Winter Comfort-Soup is On

I love to cook.  Being a part of Debbie Arnold’s food blog is always a special treat and privilege.  If you know anything about Debbie Arnold, you know she is an amazing cook and is full of great tips (which she shares on Arkansas KTHV 11 During Dining with Debbie).  It is always a little humbling to prepare a dish to share on her blog, but the other aspect of Debbie Arnold is her genuineness and love of gathering in the kitchen.   She is a down to earth home cook who inspires you to jump right in and share the kitchen.

Transitioning back to work full-time outside of the home has made cooking at home a little more difficult.  However, I still believe that relationships are most often built around the table.  We were created to need sustenance.  We were created to need relationship.  The table draws us together, allowing for two of our basic needs to be met. That belief, my desire to nurture my family physically and emotionally keeps me working to find ways to meal plan better, to slow down and let the cooking time also be bonding time, and letting go of some of my “perfectionist” expectations of myself.  Meals have become a little simpler.  The crock pot finds it way to my counter at least once a week.  My girls play a bigger role, getting something started as I am on my way home or taking on one of the dishes as we put a complete meal together.  I have also found I turn to some of our favorites more often, cooking less variety during the week.   It just helps keep things simple, and keeps us at home.

Today, I am sharing one of the few soup recipes my family can agree upon and devour in less than an hour.  Cajun Shrimp Chowder.  The recipe, originally passed along to me by a friend from Louisiana, has been given a few Chaplin tweaks. It was the perfect bowl of warmth and comfort after church today.

I hope you enjoy the recipe.  Spend a little extra time around the dinner table this week with family and/or friends.  In a world filled with sadness, turmoil, and busyness we all need the comfort of good food, good company, good fellowship.

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The Ebb & Flow of Loving Home

It is summer.  I am off schedule with the blog.  In the past, that would have stressed me, but no longer.  It’s just a natural part of life.  It is a natural occurrence of the change in seasons, change in schedules.  Life is a little less hectic and the daily routines a little less hurried.  The lack of schedule affords more time for play, projects, and my favorite-reading.  I always get a little more reading in during the summer months.  I also find, that summer is often my time to dream-dream about the year to come, dream about what I want to do to the house, with the yard, etc…  Reading, reflection prompt dreaming.

Today I want to encourage you to get a copy of Melissa Michaels’ book, “Love the Home You Have”.  Mrs. Michaels is the author of the blog “The Inspired Room”, which I have followed for some time.  I absolutely LOVE this book.  I have long had a love affair with home.  Even as a young girl I loved arranging my room, creating order in an effort to have my own haven. I love home.  I love creating home.  But, and there always seems to be a ‘but’, I can get sucked into the world of discontentment.  I can find myself procrastinating, slipping into a home care slump, while I yearn for that new couch, piece of art I can’t afford, …  I can find myself living the comparison game thinking my space is inadequate.  It’s a trap.  Too many of us find ourselves there.  Some use it as an excuse to give up: give up on decorating, cleaning, hosting.  ” Love the Home You Have” reminds us what home should be about.  It encourages us to breathe, play, collect and enjoy the process of creating home.

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I have often believed our homes are a reflection of who we are-really who we are.  They reflect the state of our spirit, our priorities.  As we settle in to who we are, learn contentment, it is reflected in our homes.  We worry less about the things we don’t have, and value what we do have.  We embrace our style, our likes, and that is reflected in how we care for our home, the treasures we display, the furnishings we choose.  A house full of clutter is often a reflection of someone lacking direction, someone living with stress as the result of an overbooked schedule.  A house where furniture is falling apart, floors are dirty, the kitchen sink is piled high all the time, is often the reflection of someone avoiding , someone avoiding discipline, trying to find purpose, struggling emotionally.  A house that seems cold, void of personal items, can be a reflection of someone desperately trying to control all of life, function in their own strength.

Truth be told, our homes at various times can reflect all of the above.  The condition of our homes reflect the condition of our spirits, our hearts.  “Love the Home You Have” not only shares ideas on how to care for and create a place of beauty and peace, but encourages us to care for ourselves.  Mrs. Michaels encourages us to find contentment, not just with our homes, but with the person God created us to be.   No home is perfect, believe me I have built 5 and still haven’t gotten it 100% right!  My budget will never afford me the opportunity to buy what I want when I want.  My love of hospitality means my home is often full of people, and things get dirty when people fill your home.  Just as I live and breathe, so does my home.  As I grow, mature, so does my home.  As I release worldly expectations, I am free to create, find joy in the quirky parts of life and home.

