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I remember back in the day . . .

. . . when there really was nothing in the fridge. I was just young enough that I didn’t know then how to make something out of nothing. I knew how to bake a prune cake, homemade thousand island dressing, how to wash a chicken but not fry it, how to make creamed tuna on toast, fry bologna, how to prepare boxed Kraft Italian spaghetti and bake Martha White blueberry muffins on Sunday morning. It seemed like a lot, but it didn’t really prepare me for filling my own fridge and planning a weeks worth of meals, even if, in the beginning, it just was for two.

When my husband and I married, we were both still college students. No phone, no t.v., no hot water for three months because the gas company required a $150 deposit. Rent was $185 a month. Our grocery budget was $25 a week. I remember spending $32 one week. I just couldn’t face my team-mate for life. I felt like I’d let him down. I wanted to go home to Mom – but she was about 1 1/2 hours away – and that would have cost even more, so I went home, faced up to my failure – and discovered that love still loves when you bust the budget by $7.

I didn’t know much about feeding any kind of sheep – literally or figuratively.

That first winter was challenging. We lived in the upstairs apartment of an old house. A group of young men rented the first floor of the house. When they went home for Christmas, they turned off the heat to save money. Our water pipes suffered – and so did we. When we got home from class or working at the newspaper, I’d have to boil pots full of water to pour into the toilet to thaw the pipes. Hearts warmed with love don’t make icy water any warmer – but it sure does make living through icy-water-times worth living through!

Thankfully, my mother and father-in-law raised cattle and shared a freezer full of hamburger, cube steaks and chuck roasts. They shared a lot of meals with us, too. They didn’t just open their freezer for us. Their refrigerator was always full, always waiting for us to come make a sandwich, make a piled-high bowl of ice cream – and fill a bowl with chili, soup beans or vegetable soup. I remember my husband making me hot chocolate once at their house – a tumbler full of hot chocolate. I didn’t know hot chocolate could come in tumblers. My new mom and dad never once looked dismayed when we walked through the door near dinner time – or lunch or breakfast time. My husband’s sweet family taught me a lot about the condition of the heart in feeding sheep – both literally and figuratively.

“We’re going to look back at these days as the best days of our lives,” my husband said. Those were sweet days, indeed. I admit – I did hope that hot water in all our pipes would be part of best days to come. A hot bath on a regular any day makes any day a best day – believe me, a newlywed does not have enough pots to fill a tub full of hot water no matter how much determination is behind the effort – especially when when all you’ve got is a one and two quart pan. I hoped, too that best days would come when I could spend over $25 at the grocery store.  After a failed attempt at having friends over for dinner (a one quart pan cannot cook enough spaghetti for 4 at once) – I hoped one day, having people for dinner would look like a best day, not a fail day.

I wanted to grow up and feed the sheep from my herd just like Nanny and Papaw did – and maybe even feed those that God gave me who maybe just weren’t part of my herd – and not have them stop by McDonald’s on the way home because they weren’t filled up.

Thirty-five years down the road of from the First of The Best Days, 5 sons later, 2 granddaughters and one grandson later, one-still-in-high-school-later, I have that full fridge. I have hot water for baths more often than not, though there’s no hot water in my bathroom sink. Sometimes when the gas runs out before we’ve realized it was running low – there’s no hot water – for the tubs, the sinks or the water pipes. Instead of everyone dissembling and falling apart, everyone swallows their disappointment with a pushing-through-the-bitter-cold-for-a-shower perseverance – a stoic, crazy exercise building family unity that we’d rather not experience but do every so often!

Those meal schedules? There’s a bunch of schedules now – not just breakfast, lunch and dinner schedules. There’s all-the-people-in-my-nest schedules. Running-a-business schedule – and, maybe the hardest to learn of all, the no-way-the-schedule-is-going-to-behave-so-go-with-the-flow schedule. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that all these schedules give birth to additional schedules. There are schedules that have  moved out, though, and made their own schedules.

December wore me out. January came like a Monday – I never plan appointments on a Monday. It’s my day to get the week’s schedule organized in my mind. The laundry gets caught up. The kitchen gets put back together, more or less. I make a stew that should last for a few days.  It’s a restart – a new beginning. January does for the year what Monday does for the week.

Mondays typically start out as a Feed-My-Sheep kind of day. The stew will last for two days – unless they don’t care for it. Then it lasts three. It’s the beginning of the work week, but my grocery stock has dwindled down from Friday – and it has to last five more days. The schedules start snowballing – and the fridge empties. It empties itself of milk first (I really need a milk cow). Everything else follows.

The clock runs out of time, all the good energy within me drains dry, and the fridge starts reminding me of its waning stock, until one of the boys opens the door, and announces, “There’s nothing to eat,” when, usually, there really is. It just takes more thought and gumption to make something out of slim pickin’s. Eggs and cheese can make an omelet. Grilled cheese is a feast, if someone’s hungry. Pillsbury biscuits brushed with butter, garlic and salt go straight to the hungry heart.

However, sometimes the fridge just sadly opens to announce in dismay, “I’m empty, too  – No help for you here.”

