Friday, June 29, 2012

Decorating Advice From Teenagers

One of the perks of hanging out with teenagers is I get a view of life from their perspective.  I learn about parenting from them.  They don't tell me what to do or offer advice, but they say a lot if I'm willing to listen.  Some good and some bad.  I remember one girl describing the first time that she drove to school by herself.  She said it was really hard and she kind of missed her mom because her mom prayed with her everyday on the way to school.  This girl is so hip and cool and sweet and I loved hearing that her mom's daily prayers meant so much to her.  

While on the trip with the Belize team, I picked up on some stuff as well.  One time I asked them for advice.  John and I really want our home to be a safe, secure, and comfortable place for our kids to bring their friends.  We have several reasons why we want our home to be welcoming, but I'll get on that soap box another day.  This is what I asked the kids, "What do I need to do to make my home a fun place for friends to come and hang out?"  They were all over this!  Kids love going to each others' houses, so they had a lot to say about this.  Here are the three things that they told me, and they were all in agreement with them:

Burl loved seeing everyone.  They were so sweet and played with him. Even the boys would go off and play with some of his toys and tools with him.  It was so fun to watch!

Have lots of food and snacks at the house.  They said that having food is very important.  They know which of their friends has the best food.  This one is going to be easy.  When I told John about this one, we both agreed that we are willing to up our grocery budget to make snacks for friends a priority.  

Don't have a clean house.  This one kind of hurt.  I love me a clean house.  It really hurt when they followed it up with, "Meg, your house is always so clean."  I took that as an insult.  They had just said not to have a clean house, but I have a clean house. They tried to tell me that my house was fine and it's not the type of clean house that they were talking about.  I bugged them and asked them a lot of questions on what they meant.  There's more on that in a second.

The last thing that they said was to live in a place that is centrally located and easy to get to.  Some of the kids live further from the city and they said that no one comes to their house.  That was something we thought of when we bought our house.  We live in a central location and I'm glad about that. 

I didn't clean up while they were here.  I just left the mess and talked with them.  It's been a few hours and the mess is still there.  And I'm ok with it.  Belize Meg, holding strong.

More about cleaning...Here it is:  A clean house is ok.  However, it can't feel like a museum with a lot of fancy breakables laying around that have been perfectly polished.  They named one of their friends who has a house like that and how it's stressful to be there.  They said that my house was fine.  It was a good clean, like fun to come over.  They said I was ok.  

Even thought it goes against everything I stand for, I made myself leave this flower on the table.  It was droopy last night and barely living today.  You know what, one of the girls commented on how pretty it was.  Go figure.

However, this morning, a few of the kids from the Belize trip came over for breakfast.  I might have done a little extra cleaning, but I tried not to go overboard.  There were things left undone that I don't normally leave undone when I'm having people over for a meal.  (It's all part of the new Belize Meg where I focus on the important things and don't sweat the little things.)  Some of the kids hadn't been here before, so they wanted to look around.  They did.  One boy said that my house was a "brick and mortar house for a good pinterest account."  I laughed because I told him I knew there was a compliment in there, but I think it's covered up with a little sarcasm.  It's ok, I can do sarcasm.

Then, they asked if they could go upstairs.  Our upstairs is where my brothers stay when they need a place to crash.  They store some stuff up there and so do we.  There is nothing cute about it.  They all went up there, and that same boy said, "I'm glad I saw this-I know you're a normal person now." I freaked out a little and they assured me that my house was great and it showed signs of life and it's ok.  But, I have to wonder, is it too clean?  Not just that, but am I focusing too much attention on cleaning and less on living?  

This is the thing: if I really think that people are more important than objects, does it reflect my lifestyle?  These teenagers-they are pretty cool.  One thing that we noticed on the trip is that they just see people.  They were put in several different circumstances and never missed a beat.  They went with the flow.  They enjoyed everything.  They were focused on people way more than anything else.  In a world that is very critical of teenagers, I'm not.  They're cool, they're fun, and they know what's important.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Little Fern & Her Bucket

When I started this blog, I only had one baby.  I talked a lot about him on this blog.  It was my first time having a  front row seat to the evolution of a person.  I remember being in awe of every little development, then blogging about it.  I remember when playing in his basket of toys became part of our daily routine.  It was just after he went from three naps to two naps and I blogged about it.  Suddenly, my little infant was becoming an active, playful little person and I had to talk about it.  