“Love the Home You Have” is full of decorating ideas, home management ideas and personal care advice.  No matter where you are in the ebb and flow of loving your home, I encourage you to order your copy today.

http://theinspiredroom.net/lovethehomeyouhave/

Having a Housekeeper-It’s Biblical!

“…and portions for her servant girls.” Proverbs 31: 15.

So often we study the Proverbs 31 woman and then sit in awe or defeat.  We compare ourselves to her, a lifetime of achievements and qualities captured in 21 short verses.  We lose perspective.

This woman of God lived a life well lived.  She was blessed, praised and honored.  She did much.  She ran multiple businesses, she managed family finances, she took care of herself physically and emotionally.  She provided for her family. Her days started early and ended late.  But more than what she did, which is where we often focus, we need to consider who she was.  We should study to learn about her qualities, not her achievements.

We have already discussed that she was pure, trustworthy, loyal, industrious, and thrifty.  Most of all we know she feared the Lord and sought His guidance daily, hourly.  It is in the seeking to know who she was that we will find the lessons He has for us.

I have often joked about verse 15.  Before children, when I was working 60+ hours a week, volunteering in my community and with our youth group at church, I had a housekeeper.  In fact we had her for 16 years.  She became our friend, an extension of our family.  Her daughter grew up in front of us.  We shared laughs, tears, trials and joys.  I was blessed to have her help, her friendship.  On occasion, my husband would question our need for her.  (You see I am one of those people that would clean up to get ready for the housekeeper.  I know.  That’s a whole other discussion.)  On more than one occasion I would whip out Proverbs 31:15 to justify my decision.  I mean after all if this revered woman in scripture clearly had maidservants, then I should most certainly follow suit.  So there you have it ladies.  Having a housekeeper is indeed biblical!

Well, remember that thing called perspective?  In deed the Proverbs 31 had maidservants.  She lived in a day and time that financially, politically was one of the darkest and most difficult times in Israel.  Families often found themselves unable to provide for their children, thus abandoning them or selling them.  Recurring battles and plunder left many children orphaned.  Living in a trade community there we enslaved girls brought in and sold or traded, some even abandoned after the merchants were finished with them.  Yes, human trafficking existed even then.  As such, families who were able, families who felt compelled to help, would take young boys and girls in as bond servants, offering them safety, shelter and provisions.

The Proverbs 31 woman also had need for help.  Again, due to the times, life was difficult.  Much was required if one was to have food and provisions.  It required sacrifice, planning, diligent labor, ingenuity and physical strength.  It would have been virtually impossible to do it alone.

courtesy Town & Country

courtesy Town & Country

While I’d like to stick with the whole “having a housekeeper is biblical” thing, the real lesson is so much more.  It’s not about the housekeeper/the maidservant.  Again, it is about who the Proverbs 31 woman was.  She was wise.  She spent time considering all that she had and needed.  She sought God’s counsel as she attempted to plan for the future.  She was confident enough to know she could not do it all, she could not be all.  She knew what and when she needed to delegate. She saw her plenty and knew she was called to serve, to rescue, to help.  She provided for her maidservants as she did her family.

This woman did not live in abundance.  She had plenty.  But even the plenty she was willing to share, with her maidservants (vs 15) and with the poor and needy (vs 20).  It wasn’t about having more for the sake of having more.  It was about having plenty/enough and being willing to stretch that to help meet the needs of others.

This woman did not work from a place of pride.  She was humble.  She sought to work hard, give her best, yet she knew and accepted what she could not do.  A part of her resourcefulness was knowing what to delegate and to whom.  Once she chose to delegate, she then taught/trained those whom she sought help from.  Her ways were gentle.  She worked alongside them.  She cared for them.

So many lessons for us.  When I seek help am I doing it to stretch my plenty or to obtain abundance?  When I seek help do I humbly come alongside that person teaching/training and working alongside?  Do I use the extra time afforded me by having help to do something worthwhile?  Do I look for the needy and offer them help?

I don’t have a housekeeper any more.  Some days I miss her terribly.  But finances changed, my work load lightened, my daughters grew and the wiser choice was to take our plenty and use it wisely.  I now delegate to my daughters, working alongside them to train them and teach them how to care for a home, provide for a family and serve others.  We open our home to serve others.  We look for opportunities to help meet needs in our family, church and community.

We all live in different circumstances.  Our plenty is different for each of us.  And some of us our blessed with abundance. Remember, to that one, much is expected.  Having help is important.  Knowing what and when to delegate is critical.  Let’s remember those lessons from the Proverbs 31 woman.  Let’s dig deep and look at who she was, not just at what she had or did.  In the end it is all about stewardship.  Stewardship of our time, our resources and our plenty.

