Category Archives: Hospitality

“What’s Next?!” Might Not Be the Best Question to Ask…

I recently read an article called “26, Unmarried, and Childless.” I’m 32 and married, but I can still relate. My favorite part of this article is the following quote: “…instead of asking me what’s next, ask me what’s now. Ask me what God is teaching me, ask me what I’m struggling with, or what brings me joy. I am learning, I am growing, and I am happy. I would love to tell you all about it.”

The above article was written with a female’s perspective, but since then, another article has been posted to their site. It’s called “29, A Guy, and Single.” Yes, guys struggle with singleness too, but the point made in this article that resonates the loudest with me is to not isolate others when they’re not in the same stage of life as you.

I got married just before I turned 25. We’ve been married almost 8 years now and  still don’t have children. And we’re okay with that. It’s what God has for us right now (obviously). For the first three or four years, we got lots of questions about kids–even accusations and hurtful comments from some. Fortunately, we’re past that “stage” (if you will). Do we want kids? Sure, if that’s how we can best be conformed to Christ and glorify God. Will we have kids? I don’t know (and please don’t ask me–if you really want us to, tell God and let Him decide if and when). Do we love the next generation? Absolutely! If we didn’t, we wouldn’t serve in the Children’s Ministry at our church and hang out with the teens at church suppers and ski trips and help the junior high-ers bake cupcakes for a church wide shindig. Will we have biological kids? Foster? Adopt? I don’t know. (Is that question even relevant?)

Not everyone is meant to follow the same path. Not everyone fits in a fixed pattern or norm. It’s okay to not be in the same stage as your peers. God’s plan for each of us is unique…just like the gifts He’s given us. (Not to mention that certain personal questions just ought not be asked by casual acquaintances in the first place.)

Bryan and I have plenty of friends who are married with kids…one, two, three, four…or even nine or more! Some are new parents, others are parents of teens, and then there’s the empty nesters–not to mention every stage in between. We also have lots of “DINK” friends (Dual Income No Kids–yes, it’s a real thing), some by choice and others because of infertility or miscarriage. And we have lots of single friends–guys and girls, men and women, anywhere from high school into their retirement years–some who desperately want a romantic relationship and others who are fine with their current status. Some who are dating, others who are widowed, and some who have experienced the pain of divorce. But regardless of the status, gender, age, ethnicity, career path, or number of kids, one thing is constant: we all need God! And we need each other to point each other to Him.

Did you catch that?! We need each other, folks. The church wasn’t built of any one particular  demographic–or it would’ve been rendered extinct a long time ago. We need to stop letting our gender or stage in life define us and starting letting the name “Christian” define us. As Christians, we are all called to be followers of Christ and members united in Him. There is beauty in diversity, and there’s no reason we can’t share diverse backgrounds and still delight in unity.

Sometimes I wish we would go back to the days of calling other believers “brother” and “sister.” Many cultures still do, but it’s fallen out of common use in our American culture. It’s sad, really. Maybe if we started seeing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ again, we wouldn’t care so much about status and we’d focus more on loving one another and caring for one another and sacrificing for one another–like we do for our blood relatives. After all, it’s the blood of Christ our Savior that bonds us–isn’t that a greater connection than even familial bloodlines? If we would love our biological siblings despite their flaws and faults and “let love cover it” and even defend them “to the death” when others speak ill of them, should we not treat our heavenly siblings in a similar manner?

One of the saddest things to me is when a friend tells me that they had a “best friend” but that best friend got married and now they don’t hang out because the other friend is “still single” and “that’s just life” or “it’s only natural.” Or when one friend has kids earlier than another friend and they no longer interact because of nap schedules and early bed times. There are ways around this. We just have to be flexible–on both sides. I understand that there are certain things that can’t flex–babies have to be fed and cared for, and parents get tired, especially new parents, and we do need to rest. I just want to encourage you not to give up on a relationship because part of your situation changed. Relationships take work, and they’re worth the effort.

There’s no reason to not ask someone in a different stage of life than you to come over for dinner…or meet up for coffee…or host a game night. If they have kids, you might have to plan further in advance so they can schedule a babysitter, or better yet…just get together at the house with the youngest children, so the kids can still go to bed and the adults can stay up and talk. It works. Trust me. The perfect example of this is our Shepherding Group–we have 16 people when we’re all together, and we range from infant to senior saint. The backgrounds of where we grew up, where we went to school, whether or not we have kids, etc., are SO diverse, yet God has done something really cool by bringing such a random group of individuals together into a tightly knit group.

