Thursday, June 26, 2014

Your Presence over our Production

There’s a motto that is really defining the way Rob and I are living our lives right now, a prayer that we’re claiming in so many areas of life (and at this point I must give him credit for its invention.)
The prayer is this- Your presence over our production.
Every Sunday before worship, Rob gathers the band and prays that we will be more about the presence of the Spirit of God than we will be about the quality of our production. This is really something to pray when so often worship is classified as an ‘experience,’ rather than a humble, whole-hearted offering.  This shift in focus is usually unintentional. I know so many worship leaders who are truly pursuing God and His presence, but sometimes this worship atmosphere that we create can just give off such holy vibes that we miss out on the still small voice that is trying to speak to our hearts. After all, it was after the wind and the earthquake and the fire, that God spoke. Quietly.  
(Or- in keeping with the metaphor- it was after the song with the epic drum build, the perfectly timed lights, and the passionate altar call, that the Spirit spoke in the car on the drive home.)
Your presence over our production.
We’re taking this mindset into our home as well. We want the Spirit’s presence first. My friend, Jude, says that the presence of the Spirit is “like waaaarm butter.” I think that’s absolutely right. We want the folks in our home to feel the warm butter of the Spirit before they notice anything else.
We may just be straight up ON our entertaining game one night- dishes done, food cooked perfectly, floors vacuumed- or we may literally be airing our dirty laundry. The production isn't what makes the difference.
 My parents, for instance, are two of the most hospitable people I know. More lives have been changed in their house than have been changed in several churches, combined. Their home is very well decorated and nice-smelling, but that’s not why people come. It’s because you walk under a waterfall of warm butter the second you cross the threshold. And then you smell like butter for days and the world is like, “what is that smell? I need to smell like butter like that guy!”
So then the buttery people bring them back to my parent’s house and they get the Holy Spirit butter too!
Does that…make…sense?
This isn't just worship leaders and homemakers, y'all. It’s a human thing. Sometimes we’re so concerned with making sure that what we are offering is our best, so concerned with the quality of our production, that we forget that our truest offering is our heart.
 "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." 
Psalm 51:16-17 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Book List!

This Saturday is the first official day of summer, although it has been summer since about March here in Central Texas. 

Since bathing suits and tanning and humidity don't really do it for me, I'm focusing on summer's redeeming qualities- namely, summer foods and summer book lists. These are great to take with you to the pool, the beach, the backyard or to cuddle up with in the AC. 

Happy reading! 

The Nesting Place- Myquillyn Smith 
I recommend this to anyone who lives in any structure of any kind. New house, apartment, hovel, cave, parent’s basement, rent house, parsonage.... you get the picture. This book will reassure you that you are not, in fact, a failure at life because your house doesn’t look like you want it to yet. She offers great advice on thrifting, having fun with your home, and keeping it a place of beauty and function for your family. Also Myquillyn is just a precious human. Check out her blog at The Nester! 

A Year of Biblical Womanhood- Rachel Held-Evans 
Held-Evans explores the notion of “Biblical Womanhood” and what it would look like to literally undertake the job description of the Proverbs 31 woman. This experiment leads her to cook kosher, sit on the top of her roof for an afternoon, and camp out in her backyard, among other such ventures. Also, she offers great insight into the Jewish culture. This book is guaranteed to surprise and entertain. 

The Kinfolk Table- Nathan Williams
I took this cookbook with me for a weekend away and read the thing cover to cover in less than two days. This book combines two of my very favorite things- recipes and stories. And great pictures. And cute people. The recipes are unfussy and comforting, and they emphasize the value of community and hospitality over just trying to impress people. In fact, two of our very favorite recipes from the book are two of the simplest- first, the peanut butter Irish Oatmeal I now eat every morning, and the cantaloupe bowls with yogurt and honey. (I’ll include recipes for both when I get our recipe tab up.) Their website says it best, this book is “One-third cookbook, one-third narrative tale and one-third international adventure...”

Bread and Wine- Shauna Niequist
Shauna is my muse. I creep on her. Legitimately. Read ALL of her books and then cook all of her food and then creep with me. Shauna’s writing has all the elements of a great dinner party- humor, vulnerability, warmth, and some great food. Her blueberry crisp, in particular, unites me and basically everyone I love. Team Shauna. 

The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis 
Robin and I have committed to read all seven of the chronicles to each other before bed, on car trips, while waiting in drive thrus, etc. It’s become a simple pleasure that we get to look forward to at the end of the day, and it’s a much better escape than letting our brains disintegrate in front of the television. Just read them again because they add so much wonder to life and have so much to teach. 

 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Seasonal Eating- Barbara Kingsolver
This book led me to discover my true calling- organic vegetable farmer.
I know, none of you are surprised. But really.
Kingsolver and her family eat strictly local and seasonal for an entire year, right down to raising their own Thanksgiving turkeys. She also addresses the slow food movement, creation care, the danger of detaching from the natural rhythm of the seasons, and how we are basically poisoning ourselves by buying pesticide-laden foods in the name of thrift.