Are You Ready-Hospitality

Now that we are settled into our new home and I am in the midst of this incredible business Mary & Martha, I have a renewed desire to carry out one of my passions – entertaining.  I love inviting people into my home.  I love that quiet time, set aside to focus on friends, family and even strangers.  I love the conversations, the laughter.  It’s easy to let life crowd those moments out.  It’s easy to compare ourselves, our homes, our abilities to others and talk ourselves out of opening our homes.  Little good can come from that.  Real conversations are hard to have sitting in a coffee shop or a busy restaurant.

I am challenging everyone I know.  My Mary & Martha business holds me accountable in this area.  My Mary & Martha business helps open doors encouraging other women to welcome friends and family into their homes.  My Mary & Martha business provides products to help all of us entertain with ease.  I LOVE it.

Mary & Martha is in the midst of clearing out for our new product line.  I get to go to Siloam Springs, AR next week for my first Leadership Conference.  I can’t wait to worship, fellowship and learn.  I can’t wait to get to see Dayspring headquarters (our parent company).  I can’t wait to get ready-ready for a year of growing my business, sharing hospitality, modeling hospitality and encouraging hospitality.

Our flash sale has been extended one day only.  Ends tonight at midnight, January 16.  If you have never shopped the products this is a great opportunity to sample some at great prices.

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To shop go to http://www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana or click on the Mary & Martha button.

Home Matters

If you follow my blog, you know I love home.  Having grown up moving a lot (and I mean a lot-like 24 times before I was 30) there was always a part of me that wanted to “settle down”.  However, in all honesty there is still a bit of wander lust in me and I do like a change of scenery every now and then!  Any way, back to my point.  I love home.  As a Christian woman and mother, I have always felt like home was a critical part of my role, my purpose.  Early on I spent time studying about how to care for home. Fortunately I went into marriage and motherhood pretty well prepared thanks to parents who taught and expected a lot.  I remember reading Emilie Barnes’ books and her statement that “wives set the tone for the home” impacted me, stayed with me. I have always wanted my home to be a safe haven, a quiet place for my family to refresh, regroup, share, rest.  I have worked hard at trying to create the right atmosphere-sometimes too hard, sometimes too focused on the material contents and keeping order.  These days, as a mom of teens and quickly approaching 50, I have found myself settling into a bit more balance, lowering some of my expectations, and really focusing on the tone of my home.  Tone of home is a feeling. It is that “home sweet home” sense you get when you walk in that familiar space that makes you feel safe, important, valued, loved.

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I want that tone to extend beyond my immediate family.  I want everyone who enters to feel that sense of welcome, to know they can stop and take a deep breath.

As I was reading through Home Life magazine from Lifeway, I came across some word art in the front of the magazine.  It resonated with me.  It reminded me of how very important home is.  It made me stop and voice a prayer of gratitude for these days I am able to be at home, home school, raise my family.  It made me ask forgiveness for those nights I awaken worried about our finances, wondering if I will ever have a job of any substance once the girls leave home and I venture out to help pay for college and all the associated expenses.  It reminded me that while others may seem to have it all, be more together, have less worries, I would not exchange my life for theirs.  Our finances aren’t easy.  I walked away from a career I may never have again.  We have to make choices and our girls are a part of those conversations.  But it is worth it.  Every moment home with them has been worth it.  Home’s importance drew me to my Mary & Martha business, where I have opportunity to equip and encourage women to engage in hospitality.  (www.mymaryandmartha.com/shana).  Home’s importance is why one of my best friends and I run an organizing business.

I have posted the words above my desk-a daily reminder.  Not my words, but words that encourage and remind.  I wanted to share them with you.

We believe in the home. It’s the place where ministry starts and ends day in and day out.  We stand for dynamic marriages that beat the odds and practice commitment.  We believe in family meals and talking about your day.  We believe that your corner of the earth, whatever it looks like, is an extension of the church, a place where community is grown and nurtured.  We believe that if you change the home you change the world.  There’s a lot of life between Sundays. (January Home Life magazine/Lifeway)

I hope those words encourage you and challenge you.  Be grateful for home.  Remember it is a high calling.  The lives I impact in my home will forever impact the world.  Home matters.  It matters enough to give up some other things.  It matters enough to set aside time to invite your friends in.  It matters.  The church does not create godly families.  Godly families create the church.

The Center of Our Home-Where Things Change

The center of our new home is literally my great room coffee table.  Our home is a very open concept, so you walk in the front door to a large entry from which you just flow right into the dining room, great room and kitchen.  I LOVE IT.  And literally in the middle sits my coffee table.

