Hospitality and Children

In the day and age of cell phones, busy schedules and so much on-the-go, old fashioned visiting and having company over has really fallen by the wayside. It wasn’t that long ago that days “out” consisted of spending afternoons at the neighbors’ or visiting on porches in the summer: now everyone is cocooned  in their own little houses and share pictures of their life on Instagram.

Visiting over leisurely dinners is a precious gift. Inviting people to your home is a way of showing them an intimate piece of yourself. Whenever we get invited out, it is a very BIG deal to us. The kids talk about it for days in anticipation, I relish the outing and the visit with ADULTS, and it just adds a little bit of nourishment to our souls. When you have a bigger family, or maybe your “circle” just doesn’t do that type of thing, you may have to start a trend yourself. Here are some easy tips for having people over, when you feel a bit overwhelmed.IMG_1409.JPG

  1. Invite two groups. I always invite people in multiples. Either two single people, or two couples, two families, etc. That way, if handsome hubby and I are both busy with a child (they outnumber us, so it WILL happen at some point in the visit) the conversation can be carried on without us. It may sound harder to have more people, but I find that things flow easier.
  2. Keep it simple. Right now is the perfect season for outdoor barbecues! The house will require limited cleaning before and after, the menu can be easy, and it’s just more relaxing all around. Spilled juice is no big deal outside.
  3. Research. Do they have allergies or intolerances? Make sure to know that before you start cooking. Sending someone to the hospital is never a great ending to an evening. Also, try to think of a couple things going on in your guests’ lives that you can ask about, and even tell your children so that they might participate in the conversation. Usually, our kids are assigned one question each (at least) to ask of the guests. With our oldest, I have been teaching him to ask follow up questions. For example: “Where do you work at?” “What do you like about it?”  It helps them become conversationalists, too.
  4. Menu. Make something easy, affordable and in bulk. I ran out of food at one big get together (there were three surprise guests, in my defense, but I’ll never live it down!) I like to serve things that will go far- soup, spaghetti, turkey with the sides, etc. Anything you can add lots of sides to goes over well with different allergies and tastes. Think salads, finger foods, breads, chopped vegetables.
  5. Prep. The more you can do ahead of time, the better. My favourite evenings are the ones where I made all the food up the day before, so that during the day I could clean up and spend time with the children, and keep my focus where it should be. This way the kids could be more involved- they’ve collected leaves from outside for the table, made name cards for the guests, pictures to gift them when they leave- but there needs to be a sense of peace and time in order to have fun in this way.
  6. Drop it. If you start to get stressed by the condition of your home, the food, anything- check your heart. Romans 12:10-13 says:”Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” In opening your home to others, you are showing God’s love. Don’t lose focus on that and try to “get it all done.” He doesn’t care about the state of our homes nearly so much as the state of our heart. He doesn’t care that dinner is burnt, but that you made it in love. He is our only Audience- do all you do for His glory.
  7. Pray. Pray over your home before they arrive; involve your children. It is so important that our homes are shelters in the storms, and places where people feel safe. Pray for your guests, pray for your children. Pray for your meatloaf, if you think it needs it.
  8. Relax. Have fun! If people made time out of their busy schedules to come to your home, they obviously value time spent with you. That is the highest honour, when time is so dear and treasured. So don’t worry if the kids start fighting at the table, or ask a super embarrassing question, or forget to shut the door when they use the bathroom. It’s part of your charm!
  9. Start small. Dinner sound like too much? Have guests over for coffee on a Sunday night. They probably won’t stay as long, some baking or a quick snack is plenty, and it’s a great way to ease into the process.
  10. Activity. If you can incorporate a game or activity into it, all the better! One of our family’s favourite times was spent at a couple’s house who helped the kids make all their own individual pizzas. It was a time to be treasured!

 

Hospitality is something that I don’t practice as much as I’d like. There is something about breaking bread with friends and people you don’t know that well that adds a specialness to your week, and your relationship. This summer, I am going to make it a goal to have three different occasions before the end of August to encourage our children on how to be good hosts, and to give some friends and acquaintances a night out. Who’s with me? I’d love to hear your best stories- good times, crazy times, and embarrassing times- when you have tried to be a good host!

A Letter to Myself

When putting away the Christmas clutter decorations, I wrote a letter to pack along with them and open next December. I know it will be new again, and I won’t remember writing it, because I wrote a grocery list last week and I didn’t remember anything on that by the time I get to the store.

Dear Me,

You’re looking well.

It’s all over. Another holiday season, another chapter, another year. Your tree was pretty bad. Seriously. Lights on half the tree is not better than “none of the tree.” It’s not usually a choice like that. I know that lights go on sale for 50% off on Boxing Day, but then you bought two packs of lights. If you would have just bought one box of lights three weeks before, you wouldn’t have as much stuff to put away now, and people wouldn’t look at you all sad when they see your tree.

I’m glad you took the whole month off school. It was busy enough! I’m glad you took them to do a few service projects, so that they can be a light to others (not 50% of a light, like your tree) and to teach them the world is much bigger than they are. Metaphorically and literally. They won’t forget that. Now try to be as courageous as your kids- people might not call you “so adorable!” but they may listen and you can be a light too. (Again, a WHOLE light. Not half.) It’s easy to hide behind their cuteness, but make sure you model evangelism and a “fear not” attitude. They will catch on one day, when you are always in the background. They will follow.

The gifts went well. Three each is enough. Every year you get all worried that it’s not enough, that other kids get more, blah, blah, blah. THEY LOVED IT. The gifts were thoughtful, in budget and you didn’t hurt yourself on the sewing machine. Well done.

