Tag Archives: blogging

Catching Up

Nathan-Calendar-1

Nathan’s 2014 Calendar – I love these calendars the kids make at school and will be so sad when the year comes that they are all too big to make them anymore.

I’d say it’s about time we do a little catching up.

No, I have not given up blogging.

No, I was not kidnapped by Aliens.

No, I did not move to the south of France to hide away from the world. Although some days, that is still on the table.

We have had a pretty challenging couple of months with some big losses in our family and my heart has been processing it all. Throw in a couple big holidays and a birthday and this unprepared lady just had no time to write or visit my favorite blogs.

I’ve missed you guys.

In early November, we received a call that my father-in-law, who had been battling cancer for last 10 years, was being moved to Hospice care with only a few days to a week before it would be his time. My husband immediately hopped on a plane to be by his dad’s side. Proving that he is absolutely the toughest guy I know, dad fought to live for another three weeks. I am so thankful my husband was able to spend most of that time by his dad’s side. After dad’s passing, our whole family flew out to say goodbye to grandpa. Well, goodbye for now anyway. We know he’s saving us a place at the best fishing hole around.

We stayed with our family in Indiana for a bittersweet but very blessed Thanksgiving.

While in Indiana, we were also able to squeeze in a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis…

Sara was off with her cousins so I only have boy pictures and boy did they have a great time! True to their nature, David loved the history and “fact” finding opportunities and Nathan was all hands on energy. We only lost him once. He knew where we were and was evading. Nearly every gray hair I have is his doing. Nearly. They aren’t all his fault but I’m still sending him the cumulative salon bill someday anyway.

It was hard to leave grandma Judy and the family, the big blue Victorian house, the crisp fall air, the falling leaves, the warm fire and the quiet time.

We love you grandpa and we will miss you everyday. Until we meet again.

After getting home from Indiana, there was not a moment to waste getting ready for Christmas. Christmas cards and letters, decorating, shopping, baking, teacher, neighbor and co-worker gifts, brunch, parties and even a Women’s Ministry event thrown in for good measure! Thankfully, my trusty staff was on hand to help – see picture below., way below.

Oh, and a Birthday to celebrate too!

Happy Birthday, Sara!! One year from now,  we’ll have a teenager. Actually, less than a year from NOW.  Gulp.

Sara's-Birthday-2

We try very hard to keep her birthday separate from Christmas and just celebrate her. With all that had gone on and all of the “Christmas catch-up” I had to do, Sara was very gracious about having a simple, low-key celebration this year. Low-key was officially supposed to come next year as the last of the “big” parties is sixth grade; says the parental management team. With the exception of Sweet 16 of course.

Instead of a big party, we decided it would be just as much fun to take her and as many friends as I could safely fit in the van to Jump Street where they could trampoline themselves to their hearts content.

Fun. Did I say fun? Oh my will I have to tell you all about it some time. For now, I will just let you imagine a half an hour in a car with six 11-12 year old girls, too many cell phones, too much perfume, lip-gloss and nail polish (all of which were opened, sprayed, dripped and gooped in my car at least once) and far too many pre-teen hormones. They are fun in groups of three or less. Anymore than that and a pack mentality seems to set in. A half an hour EACH WAY. Did I mention that.

Sara's-Birthday-1

We do have a special birthday tradition just for her that we never miss. Every year, on her birthday, we take her out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and give her all of her gifts from the family. It is always a special evening and she loves it.  This year’s coveted birthday items – crazy knee socks, floral combat boots and anything with a moustache print on it.

Sara's-Birthday-3

Nope, I wasn’t kidding. Don’t ask me?? If it is safe, appropriate and makes her happy, I don’t question.

One day soon, I will do a series of posts on some of the kids’ past parties. We’ve had some fun ones! For now you can check out the two I have posted; David’s Duck Dynasty Bash and Nathan’s Despicable Me Party.

