Thursday, November 26, 2015

Food and Thanksgiving--Give it to me

Loveys, who doesn't love Thanksgiving? All the yummy food with no pressure of presents. Don't get me wrong, I like presents. I especially like Christmas trees and Christmas music. I like gingerbread houses and holiday movies and all that magic. And more than anything, I love Baby Jesus and the manger and the truth that saves us.

But before that loveliness, we get Thanksgiving. I love it. I love turkey. I love my Mimi's dressing recipe. I love cranberry sauce from a can (don't judge). I love mashed potatoes and rolls. I love gravy (I just haven't learned how to make it very well). Now, this Thanksgiving will be different for us. I'm only able to hobble around. Lily has become the most active crawler in the universe and wants to be everywhere (making us a teeny bit crazy). It may just be my little precious family at home this year with our mobility issues (me not moving and Lily moving too much). But still. There will be food. And I will eat it and be thankful.

Food and thanksgiving. They go together. During the holidays, I know my family gives to the local food bank more than usual. For one, it's easy. There are bins everywhere, there are churches taking food (we even had a youth group knock on our door and ask for canned goods for the food bank. It can't get easier than that!). And there's something about giving thanks as you sit at a table filled with warm food--and knowing that so many are hungry. We pray for the less fortunate. We give food, whether it's to the food bank, or a check to meals on wheels (I love that organization), or buying dinner plates for the rescue mission or taking food to a family who need a little help.


Because we should.

Because being thankful should go hand-in-hand with helping others. Because food sustains us and gives us life. It comforts us and keeps us strong. Food brings us together. It's something we all need. You guys know how much I love dinner parties and tea parties and social gatherings. Food is always the common denominator. Appetizers or entrees. Dessert or breakfast. We come together and feel nourished.

Having been down for the count since my foot surgery, I've had friends bring meals. To me, it's so special. It's loving people by way of lasagna. :)

I mean it. And there's something awesome about eating a meal made by others. New flavors and textures. Something they like to make that they want to share with you. Nancy's chicken and rice. Evan's casserole. Tammy's enchilada soup. Marina's enchiladas. Nicole's lasagna. Danielle's pasta. Renya's chicken and mushroom and wild rice soup. Krista's Italian beef with rolls. Shari's taco soup. Even friends from afar! Jodi had Chinese food sent to us. Sara brought me gourmet cupcakes. Michelle and Laura sent me delicious tea. Not to mention my mother! Cooking breakfast for my kids every day. Bringing me lunch upstairs when I couldn't walk at all. (A special thanks to all these fabulous women. Really. My cup runneth over.)

Friendship and food. They're like peanut butter and jelly. 

We used to spend Thanksgiving at my Mimi's house in Lufkin, Texas. Food and family. Those are my memories. Good food plus family equals love. When you're hungry, there's nothing more satisfying than someone giving you food. To me, that's why giving and thankfulness are so closely interwoven. Because one is the natural result of the other.

And both bring peace and contentment to our souls. The older I get, the more I feel that if we can fill ourselves up with peace and contentment, we're less ruffled by the little things that happen around us. Uncaring things that are said to us or about us. We let those go. Frustrated by our spouse and children. We take a breath (maybe a hot shower. Maybe a glass of merlot!), and we move on the next day and give grace. There are big, difficult moments we face in our lives. All of us go through them. Those are hard enough. Especially when it comes to the people we love, a little grace goes a long way. I want to be less ruffled and more peaceful.

It's Thanksgiving today, loveys.

Time to be thankful.

What a wonderful thing.

It was a super cold day here in Colorado. We hunkered down and had the fire going. The kids played in the snow for just a little bit, then had hot chocolate. I cooked a big dinner and thought about my grandmother as I made cornbread dressing. I can't make cornbread dressing without missing my Mimi. She was irreplaceable. My sister and brother-in-law came over later and spent the evening with us. The guys watched football, and Sara and I talked and laughed after the kids went to bed.

Food and family. Holidays are made up of these things. Then there's pecan pie and whipped cream. Football on TV. Christmas music during dinner. The sound of my kids talking about what they're thankful for as we sit at the table (not to mention Lincoln bursting into tears and exclaiming that he wants a baby brother. Oh dear).