Advent has been a part of my family Christmas off and on for most of my life.  As a pastor my dad loved to include the advent candle as part of our worship.  Some years we did the same at home, others not.  With my own children we have attempted some form of Advent each year.  When they were young it was about the Advent Calendar.  My mother-in-law purchased a wonderful nativity scene advent calendar from World Crafts years ago.  My children loved trying to figure out which pieces to put in the pockets so the story unfolded correctly.  We also used the Advent box purchased through Family Life, where the children open a new gift box each year.  As they grew it sometimes amounted to nothing more than reading the daily scripture.  Then, last year I came upon Ann Voskamp’s, “The Greatest Gift”.  We purchased an Advent Wreath and candles.  We are using the same this year and have added to it our “Gather Round” from Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thine Home and the “post-it” notes provided on Ann Voskamp’s website.  (Each morning after reading the “post it ” reminder, we place it on the Gather Round Wreath.)

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It is here our hearts are stirred.  It is here our minds are cleared.  It is here the quiet settles in and His truth permeates the stillness.  The center of my home is where things change.  Each morning the “post it” cards prompt us to new thoughts, transforming thoughts and action.  Action following love, the love He imparts through grace.  Each evening our spirits are quieted as we stop to relinquish the day, prepare for rest.  Life may get messy in between.  We will fall short of His glory.  We may even lose sight of Christmas, but this place, this centering spot, brings us back.

If Advent has not been a part of your Christmas, head over to Holly Gerth’s site (see the button over on the side).  Today is a round up of Advent Resources.  You are sure to find something.  You won’t regret adding this to your traditions.  And remember, if you miss a night, life goes on, don’t give in, just pick back up.

A House That Breathes

If you have been following my blog, you know we built a home this past summer.  The process was exciting, fun, fulfilling.  It came at just the right time.  I was coming out of a two year process of some real life changes.  The kind of life changes that come with living past the age of 40.  Coming to terms with who I was, no longer trying to do.  Coming to terms with a family relationship I couldn’t fix, that would never change.  Healing.  Healing the empty places I had allowed to grow trying to be for others, for society, for family.  Coming to terms with my spiritual self, understanding who God is in new ways, ways only made possible by the hurts, the struggles, the disappointments, the losses of this life.  Celebrating.  Celebrating surviving young motherhood.  Celebrating the young women my daughters are becoming.  Celebrating making it past 20 years with my best friend and husband.  Celebrating friendships, the authentic ones.  The friendships of women who bare their souls, are strong enough to cry, to admit weakness, to ask for help.  Celebrating being that friend to a few, the special ones.  Celebrating family, embracing family.  In the midst of it all I learned to breathe.

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It may sound trite, but it’s not an easy thing to do.  And yet, breath is the very sustenance of life.  We rush through life taking shallow breaths, breathing in quickly, exhaling too quickly.  We rush.  We find ourselves holding our breaths in an attempt to hold our anger, our sorrow, our excitement.  It requires yoga class or meditation therapy or a doctor to remind us to breathe-really breathe.

I have learned to breathe and as we set out to build I wanted to create a home that would breathe.  We purged.  Being an organizer, that wasn’t terribly difficult, but it still required thought, discipline and action.  I kept only what we loved and used.  I set out to paint the home in an array of neutrals-shades of white.  I set out for there to be open spaces, empty spaces.  Week before last I had my first “gathering” of those outside the family.  As the guests arrived, more than one commented on the house.  There were the usual compliments, but the greatest of them all were these words, “I love it.  I walk in and I take a deep breath and feel myself relaxing.  There is space.  There is calm.”  Not just once did I hear these words, but three times. Satisfaction.  The years of struggle.  The years of battling my “demons” within, were all worth it.  In those moments I knew I was living, living the life of abundance, peace, contentment.  I was breathing.  My home was breathing.

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Possibility is not in the stuff.  It is not in the structure of the home.  It is not in the activity.  It is not in doing.  Possibility is in the stillness, the knowing, the being.  My life is lived in shades of white.  My calendar is filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice, by discipline, by intention.  My walls are filled with white space.  Not by chance, but by choice.  My thoughts are focused on what is most important.  My eyes rest on art and pieces of furniture most important.  And in the in-between, in the shades of white, I can breathe.  I can sit and listen.  I can hear the still small voice of God speak clearly regarding who I need to be, who He is.  My home rests, it breathes.  It holds room for life, for guests to enter, to take a breath and rest.

I challenge you to create a home that breathes.  As you enter the holidays and think towards the year ahead, what can you eliminate?  What areas cause you stress?  What rushes you each day?  Find your shades of white, breathe and live.

A few of the rooms I used as inspiration:

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