Friday, March 27, 2015

Hospitality: The Cure for a Messy House

Slaughter Penn Farm VA
Nothing gets your house cleaner than expecting company.  It may be painful to admit, but it is totally true.  You can let many things slide when it is just your family who has to see the mess, but invite someone outside of the inner circle and it is on!  Laundry and piles of sports gear is flying.  Dishes are hastily loaded into the dishwasher and things are thrown down the basements steps to be dealt with later.  Panic sets in as you only have 30 more minutes before they arrive.  Maybe the house is in such a disarray that an hour out insights an attack of anxiety.

Imagine though a house that is perpetually ready for guests.  I am not talking about a house that is ready for a magazine spread, rather a home that for the most part is warm, inviting and relatively suitable for company.  Imagine with me the freedom of being able to call a friend and invite them over for coffee without the fear of your house.  Imagine a knock on the door that finds you confident to swing the door open wide.
Dinner with friends.  Start teaching hospitality now.

Now please don't think I am Joan Clever or anything like that.  Bear in mind I do have children.  If you have been a visitor to the blog before then you know I have four boys, little dirt loving, outside playing, toy weapons and cars everywhere, boys.  I could pile my laundry to the ceiling and my sink is always full of dishes.  The kitchen floor is a dirt magnet with a propensity to stay that way despite my best efforts.

With all of that said it is not impossible to maintain a somewhat clean and orderly home.  My secret weapon in this battle is HOSPITALITY.  There seems to always be company coming for one reason or another.  So for that reason and with that in mind we try and keep on top of it.  And when we've lapsed thankfully there is sure to be another round of company coming to hold us accountable.

   Hospitality is an action of love shown to those we love and those we do not love.  It is contagious and warms the hearts of those it touches. -Derek Hill
In Galatians chapter 5 it says, "For you were called to be free, brothers; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love."  Indeed we are free to make a lot of choices.  How will I spend my day?  Who will be apart of that day?  Whom will be honored and glorified in it?  We can either be the center of that or maybe even our own families OR as shown in Proverbs 31:20 we can, "reach out to the poor, and extend hands to the needy'' and "be hospitable to one another with out complaining." (1Peter 4:9) 

The guy who taught me how to love, write and entertain be hospitable.

Very often we feel uncomfortable having people over.  Either our busy schedules, are unkempt homes, lack of confidence in the kitchen or whatever probably very personal reason you have, these things prevent us from offering the kind of genuine closeness people need.  Not everyone needs a huge party thrown in their honor, but maybe a family in your neighborhood could really use a warm meal and a friendly faces to share it with.  Maybe the single mom in your church could use a break and some free babysitting.  Maybe you have room in your home for a foster child who needs a safe and nurturing place to heal.  Maybe instead of keeping an eye on the kids from the kitchen window you stand in your drive way to watch them play and notice a neighbor struggling to get a project done in his yard.  Now with eyes open wide you see an opportunity to help, encourage, support and care for or meet a need.  And maybe just maybe along the way you will see that it becomes a habit and a pattern of life that leads to way more than a clean house, that just happens to be a nice little by-product.

With love,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Even Christians Face Depression

It is not hard to imagine that as winter drags on here in the east that many people are feeling a bit low, tired of the cold long gloomy days.  They wait with expectation of warmer more cheery days ahead.  Though we expect and even commiserate these less than desirable feelings during long weather seasons we often hold back on sharing that life has brought some very unpleasant and even depressing seasons in our hearts.  It's easy to point to seasonal affective disorder, but what about when spring returns and our hearts are still living in the shadow of doubts, fears, loss and depression?

For too long I have been  unwilling to label myself depressed.  That was a mental health issue among others that my mother suffered from and besides I didn't feel that bad.  Or did I?  After what seemed like a long "season" of ups and downs, foster parent training and other eye opening experiences I was ready to call it what it was.  I was depressed.  I was tired.  I saw no end to the struggle.  And yet my faith was strong.  My relationship with the Lord was continuing and so I tried to reconcile the two positions.  Can a feeling of depression reside in the same heart with the living God?  Was my depression evidence of a lack of faith and trust in God to see me through this time in my life?

I remember the night clearly.  It was almost dinner time, Chris was home from work helping me in the kitchen as he usually does and we were talking about the day.  The kids were in the basement playing and I could hear them carrying on being wild like boys are prone to do.  It was just another day.  I don't remember if it had been a harder than normal day, but it lead to me laying on the floor crying.  After posting a picture of Toby on Facebook I got comments about how blessed Toby was to be in our family and what great parents we were.  My only thought was, "if they only knew."  I'm not a super hero.  This parenting thing has ripped at the threads holding me together and exposed some very raw feelings.  Raising these boys, especially our adopted son has not brought out the best of me at times.  And the words meant to encourage me cut to the quick.

Not wanting the boys to see mommy on the kitchen floor crying I went upstairs to take a bath and compose myself.  I poured my heart out to God, crying for some kind of help, angry for not feeling equipped for the task at hand and ashamed that I was rejecting my son in my heart.  Looking back there was so many more feelings and troubles piled up in there, many that I had yet to unpack.  In my desperation I asked God to just let me die.  That pain did not quickly subside and the struggles continued and even then I was not willing to admit I was suffering from depression.

God did not answer my prayer that night they way I wanted; instead he poured his soothing balm of scripture over me.  Words of peace like
"my grace is sufficient."  
"all things work to the good of those who love me." 
 "In this world you will have trouble, but do not fear for I have overcome the world." 
 "Consider it pure joy my brothers 
when ever you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  
Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be complete." 
 "Be strong and courageous" 
 "I will make all things new" 
 "beauty from ashes"  
"How high and how wide is the love of Christ"
 As it did that evening it doesn't always come out of my heart word for word as it is in scripture, but God never the less reminds me of his words.  They help to "take my thoughts captive" and to let God heal the hurting places.

We can look at scripture and see that many great heroes of the faith have been where we are, lost in despair crying out to God to bring it to an end.  He did not leave them or forsake them and He will not leave us either.  For further study see Moses in Numbers 11:10-16 and Elijah on the run in the wilderness in 1Kings 19. 

Being Christians doesn't make us super heroes with an immunity to suffering.  Depression is not a sign that you are dangerously close to loosing your salvation or that you have lost your trust in God's ability.  For me I doubted myself, not God.

Tell someone
Seek help
Be real

You never know how your honesty will give permission to someone else to open up and begin on their own path to healing.

With love,