Spring Cleaning…

At least in theory, I want to do some spring cleaning. Certain things need to be done: the flower bed needs a little help before sunshine does its thing, the hose needs brought out, the Christmas lights need taken down, the porches need swept off, and the outdoor furniture needs a good spray & wipe. Other things would be a good idea: washing all the windows, thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, giving curtains & bedlinens a good washing, making sure the pantry & other storage areas are well-ordered & well-stocked. Other things sound like brilliant ideas but are probably not realistic in my here & now: wiping down all the wooden trim in the house, dusting lightbulbs, anything that requires scrubbing with a toothbrush, etc. In my dreamworld I would love some more trim up in the house, especially so I can add some curtains to a few more key rooms: but again, not certain that this is the year that will get accomplished, and that’s totally okay. It is good to know what things should be done, what might be icing on the cake, and what is not realistic for me right now with where God has us today. 🙂

So right now I’ve got my oven self-cleaning, the coffee maker and the dishwasher each running a vinegar rinse, and I cleaned the sink with a good borax soak earlier while I took the kids to the library & out for lunch.

I have great plans to throw some other things in the dishwasher and washing machine as the day goes on… and perhaps I will get the kids involved in helping me do some spring cleaning/prep outside on the porches this evening.

I love to have an organized and tidy home (if not always clean in that “spotless” sort of way… I mean, I do have little kids and live in the country, after all!), not because I want to be fussy but because I want to pursue a good balance of beauty & functionality. I want my home to be a place of rest and refuge for my family, and also for our friends.

So what are YOU doing to freshen up your home this spring? How do you get the whole family involved? What things do you find worth doing versus unnecessary? And how do you make sure you stop spending too much time glancing around the internet for ideas, and actually get off your bum to accomplish some of the said tasks?! 😉

Dabbling in Various Domestic Endeavors

I may not have a Pinterest account, but I sure love coming up with new ideas for the beautifying of my home, the loving of my family, and the nutritious & delicious filling of our bellies! Enjoy a wee glimpse into a few of my recent crafty endeavors.

Beautiful Girl

These are from Evangeline’s newborn photo shoot when she was nine days old & weighing 5-12. Now she’s 36 days old & weighs 7-12. How quickly they grow & change! I’m so thankful for the beautiful memories contained in the pictures from her earliest, tiniest days.

The Nursery

When we were designing our home to be built, we included a room across the hallway from the master bedroom labeled “nursery” but in my head I always added “or craft room.” We were in the midst of our RPL journey ~ our recurrent miscarriages ~ and were not sure that we would be able to have more children on earth.

But the Lord provided in amazing ways. Truly.

And He has given us two reasons already for this room to be officially “the nursery.” Thanks and glory be to Him alone!

Asher’s nursery:

Evangeline’s nursery:

Saturday May 29, 2010

In the deepness and darkness of our sorrow, we feel the arms of Christ around us. Stacks of cards and emails, voicemail messages, references to our Victory Athanasius in the church service, babysitting & help tending my home, making Gabriel feel special, friends bringing food, gift cards for food, figurines and chimes and candies, gorgeous flower arrangements — these things are Christ’s arms extended by His people to fill our home with love. Although it does not truly lessen our grief, it does bring some measure of comfort amidst the pain. To know such tangible love of our family & friends, both those close as well as those distant & can not sit in the dust with us, somehow helps us get through this dark valley, one step at a time. Each step is difficult. And sometimes they are backward steps instead of forward.
We are empty, very weak, feeling hopeless.
And so we are especially thankful for the arms of Christ which enfold us. So tangibly.
We need that.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

I don’t understand this verse. And I don’t know what to learn from it.
But I can tell you that it is Truth. Painful, beautiful Truth.