I could watch snow falling for most of the day through the window, but we were snug in side. My husband and I and our children sat down to a traditional Thanksgiving feast, where we ate and laughed and talked (Linc cried, but there's always a little chaos mixed in!).

These are beautiful moments, lovey. Hold on to them. We don't get them back and we're not promised more. But they are so beautiful while we have them. Gather together and give grace (and accept grace). Love the ones around you.

Be thankful more than anything.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"I can't imagine life without a table between us" ...Bread and Wine

Loveys, I had a friend ask about the supper club I'm part of so I thought I'd share a little more about how that came about and why it's a great idea and how you might start one! I joined a group of women reading through Bread and Wine together this summer. It's an amazing book and one I highly recommend. In the book, author Shauna Niequist talks about the supper club she's part of. She writes in such a beautiful, heartfelt way that the thought of women around a table, with crumbs between them and half-empty glasses of red wine, well, it makes you wonder, Could I have that? Could I have a group of women who come in and flutter around my house and know where the forks and spoons are . . . could I have friends who meet me around the table?

We finished reading the book together and some of the girls started reading a second book, but not all of us could squeeze that into our schedule for fall. So one of the women just threw out the idea--can we have a supper club? No reading necessary. No deadlines or anything like that. Just once a month, let's eat together at one of our houses (or a restaurant if that's what needs to happen). We had just the right amount of women to fit comfortably around a table (which I think is important for a couple of reasons--you want this to be fun and for dinner to be a big part of it, and you want the group intimate enough so that people feel comfortable sharing real-life stuff on a regular basis). So our supper club was a spin-off of our book club. We have a sort of "group leader," which helps. Evan does all of our organizing and keeps us on track. (In fact, the picture above is of Evan's beautiful table.) We meet once a month and one of us does the cooking for that evening. I know some supper clubs use a potluck style. I think that works really great too. And it doesn't have to be a forever club. We have a certain number of women, so we started with a certain number of months. You can go with whatever kind of schedule works for all of you. After you've all hosted, maybe you branch off and start another supper club, another opportunity to meet new people. Or maybe you meet with everyone once every quarter, so you stay in touch.

So if you want to have a supper club, here are a few things to keep in mind: You don't have to be an awesome chef! Good grief. Sometimes I make hamburger helper for my family. I'm not a great cook. But I love dinner parties. So I've found a couple of good recipes I'm comfortable with. Those are the ones I pull out for company. You can keep it simple, like spaghetti and meat sauce and salad, or try something new--your friends won't mind (as long as there's wine! Ha!). Start with once a month. More than that gets crazy, and we all have enough crazy. Come up with at least three other names. I'd start with six, but four works for most tables. We have eight people, I think. More than that gets tricky. For one thing, you need to make enough food for at least an entrée for everyone (even if you're doing a potluck) and that gets expensive when you're feeding eight people. Every family is different, so keep finances in mind and be sensitive to the group members. It needs to be affordable for everyone. Plus, the conversation factor. If this is the kind of club where you want to be able to share very sensitive topics, then of course you don't want to bring new people all the time. It takes a while to build trust and relationships. The larger a group gets, the lighter the topics are for me. I don't want to share too much if I don't know the women around me well. It all depends on what you want to get out of a club like this. And there's no wrong way to do it! Talk about expectations early on so no one feels taken by surprise or frustrated by a change of direction.

Invite a few women you really like or you're interested in knowing better over for dinner and then pitch the idea to them. See what happens!

These are the holiday months--seriously, food is a big deal. Dinner with family, holiday parties, kids winter parties--the calendar gets crazy. Starting a supper club smack-dab during the holiday months might be too much. That's okay. It could be one of your resolutions for January! Or you can get together with friends for some holiday celebration and bring up the topic, see who's interested.

One more thing. It's okay not to force relationships to happen. I've experienced this before. Where you want to be friends with people, so you reach out and invite and host and include--but it sort of falls flat. Do you know that feeling when you want to be someone's friend, but it doesn't seem to happen? Maybe she's just not as into it, so she says no every time. Maybe she already has enough friends and doesn't have room for you (sad, I know, but it happens to all of us--or maybe it's just me). Maybe her interests are very different from yours and you feel like you can't be yourself around her. I think friendships that sort of grow organically are the best kind. I hate the thought of pushing myself on people. So if I've reached out a few times and things never work out, or if I'm getting the feeling like I'm the only one into this--I usually pull back, and that's okay. You don't have to be best friends with everyone. If I get the feeling that someone doesn't like me, I tend to panic and wonder what I've done. The truth is, you can't please everyone. And you don't have to. If your heart is in the right place (open and willing), you'll make it through regardless. But let me encourage you, if finding friends is hard, you're not alone in this process. We're all looking for our people.

