{Southern Gal Hostess of the Year? Not so much.}

A few weeks ago, it was my Dad’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Dad!) We decided to have an impromptu gathering to celebrate — at our house. I, being the southern belle that I am, had suggested a nice dinner out. After all, the house was a mess, the fridge was empty, and I was tired. Very tired. But, no. Dinner out wasn’t going to do. There had to be a celebration. For my dad. With other people. And I would host.

So, we came home from Sunday lunch and had a few hours to prep for the party. Any southern gal worth her weight in butter can prep for a party on short notice, right? Um, no. I came home and took a nap. Yes. Fell asleep. In my favorite spot. With my favorite pillow. Don’t judge me!

After my Sunday afternoon nap, the house was still a mess, the fridge still empty, and people were still coming over in an hour. On the way to grocery store, I whined and complained at my lack of preparation. I moaned that I know better than this. Why couldn’t we just take everyone out for pizza? My awesome, superstar, worth-his-weight-in-gold hubby assured me it would be fine. He has a beautiful gift of calm. We scurried through the store like a couple of crazy people. We still had 30 minutes to spare. Then, we realized we forgot the cake. Did I mention we were halfway home at that point? Yikes.

When we pulled in the driveway, we were late. (Now, you can judge me.) Our guests were already there. And so, I did what any other respectable southern gal hostess type would do. I put them to work. What. In. The. World. It’s shameful, I know. Pizza really would have been better. I promise the next gathering at my house will be better. I do have it in me.

Here’s the thing: While I may not have scored high marks this time on the “Southern Gal Hostess of the Year” chart, I still had an opportunity that evening to practice hospitality.  It didn’t necessarily look the way I wanted it to look — ok, who am I kidding, It looked nothing like I wanted it to — but, even still, I was being hospitable. See, I’m learning that hospitality is about a heart that says “You are important to me.”  I opened my door wide and invited these folks into my mess because they are important. I opened my door wide and made a place here where it was perfectly acceptable to be a hot mess! Because, hello, did you notice? Hot. Mess. Right here.

Opportunities for hospitality will sometimes interrupt our daily routines with no regard for our empty fridge or our mess. But, it’s ok. It really is. I’m learning that there’s more to it than a perfectly executed five-course dinner or beautifully executed party. It’s about leaning in with a tender heart towards the people that God has put in my path. I can be hospitable when I greet the clerk at the grocery store. I can be hospitable when I greet my neighbor with a smile. I can welcome people into our home despite the mess. Why? Because people are important. Hospitality says I see you and you matter. That, my friends, is the kind of southern gal I want to be. One who is worth her weight in butter because hospitality isn’t just something she does, it’s who she is. Kind. Gracious. Warm. Tenderhearted. One who loves others well. That’s what we’re meant to do, isn’t it? Love people. Hospitality starts there. 
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To My Little (not-so-little anymore) Brother…

Yesterday was little brother’s birthday.

Sometimes I forget that we are grown-ups and not little kids running around in the yard or playing basketball in the church parking lot. Time flies.

I am sure I would have never earned the “Big Sister of the Year” award. I was most likely being bossy or sassy. On a good day, I was probably making you play some kind of game that you didn’t really want to play or curling your hair and dressing you up like a life-sized barbie doll. And, I laughed when dad plugged up the vacuum and gave you a bad haircut with the flowbe. (You have to admit, it was funny!) It’s a wonder you survived. You were a good little brother. And I know you thought I was cool – even if you won’t admit it in a million years. You still think I’m cool, right?

I joke about how I taught you everything you know and how you got all your coolness and wit from growing up with me. The truth is – I think you really are awesome.

You. Are. Awesome.

I am so glad that God picked me to your big sister. I’m so glad that we grew up to be friends. Sometimes, I wish you lived right around the corner so we could take our fabulous spouses and go on a double date. Or, we could get together and make music, just for fun. I wish my kids could spend more time with you and Auntie T. They would be crazy about you. Even more than they already are. But, it’s ok. Why? Because God is using you right where you are to do great things.