Saturday April 17, 2010

  • Sleeping in and relaxing under the covers with husby.
  • The fact that my coffee tasted better today, thanks to running vinegar through the coffee maker yesterday.
  • Watching my husband take dominion of our yard all afternoon.
  • The smell of freshly cut grass.
  • Talking to my mom on the phone.
  • Taking dominion of my home, as well as my body and mind and heart.
  • Planting herbs, and watering the flowers I planted yesterday.
  • Gabriel, when he dumped the watering can over onto himself & was scared out of wits because he was suddenly sopping wet.
  • Gabriel, because he has been living in just a diaper along with socks & shoes ever since that incident – he did not want more clothes on.
  • Weather warm enough to actually have the screen door open today.
  • Baking, baking, baking! Blackberry bars, chocolate bundt cake, and stromboli.
  • New recipes: a pork chop & sweet potatoes dish from last night, and stromboli for tonight.
  • My dad, driving up in my brother’s beat-up old truck with a bed full of sheep manure.
  • Watching my father and husband haul barrow after barrow of manure back to my eagerly awaiting garden plot.
  • The bulbs Steven planted for me last year: the daffodils and hyacinths are gorgeously blooming, and the tulips look about ready to burst into bloom, too.
  • Reading bits from: The Loveliness of Christ, Toward Jerusalem, One Year book of Hope, and Womanly Dominion.
  • Sunshine and a cool breeze.
  • Anticipating having some old friends from college over tonight for dessert.
  • Playing piano & harp, and singing; preparing for worship tomorrow.
  • Anticipating having family over for dinner tomorrow after church.
  • Dilly, curled up on my legs while sitting here on the floor with my laptop.
  • Remembering that God is faithful, and that I am His daughter. And His wife. 🙂

Friday March 19, 2010

The lintel low enough to keep out pomp and pride;
The threshold high enough to turn deceit aside;
The doorband strong enough from robbers to defend;
This door will open at a touch to welcome every friend.
~Henry Jackson van Dyke


One of my favorite books about relationships is Face to Face by Steve Wilkins, discussing friendship and hospitality. It’s been about two years since I have read it, though, so it’s about time to start again. 🙂 Click here for a decent review of it. I once shared excerpts and quotes from it here, too (anyone remember that?).
The funny thing is that we are almost always eager to pursue friendship. But are we as eager to pursue hospitality?
The two things are frequently related, but not always. Interesting.

I don’t know that I want to get into a deep discussion about hospitality right now.
I just wanted to say that I personally have been getting back at it.
During times of heavy grief, I am not always able to open my doors to invite in lots of guests for pretty tables and delicious food. But times of heavy grief come and go (sometimes predictably, but more often less so), and the days come again when I am equipped by God’s grace to show hospitality.
In recent weeks, I have made an effort to have someone over for dinner once a week. We’ve done it for the last four weeks, and are about to take a break for a few weeks. But then maybe I will try it once again.
It is delightful to have people over to share a meal (simple or fancy, as the case may be), pop open a bottle of wine (or a couple of beers, or a pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade), and chase the evening away with pleasant conversation and fellowship (and maybe even a board game or two).

I pray that as I age, I will grow into my desires of hospitality. I would love to share my home, my table, my meals, and my family with others. Especially those in the bonds of Christ (Galatians 6:10). It is mutually beautiful and encouraging! But I would, someday, like to grow out of my comfort zone. I would love to invite nonChristians into my home (with discretion and hubby’s leading) someday, so that we can share the Gospel more tangibly, with table & food & conversation. I have always felt more called to discipleship than evangelism (God gives different gifts to different people), but I think I must at least dip toes into both realms. And one way I would love to grow my evangelistic thread is by sharing food (not that that is the only way to show hospitality, for it certainly is not. It is just one of my main ways of showing hospitality, as God has gifted me in that area). I have a few thoughts on how this may develop and evolve through the coming years… but this isn’t the time or place for that just yet. 🙂

I have been trying out new recipes on my hubby very frequently of late, and have even tried new recipes on our guests (which can be risky business). For our first recent set of guests, we had fajitas (our favorite tried & true, easy & quick, go-to meal) and salad and chips & salsa; with sweet tea to drink and chocolate bundt cake (new recipe!) for dessert. The second set of guests helped us share a meal of salmon & tilapia (basted with garlic, Meyer lemon, herb butter), quinoa (new recipe!), salad, and bread; again with sweet tea to drink and peach cobbler for dessert. The third set came on a day I had a blood infusion, so I tried planning ahead with a crockpot meal of Beef Burgundy (a twist on the theme, at least – I didn’t actually use burgundy, I used port! and this was also a new recipe!), salad, bread (new recipe again!); with a Spanish wine to drink and blackberry buckle (another new recipe!) for dessert (the pictures below are of this meal). Then on St. Patrick’s day we shared a meal again (this time with my brother’s family!), so it was our traditional March 17th fare of corned beef (with a fabulous brine in the crockpot), cabbage, onions and carrots, Irish soda bread (new recipe!), sour cream mashed potatoes; with Guinness to drink and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.


