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.

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New Home, New Plans, Start Here

Our moving process has just about come to an end.  The painter was back for touch ups today and the last light will hopefully be hung next week.  I have had the boxes unpacked for a while, but we are still (I am still) finding a place for everything.  I have said it before and I will say it again, while I love my new home and am ever so grateful to have had this opportunity, the best part of this move has been releasing.  I tell you, this recovering perfectionist has learned a lot about releasing over the course of the past three years-releasing people, feelings, situations…  The icing on the cake has been releasing stuff as we have prepared to move.  I feel twenty pounds lighter (in my dreams, and that’s another blog post for another day).  My family has embraced this process and I can honestly say I do believe we are down to having in our home only those things we love and find to be useful!

I was born with an innate desire to have order and simplicity.  I’m not one to like chaos, although I love change.  I’m not one to like collections.  I’m not one to like lots of color and pattern, in my home or on my person. I feel better when things are fairly simple (my girls say ‘boring’).  Piles do not energize me.  They drain me, as if calling out to me, “One more thing to do!”  While this innate desire for order and simplicity has driven me to a love of organization, I truly embrace organization because of the life it enables me to live.  I don’t ever want my home, my blog, my speaking engagements, etc… to prompt anyone to go home and begin organizing so they can present a certain image, or think it is a must do.  I don’t want any of us to emulate the pristine pictures in magazines or on Pinterest.  My prayer, my hope, is that anything I write, say, picture, about organizing creates a longing in others for peace, for a life that is fully lived.  I love being organized, having an organized home because it frees me to serve others, to use my home as a sanctuary and place of refreshment and nourishment.

Over the course of the next few months I thought I’d give you a glimpse into our home and along the way pass along some of my tips for keeping things ordered.  Today we will start at the front.  Our front door opens into our entry and dining room.  This home has been a challenge.  We have moved from a two story English style home, with lots of separate rooms, to a more English country open, one story floor plan.  I love it, but boy does it ever beg for order.

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I have yet to find an entry rug I like, nor have I landed on what to put over/behind/with the small silver chest on the entry wall.  We have 14 foot ceilings in the entry and dining.  I love the expanse.  I feel like I can take a deep breath and relax when I walk in.  I decided in this home to move away from the more traditional English colors I had used in the past, deep reds, navy blues, deep greens, and gold.  I moved completely out of my comfort zone and went with tone on tone.  The trim is slightly darker than the walls.  It is a greige.  I think that’s what they call this new trend.  The walls are subtle taupe/white.  We have a lot of family wood pieces and I wanted those items to pop and yet the home to feel light and slightly more modern.  Not sure we pulled it off completely, but it is feeling like home and we all like it.

Our dining room is a big part of our home.  Not in terms of space, but in terms of how we live.  We LOVE to entertain, and so our dining room really does get lots of use.  I am blessed to have a 1960 Ethan Allen dining set once owned by my mother-in-law.   In fact, it was her gift to us just two short years before she passed.  I treasure it.  I love the simple lines.  She loved order as well, so she had great storage pieces.  There is a bar cart my husband’s father still uses, so I don’t have it yet, but one day the set will be completed again.

We keep our dining table extended, ready for seating 8.  I love to decorate for the various seasons, but always try to keep the decorations centered on the table, so nothing has to be moved in order to use the table.  It just makes life easier.  I like to throw a few books and decor items in the china cabinet, but by in large, I store china and crystal in the china cabinet.  It keeps it safe.  It keeps it close at hand for use.  For those of you who never use your china, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.  I got to meet and hear a Royal Doulton VP speak shortly after I got married.  A real treat.  He took a china plate and through it on the floor.  It didn’t break. He took a piece of every day dishware, through it on the floor and it shattered.  Bone china is actually very strong.  It is resistant to chipping and breaking.  Now, if you slam it up against the granite counter, well, no help there.  My point is, while it may look fragile, it really isn’t.  I could go off on a whole other path here spiritually comparing women to bone china and reminding us how very strong we are, but…  I also learned that bone china is dishwasher safe.  I heard you gasp.  And yes, my grandmother and mother just might faint.  It is the truth.  bone china, even with gold or silver banding is dishwasher safe.  The trick?  DO NOT use dish detergent with lemon in it.  In all actuality using dish detergent with lemon in it is bad for ALL your dishes, glass ware, cookware etc…  The lemon causes pitting.  Use the plain Jane dish detergent.  I use the good old Cascade plain.  I have for 24 years and my china is as beautiful today as the day I got it.  My gold bands are in tact.  The second secret is to let it air dry.  Adjust the setting on your dishwasher-it’s simple.  I tell you all of this to say-USE YOUR CHINA!  Why have it, why store it, if you are not going to use it?  If it just isn’t you, not your taste, you registered to get your mother off your back, then take a deep breath and let it go.  If you love it, dream of using it, then get it out and USE IT!

