Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hospitality, the Christ-like Kind

Last week the kids and I spent four days in Colorado without Daddy -- a bittersweet elixer of blue-sky, white-peak, crisp-air days; of laughing car rides, hiking adventures, and new play areas; of old friends and family and meals shared around tables...but no Daddy. And after a three hour journey of self-discovery flying by myself with all three kids, I decided that the husband must be with us, whether here or there.
The trip was a good reminder that while the Colorado blue is deeply inbedded in my DNA, my husband has grafted himself in to my being. And the husband wins. 

That said, while we were sans-Daddy, we relied wholly and unabashadly on the hospitality of our family.  And having been the recipients of their generosity for nearly a week, a word about how their hospitality warmed my soul.

It is most summed with a  quote from the Heart of My Home blog:

Hospitality... seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve.... Hospitality...puts people before things.

Somehow, inexplicably, my brother and sister-in-law and my parents put us before their own "things" last week. When we descended upon their well-ordered lives with the wildness of a five-person tornado, they stepped aside. When our twister of flying clothes, toys, baby food, and diapers wrecked havoc upon their basements, living rooms, and kitchens, they stepped aside. And when we careened through their hallways, pounced on their beds, ate up their snacks, and rolled in their yards, again they stepped aside. They served us baskets of kid-friendly snacks and personal plastic plates, with Toy Story and Princess Beds, with matching pajamas and prepared, turned-down rooms. For four days we enjoyed delicious home-cooked meals, pre-set coffee ready in the morning, french toast and blueberry pancakes, and shared toys and games. They served us, and they served us well.
And then, the day before we left, everyone got sick. They got the really yucky kind of sick that is the stay-in-bed all day kind of sick, and our gracious hosts got it the worst. And yet, even in sickness, they opened their home. They let us "be" in the basement; they gave us a place to rest.  

My brother, my sister-in-law, my mom and dad -- gave us what we needed most last week: loving hearts, open ears, and eyes that saw Christ in all the little, wild people who crossed their thresholds. They sought to comfort and to minister. They lightened our load. They loved us, no matter how cranky, no matter how demanding. They allowed Christ to minister through them, and oh, to be the recipient of a minister of Christ.

To my gracious hosts, I thank you, again and again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


According to, a home is defined as "a place of residence or refuge." This seems appropriate as I sit here in Colorado Springs in the house where I grew up: it is the residence where I spent my formative years building friends and memories; and now, with three young children of my own, Grandma and Grandpa's house is, quite literally, a refuge. Save me, I tell them, handing the baby to my Dad.

I retreat to the back deck, where I watch the birds fly in the crisp, 6,000-feet-above sea level air and listen to the drone of the gliders floating over the Air Force Academy, sounds that to me are so tightly intertwined with my concept of home. Home. Here.

But what does it mean for me that this is home? And what type of home memories am I creating for my budding children? What will they remember as they, too, one day cross the threshold of a structure and breathe in deeply, drinking in all that reminds them of a fleeting moment of when they were ten, twelve, fifteen, eighteen-years old?

Our family seems to be on perpetual pilgrimage, and our "home" is right now neither here nor there. Home is where we are. And when I reflect on this, I see that it is true for me as well. While I love the memories lurking in these walls, they would be empty without the sounds of my mom in the kitchen, without my dad fixing something in the basement. Home is more than a house, and it is more than a location. Memories are made that revolve around people and around relationships, and not around bricks and mortar. I think fondly of the people I encountered here in this house, of the laughter we shared, and even of those crazy teenage years of so much...growing. Without the people, this place would be another house in a series of ranch-style homes on a street in a sub-development nestled close to the mountains. Beautiful and charming, but vacant.

And so I ponder "home." I think about what it means to be a source of "home" for my family. I pray that they will  think the words "love" and "laughter" when they think the word "home." I hope they will remember smells of popcorn popping and cookies baking. Let them remember prayer times over candles in the morning, art time with pudding paint and messy floors, and meal time when we gather around the table.

Home. Let that place be people, too. Let that place be me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dirty Details

For almost three years I worked at an organization that is intensely detail oriented. This is an attention to detail that is, simply, beyond ordinary. It is tedious; it is maddening; and at times it is neurotic.  And I loved it.  I relished the information stored in concise records of interviews, in summaries, and in analytical spreadsheets; I reveled in my workpapers colored heavily with blue hyperlinks linking back to source documents; I championed the tracing and referencing procedures that ensured that every sentence, every word I wrote for a final report could be linked back to supporting documentation. At the end of each day my office was re-organized back into piles of paperwork and binders, my electronic documents stored neatly in appropriate electronic folders.  And it is this sense of satisfaction from an organized day that has, at times, made me think that staying at home full time with three small children will drive me absolutely mad.

