Encouragement for Weary Mothers

Republished from the archives…Picture 13

I have been going through a challenging season in my mothering: sparatic insomnia, disciplinary struggles with a toddler, and challenges with getting the kids to sleep together in the same room. I have felt time and time again that I just wanted to throw in the towel and give up. I believe the Lord takes you through these seasons in order to reveal how much we desperately need Him in order to be faithful mothers to our children. I wanted to share with you today some encouragement that the Lord has used to lift me out of those feelings of failure and hopelessness. Mothering is not an easy task, nor is it a task that I would ever do on my own.

Take time to be alone
This may sound impossible, but I believe it to be essential, and possible if you are purposeful! I have found taking regular intervals of time to have a simple short retreat brings such refreshment to me. In this season of life with nursing, they have to be short, but it is amazing how an hour or two away can renew my spirits. I try to get out once or twice a month for a few hours on a Saturday morning or Sunday while my husband watches the little ones to just be alone and read the Word and write out my thoughts. I go to a coffee shop or sit alongside a river bank and spend time with the Lord. I always take my Bible and notebook with me to write out what struggles I am going through and the Scriptures that encourage and strengthen me. It is a testimony to look back upon and see what God has done. God has been so good to me lately through these times. If your husband is not available, seek out a friend to trade watching each other’s children. Schedule these times away and make it a habit.

Find refreshment in Psalms 23
I have been steeped in meditation on Psalms 23 lately…a passage we are all familiar with, but how often do we really meditate upon? It has brought such strength to my soul during this weary season and can bring encouragement to you whatever you might be going through. Here are the meditations that I wrote down that I wanted to pass on to you. It is re-paraphrasing Psalms 23 in part in my own words:

You are not alone
“The Lord is my Shepherd” - The Lord, God of the universe, Sovereign King, is MY SHEPHERD. Did you catch that? He is MINE! He chose to take on human flesh in order that He might adopt me into His fold.

Your every need is already met
“I have all that I need” – He has already supplied my present and future needs. He has already provided for the grace I need for each passing day in my mothering and wife roles. It has been a difficult season in child training – it feels like a dark valley with no light at the end of the tunnel, but in reality, this is only a passing season for which God has already supplied all my needs to make it through. I lack patience. I lack perseverence. Grant me, oh Lord faith and endurance. You are doing a good work in me. Growing me in Christ-likeness. Childbearing and childraising are God’s means of grace in my life to make me more like my beautiful Savior. It will bring great reward!

Let some things go
“He lets me rest in green pastures, He leads me besides peaceful streams.”
Sometimes God takes us through difficult seasons and calls us to simply rest. For me that means we have been eating very simple and easy meals. We keep the house picked up but no deep cleaning is happening right now.

Focus on the goal
“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” I am laboring to bring eternal souls into the Kingdom! That is my mission as a mother! I am co-laboring alongside my husband to serve the Lord and His church. My God is close beside me! He guides me along right paths. He is my Shepherd and Guide. He is my Source that I might bring honor to His name. He is my Enabler.

Be thankful
“My cup overflows with blessings.” It is not just full, it is overflowing! Do you see that? What are these blessings? Write them out. I am thankful for My God – I wouldn’t be here without Him. My Husband – who lovingly leads our family and cherishes me! My two adorable children. My family – for their support and encouragement. My cup truly is overflowing!

For further encouragement from Psalms 23, I would encourage you to listen to Revive Our Hearts recent series on it here. This series was what lead me to mediate on Psalms 23 and the Lord has used it mightily in my life!

May you dear sisters be strengthened today in your mothering! The Lord is with you!

What can you be thankful for today?

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Aromatherapy for Mama

Photo Credit: Eggybird

Written by monthly contributing writer, Michele Augur.

Essential oils can often provide simple, natural solutions for pregnancy and postpartum concerns.

