Girl’s Night Out

Written By Amy

                                                

Jen and Kristi

Jen and I are a part of a Supper/Book Club that started a few months ago.  If you have had any inkling to gather a group of women around food and a good book, this is for you!  Here is how it works:

1.The hostess picks a book for the group to read.  She then sends out an Evite (or similar type invitation) to the women with the book name, date and time of the dinner, which will be at her house (usually giving the group 6 weeks to read the book).

2. A few weeks before the designated night, the hostess sends out recipes to the group themed from the book everyone is reading.  For example, the first book our group read was Hunger Games, and the hostess found recipes of food eaten in Katniss’s district and the Capitol.   The recipes are put on Evite or Lucky Pot Luck, and everyone signs up for the dish they want to bring.

3. As the night arrives, the hostess has time to decorate her house as much or as little as she wants to fit the book theme because she is not cooking anything for that night.  Creating table centerpieces is a great way to be creative! (for example, wildflowers for Hunger games).  She also types up questions for the book discussion. Her other responsibility is to put together all of the recipes to hand out to the guests at the end of the night, along with a themed gift bag if she wants.

You can be as creative and fun as you want with this!

A few Friday nights ago, my friend Liz and I teamed up to be hostesses.  Liz coordinated and planned all the food (because she is a wonderful cook!) and I hosted the night at my house.  We did the decorating planning together.

The book we picked was All The Flowers In Shanghai, a historical fiction novel about a young  Chinese woman’s journey into adulthood during the 1930’s.  So of course, our theme for food and the night was Chinese.  Here are some pictures of our night together:

Bamboo, rock and water centerpieces

 

Add:  Guests!

This is an amazing group of women.  Some of us go back several years when we were raising wee ones together in MOPS, others have met over the past few years.  We laughed so hard this night, and screamed a little when a spider crawled up my shirt in the middle of our conversation.

Liz, Amy, Emily

Muriel, Stacy, Paula

In the picture above you can see a red Chinese Floating Lantern in a glass bowl.  We had several of these with lit candles that were beautiful when the sun went down.

Hilary and Stephanie

At the end of the night, the girls left with a Chinese take-out box filled with a new set of chopsticks, their name tag, and an oragami flower.  We made sure they didn’t forget the recipes from the night either.

I encourage you to start a group of your own!

My Week in a Nutshell

Written By Jen

My friends ROCKED this week!  I had a crappy week and I had so much to be thankful for because of my friends.   How are the friendships in your life these days?  Look at the positive in your friendships.  Don’t get me wrong, my friendship life is not perfect. In fact, my feelings in friendships can be all over the map.  Those moments I tell myself to get a grip and realize all that I have to be thankful for.

My challenge to you this weekend is be a good friend.  Think about the friends in your life you care about and do something to be a good friend, to at least one of them.  Why?  Because, friendships take nourishing.  They are work and we so often take them for granted, but friendships make us better.  Here are some ideas, call them and leave them a  message, send them a text or an email, bring them a treat, go on a brisk morning walk with one, drop by with a favorite thing to share, invite them to an outing, help them, pray for them or with them, be generous, be kind, be intentional, be gracious.  I would love to hear about a friend you are thankful for this week.  Give them a shout out!  This week I have been really thankful for friends!  They made my week SO much better.  I had a stressful week.  My friends, some with and some without knowing just how stressed I was, made my week so much better.  They inspired me and made me want to be a better friend, like they are! 🙂  I am thankful for all of you!  Here is a little shout out to just a few of the many friends who made my week.

Amanda gave our house some football rivalry love and dropped by a plate of the most amazing sugar cookies.  They were delicious!  They were as sweet as she is!  I felt loved. Here is the recipe. YUM!  I let my kids have these for breakfast Sunday morning:)

Thick, Soft, Sugar Cookies! MMMM! Amanda made these for me and they were gone so fast. I only had 3 left to take a picture of! Click on the picture for the recipe!

Erika and I have been walking in the mornings.  Even though we both lack sleep. It gets us up and moving and I look forward to it!  It’s a great way to start my day.  Guess what we saw today?  The leaves are starting to turn yellow.  Signs of fall!  She also got a good laugh this week when avoiding a sprinkler I jumped into the grass and fell into a hidden pool of swamp water.  We push her 1-year-old in the stroller and he always good for some smiles along the way.  Cute little guy!  Somehow today he managed to get us to hold him like this while the other pushed the stroller.

My morning walking buddies! Thankful!

 

I sent a most delicious pumpkin muffin to a friend and she loved it and then made them for her kids and they loved it!  Recipe here:) Doing a little something nice for a friend is such a good vibe.  Giving is powerful.