Besides the food, the home and table and atmosphere should also be welcoming and lovely. It should seep with hospitality. While I don’t necessarily think you have to have your house completely spic & span to have company (for what of those unannounced guests that occasionally pop by? Do invite them inside, even if there is dog hair all over the couch and toys strewn all across the floor!); if the company is expected, your home should look like it was expecting company. This will look different for different homes and different families. So do what you need to do to prepare your home (as well as yourself and your meal) to be hospitable.
For me, this involves bringing out the vacuum to clean the carpets and get the dog hair off the couch, etc. Vacuuming almost always involves first decluttering the house and putting away [most of] the toys. It also involves wiping down the bathroom; if it needs a good, deep clean then by all means scrub away… but if it just needs a little freshening up, grab a Lysol wipe (or spray a cloth with some good all-purpose disinfecting cleaner), and wipe down the countertop & sink, and then lastly wipe down the commode (no guest wants to use a disgusting toilet – I promise). Don’t worry much about the shower/tub unless the guests are staying overnight. Just close the door/curtain, and call it good. A quick Windexing of the mirror would be nice, and maybe putting in a Glade Plug-In or lighting a candle out-of-the-reach-of-children on the counter would add a nice scent and ambience.


And the table… yes, the table! Basically the altar upon which you offer your delicious meal as a sacrifice of your time, energies, and means! Make it lovely. This can be very simple or very complex, depending on the day. I like to have a candle or two (or four…), a vase (or jar or champagne flute) with a flower/bouquet, sometimes a tablecloth (especially if your actual table is less than lovely), etc.


Remember to relax. If something gets spilled on the tablecloth or floor, just smile and quickly wipe it up – and deal with stain-removal once the guests have left. Shrug it off. If you are relaxed and comfortable, your guests will be too.

Share the Gospel – with your food, your home, your words & your actions. Interact with your family as well as theirs. Don’t ignore anyone, including the littlest guests! Keep the conversation going (which is sometimes easier than others). Bring out toys for children (or Tupperware and wooden spoons and cookie cutters if you don’t have any), turn on some music, and enjoy sharing of yourself and your resources.

Also remember that hospitality isn’t just shown by inviting a whole family over for dinner.
(Mrs. Wilson has an archive about various issues involving hospitality right here!)
Hospitality is shown by delivering dinner to someone else’s home; by dropping off half a dozen (or a dozen!) cookies on a random day of the week to encourage someone’s day; by giving a can or two to the local canned food drive; by offering a bedroom to a traveling minister who needs a place to rest his head; by inviting someone over for brunch or tea; by sharing your garden produce with neighbors or brethren at church…
Hospitality looks different for different people, and different at different times. But it is always lovely.
Share of yourself. Bless God. And encourage hospitality in yourself, your home, and your family.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing constant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
~Romans 12:10-13

Saturday February 20, 2010

My long time dear friend Erin of EAdams Designs sent me a lovely birthday bouquet (it’s so nice to receive flowers for a happy occasion now & then, too!), which arrived this morning while we were eating brunch as a family. Gabriel was excited to hear the doorbell ring, and equally thrilled to help Mommy open the newly acquired box.
Inside was a beautiful bouquet (don’t you agree?!), and I was so thrilled by the bright flowers and cheeriness that I couldn’t stop smiling. It was such a sweet offering. Thank you, Erin!! I wish I could hug you right now. 🙂
 

In the enclosed card, along with birthday wishes, she (who is likewise a bereaved mommy) included a beautiful quote of encouragement:

The Lord does not measure out our afflictions according to our faults,
but according to our strength,
and looks not to what we deserve,
but what we are able to bear.
~George Downame (1560-1634)

Thursday February 18, 2010

Thank you, Jaclynn & Samantha, for the lilies you sent us last week. They are delightful. It has been a pleasure to watch them open and flourish, one by one.

Matthew 6:28-29
Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

Tuesday February 2, 2010

Today would have been Promise’s due date, and I could have shared newborn photos.
Or today I would have had Peace’s “big ultrasound” pictures to share with you.
But God’s ways are most certainly not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.

So today I am sharing Mercy’s memory photos with you instead.
This mommy loves my children not one mite less for the fact that I only got a handful of weeks with each of them.