During pregnancy and postpartum seasons (and beyond!), I’ve loved surrounding myself with soothing scents. Here are several of my favorite basics:

  • Lavender Essential Oil: I’ve kept a bottle by my bed, adding a couple drops to a pillowcase for restful sleep. It’s also lovely in a relaxing massage or warm bath. I dozed through much of my labor, even staying peaceful through transition, as I was soothed by a very fragrant lavender candle.
  • Tea Tree Essential Oil: I enjoy adding this to a refreshing foot soak bath, and it’s also useful in addressing fungal/thrush/yeast concerns.
  • Peppermint Essential Oil: This invigorating oil is not recommended during pregnancy, but can be useful during labor (some midwives suggest it for stimulating a slow & tiring labor, soothing nausea, or even helping babies to turn!). It makes a lovely foot rub in a massage oil/lotion for tired mamas’ feet!
  • Lemon Essential Oil: Smelling the bright citrus scent of lemon may help soothe morning sickness nausea (try placing a few drops on a handkerchief), and is delightful when added to a lip balm.
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil: Congested sinuses are often a normal occurrence during pregnancy; add in seasonal allergies or a bout with a cold/flu, and mama can be quite uncomfortable! A eucalyptus oil sinus steam or several drops added to a diffuser/vaporizer can help bring some relief naturally.
  • Rose Geranium Essential Oil: A more affordable option than true rose oil, this “rosy-smelling” oil is not recommended during pregnancy, but can be especially refreshing for postpartum mamas during stressful times of hormonal fluctuations or after an emotionally-trying birth. Try it in the Mama’s Passion Bath Salts!
  • Sandalwood Essential Oil: This oil can be more expensive than the others; to keep it in my budget I just purchased a bar of natural sandalwood-scented soap to use on occasion while showering. This scent was especially emotionally uplifting for me on dreary days.
  • Clary Sage Essential Oil: This relaxing oil is not recommended during pregnancy, but some women find it helpful during labor or the trying-to-conceive season, when added to a massage oil.

Building up a small “remedy kit” of staple oils can be manageable for most budgets: small bottles of quality, basic essential oils are usually affordable (typically under $5 or $10, or so), and last quite awhile.

What are your essentials?

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April at Our Home

Our home has been overflowing with visitors this month. We were blessed to host our first overnight guests for a few nights, and then came church gatherings (we hosted an Easter sunrise breakfast and weekly community group), a baby shower, and a birthday party for my sweet Karis (she is 4 years old!). We had over 130 people come through our doors in one week! I am enjoying a quiet recovery this week from all these exciting events. It has truly been a joy to open our home and use this gift to bless others!

We have been enraptured in the beauty of Spring peeping out in our backyard, bringing flowers indoors, taking nature walks, climbing trees, and exploring as the sun begins to make an occasional warm spring day. I have grown to realize how easily it is to fill our days with such activities that we have no time to stop and treasure the beauty that God has placed around us. I am eager to glean fresh eyes.

Karis & Ty waiting at the window anticipating Daddy's arrival home

We arrived at 26 weeks in my pregnancy this week! Wow! It sure is flying by…but definitely starting to feel it more in my physical body. After that busy hospitality week, I felt like my legs would fall off from all the standing and hosting. You will see me sitting a lot this week just to give my body a rest. Baby is healthy, head down, and growing every day. Now if I could just deny my cravings for sweets!

I would appreciate your prayers as my husband, Aaron and I, prepare to go to the Philippines on May 28th. We will be leaving our kids with extended family and joining the Compassion bloggers team to see the work and ministry of Compassion International in the Philippines. I am praying the Lord would sustain me physically (I’ll be 30 weeks pregnant at this point!) as well as keep our children safe and comforted during our absence. I will be recording our adventures here during the first week of June. So excited!

We also will be celebrating our 5 year anniversary this month! May 21st marks 5 years with my wonderful hubby – who diligently provides and cares for our family! I am a blessed woman!

April Reading

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand – I greatly enjoyed learning a little American history and the enthusiasm that rose around this little horse during the trying years of the Great Depression. Hillenbrand is a excellent writer!

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan – a powerful challenging call to see the magnificence of Christ and to motivate us to display that love to a dying world around us by living intentionally for his glory. This is a wake up call to the Christian church to live radically for Christ as we witness the crazy love that He has given to us.

Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick – Another good read by Elyse on the topic of helping to identity and battle the idols in our lives with the truth of the gospel. Lots of encouragement and practical advice for making sure Christ is first on the throne in our hearts and not this world, beauty, the opinion of other’s, or anything else that might shape our purpose in this life.