Sometimes, though, it’s me that’s empty.

How then, when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.

Some of my boys will try to persuade me that not everything is about God (and that’s for another post), but I tell them . . . it is. . . . it’s all about God. You don’t get 34.5 years of best days without God in all of it. Even out of the brokenness, God can make best days. It’s all about training the mind and heart to remember what God has to say about it, and when I don’t know what He has to say about it, to go looking for what He has to say.

So when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.

Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep three times. The second time, Jesus asks Peter:

“‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?’

He [Peter] saith unto him, ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.’

He [Jesus] saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.'” ~ John 21:16

“Feed my sheep” – not just when it’s easy . . . not just when the bank account and the fridge is full . . . not just when you’re feeling it.

I had a lot of learning ahead of me 34.5 years ago – the cooking, the budgeting, the planning, the sheep feeding – both literally and figuratively. I didn’t know anything about children or loving them. What I knew about marriage probably wouldn’t even fill a thimble. What I knew about who I was to God was even less than that. . . . but that didn’t stop me from trying to learn.

 Feed my sheep, he said.

God takes small to middling hearts, steeps them in his Holy spirit, filling them with his kind of love until something extraordinary happens – one day they have developed the capacity to love more than they ever imagined, as many as they dared to love.

Elisha said to the widow who had nothing, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “’servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”  Then he said, ‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.  Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.’  So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.  When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.” ~ 2 Kings 4: 2-6

I bet if there had been one more vessel, there would have been enough oil to fill it up.

He does that with the time, the energy – and the fridge when there’s his sheep to feed.

He takes the five loaves and two fishes (Mark 6: 37-44) of ourselves – and turns each of us into more than enough  – more than enough to feed God’s sheep, to live the daily always making room for one more or 5,000 more, even if it’s serving just grilled cheese and sweet tea.

Do you want to? Are you ready to make room for at least one more?

Feed My Sheep, Jesus told Peter – and you and me.
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Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: When Blessing is Invited to the Table

Linking up at the following:

http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday

 

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I don’t think there’s ever really been a time, I didn’t manage to change my clothes for a celebration event – or, like the new country song says, ‘get my shine on’ – well – this weekend, for the big event – I wasn’t able to get my outside shine on – but I really hope the inside shine driving everything came through and blessed – this team of women and this team of young men and women we were wanting to bless.
soccerb12bccThe senior has been playing district games, woven in with the middle school soccer games. We do our senior pictures right before Prom because I have it in my head they need a black and white tux to go with a black and white soccer ball. They also have lost their junior awkwardness and look like real men by then – and so we did that Thursday right before a soccer game they moved up an hour earlier that day.

Did I mention that I lose grace when I’m running behind? Though I apologize while stressing out because I become graceless?

The tux was too short – but that was o.k. for the photo shoot. However, Michael Jackson-short pants just won’t fly with a 6 ft-4-inch boy with a 29-inch waist who doesn’t like to dance – but is going to prom – so correcting that was added to Friday and Saturday’s schedule.

Much breathing in and breathing out, telling myself that I cannot change the schedule, that my car will arrive at the appropriate destination as is feasible going the speed limit over so many miles in a particular time span!

946566_526325184080244_786862382_nSaturday, with a group of moms, I hosted a Prom Dinner – missing the championship middle school soccer game because they’d moved the schedule to late in the afternoon – in the pouring rain.

Early Saturday, I made buttercream icing to decorate the 48 Buttermilk and Chocolate Celebration Cupcakes (made earlier in the week and frozen). Later in the morning, the moms of sons came over – and we trimmed candles, fitting them into bottles, dipped strawberries – and arranged, organized and prepared.

“Do you think they’re really having more fun than us,” I asked – these moms of sons about the moms of daughters – sitting in chairs watching their daughters get their hair and make-up done.

“Yes,” they said in unison – and we laughed. Moms of sons need this kind of gathering, to share these woman gifts we have with someone – because we don’t have daughters to pass them to, to share them with. Being a mom-of-sons-only risks being an isolating thing. It is a beautiful gift to be able to share words over kitchen tables with another girl, to work together to create a celebration with someone who gets it – which is another girl – a friend, a mom, and, if one is particularly blessed, a daughter-in-law who will join you – all because they want to create something that encourages and blesses.

IMG_6357Juggling a 2.5 month old puppy who went outside and came back with, ummmm, a rabbit head – can I say here, how utterly speechless I was, how I wanted to throw my hands up, jump on a chair and scream, “EEEOOOOWWWW” – but all the real men were gone to soccer – and that left just me at that particular moment, and so I did – handle it, dispose of it – wash my hands and put my puppy in her crate, called the 20 year old to come and fetch her for the evening (he promptly returned her at 8:30 – He’s not ready for full-time Sadie Duty!)

I was on schedule, until suddenly, I was behind schedule – so no change of clothes – no make-up – no chance to get my shine on – just live off my inside shine. How do I do that – have a time surplus – and then 1 hour later – have a time deficit?

I didn’t lose my grace, though – just my outside shine!