I simply cannot keep the contents of my household from slipping and sliding all over the place. It would be as if someone were to sneak into my work computer at night and jumble my sentences or un-link my hyperlinks (gasp). No, here I have three little bandits cleverly watching and waiting for me to leave one tidied room and move to another so they can "play" in the "open space." There are no rules here about touching a person's work; this is the wild west, and I'm on their ground, now.

So what to do. I've tried pulling my hair out; I've tried running behind them and re-cleaning what was just cleaned. I've tried doing nothing at all and letting the contents of the insanity simply unfold. None of these have been satisfactory. I've settled for a grey middle ground of mostly messy or mostly clean depending on the eye of the beholder. This is yet another area of growth, of sharpening. I must learn to co-exist with people; not punctuation marks. I must learn to rub shoulders with little bodies that grin and giggle and shed tears and voice opinions and have so much energy that if only they could be harnessed they could do some seriously productive work. But they are children; not employees. And I am their mother; not their boss.

So I will get down on my hands and knees and play horse; I will let them paint in my freshly cleaned kitchen. I will leave them alone in the basement with a bag full of legos and try to stifle my horrified screams when I hear the contents of the bag being spread all over the floor.

I will do these things, because I am a mother, and I'm learning that to be a mother means to be scraped, to be pruned, to (sigh)... let go. And I sense that this one will be a lesson I will never, ever, fully learn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

I know that technically today is not St. Valentine's Day. In fact, our parish priest told us Friday that there now is now no feast day for St. Valentine at all, as he didn't make the cut with the 1969 Church calendar for feast days (Father assured us this was nothing personal, and St. Valentine is still holy and in heaven). And it is true that Valentines Day is most often a marketing gimmick for pink truffles and pink cards and pink roses and gooey chocolate with poems attached.  But... I can't help it; I love this day. I love a day dedicated to thinking about the people I love, to being intentional in the way that I love them, and celebrating the unique and wonderful ways that God has created each one.

Last Friday the kids and I made Valentine's Dots for my daughter's pre-school class-- a quick and entirely kid friendly recipe shared by a fellow northern Virginia blogger. (whose blog, by the way, I've now habitually read. She's great.)

We attached a poem to the back that told each of her classmates how she would pray for him and her. And this morning, when we packaged everything up, she actually did pray for each and every classmate. The joy on her face when I picked her up after giving out her Valentines cards, and yes, receiving some in return, filled my heart. And all day I have been making mental notes and storing heart-treasures of the uniqueness of each of my children, and of the blessing of my husband.
Today might be over commericalized, but it is still a great chance to be thankful, to be sacrificial, and to reflect on the joy that it is to truly love, and be loved.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love and Lefse

Yesterday I labored with my mother-in-law to make lefse, a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread that is, for lack of better word, sacred at extended family gatherings. Lefse is made with potatoes and cream and then cooked on a hot griddle and smeared with butter and sugar. What's not to love about that? Well, making it, for one thing. Five years ago I endeavored to make the culinary masterpiece for my then-fiance for his birthday. How hard could a Norwegian recipe be? Surely I could Google the recipe and whip something together, right? Wrong. There are special tools for lefse baking -- including long wooden turning sticks, specialized griddles, and rolling pins made with deep grooves.... There are also special recipes that go with the special tools, and one does not mess with special family recipes when cooking for soon-to-be husband. So I Googled "lefse in Denver" instead and drove out to someone else's house and bought it. He married me for my creative spirit, I'm sure.

But yesterday was different. 

Using my my mother-in-law's natural Norwegian instincts for lefse and improvisation, we swapped a bread knife for the fancy wooden rod, my rolling pin for the lefse pin, and a hot griddle for...a hot griddle. And we did it. 

We rolled. We flipped. We smeared the butter.

And after the rounds were cooked and stacked I served them.

I waited while my inlaws and husband took their bites. And based on the "this is good" Midwest nods, I think I met the Norwegian standards.  And my husband now assures me that he is glad that he married me. A new dawn has broken in our household.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Yesterday on the way home from groceries my husband recommended I stop by our church, which was having a time of Eucharistic Adoration. It was already late, and the kids were surely hungry, but at the last minute I turned the car into the church parking lot. I walked in, and I kneeled.
Potent, I thought. That's what this is.
Eucharistic adoration: A potent, powerful time with Jesus. Like concentrate.