I do know most of us have felt left out at one time or another. And most of us have longed for authentic friendships at one time or another.

Community is important. For me, Jeff and my kids are my number one fans. My sisters are my best friends for life. I've got friendships that have already stood the test of time, women I will always care about. And God continues to bring other women in my life who are special to me. Also, my relationship with God is life-giving to me. Still, even with all that, we can feel lonely sometimes, can't we? I know I can. That's why putting forth the effort to grow friendships can be worth it at times. Letting go and reaching out are both parts of life that we continually go through. There's nothing better than becoming friends over a cup of coffee and lemon cake, or a glass of chardonnay and bacon-wrapped dates.

We've talked about this before, there are all kinds of friendships. Some might be super-close, share-a-kidney kind of friendships. Some might be the "smile and say hi at church" kind. Both are good. I like going to church and knowing names and saying hello. I like going to the library and running into moms I know at story-time. I also appreciate just sitting together with one or two women whom I really trust, crying and being honest and sharing difficult moments in life. I value all those kinds of friendships.

It can be scary to try to start a supper club or book club or movie club or anything that has to do with friends! You might feel rejected. You might feel left out. But it might be awesome. You might find your people. You might have a moment where your house is filled with women talking and laughing and going through your cabinets as they pull down glasses for wine. Don't worry too much about impressing anyone. If the invitation alone doesn't make them happy, they probably aren't your people. And if they are your people, they'll love whatever you do and however you decorate. Find women with open hearts who love people. It's not helpful to be around people who pull you down. You know yourself. You know what kinds of relationships are healthy for you. When you spend a morning or afternoon with a friend--and you come away from that time feeling better, feeling heard, feeling loved, and feeling safe--it's a recipe for a good relationship.

Are you that person for the women in your life? I want to strive to be just that. For my mother. For my sisters. For my children. For my friends. I want to be a source of good community. I'm not a perfect friend. I say things I wish I could take back. I get my feelings hurt. I'm sad when I'm left out. I'm not a perfect guest and I'm not a perfect hostess. I'm not a perfect Christian. I'm just ordinary. Good days and bad days. I make mistakes.

We all do, lovey. Even so.

We cry, we're sad, and we still do the laundry. And God wraps us in grace when we fall.

I'm just going to be very real with you, I can have insecurities when it comes to hosting people and starting new friendships. Every time I plan a party, I worry people won't want to come. Or they might not show up. Or if they do, what if they don't have fun? Recently I was talking to Jeff about an idea for a Christmas tea party with my neighbors. All those insecurities surfaced. You know what Jeff said?

He told me: "It's who you are to reach out and do these things. Just do it. You'll be glad you did."

It's who you are.

I felt better in that moment for two reasons. One: Jeff knows me so well. Two: He's right.

We need friends. We need other women to hear us, to show that they care in tangible ways. If you need friends, I know just how you feel. I understand. There is something magical about time spent with a special friend.

Be open. Make a pot roast and set the table. See what happens, lovey.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

47 Days

Lovey, don't be mad at me, but  . . . there are only 47 days till, um, you know, CHRISTMAS. Truly. So it's on my mind. I'm not trying to rush things, I promise. But here's the thing. I need to do Christmas differently this year. And that requires a head start. Do you know that some families have a rule that they finish all Christmas shopping by December first? When I first read that, I thought, Not possible. My second thought was, Great idea. I'm trying it.

You might be wondering why it's a good idea. Well, for a busy family, taking even one task out of the equation for December can make a crazy-cool difference. Think of all we have going on: work, kids' class parties, kids' Christmas programs, gymnastics, supper club cookie exchange, small group get-together, holiday tea, church, school and homework (not to mention finding time to watch Miracle on 34th St.)--the list goes on for other families. Do you see? Gosh, if I can save myself even a little time, it's worth a try. I'm going after this thing like it's chocolate pie.