In other news, Noodles the Elf on the Shelf was back for the Christmas Season so there was much Elf Management to be done …

The Elf Management team wasn’t quite as creative as last year but we got the job done. Mostly. When you have a six year old who misses nothing and wakes up instantly hyper-focused on a mission to find the elf, it can be complicated if the elf has not in fact been moved because management was dragging into bed at 1am and … gasp … forgot. “Oh, no someone must have touched the elf” came in handy more than once.

And then, all too soon, it was Christmas …

I love Christmas. Everything about it. Next year, my goal is to have posts ready ahead of time so I don’t miss sharing this wonderful season with my blogging friends. Unless you are prepared in advance, It is just too hard to write and keep up with all of the “busy” while desperately trying maintain focus on what truly matters. Lesson learned.

Desperately busy. Which leads me to December 26th and hibernation. I am an extrovert who becomes an introvert for about two weeks a year; December 26th until the day the kids go back to school.  I’m done. Finished. Spent. Turtle in her introverted shell. I may stay in my PJs all day. I may watch movies with the kids all day. In my PJs. ALL DAY. For many days.

Needless to say, I am not a New Year’s party girl. Well, I’m not really a party girl at all (anymore – for any of my college friends who might be reading) unless it is a dinner party or a birthday party or there’s cake. You know what I mean.

New Year’s Day consisted of bike riding and a picnic out back oh, and we did share the week with one very special and adorable house guest “Buster” or “Sassy McNoodle” as we like to call him.

And New Year’s Eve?

Nathan-Chillin'

Well this is about as exciting as it gets around here folks! H.I.B.E.R.N.A.T.I.O.N. Only one kid made it to midnight. I’ll give you one guess. Yup. The youngest. Party animal – just look at that face.

JanuaryAnd so, here it is the middle of January and sadly, 2014 has not had an easy start. We just returned from Oklahoma after saying goodbye to Gary’s incredible cousin Mike who passed away just after the New Year. I will tell you about Mike sometime as I will tell you about dad. For now, I will just share this from a card that was sent to us by Gary’s uncle Chuck after dad’s passing …

My prayer for you is a little light in the midst of this darkness. “We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much better for having had something so great to lose.” – Leigh

Cousin-Mike-1

Indeed we are. And we are grateful to the God who loves and sustains us and we praise Him in all things. We trust in Him an look to Him for comfort even when we can’t find understanding.

Boomer-Sooner!

This one’s for you cousin Mike – Boomer Sooner!

Yes, it has been a difficult and busy few months for our family but we are moving forward and I am so glad you and I are finally catching up. Thank you for hanging in there with me and for your readership and friendship. A special welcome to the new visitors who have stopped by and the readers who have so graciously followed Welcome Company. I have a long list of recipes, ideas, plans for the Hacienda, stories to share and adventures to come.

I am looking forward to all that 2014 will bring.

I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful holiday and got some time of your own to “hibernate” with those you love most. May 2014 be a year of blessing, adventure, friendship, family and fun. And may we be thankful to the God who loves us in all that may come.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Blessings my friends!

 

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One year ago today …

One year ago today, I started a blog.

I set up my first photo shoot, wrote my first post and clicked “Publish” for the very first time.

Then I had a moment of panic when I thought “what have I done?!” But just a moment. And then I just kept moving forward and haven’t looked back since.

And here we are, 365 days later; 500+ readers and 100+ published posts.

Milestones are often a time of reflection. And this one is no different. I’ve been thinking a lot about all that has changed since I put “me” out there and became a blogger.

Before blogging …

I slept more.

I sat down to hot meals that didn’t require a photo session prior to consumption.

No body asked who was going to get the “pretty plate”.

I never got a strange look from the cashier as she rang up one patterned plate, one white soup bowl, one blue placemat, one green placemat and a mismatched assortment of napkins.

I didn’t look at “everything” as a potential background, table setting or prop.

I made fewer trips to the antique store, thrift store or neighborhood garage sales.

And I didn’t have this …

The-Prop-Hoard

which has affectionately become know as my “prop hoard”.

