We Wash Feet

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

SERVE FOOD DISTRIBUTION DAY 

Today, I pulled on my turquoise volunteer t-shirt, drove my nephew over to catch a ride to church camp, and headed on into the gym to meet up with the other volunteers who would be helping to distribute groceries to anyone and everyone who arrives.  

Both the truck and a van were loaded down to the max with this week’s selections, donated by our local super markets. Over 2000 pounds of food weighed in, bar codes marked through, and placed on tables.  Volunteers Of all ages worked quickly to be ready for clients by noon. 

 

People with boxes in hand began to arrive almost as quickly as we began to ready the tables.  Chairs were set out for people waiting. Breakfast was served.   Numbered tickets were distributed. The gospel’s salvation message was presented. People began to file around the tables choosing what will fill their box. The need is always great and we were are all too happy to distribute. 

This is just one avenue to help meet the needs in our community. Food distributions are the first, third and sometimes fifth Saturdays of each month, beginning at 12:00. Anyone can come that needs help. Everyone is welcome. 

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A simple Meal with friends 

 We did it. We offered a meal of spaghetti and meatballs. My parents, niece and nephew, my son’s girlfriend, and a friend and her daughter joined our family of five.  My parents brought brownies, my friend brought salad and soda. We had a nice dinner with good conversation followed by a lively round of Apples to Apples. It was a great night.

It just wasn’t what I had anticipated. I expected to have a house full.  I expected the entire community to line up to get a seat around my dining room table, to fight over my company. How conceited is that? I felt disappointed. Emotions can be so weird, after all, there were 12 people present, all of which I adore and love to spend time with and yet I just confessed to feeling disappointed.  

Did I mention, I want to be real? I have to be real. I am real, not a picture perfect Christian with ‘Jesus, others, you’ priorities in a neat little row. You would see right through that anyways. 

I did the only thing I really knew to do. I prayed about Friday Night Meatballs.  Yes that may seem silly to some but I truly believe in a relationship with my savior, Jesus Christ. He cares about me and wants to hear about every area of my life. I take my questions, concerns, successes, and failures to Him. It’s part of who I am and who I want to be. 

So I prayed for contentment with whomever God sends, if anyone.  I questioned my motives. Did I seek Him first? Was this plan from him or was this my doing? Would my time be better spent elsewhere? What is my intention? What made me disappointed? 

What I discovered: My motives were much more selfish than my invitation had suggested. Friday Night Meatballs is more for me than you. I want to connect with other Christians in a deeper way, to fellowship, to build closer friendships.   I’ve ask him to bless this and make it what he wants it to be. 

And just like with God’s grace I get to try again.  Not to host a larger crowd but to participate. To enjoy a simple meal with a guest list of 2 or 22. To laugh, to share, to relish your company. Yes it is still an open invitation and I do hope you join us but if you never do…. I will not be disappointed. 

 

 

 A New Tradition – Friday Night Meatballs

During recent conversations, Mike and I have been talking about God’s desire for our lives, our ministry, and our home. We shared our desire to build deeper relationships with other Christians and to reach others with the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We talked about linking arms with like minded people to bring change as we serve our community. We talked about how busy our lives and the lives of everyone we know have become. We talked about slowing down and connecting our hearts to others.

These conversations really pulled on my heart strings. It threw me into a planning mode. Now, if you know me at all, you know what that means. I’m a list maker, a planner and easily get carried away. I love planning parties, events, and activities. I have storage shelves stacked with table decorations and serving dishes, not to mention boxes chocked full of reusable, leftover supplies from hosting various events. Give me a theme and I’ll make you a Pinterest worthy plan and throw you a one of a kind get-together. Of course, get-togethers, events and activities take time. I’ve planned my fair share of dinner parties, family cookouts, and small group luncheons. The amount of work they entail makes it impossible to host with any consistent frequency. Obviously, this was not the answer.  

Mike and I both remember our mothers frequently hosting Sunday night meals. I can tell so many stories, of after church sandwich smorgasbords, pizza or chili for whoever showed up. How did our mothers do it? First of all, our parents didn’t make a big deal about hosting family and friends for dinner, in fact, leftovers were often served along with whatever their guests contributed to the meal. This wasn’t the time for fancy centerpieces and cloth napkins. This was breaking bread together.   