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I keep my silver in the silver drawer.  You can buy replacement liners and/or spray for the liners at the Container Store.  This keeps my silver from tarnishing quite so quickly.  Again, I keep it here so I will use it.  And we do-even a little tarnished.  I also keep our table cloth, chargers, table runners, box of plate stands etc… and a box of candles in the cabinet.  I literally have everything at my finger-tips when needing to set a quick table or prepare for a festive gathering.  You’ll notice the table cloth drawer is not full.  I keep a cream table cloth and a brown one.  That’s it.  I have found those two meet my needs.  And in all honesty, more often than not we just use place-mats or chargers.  I know there are TONS of gorgeous table cloths out there.  I know many of you have drawers brimming with them.  My question is, “Why?”  Do you use them?  How often do you think about using them, only to decide you don’t want to iron them or you don’t want them to get dirty.  My challenge to you is this-free up the space.  Get rid of them.  Life is way too short to fret over table cloths.  Keep the one or two you REALLY use.  Release the rest.

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I change out the art next to the china cabinet by season.  It’s an easy spot to add some holiday decor, yet doesn’t clutter things or require moving a lot of other stuff around.   During the fall I actually have framed pumpkins my kids did back in the 3rd grade.  I loved the look of them and as a mom, I struggled during those elementary years with storing their art.  I actually have quite a bit of it framed and we use it in our home.   It’s amazing how many comments we get.  I love it.  My girls love it.  One day I hope their children will love it and be inspired.

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As I have sought to become less of a perfectionist and more of an organized mom seeking peace, beauty and a full life, I have come to realize that having less often means having more.  Our dining room is fairly simple.  I have let go of a lot of stuff-and I am ashamed to say so.  Good grief the decorations, table cloths etc… I have spent money on.  Oh well, lessons learned.  As you can see.  I use every inch of the china cabinet and keep the table open for guests (which also means I don’t have to store the table leaves).  I have tried to be creative with my kids’ art, saving money at the same time.  While simple, we love our dining room and we use our dining room.  We serve friends and family there.  We play games there.  On occasion the table is cleared and we work on scrapbooks there.  We enjoy it.  And that dear friends, is a full life.

I challenge you to rethink your dining room.  If it’s really not your style to have one, then repurpose the room.  I have helped a client turn hers into a craft room.  A friend of mine uses hers as a billiards room.  If you want to use your dining room, then do.  Clear out the chests, get rid of the excess.  Use it, enjoy it.

Living the &

I think navigating life is a little harder for women than men.  I base this on conversations with friends and acquaintances, not scientific data.  Like me, most women I know feel a constant pull/tug of war. We long to help in providing for our families, and yet we have an innate desire to create-whether it be pro-create or create beauty in our homes, through meals, hobbies etc…  We are also drawn to relationships.  We long to have girlfriends with similar interests, struggles, family situations.  We are bombarded with mixed messages.  I have often told my husband if he could hear all the conversations going on in my mind he’d know why I’m so frustrated or hard on myself.  It’s the voices of dreams gone by, the task I didn’t complete, the blog post from the mom that cooks only organic meals, the weight loss report of the last friend to start Advocare or Plexus.  It’s the note from the school about the end of year activities.  It’s the last page of the last book I started (which may have been 6 months ago!). Everything that comes into my line of vision seems to take on a voice in my head.  Some days it immobilizes me.  Some days it spurs me on to accomplish great things.  Some days it drives me to my bed in a heap of hurt feelings and disappointments.  Some days it overwhelms me to the point loud, harsh words come out of my mouth aimed at those I love most.