Maybe it is “natural” to fall into easy conversation with people in your same stage of life, but we are called to live “supernaturally” by the power of the Almighty God! So, fight what’s “natural” and choose to branch out of your comfort zone. Make friends with someone in a different age group than you. Or rekindle a friendship that’s fallen by the wayside because of different career paths or life choices. Mentor a younger brother or sister in Christ. Seek out a more mature brother or sister to mentor you. Share with them what God is teaching you…and ask them, “What’s God teaching you right now?” instead of “What’s Next?” And rejoice together in our Amazing, Unifying God!

Design Project: Dining Room Converted To Reading Room

We are almost done with our Reading Room Project – first DIY project of 2012. So, if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to (because the blog’s been a little sparse on new content), here’s your answer. It has been well worth it for us!

Let me start by explaining our thinking behind doing this re-decorate project. First, we found we rarely used the dining room. We work opposite schedules and only really get to eat dinner each night and the occasional breakfast together, and when we do eat together, we often found ourselves eating in the living room and chatting while we ate. Second, we’re combining the contents of our two extra bedrooms upstairs into one space for TV/exercise and the occasional guest, while the other room will likely be occupied by a short term renter. So, we needed a place for Bryan’s office and we were ready to pull some of our books out of storage. Finally, we’ve been hosting a Bible study/community group for young adults in our home for the last six months or so and wanted a more comfortable space for conversations to break off as necessary.

Most of our furniture was either given to us or bought as necessities before we were married (i.e., things that fit our budget and were functional but not necessarily our style), and though grateful for these, we were ready for a change. We talked about the idea a couple of weeks ago and I posted our dining room set for sale on Facebook  the next morning, just to see what would happen. It sold by lunchtime! I was shocked, and excited for an opportunity to finally buy some furniture that fit our style. I texted Bryan, “Guess we have to remodel now. Just sold the set on FB! They’ll pick up on Sat/Sun. :)”

Here’s the Before picture:

I found this really cool website that lets you design your room layout, specifying dimensions of furniture, placement of outlets, and even add links to the items you want to purchase from various vendors! It’s called Urban Barn, and I highly recommend it. Here’s a snapshot of the design I had in mind:

And here’s the final result:

View of Reading Room from the Kitchen

View of Reading Room from the Foyer - the couch and upholstered chairs function as extra seating around the table, as needed (note: I used my teapot collection as bookends)

Sideboard with Feather Arrangements and Teacup Racks; Table Centerpiece is a Jar of Foodie Ornaments that I couldn't bear to put away after Christmas

The Office Space in the Reading Room

We’re thinking of hanging a clock or floating shelf next to the desk, to the left of the mirror, and we’re waiting on one final piece of art to be matted and hung above the computer.

11x14 original acrylic painting from Etsy - will have off-white matte and black frame to match the other artwork in the room

We’ve already used the room every day since we finished it! And I’m thankful to finally have a space that’s my own little personal retreat from life. I love curling up on the love seat with my Bible and a cup of coffee or tea, sitting and chatting with a friend at the small, round table, or cuddling with Bryan while we watch a movie on the computer. It’s a truly multi-functional room, and we love it!

Enjoying the Journey,

Melissa

A Special Thanksgiving Week Basket and Recipe Ideas

Happy Thanksgiving! This week’s basket from Milk and Honey Organics was amazing and so festive for the holidays! They delivered on Tuesday instead of the normal Thursday schedule, due to the holiday. Instead of a meal plan this week, I’m sharing extra recipe ideas along with table-scape and fall decor tips for Thanksgiving Day…and what to do with the Leftovers!

This Week’s Basket includes: 

  • Microgreens from Chef’s Greenhouse
  • Green Beans
  • Cranberries
  • Sweet Yellow Onions
  • Garlic
  • Yukon Potatoes
  • Macintosh Apples
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Granny Smith Apples
  • Acorn Squash
  • Salad Mix (or Lettuce)
The first thing I did (after taking today’s picture using my Instagram app) was wash the salad mix and microgreens and toss them together with thinly sliced pears, apples, shallots, avocado, and carrots and topped with chopped nuts, feta cheese, dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar. If you’re not sure what to do with microgreens, mixing them with your salad greens is delicious!

Recipes Ideas for the Thanksgiving Week Basket:

For more LOTS of ideas on decorations and recipes, check out my “Thanksgiving” Pinterest Board.

And for Post-Turkey-Day, check out these great ideas:

by Mary Kate McDevitt

 Happy Thanksgiving! Bon Appetit! And Enjoy the Journey!

Sweet Paul’s Thanksgiving…And His New Winter Magazine!

If you love beautiful photographs of delicious food, fun crafts and home decorating ideas that will make you smile, then check out Sweet Paul! They also have recipes to go along with the beautiful food pics and some DIY gift wrap inspiration! Enjoy!

Recently he’s been putting out digital magazines of his collections. Last year, he put out a Holiday edition that featured ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas! So, if it’s your turn to host this year’s Thanksgiving feast for your family, and you still don’t know what you’ll be serving, check out some of Sweet Paul’s ideas here. Here’s a glimpse:

And for the latest Winter edition of Sweet Paul's Magazine, check this out!