Although this isn’t an original concept, it is definitely one neglected in today’s day and age. My family is too busy. Your family is too busy. We rush from activity to activity, shuttling our kids from place to place. We answer yes when we should shout NO! We never consider opening our homes, as we would actually have to BE home. Yet, I hunger for fellowship, friendships that are deeper than Facebook and the novelty of having guests over without a huge fuss. We must open our heart and home.

That’s when I stumbled across Friday Night Meatballs. Over in Philadelphia there is a freelance writer whose article on seriouseats.com went viral.  She started Friday Night Meatballs the movement!  
In another post on the blog, Intentional Grace, Leigh Ann Dutton states: 

 Sharing a meal with friends is an intimate and profound way of living out the Gospel in our homes. Sharing a meal is simple. There is a richness to breaking bread and sharing communion. Of remembering. Of confessing. Of sharing. Conversations are rich when faces are familiar. People are hungry. I want to offer them the Bread of Life. I want my home to be a place that makes it impossible to not think about God. I want my home to be a place of refreshment and community. A place where you can be you, the you God created you to be. 

I share her sentiments and plan to follow not only her more recent example but the example of countless other hostesses.  We are determined to slow down and enjoy communion and time with our friends and family. We are joining the dinner table movement, committing to once a week, regular fellowship with whomever the Lord brings our way.  We are instituting the Friday Night Meatballs tradition in our home!

This tradition isn’t about the food served or the night chosen. Friday night meatballs can be any night of the week and doesn’t have to be meatballs. Some families do Tuesday Night Tacos or a Sunday Dinner worthy of honored guests.  This is about breaking bread together, the being together, the sharing. Mike and I are sticking to the spaghetti and meatballs menu – keeping it simple is important. After a quick review of our calendar, Friday nights will be our night as well.  Of course, do be prepared for hopefully rare exceptions to this every Friday night rule.  Just keeping real people!

 Here’s my version of our invitation:

Starting this Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family—along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: You are welcome at our table. We’ll just ask that you let us know by Thursday night so we know how many meatballs to make.
You can bring something, but you don’t have to. The house will be messy. There might be card and/or board games. You might be asked to read picture books or play a video game. We will attempt to spend time together, old and new friends, our community. We are looking forward to time to break bread, share communion, and just breathe together.
You’re invited!
(Our pertinent When and Where information)
Kids are welcome and encouraged. This is meant to be a family affair. If you would, please add your name to the Google spreadsheet and let us know if you want to bring something, it will help us plan ahead (meatballs, chairs, etc.). We look forward to hanging out with you, and we pray you have a blessed week!
Mike and Monica 

Now that the invites are out I’m so excited. I’m hopeful this simple act of hospitality is well received, but whether we have our five or we have twenty-five we are moving forward.  I will be adding our house on the meatball map at http://www.fridaynightmeatballs.com and promise to update you on our fun with future pictures as well!

Transition Furniture 

 
Within our community, we have heroes. One such hero is Daniel Murch. I met Daniel in 2011, while working with the Salvation Army, during recovery efforts after five devastating tornados flattened neighborhoods within our community. Our entire county rallied together. Daniel, a young college student at the time, managed the clean up efforts and organizing volunteers to remove the massive amounts of debri.  It was quite evident to everyone, Daniel was and is a keeper! Single girls, sit up and pay attention.  We are talking husband material here.  

Even after the warehouse was emptied and life seemed to return to normal, Daniel continued to help. I watched him making a difference in the lives of others, working in our poorer neighborhoods, influencing, leading youth and adults alike to step up and do something to help others. Before long,  Transition Furniture was born. 

Their mission statement:

What… Transition Furniture is committed to helping people & families who have had great loss in a house fire, natural disasters, or are moving into housing out of homelessness.


Why… tragedy is often unavoidable and rarely is anyone prepared. Furniture and belongings seem irreplaceable and many do not know where to turn or who to turn to. We exist to assist those who experience these tragedies and who have no direct path for restoration. We help them transition. 

And help he has. Through referrals from partnering agencies, countless families have received assistance. Some of their stories are featured on their website transitionfurniture.org.  This is an organization worthy of support and worth watching! Transition continues rallying the community together to help those who need support using social media and their website. This is love in action!  

Most recently Transition Furniture became aware of kids in our community who were sleeping on floors. They sprung into action and before long 30 beds, mattresses, box springs and frames had been donated for their campaign. 

 Using social media, transition requested donations for bedding to accompany each new bed. Various families donated financially through an online account and/or delivered bedding sets they purchased to the drop off locations at either of the two designated drop off locations.  

