the floor as I fold laundry. But I am also finding little activities to do with her and nothing else.

These are mostly things I can do with Mae as she’s getting older. She is at such a fun age, and I’m sure it will just get more fun the more she is aware and able to do! Here are just a handful of activities we have done together over the past month or so. I have pictures of some of them, but usually, I tried to be present and without my phone…but I also can’t resist taking all the pictures of our precious girl 🙂

Play Piano

We were blessed to inherit my grandmother’s piano. She practiced her piano on it when she was young and taking lessons, and whenever we were at her house, it was almost always being played by me or one of my siblings and Granmomma would sit and listen with such joy.

Mae loves to sit in my lap at the piano and bang on the keys. She is just learning that they will make a noise when she hits them and it delights her! Sometimes I will sit and let her play, but often I will also practice one hand of a piece I am learning or relearning.

Swing

Mama bought Mae a swing to put on the swing set in her backyard and Mae loves it! At first, she was unsure and a little scared, but we started slow, and she decided that she likes it. I love to see her squeal with delight and grin the whole time she’s swinging!

Go Outside

Ever since she was tiny Mae has loved to go outside. I used to bring her out when she was fussy, and it would immediately calm her down. Now she likes to look around at everything. I tell her we’re going on a “nature walk” and I’ll show her everything around us. We’ll touch a tree and the leaves or sit in the grass and feel moss. I show her different plants and flowers, and she always reaches out to touch them. Recently her Aunt Leah took her outside and picked her a dandelion. She was delighted and held on to it for a long time!

Go for Walks/Runs

I’m not sure if this counts because I’m multi-tasking by getting in exercise, but this is an activity Mae and I both enjoy. Almost every day we will go out at some point either for a walk or a run. Some days Sam joins us and other days we go to practice with Mae’s Aunt Leah and Uncle Sam. Other days we head out our door and walk or run up our street! I’ve posted about it before, and we still love the jogging stroller.

Play on the Floor

Now that Mae can sit on her own she loves sitting and choosing which toys to play with. Often I will sit with her and talk to her as she plays with her toys and looks around.

Sing Songs

I sing to Mae all day long. When she wakes up in the morning I sing the songs I remember Mama singing to me: “Good Morning to You” and “I Love You So Much.” Throughout the day, I sing hymns, the books of the Bible, the alphabet, “You are My Sunshine” (or I’ll sing “You are my Mae Mae), or I’ll sing about whatever we’re doing (changing her diaper, washing dishes, cooking supper, etc.) She likes it when we sing interactive songs, such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Pattycake.”

Read Books

Mae goes through phases where she enjoys reading books, or she enjoys chewing on them and banging them around. Either way, books are a great way to stop and spend time together.

I’m sure there are so many more activities to do with babies, but these are our favorites at the moment!

What are some of your favorite activities to slow down (with or without a child)?

April Goals

“The only way to have a friend is to be one” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

My goal theme for April is friendships.

I have made countless friends throughout my life, but I feel like I am always moving away from them. I moved away from Mississippi friends when I went to college, then I moved away from college friends when I went to Romania. Then I came back to Mississippi and some of my friends have moved away to college!

This month I want to focus on cultivating current friendships, reconnecting with old friends, and maybe even making new friends! As with all my other monthly goals, I want to continue these goals throughout the rest of the year.

What are your April goals?

Mama at a Track Meet

Athletes milled about, jogging, jumping, stretching. The smell of the rubbery track and grassy field blended in the fresh air with the spicy scent of icy hot.

“She looks like she’s fast. I wonder which event she’s running,” I thought to myself, immediately beginning to assess the competition. My stomach felt light and nervous.

Then I remembered; I wasn’t here to compete, which was strange.

Last week Mae and I attended a track meet in Oxford to watch Leah, Sam, and the rest of the Spartans compete in a track meet. It was my first meet to ever attend without running myself. It felt strange at first, but it was also enjoyable.

As a runner, I was always so aware of my time and careful about what I did and what I ate the day of a race. I needed just the right amount of time to warm up, and I would be anxious until I found a space where I could warm up adequately. Then there were always issues with getting signed into the race, knowing what time I was to start, and where I would start.

Friday I was nervous for the runners, but I just got to enjoy watching everything and not worrying about what time it was or what event was next.