Now that I have two babies, I don't blog about the little things with each of them as much as I did before.  Instead, all those little things become something big and I blog about playing on the floor with both of my children and having fun as a family on the weekends.  

Not today.  I'm not talking about a bunch of little things that become one big thing.  I'm only talking about Fern, or Ferny as we usually call her.  Because she's hit a little milestone.  It was slowly creeping up on us, but it's official: sista likes her toys.  

One of her places that she loves to be is on the floor with her toy bucket beside her.  It's small and has only a few toys that are safe for her.  We sit her on the floor, and one of us (sometimes even Burl) brings her bucket to her and she starts playing.  She goes through the toys, chooses a few, and they all go in her mouth.  We recently added this little hairbrush, and she is very fond of it.  

Just like that, she's changing, growing up, enjoying her playtime.  And I love it.  Watching an entire person grow and change and become someone unique is one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed.  It makes me so excited that I take several pictures, add some words, and share this not-so-big-but-very-huge-deal thing.  

This girl, these children, this life, are all blessings.  They are kind of a big deal around here, and I really enjoy talking about them.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Designed To Be

I'm not done talking about Belize, but I'm done blogging about it.  One more post and I think I'll keep my thoughts and feelings limited to conversations and prayers.  Sometimes, I do better if I'm talking.  I can spit out more words.  I'm often carried by emotion and memories.  I can read faces to see if I'm making sense or not.  When I'm writing (or typing) about things, I try and pack a lot into just a few words.  That's hard for a fast, loud, and expressive talker like myself.  This can't be summarized in a few blog posts.  It's changed things for me.  It's creeping in to all different parts of my life and I'm loving the flow.  

There have been many people, friends and people from my church, who have asked about the trip.  They really want to know.  And I love it.  I'll talk about this trip all day long.  I want to share what I got while I was there.  I don't talk about spiritual things much on this blog (again, it's one of those things that I rather do in person), but I am going to try and say something about the most spiritual thing that I learned while I was there.  

Here it is: trips like these are great because they force us to live more like we were intended and designed to live.  This is my 10th trip like this and I'm just now seeing it.  It's taken me a week of talking with John, praying, and journaling to realize that is what made this week great.  God didn't give us laws and rules and stuff to weigh us down or give us a standard to obey so we can feel proud of ourselves.  No, he gave us His word to show us that we have been designed carefully so that we can flourish.  (Pronounced flur-ish, not floor-ish, John pointed out after a few days of me saying it wrong.)

The Lord has made us in such a way that we will feel so alive and filled with joy when we do the things that we were designed to do.  Yes, we mess up.  No, we can not do it on our efforts.  Yes, he'll redeem it all one day.  No, he won't leave us alone to figure it out in the meantime.  

This trip.  It was a gift.  A lot of the kids said "best week of my life" or "best trip I've ever been on."  And that's because we lived like we were intended to live.  For me, that meant that I didn't have a lot with me.  I wasn't worrying about my things and taking care of them.  We had one mirror the size of my palm and that didn't lend itself to be consumed with my looks.  Everyday we woke up with purpose to serve other people.  We went to help others and that took the focus off of ourselves.  We were active.  Everyday. All the time.  But the biggest thing: we were doing it all together.  We were a tight community from Tennessee that went down and found community with the people of Belize.  

I went on this trip to be with the youth group and I knew that I would have a good experience as well, but I had no idea I was be so filled-to-the-brim with joy and love.  And I really believe it's because the nature of the trip looks more of who I'm supposed to be.

As I come home to my husband and my two babies and my community, I'm filled.  I know that the elements that brought me joy in Belize are the same elements that will bring me joy in my place in life.  I want to get rid of all the life clutter that steals time away from what I'm suppose to be doing.  I want to enjoy more of what I've been given.  And I'm not talking about the materialistic things.  