There have also been a few “blogging truths” I’ve discovered along the way …

You can consider someone a friend even though you have never met.

You don’t have to write the great American novel in each post. Simple and short is just fine.

Don’t just write. Read too. And comment. The blogging Community is amazing. Engage.

Laundry, dishes and toilets don’t just do themselves simply because you want to write.

Kids aren’t quiet and well behaved simply because you want to write.

Because laundry, dishes and toilets don’t do themselves and kids aren’t quiet and well behaved because you want to write, you will find yourself  writing at 4 am.

And sleeping less. Did I mention that already?

Food blogging is fattening. Sighhhh.

You can make a beautiful office for yourself, tucked away in a peaceful corner of the house and you will still write at the dining room table.

You will end up turning that beautiful, peaceful office into storage for your prop hoard and cookbook/magazine problem.

You have to throw out the plan or schedule and write what inspires you in the moment or it will never leave you alone.

Don’t be perfect. Be real. People don’t connect with perfect.

Sometimes you will post five times in a week. Sometimes two weeks will go by and you won’t have written a thing. It’s okay.

Blogging is supposed to be fun. Don’t let it become anything else.

The magazine and cookbook problem you have is only going to get worse.

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Cookbooks-2

And you’ll start to feel like you could open your own library. You may even find yourself on a first name basis with the UPS guy who is bringing yet another Amazon box to your front door.

That Amazon box, there will most assuredly be a “For Dummies” book of some sort in there.

Food photography is so much fun! Even when you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t worry! There’s a “For Dummies” book for it.

Don’t compare. You have your own voice and your own style. Be inspired but be you!

Don’t worry about the numbers, the stats, the hits, etc. Write because you want to preserve and share. Write because you want to encourage and inspire. Write for whatever reason you first thought “maybe I should start a blog.”

Blog because you love it and others will love it too.

Since I started blogging, I notice the little things more. The details. I love  that I am reconnecting with my grandmothers and the family that came before me as I share their recipes and stories. I am preserving memories and history for my children.  And I making new friends and hopefully offering a little inspiration and encouragement along the way.

I remember one Saturday morning, around 4am, my husband walked bleary eyed into the dining room as I typed away. He took one look at me and said “you’re crazy! I love you but, you’re crazy.”

Sometimes at 4am, the thought does occur to me “I must be crazy” – but I just keep typing away. Nope, not crazy just fulfilled and happy and loving every minute of this wonderful adventure that is blogging.

Okay, well the prop hoard is a little crazy …

Thanks to everyone who reads and visits me here at Welcome Company or on Facebook. You have made this first year so much fun and I am incredibly blessed by each “like” and comment and every bit of encouragement you give.

There are a lot of ideas and plans swirling around in my head for the direction I’d like to take this little blog. And there are also dishes that need washed, toilets that need cleaning, laundry that needs folding and a family that always needs their mama. There is event planning, Cub Scouts, PTO, yearbook committee, classroom mom duties, cake requests, etc., etc. that need my attention – which is why I have recently placed this …

Volunteering-Mug

on the windowsill in front of the sink, where I am sure to see it often (food blogging also makes a lot of dirty dishes) and in need of a reminder that I am a little crazy when it comes to over committing.

Thankfully, no matter how busy I get, my blog is always here waiting for me and I am always eager to get that next post put together. Someday, I may catch up and all of those ideas may come to fruition. It could happen. Until that day, thanks for hanging in there with me and for reading when I post 5x in a week or being patient when two weeks go by.

I promise you, there will always be a next post.

One day at a time. One inspiration at a time.

Now, I am going to go bake a cake. It is my blog’s birthday after all. There must be cake.

The Sacred Table

For the past several weeks, I have been blessed to be part of a weekly Beth Moore bible study entitled “The Law of Love; Lessons from the Pages of Deuteronomy”. If you are wondering how the book of Deuteronomy could make for an exciting study, I too wondered the same thing. But I have done several Beth Moore studies and have come to trust that God will speak through this woman in incredibly profound, life changing ways.