May Theme: Pregnancy & Motherhood

With the celebration of Mother’s Day this month, we wanted to focus our May theme on tips, inspiration, and encouragement for natural pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. We hope you will join us as we share encouragement regarding the beauty of birth, inspiration for motherhood, advice for new moms, and more.

May Sponsors

We want to take a moment to highlight and thank our May sponsors!

Your Gardening Friend - check out this fun blog highlighting lots of tips and advice for natural gardening!
Azure Standard: Midwest Route facebook page - If you reside in the Midwest, you don’t want to miss out on learning about Azure Standard and the wonderful natural food co-op that delivers all over many parts of the US and recently expanded into the Midwest. Join the conversation!
Paula’s Breads - Find high quality kitchen gear and resources for your home at Paula’s Breads!

 

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Living in the Moment: A Real Life View

I am here today to take you on a little photo tour of our home in everyday real life. I am here as a simple wife, mother, and homemaker striving to live and treasure each and every moment. I am learning to grasp and seek out the treasured gifts in each day as they fly by my oft absent eye. I long for eyes to see.

And as I open my lens each picture captured is another gift bestowed to me. As I begin this scavenger hunt, my heart leaps within me to discover the joy around me. True joy results from looking beyond the mundane to see the beautiful.

“Wherever you are, be all there. It is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo (thanksgiving). Give thanks and see God. Full attention slows the current. Simplicity is a matter of focus. That keeps the focus simple.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

“The joy of God is the human being fully alive. And the life of the human consists in beholding God.” - Arasmus

Where do I behold God? How can I enter into His very presence in each moment? By seeing Him radiated in everything around me.

“It is up to each of us to set the example, to show by our actions our respect for intimacy, contemplation, and wonder. This is perhaps the greatest legacy we can bestow on our children: the capacity to be enchanted by the quiet gifts of everyday life.” – Katrina Kennison, Mitten Strings for God

And thus my gift list continues….

#357 – Little girl dressing up like a bride

#358 – The sweet helpfulness of 2 year old hands

#359 – Spring sun peeping through the clouds

#360 – Titus singing so beautifully on pitch without words

#361 – Blowing kisses to daddy

#362 – Titus making sure Daddy doesn’t forget to kiss Mommy goodbye

#363 – Little musicians strumming and banging to make music

#364 – For the daily workout of two stories of stairs

#365 – For a pile of dishes in the sink showing our bellies are full

#379 – Sketches across stone walkway

#380 – First blossoms of spring on the trees

“When I stop speeding through life, I find the joy in each days doings, in the life that cannot be bought, but only discovered, created, savored, and lived.” – Katrina Kennison

And thus the journey of savoring every moment continues…cultivating thankfulness, the key to the fullest life.

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Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: LOCAL OUTREACH

by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

Before we close this month’s HOSPITALITY discussion about sharing the love of JESUS from our homes, Lindsay asked if I would share a quick post with a few recent examples of easy real-life local family outreach (in the midst of raising our 7 children and being passionately involved in world missions).

“REACH OUT!”

Reaching out into our local area with the love of Jesus doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little focused effort, a couple hours of designated time, and a few family friends, we can make a BIG impact for God’s Kingdom, right in our own neighborhoods and in our local cities.

Let me just share what our family’s been doing. Recently, our newlywed son and his bride (Josh & Anna) have been leading a brand-new local outreach. Their heart is to do random-acts-of-kindness in our community, in Jesus’ Name, and to share God’s love in creative ways. It’s called REACH OUT!

We’ve been doing REACH OUT as a local church-outreach, but it’s mostly been a few key families. And as Alex & Brett Harris wrote in DO HARD THINGS, about not forgetting the “Home Team Advantage,” younger brothers and sisters make great consistent volunteers!