I'm not coming back thinking that we should move to a third world country and play with kids all day-even though that sounds awesome.  I want to see myself come alive with the elements that I saw in Belize.  I want to live in a community of people who encourage and strengthen one another.  I want to take the focus off of structure, order, and cleanliness.  I want to stop managing people's opinions of me and start just being myself.  I want to remember to rest and take breaks and ask for help.  

And as this first week home has unfolded, Belize Meg is starting to feel a little tense.  She's slipping away and starting to have those not-so-perfect ways of living show their ugly faces.  And I hate it.  John started to feel it too and asked me about it.  I told him that I feel that tension in myself coming back and I'm trying to talk myself out of it.  Gently, he said, "have you prayed about it?"  

Nope.  I hadn't asked for it to stay and remain.  I was trying to put my hands around it and hold tight, so cool Belize Meg wouldn't leave.  Eventually, my muscles started to give out and I couldn't hold on anymore.  It was just too hard.  And just like that, I'm reminded that it's not me.  I'm not doing a darn thing.  

It's all up to God.  He is the author and perfecter of my faith.  Not me.  I won't ever get it right.  But, he'll take me on trips and give me kind words through my husband to remind me that He's the one taking care of things.  He's the one who molds me.  Belize and friends and joy and community and babies and John are all part of my story.  And I'm thankful.  

And if you know me personally and are reading this, then feel free to ask me more.  I'm all about being real these days, so I will most likely be honest and not hide behind vague words or empty talk.  If you don't know me personally, email me.  Call me.  I'll talk to everyone and anyone.  I want to shout from the top of the Mayan ruins: God is good.  Then, I'll want to go into a long conversation about how I'm seeing that.  
That's how it's going to be.  When people want to know my story, I think that I'm going to have to add Belize in there.  It's been incredible.  It's changed everything.  John says that our whole house is different because of it.  And, gosh, I'm just so thankful.  

This Week's Menu

Summer is possibly my favorite time to cook.  Or not-cook.  In the summer, John continues to ask for not-hot food every night.  It's so hot outside that he doesn't want to eat piping-hot meals every.single.night.  Even though some weeks I'm pretty good at it and others I'm not, I like the push to try to cook without cooking.  It also helps that John's dad has a sa-weet garden.  

Leftover beans and rice, grilled chicken
Swiss chard and tomato quiche, blueberries
Cream of zucchini soup, maybe some bread
Hummus, avocado & cucumber sandwiches, fruit salad

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Belize Meg

When I walked in the door from my trip to Belize, I walked through a fog.  I remember standing in the little open space by my front door and touching a table like it was the first time I had seen it.  It was like I had eyesight for the first time.  It felt so weird.  Being in my huge bathroom where I could flush toilet paper and look in a mirror bigger than the palm of my hand was overwhelming.

The next morning, we left the house and I had no idea what to do.  I'm usually running around like a crazy person getting everyone out the door, but this time I was at a lost for what to do.  John got the kids loaded in the car and I asked him what I was supposed to do.  I knew we took a diaper for each kid and I took a purse.  Purse with my wallet, phone, & keys.  I asked John what one of the keys was for.  It was like everything was rushing around and I was frozen.  

The next day I went to Chick-fil-A for lunch.  That was a mistake.  It was almost overwhelming.  There were so many moms there yelling at their kids.  Kids were throwing tantrums and I was just trying to get the right condiments while watching the kids.  I hadn't been around anything like that in over a week and it was shocking when I was thrown back in to it.  

Being in Belize for a week changed me in many ways, but one of the most obvious ways is that it relaxed me to the core.  The slow pace, the community, and the joy that I found there has come back with me.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly what changed.  For now, I'm enjoying it.  I'm hoping it's a permanent change.

I know that a break in general helps anyone, but this is deeper.  John calls me Belize Meg now and he says Belize Meg is more chill than he's ever seen me.  I'll take it.  I see now that before the trip, I was not doing my job well.  I was holding tightly to order, control, and cleanliness.  The Lord showed me how much I had demanded of the household.  When I got home, I apologized to John for making him walk on egg shells and asked him to forgive me.  As a wife, mother, and homemaker, I want joy and love to be valued over structure and appearance.  