Doesn't French Toast Stars sound like a fabulous Christmas Morning breakfast?!

Check out the adorable tartan Scottie ornaments!

Don't forget to check out back issues of the magazine on the left nav bar when you're viewing any of the editions.

My favorite edition to date is the Special Kids edition from this past spring! This article is full of recipes for homemade organic baby food! So great! And the rest of the magazine has adorable crafts and kid-friendly recipes and party ideas!

I always look forward to the next edition of Sweet Paul Magazine! I hope you will too! Enjoy!

Whoever Thought “Epic” and “Oatmeal” Would Be in the Same Sentence?!

Every Tuesday night, we host a small group dinner and Bible discussion at our house for young adults. We usually provide a simple meal, like baked potatoes and salad, homemade pizza, custom omelets, etc. Well, this week, Bryan suggested we serve oatmeal.

At first, I thought this was a little strange. “We’re having company and you want to serve oatmeal?! OoooKay…” So I asked another girl in our group, Ashley, what she thought, and she said she loves oatmeal. So…Oatmeal Extravaganza it is!

I made a big batch of homemade oatmeal (4.5 c. oats, 4 c. water, 3.5 c. milk) and a small batch of quinoa (1 c. red quinoa, 1 c. water, 1 c. milk). Then we had the following options for toppings available:

  • fried apples (organic apples pan fried in butter with a bit of brown sugar)
  • brown sugar, white sugar, honey, maple syrup, and Stevia
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Nutella
  • pecans, walnuts, flax seed
  • blueberries and raspberries
  • raisins
  • pomegranate arils

Then we also served eggs to order on the side (over easy, over medium, or scrambled) – fresh from the farmer’s market! And Ashley brought Immaculate Baking Co. Cinnamon Rolls, which are fabulous!

All in all, the oatmeal bar was EPIC! And it turned out to be a great dinner and discussion group!

Irish Pub Party

We host Book Exchange parties on a regular basis (kind of like White Elephant Gift Exchanges, but with books that you actually like instead of pranks). It started with everyone bringing a book and a snack to share. Then the food part evolved into a themed party. This last theme was by far my favorite to date: an Irish Pub Party! The food was fabulous! But then, how can you go wrong with an array of comfort food?!

Inspiration Behind the Irish Pub Party

Mini Corned Beef Sandwiches with Swiss, Sauerkraut or Slaw, Pickles, Horseradish, and an assortment of Mustards

Vegetable Tart by Rachel that featured an assortment of Potatoes, Parsnips, and Cheese, caramelized and baked to perfection! And it went well with the Loaded Baked Potato Soup by Ashley and Ben (not shown). Yum!

Toast with Pickled Beets and Soft Boiled Eggs, drizzled with a Dijon Dill Vinaigrette (recipe from the Irish cookbook) - apparently traditional, this was a surprising hit at the party.

Fresh Fruit brought by Daryl & Adrianne, used in combination with fresh veggies and bread for dipping in the Pumpkin Beer Cheese Fondue (not shown); the Fondue recipe can be found here.

Bread Pudding with Raisins by Catherine and Greg (perfect with a cup of coffee and some Irish Creamer) - I can't wait to add this recipe to my permanent file!

Are you inspired to host a themed party yet?! I highly recommend this theme. Remember, keep it simple and let your guests bring some of the food, so you can enjoy your guests during the evening and not have to spend the entire evening in the kitchen. So, do you have a favorite party theme?

The Party Dress Magazine and Blog

I stumbled upon an amazing blog that is affiliated with a magazine called The Party Dress. It has wonderful ideas for themed parties, like the Popcorn Party pictured below, and it’s filled with beautiful pictures and tantalizing recipes that would make Martha Stewart drool. Check it out!

Picture from ThePartyDress.net

We love hosting themed parties! One of our favorites is a Book Exchange party. Everyone brings a wrapped book that they love and want to share (no pranks allowed, unless you want to). Then we follow white elephant rules for the exchange. It’s so much fun!

In addition to the book exchange, we theme the food and ask everyone to bring something to share (which takes a lot of stress and cost off of you as the host). My friends Rachel & Dave have done roasting parties (bring something to roast on the fire; bonfire and coffee provided) and a flat bread party (bring something to top flat bread: sauces, dips, spreads, etc.). At our last book party, we asked everyone to bring a healthful hors d’oeuvre to share. And this next one is an Irish Pub Party theme!

What themed parties have you thrown (or attended) that were a big success with the guests?!