You know I just had foot surgery. It turns out, when you're laid up with a broken foot, it's a good time to shop online. And you know I'm a list girl. I've got my little Christmas notebook, and, just like Santa, I've started my lists. Lists of ideas of what I'd like to get people. Lists of purchases I've already made. Lists of parties and activities for the month of December. Guest lists. Shopping lists. Everything.

I like lists.

(And tootsie rolls.)

I like not feeling crazy at Christmas (not that I've actually ever experienced not-feeling-crazy at Christmas, but I'm hopeful that way). So I'm diving in. I'm making a plan. I need to. I want Christmas to be just a little different in my heart this year. I truly love the holiday season. Peace, love, joy, and Amy Grant singing A Tennessee Christmas. Love it.

What can I do to keep a little peace during December? I'm deciding now that it doesn't have to be perfect. I'm deciding now that I can't please everyone and that's okay. I'm deciding now to buy gifts I'm excited about (not just stuff for stuff's sake). And I'm deciding now to love the people in this house as much as I can. We've got Lily crawling everywhere and still not sleeping through the night. This morning I've got two kiddos who woke up with sniffly noses. I'm hobbling around and not able to keep the house in order the way I like to.  . . . Guess what? I love my life, loveys. Because when it comes down to it, my heart is content. I'm crazy in love with my children. I'm very blessed to have a husband who loves me and cares for me and helps with the kids. Family life is chaotic and loud and tiring. It's also everything to me. And Christmas . . . well, it's magic. I want to let it be magic for my family.

We'll be decorating early over here. For one reason, since I'm pretty immobile and will be for weeks, we need to tackle the decorating thing while Blanca B. is here and willing to help. (Decorating with my Mama! Gosh, that reminds me of Porter, Texas, and seeing her string lights--more like do battle--with our tree.) It's going to be good. My mom loves Christmas decorations and she loves Christmas movies. So do I. Good times.

I've started my Christmas shopping and I'm keeping it pretty simple--and almost entirely online (which actually helps me with spending less. When I'm at the store, I inevitably find more stuff I want to buy). I'm on a tighter budget this year--it's the first year since I've stopped working to take care of these kiddos. And that's okay. The truth is that I'm already excited for Christmas. I know lots of people get frustrated by how early the stores pull out Christmas stuff. I understand the frustration. But since ornaments and wreaths and pecan pie fill me with joy anyway--I'm rolling with all of it. I'm looking over our calendar and filling in the spaces that need filling in--and also leaving white space where I can. After five years of hosting ornament parties, I'm thinking of doing a Christmas tea party this year. Sara bought me the holiday edition TeaTime magazine at Givens in Lynchburg. I've been poring through it, and I can't help myself--I want a holiday tea party. Then Laura sent me the new Downton Abbey Christmas tea blend. Good grief. It's a party. I can't wait. Christmas music playing. The smell of cinnamon and vanilla in my house. Brunch dishes. Scones. Tea with cream and sugar. (And another idea I'm not sharing yet!) These things make me happy, lovey.

One of the things I love about the mommy blogger community is the wealth of ideas you can get from other moms. I'm not the kind of mom who likes a ton of advice. Every family does things differently, mine included. For myself, I'm not keen on being told what's the one, right way to do something. But I do appreciate good ideas. Like finishing up my shopping by December first, so that December isn't so much about getting out and buying toys, as it is doing things as a family and enjoying the community we live in. Like setting those four guidelines for shopping for our kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. It comes down to being purposeful.

Good ideas, loveys. What are yours? How do you keep the crazy out of Christmas for your family?
What's your Christmas wish? We're embarking on the holiday season and that can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions for all of us. We can get worn out. Bitter. Consumed by commercialism and appearances. Or we can move through the holidays like a savvy mom in a grocery store.

Roll with the unexpected.

Shrug over the disappointments and move on.

Remember the less fortunate and give to the food bank (or a needy family you know).

Stick to our budget.

Smile and be thankful for what we have.

Forty-seven days, loveys. We've got time to plan. We've got time to decide who we want to be this Christmas. How we want to live. We've got time to set our priorities. Our kids are watching.

It's a magical season. I want to let the magic in at my house.