Acts of Love

On Motivation and Encouragement

Table Art March 24, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Family,Hospitality,Keeping the House,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:55 pm
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One of my favorite parts of cooking a special  meal for people is creating a tablescape. My husband built our diningroom table; it is beautiful and one of a kind. Similar to what are sold in high ends stores as ‘farmer’s tables’ it was built with left over wood. It has a beautiful wood grain and deep knots, along with some dings and scratches my husband calls ‘character’. Because we love our table so much, I almost never use an actual tablecloth. Instead, I like to create themed centerpieces with some unexpected elements.

Today we started making the centerpiece for Easter. I wanted lots of colored eggs, so we made a batch first thing this morning. Makayla watched in awe as I poked each egg and blew the yolk and white out into a bowl (the dogs were lucky this morning and had 12 scrambled eggs for breakfast.) I used a regular store-bought kit to dye the eggs, but I added some lemon juice to mute the colors into a more pastel tone.

Next I wanted to creat some terrariums. I should preface the remainder of this post with an admission: I am incapable of keeping a house plant alive. Even the heartiest breed of plant fail to thrive under my care. I decided to try putting together some terrariums because they apparently ‘thrive on neglect’. Perfect! I can neglect a houseplant! I went to the garden center this morning and bought some plants. The key is to select an odd number of plants (odd numbers are always more esthetically pleasing) of varying heights, colors, and textures. I could not tell you the names of the plants, I just picked them based on the above criteria.

You can use any glass container to make a terrarium. I had some around the house and just picked a few with a wide mouth.  You need to fill the bottom with small rocks for drainage. Makayla helped with this part.

Now you can start arranging the plants. Be sure to have a front and back view for the terrarium. There are lots of other steps if you are a more serious terrarium-builder. Because this is my first attempt at terrarium making, I did not want to purchase lots of expensive supplies. I will include a link at the bottom if you want a real professional instructions on how to do this.

The really fun part is to hide little objects inside the terrarium, like small animal figurines and seasonal items. I put some eggs and decorative rocks in mine, and these adorable little birds. Makayla and I put together a couple smaller terrariums and then arranged them all on an antique wooden tray on the dinning room table. We added the colored eggs to complete our centerpiece. Now all we have to do is neglect them! The only care they need is sunlight and the occasional squirt of water.

I love how the centerpiece came out because it is short enough not to obstruct the view around the table, and it is interesting. There are lots of little hidden details and unexpected elements. This was a really fun project and totally kid friendly.

Here is a link to everything you need to know to build you own terrarium.

http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/

Happy Spring!

 

A Grace Filled Day March 9, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hospitality,Serving,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:35 am
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Everyday with kids is busy, but we really outdid ourselves this Wednesday. After our homeschool time, the girls and I made the 45 minute trip to a nearby city for outreach and ministry in the refugee community. There is one family that we work with closely; Ismael and Juma and their three children, Siti, Soliman, and Nor. Each Wednesday we visit them in their apartment and help them with whatever it is they need. Somedays this means taking them to do laundry, to doctors appointment, sorting through bills, and other days we just spend time visiting and getting to know about each others culture. Juma will often cook us delicious (and very spicy) food from her homeland. Our older children play well together, and they especially love little Harper.

Because the drive is rather long, I try to make another stop while I am in the area. There are lots of places to shop and eat, but this week we decided to go to an indoor playground. So, we headed out to this playground we had heard good things about. Ironically it was about 50 degrees out, and we could have played outdoors for free, but it was rather wet and I would not want to show up on Juma’s door with two children caked in mud.  The indoor playground was empty, we were literally the only ones there. There were lots of big slides and tall structures to climb, but my cautious child Makayla kept booth feet planted firmly on the ground. The girls enjoyed themselves and we were able to get much pent-up-end-of-winter-energy out of our systems.

After we had played, we headed to Ismael and Juma’s house. This week they asked if I could take Juma to do some shopping. She directed me to this amazing ethnic market, were we shopped for a while. I ended up with a shopping basket full of treats from all over the world. While I was waiting for Juma to check-out I gave the kids ice cream, in the car, which in retrospect was not great idea. We brought the groceries back home and shared a lot of different snacks and drinks while the kids played. They kept showing me a pile of snow outside their door, grabbing handfuls and talking excitedly in their own language. I keep telling them that we have had a very mild winter, and that next year they will likely experience a real New England winter, but I am not sure they understood. We often can’t communicate exactly what we want to say, but we laugh a lot, and the children make all other boundaries seem unimportant.

It was back in the car after our snacks so we could be home before dinner. I had plans to go out with some girlfriends, and had dinner in the crockpot for Henry and the girls. After tubbing and feeding the kids, I freshened up a bit and headed out to the restaurant. It is amazing to think that I am old enough to have had friends for 20 years, but that is how long I have had these amazing ladies in my life. Even when long periods of time pass between our get together, we can always pick right back up where we left off. How blessed I am to have these kinds of friendships! Dinner was leisurely and relaxed, and then I headed back home, where I found two wide awake children (at 11pm) and a snoring husband. Those of us who were awake eventually got tucked in and to sleep.

What a grace filled day.

It struck me on the ride home from dinner how effortless it all was. I am blessed to be able to teach my kids at home, to be able to travel and reach out to others who are less fortunate, to be able to feed and cloth and care for my family with relative ease, to be able to enjoy a relaxing dinner with friends, and to come home to a loving family. It is easy to feel God’s grace on days like this, the challenge is to see God’s grace when the car breaks down, the children and ill, the dinner is burnt, the checkbook is overdrawn…His grace is still there, eternal and unchanging, it is just up to us to recognize it and soak in it.