So, what’s a girl (woman) to do?   I find I have to still my mind and delve back into God’s word, studying His prescription for Biblical Womanhood.  I fell in love with the Proverbs 31 woman towards the end of high school.  I have made it a point every year since, to read through those scriptures at least once per year and to read one biblically based book built around the Proverbs 31 scripture.  I have journals full of notes, insights and directives.  The reality is God gave us a blue print.  Like many things He calls us to, it is unattainable in our humanness.   It is perfection.  It is the bar by which we can assess ourselves.  It is the end mark to strive for.

In more recent years I have begun to study more in depth the women of scripture.  So often we glean the story for a main idea or truth and move on.  We know the story from first glance.  But, if we delve into each story, dig deep, we find that every woman in scripture is an example, a living out of the Proverbs 31 woman.  When we step back and let God unfold before our eyes the big picture, what I like to call His tapestry, we see that we are called to be the &.

Recently in scripture God used the stories (yes, there is more than one) of the beloved sisters, Mary & Martha, to teach me much about Biblical Womanhood and the &.  In the faith walk, I have found that little is about doing this or that.  Instead, I find He calls me to keep adding to.  Not adding to my schedule, but adding to my skills, my knowledge, my character, my faith.  He calls me to the &.  I am not to be more Mary, I am to be Mary & Martha.  He didn’t chastise Martha for her planning, preparations and provisions.  He chastised her for not knowing when to stop and enjoy the fellowship.

God used this story and others to show me my life story is about all the &.  All my experiences are a part of who I am.  Each one plays a role in my story, in who I am becoming, in my faith walk.  I so often want to move past the mistakes, the failures, the broken heart and think only on the good, share only the mountain top experiences.  When I do that I rob others of my testimony.  God’s handiwork is not evidenced.  I rob myself of the confidence and joy that comes from growing, making it through, moving forward.  I am the good & the bad.  I am the joyful moments & the heart wrenched moments.  I am the insecure wife & the wife growing in confidence.

Less than 30 days ago, after having a real aha moment regarding brokenness and pouring myself out in order to really be a testament, a business opportunity came across my path.  the company is called Mary & Martha.  As I read more about the opportunity I read where the & is key to the company’s philosophy and mission.  The company is a direct sales company selling home decor products with a faith message.  The purpose is to use the business to engage with women helping them learn to entertain (entertaining made simple) and use their homes to minister to others.  I LOVE it!  I love the message of the company more than I love the products, but let me tell you, the products are incredible.  They are above and beyond what one would think they would be.  They are quality.  They are built to last.

It’s been a journey the past few years.  One I wouldn’t trade.  I am learning to live the & and I am going to treasure it all.

 

If you are interested in Mary & Martha please go to my website:  www.mymaryandmartha.com/SHANA

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House Construction Almost Done, Home Construction Just Beginning

The journey to our new home continues.  While I have continued to use my trusty Home Building Binder and Expandable Folder, let me assure you not all has gone as planned.  Add to that our crazy moves (two to be exact), and well, it’s been all we expected and more!

My husband and I have built 5 personal homes, counting the current house under construction.  We love the process.  We get along during the process, which some would say is a testament to our marriage.  Of course, there are those who say we are crazy and I am sure there are those who would judge us for spending the money.  No comment.  We love the process.  We have learned from the process.  We look forward each time to the construction of the house, but even more to the construction of the home.

Paul and I share the gift of hospitality.  We truly believe our home is meant to be used to entertain, welcome, serve, heal and encourage others.  We love guests-so yes, if you are reading and want to come visit-COME ON!  We have sought to teach our girls to love home-to care for it using principles of biblical stewardship; to spend time in it; to entertain friends; to create in it…  We have not built extravagant houses.  I have yet to get my Viking Range in my dream kitchen.  The Moroccan tile bathroom got nixed.  The pantry turned out smaller than planned.  One closet was negatively impacted by a failure to realize the door needed to be off center.  There are moments of disappointment.  There are moments of frustration.  So why do we do it?  How do we survive it?  Simply focus on the home you want to build, not the construction of a house.  The house construction will go awry.  Subs will make mistakes.  Subs will be late.  Concrete, boards, sheet rock, duct work, etc… are simply the framework for the house.  Yes, it requires planning and attention to detail.  But if your focus is on the framework, you’ll end up one frustrated, disappointed, angry person.  However, if you focus your attention on the outcome-how you want to LIVE in the home, you’ll be able to let the little things be little things.  I can still prepare delicious meals without a Viking.  My kitchen can still be filled with light, laughter and love without a Viking Range.  The clothes will still fit in the not so perfect closet and it can lead to an opportunity to scavenger the area for a worn armoire to paint, adding some pizzazz and style to a daughter’s room.  As we walk through our imperfect construction, we talk about the events we want to host, we talk about where friends will sleep, we talk about pool parties and family holidays.  The joy of building comes in dreaming about all that will take place in our home.