I love watching you do and be what God has intended for you to do and be. I admire your courage and your patient endurance. I admire your obedience.
I love watching you lead worship. Above all, I admire your love for Jesus. You are a beautiful picture of God’s grace – a masterpiece, a treasure.

We are celebrating you from across the miles. We are thankful for you. We love you. Happy birthday!

Don’t Forget to Remember

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of celebration. Let’s see – there is turkey, dressing, dumplins, and pumpkin pie. After we feast, we usually spend a bit of time flipping through the newspaper ads, pen in hand, marking our favorite things. Christmas is just around the corner, after all. We play games. We take naps. And, we remember.

I remember Tyler’s first Thanksgiving. He was 7 months old and the life of the party. He most likely had his hands in everyone’s plate getting his first taste of the delicious goodness that is Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the laughter. Lots of laughter.

I remember where I was standing when I received a phone call from the hospital just a few days later. I remember the heaviness in the room when I arrived there. It was suffocating. I remember being told, “He didn’t make it.” It was SIDS.

He. Didn’t. Make. It. The reality of that moment hit me in a way I cannot begin to explain.

I remember walking back to a different room. My eyes landed on my lifeless baby boy and pain pierced me to the very core. It would become a familiar pain. I wept while I begged God to “fix it.”

I remember walking away from that hospital without my baby. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I remember losing a second child 15 months later. I remember my marriage falling apart. I remember being angry, confused, and feeling completely abandoned by God. The pain was relentless and I crumbled.

I also remember the moment I gave up and laid all the brokenness and pain at the feet of Jesus. I remember the moment He turned my mourning (YEARS of mourning) into joy.

And, I am so thankful.

I belong to a sovereign, perfect, faithful God. I am completely in awe of Him. He heals. He redeems. He restores. There is not one moment of my life when He has taken His eye off of me. (Or you!) He sees us. He loves us. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments. I know that now.

I know it.

So, don’t forget to remember. Remember who He is and what He has done. Remember the cross. Remember His lavish love and perfect grace. And in everything, give thanks…That can be a hard one to take in and live out until we remember Christ. Then suddenly even our most difficult moments pale in comparison to the pain and suffering He endured. For the glory of the Father and for us. 

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

This is my Dad.

Dad & Me

Today is his 60th birthday.  Woo-Hoo! Hooray! So, I am writing this one for him – to honor him and to remind him that he is loved beyond measure.

Dear Dad, you are one of my heroes. I am thankful that God picked me to be your daughter. I admire your strength and courage. I admire your perseverance. You have shown me what it means to love and care for others above yourself. Even those who may have hurt you or mistreated you. You have shown me how to be bold and courageous. I’m not speaking of a boldness that is brazen and arrogant or a courage that is proud. It’s a boldness and a courage that come from a place of humility. I’ve watched you make mistakes and get back up. I’ve watched you say “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” or “I need help.” You taught me that it is ok to be imperfect and that God’s grace is greater than all my weakness.

Thank you for raising me to understand who Jesus is and what He came to do. Thank you for loving Him and putting Him first in your life and teaching us to do the same. Thank you for teaching me the importance of worship and the power of prayer. I used to creep over to the church office to steal your ink pens and hear you praying, you know. Sometimes, I would hang back and listen, realizing that I had stumbled upon a holy moment. Sometimes I would run off determined to come back and steal an ink pen later. You had the best ink pens!

Thank you for teaching me how to laugh. Now, little brother and I are funnier than you. Thanks for teaching me how to shoot a basketball, grab a rebound, and pass a volleyball. Thank you for telling me to sing. To work hard. To write.  To love BIG.

Thank you for believing in me. For praying for me. For loving me unconditionally. For being my biggest fan. For having tough conversations with me. For speaking truth and wisdom into my life. And now, you do all those things for my husband and my children. We are blessed beyond measure to have you near.

We love you. We honor you. We celebrate you. We are so very grateful for all that you are. You are one cool-smooth-God-fearing dude. And we are all the better for it!

Happy 60th birthday, Dad.