Monday, December 30, 2013

Dreaming of Land

Lately I have been savoring the idea of downsizing. The thought of living more simply and with less stuff is, to me at least, intoxicating. 

When I compare our house with what I see at garage sales or organizing tv shows, we don't have nearly as much stuff as the average American. But we probably have more than we actually need and could do with some paring down.  
I don't know if I want to have a garage sale or just donate it all to the local thrift shops. But the pile of stuff in our basement that we don't want/need anymore seems to grow larger all the time. 

We are also excited about the upcoming prospect of moving! My husband's work contract in the next couple of months is supposed to pay quite well which might give us the opportunity to put a down payment on a new home or some land. (*giddy dance*)

Just the thought of owning our own home again with some decent land is SO exciting. The last 6 years, we've lived in homes with basically unusable outdoor space. And now that we are living in an area with such a lovely climate, we are all so anxious to get experience the full enjoyment of it with some land or a big back yard with a deck.  We can't wait to enjoy a backyard again!

Reminds me of the wonderful old Bing Crosby song, Don't Fence Me In.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evening' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever, but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

I'm so excited that I'm going to be a little ridiculous and a wee bit over-optimistic and begin looking at building plans for houses! ha. I want to be able to whip out my favorite floor plans if my husband presents me with the task of choosing a plan on the spur of the moment. Our lease on the house we're renting is up on May 1st 2014 and if buying a house actually comes to fruition, I don't want to have to decide something as monumental as what kind of house to build under any kind of pressure. :)

That's it for me today. Can you believe we are only two days away from 2014? Wishing you all a happy New Year and a blessed day today!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Is There Room in Your Heart for Hospitality?

I just want to encourage you that even if you are not a confident hostess (I am not either!) you can still open your home to guests and make them feel welcome and wanted. 

Our homes don't have to be perfect — just clean and open. Inviting friends to come and "sup" with you and enjoy fellowship together is part of the mission of homekeeping. It's part of the delight, too. 

Hospitality begins in the heart. Neglecting the opportunity to welcome guests into your home actually does your husband and children a disservice.  The children especially. Kids need to see hospitality in action so they will be able to replicate it in their own homes and hearts someday. There are far too many families who hole up and never invite people over. They do not feel their homes are worthy. And that might be true. If they've arranged their home only for themselves, then it's no wonder they don't invite others over. 

If that is true for you, you can change that if you want to. Every homemaker can create an inviting and comfortable space in her home for hospitality.  Start viewing your home through eternal lenses. Begin to ask God to give you new eyes for your home. 

Last week we invited 5 families (3 large, 2 small - 31 people total) to come to our house for dinner and games. Only two families could make it, but counting our family, we still had 19 people here! 
And it was a lot of fun. We had a nacho bar and divided the games into three groups: Parents, kids 12 and up and kids 11 and under.  The adults played Pictionary, Taboo and Catchphrase and I gotta tell you - it was a hoot! You don't know what you're missing if you don't have a game night at your own house.

We utilized every inch of living space we had - the kitchen for the 12 and ups, the living room for the parents and the family room for the younger kids.  Heartwarming noise and laughter filled our home.  Did you know that if you fill your house with people,  you can turn the thermostat down? :) Body heat creates some serious warmth. I usually have to crack a window open even if it's freezing outside. But then I get warm easily so maybe it's just me! I usually ask people how if they're too warm to gauge how much window to open. :-)

The memories we make today will warm us in years to come. And there is nothing like the memories we make in our own homes. It is different somehow than those memories we make at other people's homes or even other events we partake in. Hospitality is really special.

It is also WORK! ha. But it's fun work. My husband contributed a lot this time and even vacuumed part of the house and made the stuffed jalepeno poppers! What a wonderful man I have. I'm truly blessed to call him mine!

I am not one to shove junk away so my guests can sit down. There's nothing like having company to inspire me to get things tidied and in order. I even tidied up our unfinished basement - just in case my husband got a wild hair and wanted to show the men his tools and toys down there.

I am also an introvert, so I tend to feel a sense of dread on party day. Will the food turn out all right? Will it taste good? Will I think of enough interesting things to say? Will I be able to keep the conversation flowing? Will anyone notice that I am a little nervous?! 

If that sounds like you, then I have good news: the more practice you get, the better you do. I much prefer hosting parties for families than just ladies, but I've noticed a little improvement there, too. 

I think a lot of people often think they don't have enough, aren't good enough or fun enough or know enough, etc. 

But the truth of the matter is, when it comes to opening our homes, it is not the lack of enough that usually keeps us from hospitality. It is the fact that we have TOO much. "Too much?" you say? Yes, too much. 