A girlfriend just dropped by some ornaments she thought I would love for our love of seussical christmas trees!  Super nice Jess, you made my day!

Amy responded to a little idea I threw out to her and was super encouraging.  I was thankful for her time!

My husband and kids dropped by Muriel’s house while doing and errand for me.  After she sent me a sweet text.

I called Kristi and her voice just makes me smile.

I sent out an S.O.S. to a dear friend in the photography business and I received an immediate, helpful, wise and gracious call.  I am so thankful it makes me teary, because I really needed a friend. Thankful to my favorite photographer: Joshua South Photography.  This is the husband of one of my life long friends. I miss, love and admire her always!  I can’t think of them and not smile right now!

This is Josh and Rebecca on their wedding day. LOVE YOU TWO.

Kristina and I had a heart to heart, always interrupted with life, always ending with love you friend.

This is the best picture we could get of the two of us with the camera on a timer and the kids in the car anxiously waiting lunch. This was shot last year.

Stacey invited my daughter out for her favorite food.  Fun and thoughtful.  She has also been super sweet as always, this week, especially:)

Erin has been gracious.  I took her pictures last weekend and they were good, because her family is gorgeous, but not my best work.  I need a redo. She has been gracious.  Here is a glimpse of a few of the good pictures.  They really are a beautiful family.  I took one of my favorite photos ever this shoot.  It’s this precious picture.  LOVE it.

One of my all time favorite moments that I shot. Precious. Moments like this make me LOVE my job. They happen all the time and they move me.

Emily and I have a common excitement these days! Hehe, Norwex, who would have thought cleaning would be bonding?

My husband has been praying with my tired grumpy self in the morning and it makes my morning.  Oh and he has been waking us all up to music.  It starts the morning out right.  He has been so awesome and encouraging lately.  When I start working more the load of life falls onto him more and he has been so awesome and helpful and loving to me lately.  Thankful.

I just can’t explain how much friendships mean to me.  They take effort, time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness and grace.  Lots of forgiveness and grace at least with the good old ones.  Life always gets messy and you hurt each others feelings, you feel left out and misunderstood and annoyed…. I mean we are human.  Forgive and move on and be a friend.  It is worth it!  Focus on the positive.  Do the things you enjoy together.  There are seasons in life and friendship.  Be flexible.  Give grace.  My challenge to you is to make an effort to love on a friend this weekend, for the sake of kindness and friendship with thankfulness.  Thanks friends for helping me get through the week.  Love you all!  Those mentioned and those not mentioned… LOVE YOU.

Not So Faithful

Written By Jen

The past few weeks I have done anything BUT read my Bible, go to church, read a devotional or Christian book.  It seemed like this summer, even if it were just for a few minutes I was finding time to do those things.  I was feeling encouraged and connected, but ever since my late summer vacation all routine has flown out the window.  I have been planning and preparing for the beginning of school.  When school started, I began to fill up every last second of my new-found free time, and none of it has gone to nourishing a little quality time between me and God.

I miss it.  I have this baseline beat in my soul and it is saying, “Would you stop it and spend some time with me?”.  I am answering in a flippant, “Yep, in just a minute.”  Then I skirt around the issue until I am too tired to hold up my head for one more second and collapse in bed.  In the past in times like this I would feel guilty and as a result begin withdrawing from God.  I would be thinking, “If I wasn’t faithful in one area, surely, He is annoyed with me.  I need to be better if I want to be in relationship with him.”  Not this time!  This time, I am aware I am not doing life in my ideal way (who is?).  I am acknowledging it, and continuing to draw near to God in other ways.  I plan to get back to that place, but for whatever reason it just has not happened.  I am working on it.  In times like this, I HATE blogging here.  I usually have NOTHING to say.  I am usually too busy to even have a pulse on what is stirring in my heart.  Been there?

Something was a little different this time.  Instead of withdrawing in guilt from God, I just decided to continue to believe His love for me is the same, when I am faithful, or when I am not.

As a result, I had a few excellent conversations this past week.  I have been trying really hard to implement a new way of talking with my friends.  Instead of just listening, chatting and attempting to encourage, I have been trying to bring prayer into our conversations.  I figure, there isn’t much I can do about situations, but God can, so why not bring Him into the conversation and take a minute to pray with my friends.