We are nearing the end.  Three more weeks!  We are excited.  We are grateful.  We are ready to get back to normal-if such a thing exists.  But most of all, we are ready to share our home.  We are past the little mistakes.  We are past the frustration and disappointment.  We have our eye on the prize- a framework of a house turned into a home as we live, laugh, play in it.  We can’t wait to welcome family, friends and even strangers.  We are almost done with construction, but the journey to constructing our home has just begun!

 

5 Tips for Surviving Construction

1.  Plan, plan and then plan some more (see previous post)

2.  Communicate with your contractor daily-even if just a short text.

3.  Walk through your home with plans in hand every day.

4.  Expect mistakes and delays.

5.  Spend more time talking about how you will live in the home, than what you want it to look like.

Mary & Martha: Coming July 2014

I have been struggling to blog lately.  The move, end of school stuff, building needs, etc… are frankly keeping me busy.  Yesterday, in the midst of it all, God answered a prayer.  There are still more to be answered, but it is incredibly cool to see something come together.  I don’t have time today, but tomorrow can’t wait to share a little about the “how this came to pass” part of my story.

 

Southern Hospitality: It Ain’t About You

I love to host events.  I have the Spiritual Gift of hospitality and come from a long line of Southern cooks, most of whom loved to entertain.  There’s just nothing better than good food, a cool beverage, some flowers and a host of friends.  Every time I entertain, I am reminded thought “It ain’t about me!”

It saddens me that as our houses have grown in size and Viking Ranges have gained in popularity, fewer and fewer people entertain.  I am hopeful though as I follow blogs and spend too much time on Pinterest, that the next generation is bringing good old fashioned hospitality back.  That’s exactly as it should be.  I also notice though that the houses are a little smaller, the tables set with restraint, and what is old is new again.  How fun!

As I mentioned, I come from a long line of great cooks and hostesses.  Each with their own style, but each made certain their home was ready for guests and the very best of what they had to offer was prepared with love for those visiting.  I pray the gift of hospitality is something I will pass on to my girls.  Hosting others in your home can be one of the most fulfilling tasks.  Especially if done right.  And, the only way to ensure you do it right, is to remember, “It ain’t about you.”  Too often we get more concerned with what people will think of our home, our place settings, our choice of attire, etc… and we fail to think about the person(s) we have invited into our home.  To entertain well, one must make your guest comfortable.  And that can mean different things for different folks.  But what it always means is placing our attention on them.

I have been blessed to have a husband and children that love having others in our home.  That being said, we have hosted a LOT of stuff.  I am always so blessed when my guests tell me how comfortable they were at my home or have someone take the moment to tell me how “homey” my home is.  Now, I realize that in some “southern” talk that can mean my home is cute, not the top in vogue design style etc… but, if someone felt at ease, enjoyed good conversation and wanted to linger, then “homey” I’ll take!  This point was driven home a few years ago when a dear friend called and asked if I would take the lead in hosting a bridal shower for her son’s bride elect.  Her reasoning for calling me was simply this, “I know you will think about her and make it comfortable.  She likes simple things, doesn’t have expensive taste and would much prefer that money be spent on a cause than on cakes or silver.”  Yes, entertaining is ALL about your guests.  Of course, I hosted the bridal shower and I do believe it was a success, meaning the bride elect was at home and felt welcomed.  In reality, I got a few raised eye-brows as I recommended we use a few paper products, have rustic decor and serve mini cupcakes instead of a large bridal shower cake, which in the South can come close to looking like a mini version of the wedding cake!  We served on white porcelain trays, no silver, no crystal.  Oh my…  But, you see, that was this bride-to-be.  She loved color and simplicity.  Her heart was tender and she was a giver.  A lot of fluff and sparkle would have seemed a waste to her, almost even an offense.  Lesson learned, yet once again.  Entertaining ain’t about me, it’s all about my guests.

Here are a few tips, followed by some pictures of various hostessing moments.  Enjoy.  I hope you will be encouraged to open your home.  Plan a party.  Plan dinner with friends.  Keep it simple and make it ALL about them.

