3.10.14

Hospitality and Small Children

 I originally wrote this in 2011, and it's more true today than ever.

One HUGE difference from my pre-kids days to my current reality is that entertaining and hosting people can seem like more of a burden than ever before. I used to thrive with company over. I loved tidying up my home, planning a menu, and having a full house of family, friends, you name it. When Lily was born it drastically changed. I had less energy. The house was always a mess. Cooking and baking became more rare. People coming over wasn't as "fun" anymore. 

Lately Brad has been challenging this view. He's obviously sympathetic to my lack of energy, especially with my current pregnancy on top of a 9 month old, but he's also the greatest influence in my life other than God, so when he speaks, I need to consider what he's saying. And I have been (not that I'm always so ready to be corrected, mind you!). He's been encouraging me to show hospitality more, though it's harder than ever. Why? Because it's one of the greatest ways to love people.

Something I've realized through trying to understand to what degree I should be serving others alongside my family in this season is that hospitality is not hosting/entertaining. In my head, the two were inseparable. But they are quite different, and when you get that, you realize that showing hospitality doesn't have to be a burden when you're in a season of difficulty - especially with small children. Entertaining has a heavy emphasis on showing someone a great time, amusing them. There's a lot of pressure there. An entertaining evening usually means a nice meal, planned activities, a pleasant atmosphere (read: clean house!), everyone on their best behavior, etc. Now check out the definitions of hospitality.

Hospitality:

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
I take this to mean that showing hospitality is opening your door and heart to people. Even when the house is messy. Even when you're just ordering pizza. Even when you don't have the perfect evening planned. It's showing generosity and love, usually in your home. That sounds like something I can do, if I so choose. But what it also required is that I choose love and generosity above appearance and "perfection". Would I be as proud to open up my home if I'm not offering a three-course-meal made from scratch? I should be, but in my pride, I'm not. 
Something I'm working on, with Brad's inspiration, and also the inspiration of  this article recently posted online.

1.10.14

Sharing my heart for families in cities

This week I was so grateful to share a post I'd written on The Gospel Coalition's blog about the severe lack of families in the urban church and the great need for them. Brad and I joke that my favourite questions are "how's the church plant?" and "how do you find living in the city with your three kids?", because seriously... don't get me started. I love getting to share my heart on the two subjects. It's one of the biggest reasons I keep this blog going and why I was so delighted to share with the broader audience of TGC.


Here's an excerpt:
Families are a particular blessing to the urban church and to cities, which makes their absence all the more frustrating. For the same reason families don’t want to move to urban churches, urban churches need them deeply. Cities can be cold and heartless, but a Christian family offers warmth and care. Cities can be competitive and rough, but a Christian family shows mutual serving and gentleness. A Christian family reminds the world that we need one another.

I have seen firsthand how my family has been a blessing in ways often overlooked in suburbs or small towns. Families offer grounding where the urban church can be evanescent. Families offer stability where the urban church can be transient. Families contradict the city’s sermon that “it’s all about you” and invite the urban church to serve and love and lead and disciple.


The challenges to city life with children are legitimate: high cost of living, less space, fewer schooling options, increased crime (if only due to the increased population), and so on. Several years ago on this site Kathy Keller wrote a compelling list of reasons why living in the city with children is wonderful. Even so, families give up a great deal when answering the call to urban ministry. But could it be that one of the ways we pick up our cross and follow Christ is to lay down our right to a yard and white picket fence? To lay down our right to a driveway and garage? To lay down our right to home ownership at all?

You can read the whole article on The Gospel Coalition blog.

2.9.14

explore the world for free!

This post title totally sounds like one of those infomercials promising unrealistic things to an unsuspecting public. Except it's legit and we've traveled with our kids (and alone too) around the globe for next to nothing. I promise. So the first time we took Lily and Oli to France for three weeks a lot of people were asking questions. And if they weren't, I know they were secretly thinking "is he a church planter by day and bank thief by night?!" Which of course he isn't, because he's also a church planter by night, hello long hours in the early years.


Anyway, After that trip we promised to fill you all in our our cheap/free traveling ways but those plans fell by the wayside. Then we went away without our kids, back to France because FRANCE. Also for free. And this spring we spent almost a month in Denmark and Holland - our first trip with three kids - also for nearly nothing.


I thought about blogging all of that info on this space but my blog isn't a travel blog and my husband is the mastermind behind all of our money-saving methods anyway, so he wrote a big long crazy informative post and put it up on another blog. He spend so many hours writing this thing you guys. It took him an insane amount of time to compile the information so that we could do this ourselves and we wanted to share it with you! We love traveling and we love having our three kids in tow (SOMETIMES) but we don't have a lot of money. You might be the same. So rejoice! Because there's a way, friends :)

http://exploretheworldforfree.blogspot.ca/

happy exploring!

29.8.14

FOREVER FAMILY FEVER.

Yes, it's a thing. And yes, this always happens. I have a baby, it's crazy hard, I swear off more offspring, a few months in I get some sleep/start bottle feeding/basically have a life again, and then I forget previously mentioned "crazy hard" times completely, and want more kids. It's a dangerous cycle, friends. I should know better.

The other night, as Brad and I were enjoying a quiet dinner and the three meat balls were blissfully sleeping in their shared room, I mentioned this to Brad. It wasn't the first time I've mentioned it, so he was ready with a response.

"you seem to only mention wanting more kids when all of ours are asleep".

har har HAR.

So, he's right. But isn't that when people should make decisions? From a place of strength?