This week, in the midst of my personal unfaithfulness frustrations, my conversations with this element of prayer were pretty awesome!  Glory to God!  One went like this, “I am so worried I will miss my baby nephew’s birth.  I have a class I must attend, and the two look like they are going to be at the exact same time.  I am so disappointed.”  Me, “Well, you and I can’t control those things, but God can, so hold on, lets pray real quick.”  “God I pray you would do whatever it takes so my friend won’t miss this special moment.  Could you work it out?  We have no control over these things, but you do.  We love you God.  Amen.”  The next day I get a phone call.  “Jen, God answered our prayer.  The baby was born early this morning and now I am on my way to the class!  Thanks for praying!”  What I love most about that is God allowed us to be in on His plan.  We pray to a God who hears us.  I don’t think He always answers us in the way we expect, but He hears us and knows us.

The second situation went like this.  “Jen, I am so worried about my mom.  What should I do?”  Me, “I don’t know if there is much you can do at this point, so lets just pray.  God knows what is going on and He can do whatever needs to be done.”  “God, please be with her mom.  Protect her, put people in her path to help her.  We know she believes in you and your spirit lives in her, so I pray you would communicate with her and keep her safe.  Amen.”  The next day I get a phone message, “Jen, God is awesome.  He answered our prayers.  I can’t wait to tell you about it.  I love you!”

Here is the bottom line for me.  Both those prayers were in context of a heartfelt conversation between friends.  The prayers were earnest, and took about a minute to communicate together with God.  We can put the situation in God’s hands and see what He works out.

In times when you feel like you have it together, or times when you don’t, if you are feeling faithful, or unfaithful, don’t withdraw from God.  He says, “His love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:8)  “Surely I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) “If God is for you who can be against you.” (Romans 8:31) “I love you with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3)  God is FAITHFUL.  He LOVES you.  Believe it.  Live like it.  Pray like it.  He is a God who listens.

 

Side Note:  God is not our cosmic bell hop.  Our prayers are not always answered as we hope.  But, He promises never to leave us or forsake us.  When we go through the fire, He will go through it with us.

Friendship

Posted by Jen

“It is because of the refusal to be vulnerable that, far too often, instead of enjoying friendship and intimacy with those around us, we find ourselves fencing with each other, using our talents, achievements, and strengths as weapons. To be vulnerable in the true sense does not mean that someone must become a doormat, a weakling, devoid of all pride, going out of his way to let others know all of his faults and weaknesses. Nor is vulnerability to be confused with the idea of ‘letting-it-all-hang-out’, or any other form of psychological strip-tease. To be vulnerable is to be strong enough to be able to present ourselves without false props, without an artificial display of our credentials. In brief, to be vulnerable is to be strong enough to be honest and tender. Like Jesus, the person who is vulnerable is a person who cares enough to let himself be weak, precisely because he does care.”
Ronald Rolheiser, The Restless Heart

 

Restitution

Written By Jen

 

We had a lesson tonight in restitution.  The Mirriam-Webster definition of restitution is : an act of restoring or a condition of being restored  : a restoration of something to its rightful owner : a making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury.  The Bible talks about restitution too.  One time it is mentioned is in the book of Numbers 5:5-8 it says “5 The LORD said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD is guilty 7 and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.” emphasis added by me.

So here is the plain english explanation, if you mess it up, break it, lose it, take it, steal it, ruin it… fix it, replace it, restore it, and make it even better than it was before.  Go over and above to make it right.  Be responsible.  Take accountability for your actions.  Do everything in your power to make it right and then some.

Examples:

You send a baseball through someone’s window.  Replace it immediately with an even nicer window than before.

At our house tonight, I asked our child to stop playing with a glass candle holder.  The playing continued.  It broke.  We went to the mall and the child purchased another with their own ‘fun’ money.  Not because I wanted the money or needed the holder, but to teach responsibility.  To teach our children to take care of other people’s property.  If something breaks either by accident or misuse, restitution is always appropriate.

You don’t put your shopping cart away, and the wind takes it into someones car and chips the paint.  You fix it.

You step on your neighbors fence and the post breaks.  Fix the post and paint it while you are at it.

You borrow your neighbors propane.  You replace it with a full tank.

You take a sprinkler and it breaks.  You replace it with a better one.

You borrow a friends shirt and stain it.  You replace it and add in a gift card.

Your two-year old picks the neighbors tulips.  You plant new bulbs and get them a vase full for their table.

HOW?

Confess.  Ask for forgiveness. Make it right, and then better.

Admit. Apologize. Restore and make it better.

Food for thought.  This requires humility, time, talents, care, and love.  It’s an inconvenient choice, that is the right thing to do.  Restitution requires character, honesty, honor, respect, and strength.  It requires a lot out of you.  It requires a lot out of your children. But, I say a worthy challenge in character and growth, indeed.

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