It was the first time I ever got to see Leah or Sam compete. I loved seeing them warm up, talk about their goals, and interact with their teammates as they got ready for their respective events. I loved hearing them tell me they appreciated us coming to watch them, and tell me their goals for their races. I loved seeing Leah’s excitement as she was seeded first for her heat (this means she submitted the fastest time for her heat and got to start in the first lane of the track). I loved seeing the satisfaction in Sam’s face as I congratulated him on his performance in the 400, a race I cannot even imagine running.

Mae loved it too. All the Spartans loved her and she just basked in all the attention from what we called her “fan club”. She smiled and laughed as all the runners passed her around, and she fell asleep in her friend Carson’s lap. She smiled as we went down and watched the runners go by, though she did get scared when her Mama yelled too loud.

Instead of warming up and figuring out the timing of my races, I was bouncing a baby and figuring out when she needed a diaper change or a feeding. Instead of stretching or rolling my muscles and making sure my socks were right, I was putting sunscreen on Mae and making sure she wasn’t too hot or too cold in her clothes. Instead of finding ways to deal with my nerves by playing cards or talking to friends I was looking for a place to lay a blanket so Mae could get down and play.

Everything was different and it was strange, but I loved it. I loved running track, and I love being a Mama. Now I love being a Mama who can watch my siblings and former team do what I loved.

Maybe someday I will watch Mae do the same.

March Goals

February seemed to just fly by! I am late in posting these goals for March, but I still feel like it can’t really be March yet.

The theme for my goals this month is Simplicity.

I just began my final (!!) term of college, there is always housework and cooking to be done, and spring brings spring cleaning, yard work, and gardening. We are in the middle of planning a big trip for later in the spring and we are having a gospel meeting at our church in the middle of the month. I could go on…our lives are so busy and it seems like it will never slow down.

So I want to slow down.

My goals for this month (and to continue throughout the busy year) are to simplify and slow down, even during the crazy, busy times. I want to intentionally savor these days with Mae because she is growing like a little weed before my eyes (I seriously feel like time suddenly sped up when she was born. Where has the time gone??).

I want to stop multitasking (which probably makes my work less effective) and stop stressing about every single thing that needs to be done.

I want to focus on the task at hand and do it well. I know from experience that what needs to be done will get done. And everything else will be okay.

Some specific things I want to try this month to slow down and simplify are:

  • weekly meal planning (perhaps this will be a blog post soon?)
  • taking Mae outside on “nature walks”
  • less social media and more reading/writing
  • writing in my journal
  • keeping a thankfulness journal (in my prayer binder)
  • …I need more ideas 🙂

What do you do to simplify or slow down?

Mae is Six Months!

Where has the time gone?

I think I blinked and now Mae is six months old. Half a year. Way too old.

I haven’t posted many Mae updates, so I figured it was time for one!

I am so blessed to be her Mama. Mae is the sweetest, happiest baby. She loves attention and she will smile at just about anyone who looks her way. She loves to be held and cuddled, but she is also discovering more independence and she loves it. She loves silly noises and bright colors. She loves it when I read books to her or sing to her.

She has the sweetest smile that simply melts my heart. Sometimes I am exhausted and I don’t know what I’m doing, but then she will just lift up her little eyes with her long eyelashes and give me the sweetest look, full of trust and love, and it is all worth it.

I am loving seeing her little personality peek out. She talks all the time and makes the best expressions to go along with her vocalizations. She loves to laugh and smile and play, but sometimes all she wants is just to cuddle with her Mama.

In the past month Mae has started to roll over! She tried and tried for weeks, every time she had tummy time she would “almost roll over”. Once she started there was no stopping her! She can roll over just as quickly as I can put her down.

Mae also started eating solid foods. Her first food was sweet potatoes and although she made an awful (but adorable) face, she ate it and seemed to enjoy it! After that we tried bananas, carrots, and applesauce. Then she decided to go on a food strike and for about three or four days she refused any food, clamping down her mouth and turning her head at the sight of a spoon. She got over it though, and is back to enjoying her food in between smiles and laughs.

 

Another milestone Mae recently reached is sitting up on her own. Now that she has discovered she can do it she loves it and wants to sit all the time. Being held is still her favorite, but sitting is probably a close second.

Overall Mae is a sweet, happy, wonderful baby and we love her more and more every day!