But these women and I, we created an evening of shine – because we just loved these young people so much:

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The dinner, the photos, the Guessing-Game of how Many-Candies-in-a-Jar, photos of prom dates, moms/dads and their sons and daughters – and some sons and daughters didn’t have moms and dads to participate – and that is what community is all about – drawing people into home, treating them like sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – friends – and just plain loving through serving plates, photos, gift cards for silly games.

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The moms – we needed this – to smile, to laugh, to create celebration moments, to live through just pure good moments – because raising teens can be hard, can hurt – us and these offspring we love so much, that are growing tall and strong inside and out – and in the process, love the other teens they bring through the doors, that need to experience a God-kind of love that pulls them into home and welcomes.

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Later that night, after I’d cleaned, put much away, I prepared a safe place for them to come and hang out after prom, when so many youth are torn between good and bad choices.

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I did it because I love my son – and because God calls me to love every person they bring through the door – because the love He gives me isn’t just to be hoarded for my own – He didn’t hoard His love for just His son – He wants us to share it with everyone – like He does.

I can’t express what it meant to see smiles and hugs, evidence of His restoration, of faith parents with redeemed kids, of young people – having the courage to come someplace they haven’t been – and finding welcome, of works in progress trying to make good choices – outward shine and dazzle in tuxes and sparkle – but lots of beautiful inside stuff growing and going on.

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I stayed up till 5 a.m., my husband till 2:30 – some went home at dawn, some went home at lunch time.

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My 8th grader, who has missed my attention this past week – has been waiting patiently to go buy shorts that fit – we found time for that today.

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It really bothers me that I didn’t get my shine on – I took photos of all the dates, the moms and sons, the moms and daughters – and the dads and daughters. Everyone had some shine on – but me. Someone took mine – not beautiful – not sparkly – but I did it anyway – mine shines just on the inside right now!

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cupboard“You have too many,” my husband says about my coffee cups, suggesting. “Put some in a yard sale.”

Some Fiesta, some Bybee, some Starbucks, some 29+ years of marriage cups – stacked, chipped, cracked, whole, overflowing in my cupboard.

Yet, at the end of the day, that cupboard is almost bare.

I’ve tried efficiency – encouraging the boys to use one cup a day. Yet, at the end of the day, my counters are littered with cups. Yes – most times it is a mis-management issue.

Other time’s it’s a hospitality issue. Hospitality in real messy living.

You see, when you cross my threshold, front or back – you become a part of my family.

“When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul” (Max Beerbohm)

Like when the snow trees come and the neighborhood kids take a hot chocolate break at the counter.

Or when the boys friends come over – when they’re little their mom’s bring them, when they drive – they come by anytime – dinner time, after dinner-time, just in time for a cool cup of water. My boys bring home friends – who quickly learn, by the second or 3rd visit, where the spoons, the cups, the water, the soup ladle is

Or when friends come for dinner, to knit a few rows, for playdates

They learn where the spoons are to stir some sweetness into a steaming cup of Orange Dulce tea, where the cups are for a splash of water from the fridge dispenser, where the bowls are to ladle soup – and are invited back for refills.

cupboard2Hospitality doesn’t just pull the cups out of the cupboard. Hospitality invites real relationship.

“Hospitality sitting with gladness” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Not just serving, not just breaking bread.  It’s pulling you into the family, into an intimacy that knows where to find the spoons, the bowls and the cups.

The Toscano soup or Country Ham and Corn Chowder, maybe the Tortilini Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup

Granola bars in the cookie jars, cupcakes or cookies on the counter

A cup of coffee, hot cocoa, lemonade, or Orange Dulce tea

There’s a catch, though. There’s a sign above the back porch door warning: Sit Long Talk Much

Talk much real words

“Hospitality should have no other nature than love” (Henriette Mears)

“How are you doing?” – and I mean it. How. are. you. doing?

The most disappointing thing I learned in college? When an instructor told the class that people don’t expect an answer; they don’t care.

Yet, we are called to care. . . called to be genuine. . . called to mean the words we use. . . .

“How are you doing?” – and I mean it. How. are. you. doing?

Tell me.

whether you’re 10, 14, 18, 21, a new mama, a mom of teens, or a grandparent – whether you’re broken, soaring, feeling cross-eyed, blessed, challenged or blessed in the challenge.

How. are. you. doing?

cupboard4Sometimes, someone needs the asking, needs the door opened, needs someone who really means it and means to listen, means to care.

If in the telling, there is need, then there is prayer. Either together, right then – or just me, heart-praying.

How. are. you. doing?

Let me tell you a secret. I want my sons’ friends parents to live real hospitality. I want them asking the same question with real caring – an additional voice creating a chorus of pure care, pure realness, pure hospitality potentially changing a life for God’s good.

Hungry? Thirsty? World-Weary?

Pull a cup or bowl out of the cupboard and fill up on some real hospitality.

We have cups and bowls enough!

Pull what you need out of the cupboard.

Fill up on real hospitality – and tell me how you’re doing.

The hosts “ brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,[g] 29 honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness” (2 Samuel 17: 28-29)

 

 

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