Our community has wonderful opportunities to “wash feet.”  Transition Furniture’s Floor No More campaign became the focus for our family’s monthly simple service project in May. It was a lot of fun to shop for comforter sets and deliver them to the school.  Participants could also sign up to volunteer their trucks and their time to help deliver them to the families, and    from the pictures below it was a successful delivery day! 

       

Transition Furniture is making an impact in our county. They are making a difference.  It is exciting to watch where Transition Furniture is headed. You can like them on Facebook, follow their blog, and get involved with the work they are doing. Consider donating your gently used furniture, appliances, and general household items to Transition Furniture. You can contact them to see what they are accepting as their space is limited.  Currently they store donations at our local United Way offices but plan to one day move into their own space.  Pray for this work and the families they are impacting, and if you know of someone with an empty warehouse that they would be willing to offer to Transition send them Daniel’s way. 

Summer Begins

School ended Friday with an early dismissal.  Tim practically drug his teacher’s end of year gift into the school.  It was a little bit heavy for a first grader but he was insistent in being the one to bring it to her. His class enjoyed a movie and playtime and a breakfast treat of donut holes, fresh fruit, boiled eggs and co-jack cheese squares. Then we washed it all down with juice boxes. Tim’s class enjoyed one last carpet discussion with their teacher, discussing their favorites memories from the year and piping up to list vocabulary words and their meanings, which seemed more difficult than your average first grade.  It was impressive hearing them add words like infer, sincerely, contrast, and compare to their list, and even more impressive when different kids would pipe up with the correct definition.  I thoroughly enjoyed my “fly on the wall” moment, soaking it all in, especially since these Mommy moments are few since I teach at my child’s school.

 

Tim and I chose a bag of sunshine to give his teacher as a departing gift.  It doubled as a teacher 119appreciation gift because I never managed to do anything during that week long celebration.  I really wanted to shower her with our appreciation for a dream experience in the first grade.

I chose a bright green cooler bag to stuff full of bright yellow, summery items for her to enjoy.  A beach towel, candies, seeds, lotion and body wash, gum, candle, chap stick, and other goodies filled the inside. I didn’t take a picture of the tag I attached but it was a bright yellow sunshine saying thank you for helping us to shine this year.

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After school ended, Jeff picked Tim up from school and took him home.  I stayed for the end of the school year teacher’s luncheon and then headed home to begin our summer vacation!

 

 Simple Service Together

One goal for 2015: 

Invite like minded friends to connect together and form a group to serve together, work together, common change style. Choose 6-12 projects that will serve our community. These can be in partnership with community services groups that share like values, volunteer opportunities, etc… Or can be new projects that will serve our community.

Goals and resolutions often look better on paper. Life becomes so busy and this happens and that happens and before you blink you’re rewriting your resolutions for the next year.  

There is so much we can do to by choosing 6-12 projects that we will complete as a team.  These projects may include working in partnership with community service groups that share like values or may be new projects that help the causes we are passionate about as a group. Sometimes it may involve volunteering for a workday and sometimes it might mean everyone chipping in together to cover a monetary need of someone we know.  To get the ball rolling, my friend Teresa and I met for lunch on Saturday to decide on our first project.

We chose a simple Easter project to bless a few kids and their moms. Our first “Hearts to Serve” project: making Easter baskets for the children who live in our battered women’s shelter and a small personal basket for each of the moms.  We were able to speak with the director at our local Family Resource Agency and get their approval. Then we began collecting our supplies. 

We prepared 6 baskets for the children and 4 baskets for the moms. For the children’s baskets we wanted to include some necessities as well as some Easter candy and stay within a simple budget of $100.00 We talked about the things that should go in the baskets and made our shopping lists.  We would like every bucket to have:

  • chocolate bunny, peeps, and jelly beans
  • stuffed lamb, bunny, or chick
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and shower gel 
  • water bottle
  • band-aids, bug bite itch stick, and sunscreen
  • sidewalk chalk and bubbles
  • Frisbee, jump rope or ball for outside
  • card or dice game
  • stickers, coloring book, crayons
  • bath toys: rubber duckie, squirters, cup
  • small cars or miniature dolls 

   
Didn’t they turn out adorable? 

The director of Family Resource Agency and one of the shelter’s employees met us to pick them up. They delivered them to the moms for us along with a miniature basket for each mom as well. I didn’t get pictures of the mom baskets but they were mini versions of these with pampering products instead of toys!  Sooo cute! This will definitely be a repeat project! 