Nearly every Saturday morning, we meet in our church parking lot at 9:00 AM. Josh & Anna open up the back of their car, which is equipped with very important REACH OUT supplies: coffee, hot cocoa, and donuts (now I realize that many of you Passionate Homemakers are health conscious, but we’ve found this “ingredient” quite helpful for fellowship and keeping our volunteers happy). Josh welcomes everyone (that’s him in the black jacket, above). He and Anna present a simple plan for the next few hours (sometimes with a local map to show different teams where we’ll be going), there’s a brief Bible word of encouragement; then, we gather hands and PRAY for God’s GRACE!!!

Other than this short time together, there are NO planning meetings, and everyone (of all ages and all levels of Christian maturity) are welcome. By 9:20 to 9:30 AM, we’re done with our donuts, and we’re out into our community — on the streets or door-to-door.

Here’s a few examples of what we’ve done…

Continue Reading →

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Hospitality: The Demonstration of the Gospel

Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

I received the following comment this week on one of our posts on this topic of hospitality, and it really struck a cord in my heart. I felt I could not let it pass without addressing a key issue here.

Ugh…hospitality. I am THE WORST at it. I really detest it. Just being honest. I’m a stressed-out wreck, blowing up at my husband and kids. It’s just a giant culmination of everything that I’m horrible at – keeping our house clean, prepping meals, conversation, everything. It’s my number one surefire way to have a panic attack….

My heart really goes out to this sister. I know firsthand the struggles and challenges that come our way when faced with the uncomfortable situation of stepping outside our comfort zone to extend a spirit of hospitality. I know how easily it is to focus on the details rather than the heart of the matter. But, let us focus first of all on God’s amazing grace is which is totally accessible to us all. He commissions and equips us for the task and gives us the grace to step forth in faith to respond in action. It cannot be done on our own strength, but only through His sustaining grace.

But the truth is…cultivating a lifestyle of hospitality is what we were made for. We miss the point when we view hospitality simply as a culmination of cleaning our house, making a meal, leading in conversation, etc. What really is the giant culmination of hospitality?

Continue Reading →

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Simple Hospitality Meals

I have found simple meals as one of the key methods for allowing our hospitality to be practical and doable. Remember, you don’t have to serve a six course meal in order to extend hospitality! One pot meals can be just as warm and inviting to those who come into your home! And you don’t have to have a full scale set up on the table either. Spread out your food on the counter with a pile of plates, utensils, and such and allow your guests to serve themselves. There is certainly freedom to use paper plates and napkins as well! This makes for easy clean up. Whatever it takes to make it doable for you…use those ideas and go for it! God will richly bless your heart to serve and you will be storing up treasure in heaven through the process.

1. Make the Same Meal.

One of the best ideas I have discovered is to chose one or two of your favorite meals and rotate them for your hospitality guests. Stick with only one recipe/meal plan if necessary. Here are some of our favorite meals:

Pasta Presto – this recipe gets rave reviews wherever we serve it, and trust me, we have served it dozens of times for guests. It takes only 15-20 minutes to prepare, and is well received by adults and children with its pasta base. It is easy to use brown rice pasta for the gluten intolerant and it is simple to serve the feta cheese on the side for the dairy free or substitute with goat cheese. With a simple green salad, this is our favorite go-to recipe for hospitality.

Chicken Cordon Bleu – Another easy favorite that is creamy and rich!

Coconut Brownies – this recipe takes only 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake, and is an all-time favorite for hospitality. It is unique enough with the coconut additions that it is a special change from standard brownies. Serve with coconut or vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert. I always keep the ingredients on hand for these brownies as it is easy to throw together for last minute guests.

Popcorn - whether it be simple stove top popcorn buttered and salted or caramel popcorn, you can’t go wrong with this simple after dinner snack/dessert! I honestly serve this all the time to guests and we love it!

2. Utilize your Crockpot.

Anything in the crockpot makes a simple dinner. We like to try to serve something on the nicer scale for company. Many times I will make a chuck roast and cook it on low all day. This makes for easy dinner preparation. The last thing you want is to be hustling around the kitchen extensively while your guests arrive. The crockpot is a real favorite because all your preparation takes place in the morning. On other occasions, we like to barbecue something for our guests. This balances the task and helps include my husband as well in our preparations.