What I did not know is just how deep an impact this study would have on me.

Have you ever had one of those moments in church when the sermon begins and the words coming from your pastor seem to be aimed straight at you. Squirm in your seat, how did he know – right at you? “Wow, I feel like he is talking just to me.” He is. No, not he, your pastor; He, He is talking to you. Exactly what you needed to hear. Just when you needed to hear it.

I heard Him yesterday, through Beth Moore’s teaching, as if the entire day’s lesson was written just for me. The understanding and affirmation I have been so desperate for.

I have been struggling lately. Struggling with comparison and uncertainty and I have been praying for clarity and for direction. Yesterday, He answered me. Doubts laid to rest. Uncertainty lovingly reassured. The debilitating whisper of untruth silenced. Affirmation. And I left that bible study feeling like I could burst out of my skin. Freedom.

Even my sweet friend Kristin, who I am just beginning to get to know better, heard how God was talking to me. She may not have realized it but she did because as I walked out the door she shouted “oh, my gosh, I thought about you the WHOLE time today!” Affirmation.

I have been struggling in my purpose. Not with motherhood or my role as a wife and homemaker but with what I need to be doing beyond that. Particularly with blogging. I love blogging and I love writing about food, sharing recipes and family stories. I feel such peace, joy and fulfillment in doing it. As if it were exactly what I am supposed to do at this point in my life. And while it isn’t always easy, it is effortless because it feels so right.

Sounds great doesn’t it? And yet, I have been struggling.

I struggle with the nagging doubt in the back of my head that tells me I am wasting my time. I am wasting God’s time. How can spending so much time and effort on food possibly make a difference in this desperate, hurting world. Should this be what I am putting my heart into when authors like Lysa TerKeurst, Anne Voskamp and Jen Hatmaker are changing the world and women’s lives in profound, soul saving ways?

There it is. comparison. A deadly trap.

I am not Lysa TerKeurst, I am not Jen Hatmaker, I am not Anne Voskamp. I am REALLY not Anne Voskamp; she is so deep and soul wrenchingly poetic. I am sarcastic. Yeah, really, really not Anne Voskamp.

While I am not gifted in the same way these women are, I do share a passion and a heart for women’s ministry and for strengthening families, just as they do. I read the words these women write and I am moved beyond imagination. I want to do that. I want to help like that. I want to change lives like that. Well, I don’t want to speak in front of people – can you imagine? – but I want to make a difference for women for wives for mothers.

With all my heart.

You know this Lord. And you also know that this is what I think about …

Mmmm, what is that extra little bit of spice I’m tasting? That cookie is the wrong consistency, what do I do to adjust it? Oh, my this is good, _____________ would love it, I need to make it for her. We haven’t seen ______________ for a while, we need to have them over for dinner.

Lord, why is this stuff rattling around in my brain? I want you to use me. I am here. Use me. If this is not what you have for me, please Lord, take it from me. Your words. Your will. Not my own. Prayed in earnest and still …

  • What should I serve for dinner tonight?
  • Which family recipe should I try and then share on my blog this week?
  • Should I do a series of posts next week on summer salads?
  • Oh and easy, nutritious dinners for busy moms. I need to start working on that.
  • _________________ is coming over this weekend, I need to get that menu and grocery list planned.

Yup, these are things I think about, with joy and excitement and purpose and guilt. How can this matter. With all the work to be done all the hurt to be healed. How can what’s for dinner matter.

But it does. And He filled my heart with that conviction just yesterday.

Our mission field isn’t always what we imagined it would be. While we are all called to help the poor, the needy and the hurting and to ease suffering, we are not all called to fly half-way around the world to do it; bless o’ Lord those who are. We may be at some point but our current mission field is just that, ours – and it matters.

And yes, some of us are simply called to the table. Yesterday, Beth reminded me that “there is something sacred that takes place at the table” and it is food that brings us together around it.