Green Night

  One of the fun parts of attending a weekly bible club like AWANA are the fun themes through the year. Tonight is “Green Night” and Tim got to hold the American flag for opening ceremony pledges flaunting his stovepipe, green St Patrick’s Day hat. 

Snow Dazed

This self proclaimed North Dakota Girl (15 influential years), transplanted back to her hometown, TN,  has been experiencing true snow days! In all the years of bitterly cold winters, snowball fights, sledding, snow forts and tunnels, would you believe I never experienced a snow day? That’s right, I went to school in the coldest parts of our nation. (Alaska’s tundra – the exception) Never once did I experience a snow day until Tennessee public school days!

Snow days here are extraordinary. I totally understand why schools are closed and why my northern buddies poke fun at me on Facebook. We were out four days last week and four days this week.  Oh and we actually got snow today! We went to bed with an inch but woke up to about 6 inches everywhere.  My youngest son was up and out bright and early, tracking through the snow.  Bowls of snow cream were made for breakfast for us from the buckets he placed on the deck the night before.

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Then the hunt began.  Even though we claim ND as home we do not own a sled, not a single one.  Of course every store in our county received a phone call, to no avail.  So what’s a dad to do?  No sleds but kids with wishful faces can cause you to do some strange things.  Today it was homemade sleds made out of an old plastic garbage can.  Yep he split that puppy right down the middle and tied rope to the front.

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As soon as the teenagers were up it was off to the sledding hill with their friends, thankfully they let their little brother tag along.  They trudged home through the melting slush an hour or two later with reports that the garbage can sleds were a bust. Dad’s heart was in the best of places, and hey, you never know until you try.   Thankfully they knew some of the neighbors sledding and shared their sleds.  “Thank you Neighbors!”

Tomorrow is yet another snow day and by Monday we will be in March and that should take us into next year without anymore snow!  Oh and I’ve heard, sleds can be purchased online fairly reasonable so maybe next year we can be prepared and share our sleds with the friends who need a ride.

Confessions of a Pinterest addict

I love Pinterest. I spend a lot of my free time pinning, too much time really. I have multiple accounts, secret boards, boards for our home, boards for hosting events and parties, school activities, future plans and dreams, recipes and yes tens of thousands of pins.

I have two favorite boards. One is a new secret board for current projects and the other is open access for completed projects. The pins I’m seriously working on or want to complete I pin here and once completed are moved over with either a success or fail label and why. Probably crazy but so far it’s working. I’m completing a few more ideas, more timely. This month’s pins include treats to make for Tim’s class, holiday decorations, valentine plans and a card for his teacher. I’ll post the completed pins with results on what else, but the completed board! Here’s a few pictures of the end results from yesterday’s treat making. Thanks Pinterest and your many contributors. You help me be creative or at least seem like I am.

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Kid Size Guests

As I tuck the covers up around my seven year old son, hugging him good night, I pray for the children that do not have a mother to tuck them in at night. There are too many, in fact according to World Hope Organization 1 in 13 kids in developing countries are orphans.

Last night the World Hope International Children’s Choir performed at church. It was energetic and such a blessing to hear and see these kids sing and dance as part of the Rescue Tour. They talked of the babies they were rescuing on the brink of death from starvation and contaminated water. Heart wrenching stories, but hope shown bright in the eyes of everyone of those energetic worshipers on stage.

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Bikash and Ramzel from Nepal and Philippines came home with us. They fit right in and made themselves at home. Although I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures, Tim had a blast playing with his new friends. We all ate pizza, played with toys, got ready for bed and said our prayers. Silently I prayed over each of my visitors and for their families back home.

So since last night our names have fondly been “Auntie and Uncle.” We have made the favorite American foods of these 8 and 9 year old boys: Chicken Fingers, french fries, bacon, boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, and spaghetti. Not necessarily in that order but an interesting combination none the less.

There were some rules we had to follow. Rules that did our family good. The children were not allowed candy or gum. had strict bedtimes (9pm), were not suppose to play with any type of weapon and no electronics. A G-rated Movie was acceptable though. So on this Monday, we stayed home from school, we played outside and inside. We took breaks to eat. We played ball and rode bikes with helmets. We laughed and giggled. This mom learned that boys from America and boys from Nepal and boys from the Philippines are basically all the same. They play hard, act rough and tough, and still need to hugged.

This opportunity was rich in learning and was well worth missing a day of school. We will miss our new friends.

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