Hosting 101:

  1. A clean home is more important than a decorated home.  I know, we all hate it, but mop, vacuum and scrub the toilets.  It’ll go a long way.
  2. No need for crystal and china-although if you have it USE it!
  3. Set the table the day before.   Include placing serving pieces on the table.
  4. Be creative in your centerpieces:  A few potted plans sitting on some burlap running the center of the table.  (Your guests can take them as party favors or you can plant them the next day.)  A grouping of candles is always fun.  Fresh fruit gathered among-st some grapevine or set upon a wreath.
  5. Keep the food simple.  A meat, a starch, and a veggie or salad.  Make dessert the night before or have something mixed up ready to pop in the oven.  I love chocolate chip cookie dough in ramekins.  Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream.
  6. Be creative with napkins:  Use bar towels, bandannas, and yes, even paper
  7. Don’t stress over the details and by all means don’t snap and yell at your family.  (This is the voice of experience.)  Your guests will notice the tension more than they will notice the missing centerpiece or toys under the coffee table.
  8. Let the dirty dishes wait.  Your guests came to see you.  Be seen.  Sit and visit.

 

She made it herself.
She made it herself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yep-plastic cloths, plastic dishes ...  But lots of fun
Yep-plastic cloths, plastic dishes … But lots of fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was all about him and GOLF
It was all about him and GOLF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple, Yet Elegant for the Mom
Simple, Yet Elegant for the Mom

 

 

From Chaos to Order to Thanksgiving

Lest anyone think I am always organized, completely together… I’m giving you a glimpse of my kitchen counter Friday afternoon.  Not pretty.  If you looked real hard, you’d see dog hair on the floor, along with some damp fall leaves drug in by our two furry friends.  

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There was a moment of complete frustration.  And before I knew it the negative self-talk began in my mind.  “You don’t have enough time.”  “You are so behind.”  “There’s no way to have everything ready for Thanksgiving, then three weeks to Christmas and then the girls’ birthday.”  Thankfully, yes, thankfully, I had spent quite a bit of time Friday reading in God’s word before the sun rose, reading through Crystal Paine’s manuscript, and had lunch catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in two years.  We had laughed about memories past, shared our mothering struggles and even discussed the dysfunction in each of our families that can drive us crazy. But in the end, we had laughed much and recognized all the good in our homes, in us, in our husbands.  So, I took a step back.  I shut the negative talk down.  I looked at the calendar, saw an opening on Sunday and blocked off two hours.  I then jumped in the car with my family to enjoy an evening with friends watching basketball.  Sure enough, I enjoyed the weekend and my family, knowing in advance about my “blocked off time” left me to the quiet of my kitchen for an hour and half.  The mess on the counter got cleaned up. Coupons got clipped.  I finished filling out the gift idea list, scheduled the new events on the calendar and reviewed the menu for the week.  I blocked off time (with 30 minutes extra on the front and back side) for each task:  shopping, board meeting, real estate calls, church reminders, baking, food preparation, laundry etc…  I sighed a deep sigh of relief.  I wiped down the counters, grabbed a tall glass of water and just sat for a moment.  What a great feeling.

Life can seemingly go from good to bad to ugly in a matter of seconds.  And sometimes, that indeed happens.  A catastrophic event occurs.  But more often, we just think life has gone from good to bad.  We allow ourselves to get overwhelmed.  We wallow in the chaos and never stop long enough to take a breath and work at restoring order.  And that, that is what steals our joy.  That is what keeps us from experiencing gratitude and having a sense of peace.  Just a little quiet time focused on reigning in the tasks, getting a written plan in place, and life can go right back to great.  Yes, there’s a lot to do.  Yes, it may mean more time in the kitchen than usual.  I may be up a little later, but what a privilege.  How blessed I am.  How blessed we are.  How deserving of thanks is my God who is and was and is to come.  

So, don’t get bogged down in the chaos this week.  Take time, right now, to create order.  It is within your power.  Then, as I will do, work the plan.  Let the blogging, the extra house project, Facebook, etc… fall to the side.  This week they are not necessary.  Only your list, only your family, only Thanksgiving.  

My kitchen bar is still clear.  And as of tonight one of the tables is set and ready.  Be Still.  Let the God of Order fill your thoughts.  Be Thankful.

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