She referenced a book in her lesson called “Table Life; Savoring the Hospitality of Jesus in Your Home” by Joanne Thompson. Let me just tell you that what she shared from that book was enough to have me on Amazon ordering a copy the very minute I was able to get to my laptop.

As women, particularly women in America, we have ongoing battles with food. We have demonized it, misunderstood and misused it and now, we fear it. We have forgotten that food is a blessing “neither to be feared or abused.” We have forgotten our way to the table and need to remember that we aren’t just there to eat. No, food isn’t just about eating. Food brings us together and when we come together around the table, we aren’t just saying “I need food” we are saying “I need you”.

The table is sacred.

“Every time we are sitting down at a table, we are sitting at one of the most sacred symbols we have. And we are eating before the Lord. The table is not sinful. It is sacred. It is what we’re driving through and eating on the way that is killing us. Everything sitting on that table is a gift from God.”

While these words from Beth Moore were not all said together as I have quoted them, they are the message I heard loud and clear yesterday.

Food matters to you because I have made it so. Because the table is sacred.

“There is something sacred that takes place at the table. The main course at the table is not meat, it is memory.”

It is memory. It is connection. My family comes to the table together every day. EVERY day without fail. I share my home and my table openly and with joy with family and friends; new and old. That is the point, that is why food matters to me; that time around the table, our table. Our table is sacred. “I don’t just need food. I need you.”

He has called me to the table for a purpose. Not for guilt or comparison or pride but for a purpose. He has given me a calling, a passion, a gifting and I have faith in Him to know that He will use it. He has reminded me that nothing is insignificant in His hands.

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Audacious longings, burning songs, daring thoughts, an impulse overwhelming the heart, usurping the mind – these are all a drive towards serving Him who rings our hearts like a bell.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Anywhere the Holy Spirit lands on you is your Canaan” (your promised land). Anywhere.

The Holy Spirit has landed in my kitchen. At my table.

Where has the Holy Spirit landed on you? How does He ring your heart. What passion has He given you? What gift? No matter how insignificant you might think it, especially compared to the gifting of others, it is not insignificant to Him. Ask Him how He wants you to use it. He will put our gifts and passions to use in ways we could never have dreamed, if we seek His will in them and offer them up to Him. Not for our glory but His.

So instead of comparison and doubt, I choose to gratefully accept that right now,  at this particular season, the table and food is my mission field. He can use even my simple blog to His glory and it is not a waste of my time or His. He might even be able to bring people out of the McDonald’s drive-thru and back into the kitchen and more importantly back to the table – miracles still happen, you know.

Incidentally, I popped over to Lysa TerKeurst’s site this morning and you wanna’ know what her most recent post was about? Healthy Summer Recipes. Yup, food. Can I get an Amen!

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:7-10 (ESV)

She’s in France Celebrating her Six Month Blog-iversary!

Today is my 6 month Blog-iversary. Do you think the term Blog-iversary will ever make it into the dictionary? Ginormous has if you didn’t know. Anything’s possible.

Six months. Already.

I feel like I have been blogging forever but at the same time I can’t believe six months has passed since I clicked the “publish” button for the very first time. Boy was that an equally thrilling and terrifying mouse click. Anyone?

And yet click I did; despite the uncertainty, doubt and nagging little voice saying “what are you thinking?” Thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty good at discerning the voice of truth and ignoring the other one because as it turns out, Welcome Company is exactly what I needed.

Six months of writing, stretching my limits, finding me again. So much to be thankful for.

Pansy

I told you a while back, in a post titled What is Love, about a book I had started but had been unable to finish.  A book about giving thanks and finding joy in all aspects of life; “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  A journey of writing down one thousand things I am thankful for and in the process, learning to pay attention to all of the ways God shows me everyday that He sees me, that I matter to Him as a unique individual creation, “all the ways He whispers, ‘I love you.'”