A Welcome Home Basket

Recently, we had some friends from church that had an out of town funeral and would be home for about half a week before heading out for a scheduled family vacation. The traveling was exhausting, not to mention emotional, and the last thing we wanted them to have to do between the funeral trip and getting ready for a much needed vacation was to have to go grocery shopping. So, we put together a quick basket for a few days of fast meals. They really enjoyed it! And it was a lot of fun putting it together. The fruit and vegetables were from our Milk & Honey Organics basket for that week.

What’s in the Box:

  • Loaf of English Muffin Bread (from Publix)
  • Florida’s Natural Orange Juice
  • Organic Milk
  • All-Natural Sliced Cheese
  • Mixed Baby Greens
  • Jar of Homemade Potato Corn Chowder (enough for 2)
  • All-Natural Sliced Turkey
  • Container of Homemade Guacamole
  • Homemade Cheese Quesadillas (wrapped in foil for a fast reheat)
  • Organic Onion
  • All-Natural Sour Cream
  • Organic Yogurt Cups
  • Organic Broccoli Head
  • Organic French Roast Whole Bean Coffee
  • 1 dozen Eggs
  • Organic Apples and Plums

Ideas for Meals:

  • Quesadillas + Guac + Sour Cream + Onion + Salad
  • Soup + Sandwich
  • Sandwich + Salad
  • Eggs + Toast + Juice
  • Yogurt + Fruit
  • Sandwich + Broccoli
  • Coffee + Milk (not a meal, but very important!)
I’m posting this as much for myself as for you all. I want to remember what we put in the basket, so we can do this again, maybe for a new mom, a sick friend or a special break for someone. It’s a great way to get your children involved in serving others too. Be creative and see how many variations you can create in one small box on a budget. This whole box cost us just less than $30.

Turning 30’s Not So Bad…

Dark Chocolate Squares and Pumpkin Walnut Muffins with Golden Flaxseed and Cream Cheese Icing

Today was the end of my 30th year of life! I thought it would be more dramatic, but it really wasn’t. My husband and I both got the day/night off work and he brought me a dozen beautiful yellow roses from the Fresh Market!

Yellow Roses from Bryan

We celebrated with a few couples who are close friends this evening. We had a book exchange (white elephant style…minus the gag gifts) and everyone brought healthful hors d’oeuvres. It was SO much fun! I made little tent cards for people to label their dishes. Here’s a recap of the food:

Hors d'oeuvres Plates and Fun Napkins

Plenty of Organic Coffee!

All Natural and Organic Sparkling Juices

Tent Cards for Labeling Dishes

What a Beautiful, Healthful Array!

Veggies and Hummus

Caprese Skewers on Rosemary Branches

Grapes and Cheese Tray

Mini Turkey and Ham Subs with Creamy Mustard Dill Sauce

And a recap of the guests: Dave & Rachel, Rick & Jan (& baby Andrew), Nate & Leigh, and Bryan & me. Bryan created a great easy listening and light jazz playlist, which really set the mood for a relaxing time with friends. And the book exchange was fun too (though, there wasn’t much stealing, swapping, etc., with such a small crowd).

Dave & Rachel

Rick & Jan (Note: the Coca Cola in this picture is the original recipe with cane sugar instead of corn syrup)

Andrew - the life of the party!

Nathan - sorry, Nate, I couldn't get a serious picture of you. :)

Leigh (she's with Nate)

Me & Bryan

Book Exchange - everyone put your books in the middle!

Bryan with his new book - courtesy of Dave

Finally, I’ll close the eve of my 30th birthday with a few favorite quotes I found and picture of me and my man:

“Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty” -Robert Frost.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes” -Frank Lloyd Wright.

So happy together...

A Delightful Evening: Celebrating God’s Faithfulness through the Life of Amy Carmichael

Last weekend, Heritage Bible Church had a dinner for those impacted by our Mercy Ministries: widows, widowers, single moms, individuals with deployed spouses, etc. It really was a delightful evening. You may remember the post about God’s Faithfulness that included options for the table decorations. Well, here’s what came out of those musings, thanks to several that helped make my visions a reality:

printed menu cards at each plate setting

Every table had a teapot vase (that matched the China plate settings for the meal) with a custom arrangement of purple, white and yellow flowers and table number flags, twelve tea lights, two streamers with pendants made out of copies of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" sheet music, and folded linen napkins.

A bit of the variety of the flower arrangements, prior to transport to the church for the banquet (we prayed for 50% off flowers at Hobby Lobby and God answered!)

Helpers male and female, young and old, came together to make this event a success and a blessing to many! And we had a blast serving together!

The meal was delicious and accompanied by soft, live piano music while a slideshow of quotes from Amy Carmichael’s writings played on a screen above the front stage. The evening concluded with some humorous skits, sacred special music, and a brief challenge, incorporating the life and testimony of Amy Carmichael. Praise God for His Faithfulness in Amy’s life and each of ours!