I pray that God would give me the spiritual maturity and wisdom to always be aware of His constant and unfailing Grace.

 

Mother of Exiles: A Picture of Mercy March 2, 2012

Filed under: Hospitality,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 12:16 am
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“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The New Colossus” By Emily Lazzarus

Lent Day 9

This is the inscription found at the base of the State of Liberty. To me, it is a powerful picture of Mercy.  Immigration is a complicated issue and I have no intention of engaging in any political rhetoric or debate here;  I am simply moved at the sentiment conveyed in this poem and image. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of welcoming, particularly to those who are suffering and lost.  I am a volunteer and advocate for the refugee community here in New Hampshire. I work with families who have come to the United States, not because they wanted to, but because in their own country they are subject to oppression and persecution of the worst kind. When so much is made, in the media and the political scene, about illegal  immigration, it is easy to forget that our country does still welcome the ‘huddled masses’ who ‘yearn to breath free’. I pray that our country continues to offer a beacon of hope for the hopeless. I pray that we would welcome our newest neighbors without fear and prejudice or judgement. I think spending some time reflecting on the above picture and poem is a good reminder for all Americans about the mercy inherent in our countries founding principles and values.

For tomorrow:

Mercy Given and Mercy Received

 

Comfort Food February 28, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hospitality,Teaching and Learning,Uncategorized — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 11:06 pm
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Lent Day 7

I had my eyes peeled this morning  looking for ‘a symbol of mercy in the ordinary’. While rifling through the kitchen cabinets, trying to figure out what to prepare for my sister who has just undergone surgery, I spotted everyday mercy–comfort food. This is what we do, right? When someone is sick, when babies are born, when people die, when milestones are met: we offer the comfort of food.

When both my babies were born there was a steady stream of delicious casseroles deliver to my home by our church family. Meals were quietly brought in and arranged in the kitchen, while mom and baby rested on the sofa. Quick hellos and blessings were offered, prehaps a short visit, and they were on their way. It was a favor offered, a mercy, without expecting anything in return. My brother-in-law asked about all the food,

“Do you know all these people?”

“Mostly,” I answered, “they are church family and friends”.

” I have never seen anything like this,” he responded, incredulous to the well-oiled machine that is church hospitality.

Those meals were amazing. Anyone who has had a child knows what an enormous blessing it is not to have to plan a meal, shop, or cook for a few weeks. The power of food to comfort is pretty amazing. It can be a cup of tea for a friend, hot coco for a child just in from the cold, a piece of candy snuck into a husbands’ lunch box, chicken noodle soup for the sick, or a banana bread for a new neighbor. God Himself provided the manna that sustained the Israelites on their travels through the desert. We too have the power to sustain, heal, and comfort on this side of heaven. An everyday necessity, and ordinary solution. When people are tired, or hungry, or sick, or happy, we feed them.

So there it was, right in my kitchen, the ingredients to bake something, the ability to offer compassion and caring, a symbol for mercy in the everyday.

For tomorrow

The color of mercy

 

The Blessing Tree: Honoring God in our Traditions February 21, 2012

Filed under: Family,Hospitality — Acts of Love and Good Works @ 1:46 am
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I am in full-on birthday planning mode. This is not a task I take lightly–I have already written about how birthdays are very special in our home. The first birthday in particular is significant in any culture, but especially the Korean culture. So, I have been thinking about the importance of all of these traditions–the cake, the gifts, the decorations…and I have been asking myself, how can these traditions serve to honor and glorify God?

I just finished reading Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper. I was both disappointed and inspired by the book. Based solely on the title, I was expecting actual ideas and creative hints for how to honor God during the holidays, and there actually was not a whole lot of that. Instead, there was two sections–one on how to honor God in our everyday life, and another on how to honor Him during special celebratory events.

I was encouraged to commit to being deliberate and intentional with the everyday practice of being in the word, praising, worshiping, praying, and serving together as a family. I was also reminded that what we celebrate reflects what is important to us, and in a Christian home this should be Jesus–He is the anchor of our daily life and special occasions.  (She also had an incredibly compelling section on why she does not incorporate Santa into her families Christmas celebration, and I could not agree with her more. Most people are aghast when I say we ‘do not play Santa’ in our home. apparently I have a kindred spirit in Mrs. Pipper–right on sister! But I digress…)

So while reflecting on all of this I set out to make one of the focal point decorations for Harper’s birthday, a blessing tree.  According to Korean custom, a ‘wishing tree’ is set out at a special occasion and decorated with paper tags of some kind for people to write wishes on for whomever is being celebrated. These ‘wishing trees’ have become popular at Korean first birthdays, or Dols. I am sure there is much background info on where this tradition originated and what exactly is signifies, but I was not really interested in that. Rather I thought, how can I use this in a way that honors God. I thought the trees themselves were beautiful and really wanted to make one. So, I crafted what I am calling the ‘blessing tree’ where guests will be encouraged to write a special blessing for Harper. I thin the term bless points to God, whereas wish really does not. Makayla helped me to put it together while Harper slept, and we are really happy with the outcome.

In honoring little Harper, it is essential that we honor and acknowledge Harper’s Maker, the one who knit her together and knew exactly who she was when we could only imagine. I will close with the verse that I will surely be contemplating on Harper’s birthday;

“Every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17