This new found attitude, lifestyle, and view on my responsibilities is amazing.  What a gift.  I want to bottle this up and save it for later when I need it.  I want to give it to my friends and that one really crazy lady in Chick-fil-A.  I'll call it The Elixir Of Life.  I'm still processing what happened, but I'll say this for sure:

It made the big, important things even bigger and more important 
It made the small, unimportant things smaller and I don't really notice them anymore.

Right now, I'm really enjoying those important things: John, Burl, & Fern.  The group that went on the trip.  My friends.  My neighbors.  Food.  Those the things that cut through the fog.  Those are the things that I see.  Those small things?  I'm not even seeing them.  I'm not even sure what they are at this point.  Belize Meg is seeing people and that's about it.  And gosh, this Elixir of Life is the most refreshing thing I've tasted.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Missing Belize

This morning it's really hurting.  I'm missing the team that went to Belize.  I'm missing the people that lived there.  I'm missing the community that we made for a week.  Withdrawal might be a little dramatic, but it seems like the best word to describe what I'm feeling.  When community is strong and the Lord is at work and good things are happening right in my face, it stings a little when it is over.  Not that those things are not present here, but it was different.

For six days, I left my children and my husband and went with Patty and Ben and 11 teenagers to Belize.  This trip has been working in my heart for a few years now, and soon after Fern was born, I talked to Ben (youth leader) and we got the ball rolling.  Short term trips to third world countries are my jam.  There is so much goodness that happens there.  

We went to play with kids, fix a roof, do some painting, and run a vacation Bible school.  That's what we would say before the trip if someone asked us, "so what are yall doing down there?"  Now that the trip is over, the answer to that question is different.  Instead of a list of things that we did, I would sit down and try and formulate an explanation of what happened there.  If I had to sum it up in two words, then I would choose two words: encouragement and community.  If I had to sum it up in one word, then I would chose love.  Love happened down there.  

There are so many things that love did down there.  Out of ten trips like this, I can say that this one was the best.  I can firmly say that I experienced God down there, and when that happens nothing stays the same.  So much is different.  As I transition back to my normal life, I'll be talking about the changes here.  I've got to.  It's all I want to talk about now.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

This Week's Menu

There is a woman who lives in Belize in a three room house with no electricity.  She likes plants and finds joy in watching flowers grow.  She gets four bags of corn delivered to her everyday.  She processes them, and gets rid of the waste, reducing the bags to three.  Then, she ships them to her mother and family who live on a nearby island that has no produce at all.  

I met her last week when I was on a mission trip with the youth group at my church.  We talked for almost two hours, and it felt like I was with a friend getting coffee.  We are worlds apart, but so very similar.  

This week, when I write my menu, I think about her.  I think about what we eat and how I view food.  I'm constantly trying to get more whole foods in our rotation, but now I'm wanting to do so in an easy, simpler way.  Here's what we're eating this week:

Basil tomato linguini
Cream of asapragus soup and tomato-cheddar sandwiches
Turkey-avocado sandwiches and cantalope 
Cajun chicken pasta
Salmon, rice pilaf, and green beans.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adventuresome, A Guest Post

Today, I've asked Molly from WanderLost to talk about adventures.  That's what I love most about her blog.  Whenever I visit, I always get so excited about going on an adventure, small or large.  She'll have you driving with the windows down, making your own cutoffs, smiling big, and calling your friends to go play-something we could all be inspired to do more!


Last week Ben & I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. We were on a road trip to South Carolina & had the opportunity to reflect on all the adventures we’ve had over the years. I’m just a simple girl from Kentucky, working a normal 9-5 job, saving every penny, and playing hard by taking as many trips as possible. We have a little urban farm—2 pups, 12 chickens, and 3 sweet bee hives—when I’m not digging in my garden, I’m typically on the porch with Ben planning our next excursion.
That being said, I thought I’d write a list of a few places that I think everyone should visit before they die. My list goes far beyond these 10, but these are some that I’ve already checked off:

1. See mountain goats in Glacier National Park.
2. Jump off of a cliff in Cinque Terre.
3. Scuba dive in Mexico.
4. See or summit Mt. Rainier.
5. Hike on the Appalachian Trail.
6. Eat wild blueberries on the Blue Ridge Mountains.
7. Eat crepes filled with nutella & bananas at the base of the Eifel Tower at midnight.
8. Sit on a bench in Washington Square Park in New York City.
9. Go fly-fishing & catch a rainbow trout.
10. Go horseback riding in the Badlands.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Family Hospitality, A Guest Post

Cameron is a cutie and if you are friends with her on facebook, go spend 2 hours looking at all her pictures.  They are so much fun and you will smile at them all.  I told her that I liked all her dinner party pics and asked her to say something about hospitality.  She had great things to say:

I grew up in a home that shaped my joy for hospitality.  Under mama’s roof, one would usually find a load of laundry sitting in the chair in the living room, a little dust on the piano, and probably a pile of clutter on my “dad’s counter” scattered with coins, papers, and receipts.   This never stopped her from opening her door to any and everyone who came to her house.  This is a policy I’ve tried to take on as my own—to resist the temptation to strive for the perfect home—let it go, and enjoy whatever or whoever comes to my doorstep.  That being said… I am learning to delight in having a home for hosting and not worshiping it.  Delighting in hospitality allows me to laugh when the across-the-street, beer-bellied neighbor is mowing his lawn shirtless during a wedding shower for everyone to see.  It also allows me to give more attention to relationships than it does the dirty dishes in my sink.  All that being said, here are a few photographs and comments of my not so perfect, but regardless, hospitable home!

Fresh flowers always brighten up a room. Always.

I love napkins.  These were one of my favorite wedding gifts I received.  One of my friends hosted a shower for me and bought antique napkins on ebay.  They’re all different-not matchy.  She had them monogrammed and then used them at the shower and then gave them to me as my shower gift.   I use the napkins all the time when we have guests over.  It’s a special touch that people notice.

Great conversation and lots of laughter make a successful evening in my book.

Board games—always a good idea.

I like that hospitality is so personal.  This was a “date” that we arranged for Paul’s grandparents when his grandfather got sick.  Although Grampa Jones wasn’t able to leave his house, we tried our best to make them feel like guests in their own home. 

Even my husband gets into it… 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Laura & Bees, A Guest Post

Laura just goes for it.  If she wants to learn something new, then she does it.  No holding back.  Hebrew, bee keeping, photography.  She's game.  I've really adored what she's done with bee keeping and wanted her to talk about why she loves and it and what made her want to try it:

Sitting out on my back deck one evening, cleaning up some old frames and putting in new foundation – a friend drops by, and I thrill at the opportunity to talk about my bees.  Again.

This interest in bees, it’s been some time in the making.  We, my kids and I, gave beekeeping a try a number of years ago, and while our bees survived only long enough to allow us one honey harvest, I’ve wished ever since to do it again, and do it better.

This last winter, I decided it was high time that I make my own wish come true.  After a little internet investigation, I found that our local beekeepers association would be offering a beekeeping class complete with all a novice beekeeper (that’s me) needs to get started and mentoring by a real beekeeper. Sign.Me.Up.

Things kicked into gear for our class in late March when our bees were delivered.  Packaged bees come in crates containing three pounds of bees (roughly 10,000-12,000 bees) and a queen in her own little cage.  Considering the 30 or so members of the class who were all receiving bees, it was by anyone’s estimation, a pretty exciting day.

These last few months, I’ve been to bee meetings, participated in group bee work at our hives, prepared and served gallons of sugar water to my girls, investigated all things “bee,” and grown increasingly fascinated by their complexity.  I’ve also, thanks to beekeeper friend, supplier, and advice-giver Mark, started a second hive! 

I can’t explain why I’m so enthralled with this new hobby.  Maybe it’s the satisfaction of experiencing Nature all close-up and everything. Maybe it’s the smells:  smoke, wood, honey, fresh air.  Maybe it’s the fascination that comes of being a student that will never master the subject and the connection to generations of others who’ve never mastered it either. Or it could be the bees themselves. I just know that I 
am enthralled.