The Christmas books, movies and activities were fun. You didn’t do all of Truth in the Tinsel, but your kids do not all like crafts, and don’t like them every day. It’s a beautiful thought to make a Christmas ornament each DAY of Advent, with part of the story to go along with it, but you have four kids. Four children X 24 Days= 96 ornaments in total. Are you really just trying to make up for the lack of lights? Either way, they had fun with what we did. Maybe next year you’ll do a couple more. Who cares? Not them.

The family Advent went WAY better than you thought. Special Sunday dinners, reading a litany and lighting candles in your wreath was something all the kids looked forward to. But the way you introduced it to your handsome hubby (Remember? “Hey! We’re going to do this.”) left a lot to be desired. If you have something you want to do as a family, present your ideas thoroughly and don’t get absolutely furious if he doesn’t love them as much as you in the first ten seconds. Good grief. Give the guy a break. Your homemade wreath was fun to make, even if it doesn’t look as nice as you wanted. I’m just proud you didn’t spend any money, and used stuff from around the house. Maybe next year you can find a special one to keep from year to year (and remember, November 30 is NOT the day to start looking!)

The baking. There’s something special about filling the house with yummy smells, and mixing cookie batter with the kids. Flour on their noses, accidentally spilling the chocolate chips in the bowl. Christmas music in the background; making up beautiful platters to bring to all your parties. What are you even talking about?! That didn’t happen. You used a hand mixer once, but other than that, there was not a square/cookie/snickerdoodle/chocolate yum yum to be found in your house. Who cares? Use the excuse that you’re trying to eat healthy or something. No one cares. The kids didn’t, and you were actually a little more peaceful than last year.

The decorating (other than your tree) was fine. Definitely mediocre at best, but you don’t care about that anyways, so why pretend like you do? It took way less time to put it all away in the end.

The date night with HH for dinner and the last bit of gifts was awesome. Do that again. Don’t forget to make his Christmas fun and special too (even if he doesn’t jump up and down like the kids do.)

All in all, I think this year went well. You took time to prepare Him room- in your heart and in your home. The little things either happened, or they didn’t, but they were little anyways. You bulldozed your way through a few things it would have been better to ponder in your heart, but that’s what it’s all about. He came for you just as much as He came for your babies. Accept His grace, His mercy and start fresh again. Marvel over the fact that a baby has saved you.

If I can give you any advice next season, while I am still fresh from this one:

  1. *If something is pushing you or pulling you along, and it’s not Jesus, cut it out.
  2. *If you are staying up late to make something magical the next day, you will just ruin it with your fatigue and lack of energy. Don’t do it.
  3. *Pick a couple things and do them well, and with love. It’s better than a lot of things rushed through and done with impatience.
  4. *Smile more.
  5. *Don’t be embarrassed when you cry through the Christmas songs. Your soul has felt it’s worth!

Love always, your biggest enemy your friend,

Me.

P.S. Buying all your gifts online so that you only went out once- DO THAT AGAIN.

Sandra

How about you? What did you learn (maybe the hard way) this year? What saved you time or heartache? What is the most important thing to remember about Christmas with little kids? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holicrazy {Part 2}

We’ve all seen the pictures, the taglines, the defiant “I’m Keeping Christ in Christmas.” I love facebook for keeping alive the passive aggressive war of semantics, beliefs and agendas. After all, it’s your facebook, you can post what you want, right?

So, are you? You know, “keeping Christ in Christmas.” Let’s start a checklist. For me, too.

Have we used your credit card to buy gifts you can’t afford?

Have we bought a Christmas present for ourselves?

Have we engaged in gluttony, envy, pride, wrath, greed, etc. due to “the holidays”?

Have we aided and encouraged the consumerism in our children, and the children around us? 

I think we can all say that we have definitely done some of these. So what’s the point here?

Well, I think the point is this: When we post ownership of the holiday, and all which it is in our present day fashion, we are owning a holiday that doesn’t truly exist anymore. Christmas is so far removed from the manger scene. So far removed from the virgin birth. So far removed from the stable. I think that I can safely say that if you ask any of our children the best part of Christmas, they will say the gifts. Most of Christmas in Canada, 2013, has NOTHING to do with a stable. (Check out last year’s post, Happy Holicrazy!)

Can you see Jesus shopping the malls, buying toys made in China by other little children, spending too much, dead tired, snapping at His children when He gets home because He took on too much AGAIN?

Probably not.

So what are we doing? What are we doing that is so different from the “world”?

It’s a rhetorical question, I don’t really have an answer.

I wonder how people who don’t profess to live for Jesus feel when we say, “I keep Christ in Christmas.” Do they feel the love of Christ that first drew us to Him? Are they feeling the arms of His grace enveloping and removing their sins? 

All this to say, of course, I am trying so hard to keep Christ in Christmas. So hard. We try not to get our kids a lot, because I don’t want that association of gifts=Christmas. We are teaching them to say “I like” instead of “I want” when they happen to venture into a toy section. They don’t see catalogs, flyers or commercials, so that’s narrowed it down a bit. We include them with the giving, either for gifts from Compassion (things given to other children/people around the world in their name) or baking cookies for neighbours, or helping in the community. But we still have so much worldly stuff: stockings, Christmas tree, lights, big dinners,mistletoe (my hubby’s good-looking, what can I say). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of it: but it has NOTHING to do with Jesus. 

So, is this the hill we want to die on? The proof that we love Jesus? The proof that we are saved by His grace? The facebook picture that we are “Keeping Christ in Christmas?” 

I would like it a whole lot better if it said:

“Trying my hardest to keep this holiday about Jesus, even though I’m going to mess up and the kids are going to get spoiled, and I’m going to go out of budget a little; but I know that He loves me anyways, and that He will forgive me, and that His grace is the reason I get out of bed each morning, and if you want to know more about Him, and what He can do in your life, please ask me.”

Might have to work on the wording.

Happy birthday, Jesus!