Favorite Crockpot Meals:

Chicken/Beef Enchiladas
Shredded Beef/Pork Sandwiches

3. Potluck It!

Distributing the weight of food preparations among your guests makes an easier load for you as well as helps include your guests in the preparation, which helps make them feel more comfortable as well. You can provide the main dish, and have a guest bring a salad and another guest bring a dessert. You could also choose a theme: mexican, italian, etc. and have your guests bring their favorite dish that fits the theme. Other ideas that we have done include:

- Waffle Night - breakfast for dinner is so much fun! In this case, I provide the batter, and my guests provide various toppings: whipped cream, syrup, berry sauce, etc.

- Taco Feast - Another popular idea that is easy and always well received is a taco night. I usually good up a big pot of refried beans, and guests can bring corn tortillas, cheese, lettuce, olives, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc.

- Spaghetti Feed – Can you go wrong with spaghetti? Cook up some spaghetti noodles and have three types of sauces: marinara, alfredo, and pesto. Serve alongside a salad and french bread, and you have a yummy meal.

What are your favorite simple meals for hospitality? Please share your links in the comments below.

Photo Credit

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Reaching Out to the World from Your Doorstep

Often times we all fall into the thought process that there isn’t many ways for us to serve when we are busy homemakers, wives and mothers. Our first thought is that extending hospitality requires us to host a dinner party or to go help out with this or that church ministry. Cultivating a hospitable heart does not have to be difficult or complicated, nor does it need to take me far from home, nor does it need to separate me from my family. It simply takes seeing eyes and open ears to observe the needs around you. It takes thoughtful prayer in evaluating who and what might be your own family mission field. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Adopt a nursing home or elderly person in your neighborhood

There are many lonesome elderly people in our time who have been shipped off to the care of some nursing home or facility. They long for friendship, and especially enjoy the presence of children. Consider adopting a nursing home and visit it regularly as a family. Pray for them and love on them. Often times the best way to love on the elderly is being willing to listen to them and hear their story. Do you have elderly folks in your neighborhood? Is there someone in your street, elderly or not, that would appreciate a visit or needs help with shopping? Look for ways to serve them through lawn care, reading to them, etc. The elderly are some of the easiest people to reach out to because they are not intimidating, easy going, and the majority love children.

Sponsor a child

Sponsoring a child through a ministry such as Compassion International, is a simple and practical way you can reach out to a needy child around the world without even leaving your home. It is simple way to show your children that we can care for children in their distress which is very near to the heart of God. Through writing letters, seeing a picture, and praying for the child, your family can labor on behalf of others in a tangible way.

Pray for the world

Prayer is a powerful weapon. A gift of free access to the presence of God. One way that we have cultivated this with our children is adopting a prayer focus for each week. Since we are learning our letters, we think of countries, friends, and neighbors that names begin with that letter. Each day or evening we seek to pray for those names. Utilizing tools such as Windows on the World (for children) and Operation World help to provide insight and specific prayer requests for people around the world. We chose a country that begins with the letter we are studying and read the select chapter. My next goal is to post a large world map (following the inspiration of the photo to the left) in our dining room from which we can teach geography as we pray around the dinner table.

Participate in various outreaches

There are many simple giving opportunities that provide hands hospitality for people around the world. Collect crocs to send to needy children in Africa through Project Viatu, combine shoe box Christmas gifts for children through Operation Christmas Child, collect blankets for Voice of the Martyrs Blankets for Sudan drive, or collect coats and soup mixes to distribute to the homeless in your city. If you have sewing skills, check out the opportunities to sew blankets and clothes for people in other nations. The list is endless, but the needs are practical.

Giving as you learn the alphabet

Through the inspiration of Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve preschool curriculum, we are having a blast reaching out to others through service and baked goods that correspond with their name. We choose a neighbor and/or friend whose name begins with the letter of the week, and then we bake something yummy or serve in some way that also begins with that letter. We baked applesauce bread for our neighbor Ann, and we baked banana bread for our elderly neighbor Bob, for example. Of course you do not have to have the curriculum to do this as a family, and you could easily just work down a list of co-workers, neighbors, and others in your community to serve on a weekly basis. Baking something is a simple way to love on people and share Christ’s love and hardly is intimidating. And who would refuse a gift when delivered in the hands of a child? And as you deliver your goodies, consider asking them how your family can be praying for them. Include a simple note sharing the purpose of your gift.