The Great Divorce- C.S. Lewis 
Good Ol’ Uncle Lewis takes us on a bus ride from Hell to Heaven. In his typical yarn-spinning fashion, he unpacks some of the deepest spiritual realities and puts them in nice little boxes which play nice little songs while you crank them and then they pop up and punch you in the face and you realize you don’t know anything at all about God. But it’s a great book. So please read it. 

OWNit365 One Story Bible Reading Plan
This isn’t me just trying to be all pastor’s wifey and holy and stuff, but seriously this plan is so awesome! It’s through the Bible app if you have a smart phone. It will take you through the Bible in a year (which is great) but it is unique in that it organizes the plan contextually (which is freaking awesome.) So rather than just flagellating yourself while you read through the Old Testament laws, you can read some laws, and then read about Jesus and how he fulfilled them. And also stuff like why it’s significant that Ruth was a Moabite and so on… Super cool.

I haven’t read the following yet, but they’re on my “to read” list. If you’ve read any of them, let me know what you think!! 

Blue Plate Special- Kate Christensen 
Paris Letters- Janice MacLeod
Still Life- Louise Penny 
Winter Journal- Paul Auster 
Hard Laughter- Anne Lamott 
Delicious!- Ruth Reichl 
Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide- Kristof, WuDunn.
Fortunately, the Milk- Neil Gaiman

What’s on your summer reading list?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Last Homely House

First of all, thanks to all of you kind folks who responded with such encouragement and positivity! Y’all are the best. For real. 
(“Thees ees for reals!” *in Esquelito voice*) 
If you don’t know who Esquelito is, brace yourselves. I’m about to get even less cool. 
Today’s post is going to start with a story. We’ll call it Story Time Sunday, for the sake of the alliteration.
Even though today is Wednesday.
(I love blogs that have cute little alliterative titles. But I digress….)
Today’s story comes from Tolkien’s epic, The Hobbit. In this story, Bilbo and his dwarf cohort need to get to the Lonely Mountain by Durin’s day to defeat the dragon, protect the people of Laketown, and reclaim the Arkenstone.  At the time we’re entering the story, they have already almost been eaten by wolves, goblins, and several other unsavory characters. Basically, these folks need some dinner and a good nap. Enter, The Last Homely House. The House has everything- food, beds, and some very protective elves. Convenient and finally, safe.
Ever since I first read this book as a child, I realized that this was what I wanted my house to be, I wanted to welcome tired and frightened people into my home. It resonated with me in an oddly poignant way. I’d go back and read it over and over again when all their other adventures were stressing me out. I’m sure my friends were like, “yeah, adventure, getting chased by people, seeing new lands, yeah!” While I was like, “yeah, come hide in my safe house, I’ll protect you, yeah!”
Except none of my friends actually talk like… that. 
Regardless, I felt that connection to this kind of valiant hospitality even as a 5th grader. It wasn’t this sort of stuff they advertise in the checkout aisle at the grocery store, where successful hospitality is measured by how authentic your woodland-themed table setting is. It was something that felt really important. It was something that felt brave.
For those of you who aren’t Lord of the Rings buffs, let’s take a look at Jesus.
(If people who aren’t Lord of the Rings buffs are even still with me...) 
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.” John 12: 1-2  
 This is one of those “What would you do it you only had 6 months to live” things. Jesus had six days left on earth. Six. Days.  And He wanted to go to his friends’ house and let them make Him dinner. That makes me think that this hospitality stuff has some  real significance to it. He could have been healing droves of people, doing miracles, performing signs, casting out demons- basically any number of things. But He was tired and heavy-hearted and one of the last things He wanted was dinner with his friends. He knew that He could come to Mary and Martha’s house and be protected and nourished. Their hospitality sustained and comforted Him as He was preparing to go to the cross. I love this story because it’s really the same premise as the Last Homely House. 
That’s why I get so sad when women feel like hospitality is something that is an insult to them. I’m thankful that women are not confined to the home as their only sphere of influence- that we have the freedom to travel, to work outside the home, even the freedom to not open our homes if we don’t want to. At the same time, though, I hope that we won’t miss an opportunity to welcome others into our Homely Houses because we don’t want to be perceived a certain way.  
So, gentle reader, what does valiant hospitality look like for you? What are some of the expectations and misconceptions about hospitality that you grew up with?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nice to Meet You!

I feel like the first blog post is probably the hardest one, like the first date, the first day of school, the first time in the deep end of the pool. It’s all self-conscious and timid, because it’s new and we’re trying to get people to like us while also trying to look good in floaties and a nose clip. And that’s okay, because largely that’s what this blog will be about. We’ll be sharing about discovery and hospitality, faith and food, art and soul. We’re advocates for simplicity and good old fashioned life together, and we hope this will provide some encouragement to you as you pursue intentional living. I say “we” because this is a joint venture with my husband. He’s the art to my soul, the filter for everything I’ll be posting, and he’s the one who convinced me that I will not, in fact, be targeted by guys with nuclear weapons and sinister-looking mustaches or stalkers (with sinister-looking mustaches)immediately upon starting a blog.
Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!