“He who is grateful for little is given much laughter … an it’s counting the ways He loves, this is what multiplies joy.” – Ann Voskamp

I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I am thankful for a lot. Big stuff. A God who loves and sustains me. My husband. My children. My home. My health. Their health. We have been through some tough stuff (Beauty from Ashes), desperate heartbreak and difficult battles. But we are a season away now and there is so much laughter and joy. So much and yet still, I am so often stressed, tired, irritable, anxious, edgy, self-pitying. In need of escape.

Why? One of the ongoing jokes around here is that whenever a kid is yelling “mommy, mommmmy, mooooommmmmy … where are youuuuu?!!” The answer is quite often “France.”

She’s in France.

About ten years ago, my husband and I went to France and I fell completely, utterly and hopelessly in love. The food, the wine, the landscape, the history, most of the people. You name it. I love it. Vive La France! So, we joke that whenever the stresses of everyday life become too much, I go to France. Closing my eyes and escaping to cook and hike and shop in the open markets, study at the Le Cordon Bleu Paris, drink a good burgundy on a picnic blanket in a lavender field, restore a provincial farmhouse. Free from the mundane, the routine, the demands.

Don’t worry, by escaping I don’t mean that I am actually going to abandon my life and run for the airport. I am really not trying to be dramatic. I love my life. My husband. My kids. I am blessed. But I am also honest. And yes, in the midst of sassy back-talk, pre-teen door slams, housework, laundry, homework battles, endless kid fights over you name it and a mounting list of all that demands my attention, France sounds pretty good sometimes. And besides, my passport is expired.

A mom can get lost. Lose herself in the day to day. In the mundane, the routine, the demands. Before she knows it. Just ask one. Any mom. Ask her. Your heart can be filled with love to bursting. You can know that every sacrifice is worth it. But you can still feel lost.

But what if I didn’t have to escape.

What if I chose to write about all in my life that I have to be thankful for? All that I have to offer. To further explore and expound upon my gifts, my heart, my joy. To create a place that is me. A place to share this unique person God made. To find her again. Not an escape but an outward extension of who I am beyond the blessed role of wife and mommy. I am wife and mommy and I love being her, she is who I was born to be but she is not all that I am.

When I am lost, I am caught up in the stress of the moment, of the day, of the world. I have dropped my focus from the one who offers me peace. The one who reminds me who I am in Him. The one who’s whisper says don’t listen, you have a voice, a story – I have given it to you … click the mouse.

And as I write, and photograph, and create I find so much to be thankful for. There will always be stress but nestled among the challenges and frustrations, I find His blessings just waiting for me to see them. Right in my own backyard. No escape needed.

And I begin to notice. And write them down starting with one, heading to one thousand.

Red-Geraniums-1

1. A bright red geranium.

Orange-Marmalade-1

2. Orange marmalade.

3.Black coffee.

4. Breakfast on the patio.

Gracie

5. My furry child. My son’s best friend.

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Love-Birds

6. Noisy, colorful Peach-faced Love Birds who visit to dine on the seed block.

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7. A broken fountain filled with fresh herbs.

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8. A clutch of quail eggs laid under the lawn mower.

Rock-Trough

9. An old rock water trough on the back of the property just waiting to be filled with flowers.

Peaches

10. Peaches growing, ripening.

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11. The Arizona Sky.

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As the sun rises over the mountains and peeks between the branches of the mesquite.

Arizona-Sky-2And as it sets, lighting the sky ablaze with color.

Arizona-Sky-1

The most beautiful sky in the world. Right in my own backyard. No escape needed.

I am so thankful.

In six months, I have published 73 posts, watched my readership grow and been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support I have received and the friendship and connection I have found in the blogging community. I really love you guys. I have been so inspired by your work and look forward to your visits and comments more than you could ever know. You are incredible.

I love this blog and the creative outlet it has given me. I love that I am compiling a story for my kids to look back on and that I am preserving precious family history. I love that I am finding me again and I would write even if it was only my mom who was reading. That being said, I am blessed by all of you – each and every one – who have graciously followed along, who read regularly or even just visit once in a while. I am so thankful for you.

Ginormously thankful.

“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible.” – Ann Voskamp