Neighbor Gift baskets

Welcome to the neighborhood gift baskets, or seasonal gifts (pumpkin bread for Christmas, focused halloween treats) are a fun way to reach out to others.

You don’t have to do everything listed here, as there is certainly grace for every season, and I am sure you have many more ideas to share…but start with one thing today. Pray together as a family. Get everyone on board. And begin to cultivate a lifestyle of generosity from your doorstep.

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Hospitality Ideas for Holy Week

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

The week before Resurrection Sunday (which is also known as “Holy Week” or the week of “Passover”) is one of the best times of the year to share the Good News of Jesus. Many families, especially those with children, are looking for special springtime holiday or Easter-fun ideas, and some mothers, especially those with school-age children, will consider bringing their family to church or to a special Passion play (even if they usually never attend).

The Jewish celebration of Passover is to remember how God delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and how the death angel “passed over” their homes. A special dinner called “Seder” includes unleavened bread (Matzah), lamb, and bitter herbs.

Jesus celebrated the Passover every year, and through His death on the cross, He fulfilled it. God has provided freedom from the bitterness of sin and eternal death, for “. . . Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 NLT).

Passover IDEA: Perhaps your family could have a special “Seder” dinner (or even communion) this Thursday night with another family. Or, you could invite a few families to watch The Ten Commandments, and you could talk about how Jesus (Y’shua) came as the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover Messiah.

Years ago, as our family was on a mission trip during Holy Week to Costa Rica and Guatemala, our family felt so burdened as we witnessed to people on the streets. Although the cultural traditions were beautiful and deeply religious (below are a few examples of the elaborate Holy Week flower-carpets from Antigua, Guatemala), many people we met had no personal relationship with the Lord, or an understanding that JESUS is ALIVE today. We saw huge processions with statues of Jesus and other religious relics carried through the streets, yet in many places, even on Sunday morning, there was little (no mention) of the Resurrection.

Just last week, our family took pretty flower-seed packets and handed them out on the streets in our city, and at a local Blossom Festival parade, along with “A FRESH START!” Gospel witness, and an invitation to our church. We were able to share with hundreds of people, and had some great conversations!

Mission-Minded Family Ideas for HOLY WEEK:

1. Pray for families you know who are thinking about Easter eggs and baskets for their kids, but who have no thought about the real meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection. Brainstorm a few specific ways that your family make an impact, this week, for Jesus. Perhaps you could go to a local public Easter egg hunt, specifically for your children to share about Jesus, or to invite people to your church.

2. Think of the families in your neighborhood, and pray about who you could invite to church. Walk through your neighborhood, and pray for these families specifically. Make a simple effort (perhaps with a phone call, a stop at their house with a plate of cookies or a simple basket with Easter treats and a church bulletin or handwritten card) and INVITE them to come.

3. Have your kids make simple hand-drawn pictures about the cross of Jesus Christ and the resurrection, with an invitation to your church’s Sunday Easter Service; bring the drawings with you the next time you are in the vicinity of your home church, and have your kids look for someone specific they can invite to church.

4. Read the Biblical account of the Passion Week.

5. Read aloud from Christian children’s books which focus on the true meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ, such as any Bible storybook. Two of our family favorites are The Tale of the Three Trees, or The Little Rose of Sharon.

6. If you decorate Easter eggs, include pictures of the cross and the empty tomb, and words such as “JESUS IS ALIVE!” (You can write these with crayon, before you put the eggs in the dye.)

7. Celebrate communion together as a family or even all by yourself during a quiet time – perhaps on Thursday (to remember the Last Supper) or on Good Friday. Play a CD, or sing together a simple song you know about the cross or the blood of Jesus, read aloud I Cor. 11:23 – “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…”

8. Watch the classic film, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, and especially focus on the scene of the Passover and the blood of the Lamb.

9. Watch a film about the Cross and the Resurrection – The JESUS Film by Campus Crusade for Christ (from the Gospel of Luke, translated into about 1000 languages and is utilized in missions and evangelism throughout the world), The Gospel of John, or The Passion of the Christ, are all excellent selections.