If we decided to go for baby #2 and #3 in the midst of toddler tantrums and sleep deprivation and low milk supply drama and potty training (you know, a few of my favourite things), we probably would still have one kiddo. Every time we decided to give it a go for the next baby we were sleeping well and life was relatively smooth.

Kind of like right now.

Of course, as I type this, we've just had a rough couple days with tantrums and disobedience, but on the whole things are good chez nous. All three kids sleep through the night, in the same room. One is completely out of diapers (even at night! recent! big deal!), two are in preschool for two days a week, the baby is eating solids and drinks cow's milk and plays independently. It's all become very manageable. Words I never dreamed of saying last winter.

And so I find myself at the place of strength where in the past I'd be ready for our next baby. Except we aren't having another baby. But God knows I long for more kids. God knows my heart for adoption has never decreased, after all these years. But it's not that simple. We can't adopt in our current house, and we haven't come to a decision about if we will adopt yet. So we'll re-open the discussion when we move to a home with three bedrooms and when Oli is in school full-time (minimum two years from now).

In the meantime I'm making terrible decisions like following every.single.Duggar on instagram. Why do I suddenly want 19 kids? Not advised. But also, praying for God's will to be clear to me and the hubs about adoption in the future.

Anyone else have baby fever? Or in my case, forever family fever? Please share!

26.8.14

AN EXCELLENT RECOURCE.

In June I was lucky enough to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's National Conference in Orlando for a few days. The conference itself was three days plus I stayed an extra two for some R&R. It was without a doubt the best five days I've had consecutively in many years. I'm incredibly thankful that Brad was willing to send me joyfully. He and my mom-in-law took care of the kids so I could attend and I couldn't thank them enough. I still look back, months later, and say a quick prayer of thanks for those five days.


There were four thousand women there, out of normal life, away from their jobs, homes, children, husbands, responsibilities. Just there to sit under great teaching, to worship, to learn, to grow, to be challenged. 

The book store alone was an inspiration. Those four walls had magical powers or something. Er, scratch that, they wouldn't teach that at TGC. But for real, the thousands of book titles and silly-low prices were such an encouragement to me, especially as I'd gotten away from reading things apart from the Bible in a particularly busy season of life (and then never really picked it up again, months after the busy season was over). Guys, I came home with a SUITCASE of books. Hallelujah. I've read over half. It was such an incredible kick start, especially what I needed after the I-just-had-a-baby-so-I'm-tempted-to-quit-everything season. I'll be posting my couple-sentence book reviews in the coming weeks as life allows. Spoiler alert: Jen Wilkin continues to be my favourite Bible teacher.


But maybe you weren't one of the four thousand women there? No biggie. You saved some money and spared yourself from the Orlando humidity, and you STILL GET TO LISTEN TO EVERYTHING. Because TGC is cool like that, all the audio is available, free, online (and in multiple languages!)


If you're looking for recommendations, here are mine (links included): 

PANEL: Don Carson, Kathy Keller, Tim Keller, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper Pre-Conference Plenary 1: Why This Issue Now?

These leaders talk about how they came to be complimentarian and their experiences with the complimentarian/egalitarian on-going debate in ministry. Also, the Kellers are the cutest. And Don Carson starts with mentioning he's from French Canada which made my heart swell. Excellent panel discussion for those trying to figure out their thoughts on women in church leadership, gender roles in marriage and in the church.

Kathy Keller: Plenary 1: Taking Action in Light of God's Word (Nehemiah 1-2) 
Tim Keller: Plenary 2: Laboring for a God Who Fights for Us (Nehemiah 3-4)

These are the only two plenary talks I heard in person, to be honest. There was a lot of reading pool side. How else was I gunna put a dent in my suitcase o' books? I've since heard others online but these two remain my favourite :) 

Rosaria Butterfield: Homosexuality and Christian Faith

Rosaria tells the story of how she came to follow Jesus in such a beautiful, eloquent way. Her testimony also includes leaving her homosexual lifestyle.

PANEL: Kristie Anyabwile, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, Mary Mohler, Trillia Newbell: Teaching Our Children About Jesus

I liked this panel a lot though I didn't always resonate with each speaker on the same level. These moms all had great things to say about how to raise our children to know the Lord though, and it's a worth while listen to any parent or would-be parent.

Jen Wilkin Our Daughters’ Great Worth

OK. This talk was my number one. I already love Jen Wilkin. I'm listening to her James bible study (available here), I read her blog, and I've picked her brain more than once on parenting and other things. The girl is sage, people. This talk on daughters was unlike things I've heard before from the Christian community on raising daughters. She talks against raising our girls to be just wives and mothers, which I loved. I cried no less than four times listening to this. Please listen to it.

PANEL: Kristie Anyabwile, Carolyn McCulley, Mary Mohler, Beth Urton: Hospitality: Creating a Grace-Filled Welcome

I really appreciated this talk, especially Carolyn McCulley and Mary Mohler's input. They discussed hospitality in Muslim cultures, hospitality when you're single, and my favourite - what hospitality is not: having the perfect home and the perfect meal.

Talitha and Noël Piper: Adoptive Mother, Adopted Daughter: Two Perspectives on God’s Surprising Plan

This talk was great for those who are considering adoption, who have adopted, who are adopted, and just for those to understand adoption better. I especially appreciated it because the Piper's adoption is likely the route we would go should God give us the go-ahead to adopt (local adoption and transracial). It did not help my baby fever forever-family fever.

I hope you utilize this great resource! TGC has audio available for free from all of their conferences plus a great blog. Enjoy, friends!