Too much clutter, too much chaos, too much strife, too much pride, too much attitude, too much overwhelm, too much junk, and too much stuff - everywhere. Where can you put extra people when your house is full to the brim with too much stuff?

If your home matches that description and you wish you could entertain but feel prevented by all your stuff, imagine your home empty and stripped of all the furnishings and stuff —everywhere. 

Now visually just put back some sofas, tables and chairs. Now is there room? Even in the smallest and humblest of homes, there is room for a few guests if you don't have it loaded down in every crevice with the canker of clutter. 

One of the reasons model homes are so alluring is their simplicity in furnishings. Every basic need seems to be represented and with room to spare. Places to sit, do office work, play, cook, read and sleep! The furnishings and the space are a bit of a marvel and many of us feel compelled to just move right in. It feels like a breath of fresh air to be in a room that is actually "roomy".

If your home is loaded down and feeling too full, too dated, too old and crusty, why not change your furnishings? They aren't glued down after all. Gradually start swapping out the things you think need to go. Swap what isn't working for newer or pieces that are better scaled to the space you have. Donate, sell or trash furniture that isn't right for your space, and buy new pieces that suit you better. If money is tight, start searching craigslist for second hand items. 

Ideally, you need furnishings that you can live with AND entertain with. We want our homes to be comfortable for us but we also want them to be useful for ministering and hospitality, too.

In "real life" we all seem to have no qualms about bringing things in. We're always bringing things home from shopping and errands.  But we loathe taking things OUT. This is true for all of us. I know we see weird minimalists in magazines or tv, but really most of us can't live that way. 

So what do we do? Learn how to live within our means. This requires much of the homemaker. She must take the time to gather all that is cluttering her home, evaluate each item and release things from her home as needed.  Even if they are "worthy".  If it's not being used or loved then it's just taking up space. Just keep reminding yourself it's just stuff. 

It's just stuff.

Live with what is truly valuable or used, and learn to regularly let go of what is just extra and unused/uncherished/unneeded STUFF.

It's so worth it. The new year is a good time for decluttering because most of us have already put our holiday decorations away and that can lead to more organizing. It's the perfect opportunity to rid your home of the decor you didn't use this season, plus chuck the outgrown clothes, the broken appliances, the old magazines, and all the other JUNK that for some crazy reason is still hanging around the house.

Get it out and bring some people in! It is a worthy exchange you won't regret.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Latest Happenings Around Our Home

Things have been busy around our house these days. The holidays always add extras that take up more time but are fun nonetheless.

Last month, just days before Thanksgiving, our 14yo came down ill with the flu. Soon after our 17yo became ill, followed by yours truly.  Unfortunately, for our family the day of Thanksgiving was a blur. Our boys recovered fairly quickly but I was bed ridden for days.  

But the following Sunday, the last day of what was supposed to be four glorious days off together as a family, we had our little Thanksgiving. A golden roasted (organic!) turkey with all of our favorite trimmings - dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and homemade cranberry sauce with apple pie for dessert!  This was the first time anyone in our family has been sick on a holiday so it was quite the bummer.  I'm just thankful we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving at all this year.

December arrived in a hurry for us. We were blessed to kick off the holiday season with three Christmas shows in the first week! Two were at the Performing Arts Center (Drums Around the World and The Nutcracker) and one at a nearby church featuring a Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Sounds of the Season. 

This was the first time anyone in our family has ever seen The Nutcracker ballet so that was a real treat. Best of all it was free! Our homeschool group had been invited to fill the seats of two other school groups who had to cancel their attendance at the last minute. It was for a matinee performance and we jumped at the opportunity! My husband rearranged his work schedule so that we could all go together. I am SO thankful that his work can be flexible like that. Not always, but most of the time. He's gotten to go with us on so many occasions, it's been quite delightful.

In other news, our 17 yo son started up another drawing class last month, this time charging a small fee.  It has been a good learning experience for him to manage, even if he doesn't know it yet.  Because, you know... 17 year olds already know pretty much all there is to know. :) And it always comes as a bit of shock when sometimes they find they don't know quite as much as they thought they did. But he's doing a great job teaching the other kids (all homeschoolers) and enjoying the process.

Today we drove out to the country and picked up our order of 150 lbs of local grass fed beef and lamb from the butcher.  A friend of ours had found a rancher who sold his grass fed and finished Black Angus and Lamb and ordered a quarter side of his beef a couple years ago and it was very good.  So last October (the best time to order) we called in another order. It feels great to have a full freezer of healthy meat to feed my family.  Which reminds me, I better go get some to start thawing in the fridge for tomorrow night's dinner! :)

Well that's it for me today, just a little update to what I've been up to.  I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season so far. 

In my next post I will share about the new curriculum I ordered this month. I'm so excited about it! 

Have a blessed day!