10. Look on-line to get a glimpse of Holy Week celebrations throughout the world – to focus your prayers on nations and people who need to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

11. Have your kids use sidewalk chalk to draw pictures of Jesus, and the Cross, and the Empty Tomb. Write, “JESUS IS ALIVE!!!” and “GOD LOVES YOU!!!” outside your house on the sidewalk in front of your house.

12. If you have a daughter, a few little girls to join you for a fun & fancy (but simple) dress-up Easter Tea Party. Eat little sandwiches and strawberries; drink tea in teacups, and read aloud a picture storybook about Jesus (this is a good time to read The Little Rose of Sharon).

13.Take a few Children’s books with the story of Jesus and the Cross & Resurrection (such as The Three Trees), and invite local neighborhood kids to your front yard to listen to you read aloud.

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Defining Hospitality: Strangers Welcoming Strangers

Written by monthly contributing writer, Natalie.

What on earth is hospitality? Is it fancy dips and great decorating? Is it great cooking, or inviting people over frequently and hosting lots of events?

Who can we look to as hospitality role models, to help us define and refine our hospitality? Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Southern Living Magazine? Our grandma?

Hospitality vs. Entertaining

We are often told that when we do “Martha Stewart-ish” types of things, we’re practicing hospitality. In reality, we are entertaining. These two words are often interchanged and confused, and we should be clear on which one is which.

The dictionary defines entertaining as “amusing” or “diverting”, and we all know how much great food and a beautiful setting can amuse and divert! It is completely possible to excel at entertaining, without ever practicing true hospitality.  So it becomes really important to define hospitality, and to start with what God has told us in his Word.

Defining Hospitality from the Bible

Jesus makes it clear for us that hospitality is meant primarily for those who are most estranged, and least welcomed:

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus was simply reiterating what God told his people in the Old Testament about how they should treat people on the fringes. I love this scripture from Leviticus:

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

God has been instructing his people for a long time to be welcoming to those in need, but we can see from Leviticus that the ultimate model of hospitality is God himself, in the welcome he extends to us through His Son.

The essence of biblical hospitality is welcoming “strangers” and meeting their varied needs, since God welcomed and provided for us in Christ, when we were estranged from him!

Who is a Stranger, and What Do They Need?

A Physical Stranger. Neighbors just moving in from across the country. International students (especially if you live in a college town). People in rest homes. A homeless person. A new mother with no nearby friends or family to help her keep house, run errands, and get an occasional break. Military wives. There are tons more possibilities. Basically, a person who lacks a community to assist with basic needs.

This person may need very practical help, such as:
A ride.
A meal, or help preparing meals.
Help running errands.
Help in the process of purchasing a car, or finding living quarters.
Unpacking from a move.
Babysitting children.

An Emotional Stranger. A newly divorced young mom. A newlywed struggling alone to figure her spouse out. Adult single ladies who do not get many invitations. A college student without trustworthy parents or mentors, trying to make decisions about her future. A woman whose engagement was recently broken off. Basically, a person whose physical needs may be already met, perhaps even a wealthy person, but who is relationally estranged.

This person may need relational help, such as:
A listening ear.
Lots of time.
An open invitation to your home, when needed (within reasonable boundaries, of course!)
Stabilizing normalcy. Like being invited to play board games with you and the kids, or some other very average activity.
Gentle encouragement.
The sharing of helpful scriptures.

A Spiritual Stranger. A store clerk. Your brother. Your babysitter. Your mail carrier! This could be anyone who does not confess Jesus as their Lord.

It goes without saying…this person needs spiritual help!

Obviously, these categories are artificial, and each individual will probably be a unique, overlapping blend. Many of us reading would even feel we fit into one or more ourselves. This breakdown is merely a starting point for thinking deeply about people and learning to discern how we can best reach out.

God can and will give many opportunities for us to explain, in detail, his work of redemption (a.k.a. share the gospel) as we practice hospitality and look for opportunities to love people the way they need most. Hopefully we can begin to see that hospitality may include a dinner invitation and appetizers, but is by no means limited to just that! Any act of kindness that communicates a welcome to a “stranger” is an act of hospitality!

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