The Cost of Hospitality and Community

toddler feet messy floors happy babies

Last week’s mom’s group was a little bigger than normal since we had several families with kids out of school for spring break. It was a little bit louder and a little bit crazier.

And somehow, in the midst of the chaos, Sarah’s computer screen got busted into lots of little bitty cracks.

Now there are several different scenarios that could have played out at this point.

Sarah could have been over the top sad and/or angry about the broken computer. She worked her first real job all last summer to make that major purchase. For many in her position pitching a fit would seem entirely justified.

Instead, after her initial shock, she checked the extent of the damage and was thrilled to learn that she could still access her school work. More than that she said she shouldn’t have left it on her bed.

The mama’s could have scooped up their babies and made excuses. Instead, even though they weren’t sure who was responsible, they all apologized for not watching their kids closer. More than that, they’ve all offered to help defer the cost of the repair.

It would have been easy for everyone involved to overreact and shift blame but instead everybody owned their piece of it. We all recognized that we could have and should have done a few things differently.

There will be a somewhat costly end to this incident for all of us but not nearly as expensive as it could have been. I am not talking about money either.

Sometimes it’s not a computer screen that gets broken but rather the relationship and when that happens it is usually far more costly than anyone is prepared for.

It costs something to practice hospitality and it costs something to be in community.

Sometimes it’s literally your stuff and sometimes, spiritually speaking, it’s your life.

Your heart is bound to be bruised and your feelings are guaranteed to be hurt at some point along the way.

Sometimes everyone involved will own their piece of the fiasco and forgiveness and restitution will be sought and given. Other times you may find that you are having to bandage your own broken heart and work to make sure that the infection of bitterness isn’t allowed to fester.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this though. We follow an example of the greatest act of hospitality mankind as ever known…a life given in death to create a holy community. We are asked everyday to imitate what Christ did…it’s who we are and it’s what we do in our families and in our churches. Our death to self nurtures that holy community and it changes the world.

Tell His Story


Waiting On The Cute

So the birds hatched sometime in the last two weeks.

At first they were nothing more than little gray fuzzballs and it was kind of hard to make out beaks and other features.

I had researched a bit so knew that they wouldn’t make much noise the first little while but it was still funny to see them as they got older stretch their necks up and open their beaks at feeding time but remain completely silent.

birds baby house finch nest

Like most newborns they sleep a lot. Both the Mama and the Daddy fly back and forth and keep watch over them. I’ve been surprised at how often the male is the one bringing food to them while it’s still the female that nests with them.

Slowly but surely we are beginning to see features emerge and eyes stay open for a bit.

birds baby house finch nest

The other morning Sarah was brushing her hair at the hall mirror (don’t ask me why but for some reason all of my girls choose to fix their hair in some room other than the bathrooms with their five foot long wall mirrors…they just do.) Anyway, Sarah was in the hall and asked, “Who is making that noise?”

Turns out the babies have found their voices and can make a bit of a racket when it’s breakfast time. I probably won’t get any pictures of that since the parents are pretty quick to fly away if we get too close.

They’re not awake for long before they settle back down to sleep all squished up together.

I have so enjoyed the process but I’ll be honest, I’m waiting on the cuteness factor to hit overdrive because right now their prehistoric looking selves are starting to be overshadowed by the lack of cleanliness. Of course I say that but their song is awfully sweet so I’m trying not to think about or pay attention to the mess the nest, my wreath, and my front door is becoming.

The babies should begin to explore their surroundings within the next week and fledge (develop wings suitable for flying) within the next two weeks as far as I can tell from what I’ve read.

house finch babies birds nests
It’s estimated that there are anywhere from 267 million to over one billion house finches across North America and if your place is hospitable enough as many as 50 of them will congregate at any given time. Not sure I could handle that many hanging out in my front yard but this little family is welcome to stay around.

Test Kitchen #55 ~ Summer Spaghetti

If you’ve been around here for long you may have noticed that recipes are either titled “Test Kitchen” or “Pinterest Test Kitchen” obviously showing whether the recipe came from my boards or some other non-internet way. (I know, I know this may surprise our younger friends but once upon a time recipes came from family, friends or neighbors or the occasional cookbook/magazine.)

One of my pet peeves is repinning a pin that doesn’t work properly and this recipe was one of those. There was enough written in the comments though that I had the gist of the recipe so I kept it. I made this the first time a few weeks backs as a vegetarian option for someone at our teacher luncheon but everyone who tried it gave it a thumbs up. I made it at home last week and everyone loved it so it’s definitely a keeper.

What you’ll need:
1 package angel hair pasta, prepared as directed
8 ox package of fresh mushrooms (Next time I will use two…we like mushrooms and the ratio was a little off    with just one.)
1 medium onion chopped
2 heaping TBS of minced garlic
tomato of choice (We used three good sized romas)
1/3 cup of olive oil
4 oz feta cheese
cooking onions mushrooms summer spaghetti
What you’ll do:
Saute the mushrooms, garlic, and onions in the olive oil. 
Add the tomatoes for the last two minutes.
Toss with your prepared pasta.
Sprinkle in the feta and toss again right before serving.
Season to taste. (I added Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.)
garlic onion mushroom tomato sauce olive oil

Instead of feta cheese you could use fresh parmesan or maybe even some Asiago cheese. You could probably add in fresh baby spinach too. My husband suggested the addition of grilled chicken which sounds pretty good too.

No matter whether you follow this recipe as is or get a little adventurous I’m sure you’ll love it’s light flavor. Pair it with a nice crisp salad and a crusty loaf of bread and you have the perfect summer dinner.

olive oil garlic onion tomatoes angel hair pasta

Linking up with Tuesday’s Table

The Pictures I Didn’t Take

This is the busy season for most photographers…even hobbyist like me. Maybe it’s spring combined with seniors preparing to send out announcements. Or the approach of Mother’s Day and all those sweet little newborns that arrived five and six months ago starting to sit up on their own. Whatever the reason it can be a little hectic.

So yesterday I did something I rarely do. The kids and I went to the beach with some friends and I did not take my camera. This is seriously not the norm ~ the beach is my happy place and I always take it with me when we go. I feel like the landscape of it is always changing so I never get the same picture twice.

But my third eye is pretty focused with several sessions this week and I wanted to give it a rest.

So there was no picture snapped of sugar white sand.

The almost clear sea glass color of the gulf wasn’t digitally recorded. The white foam of the waves received the same fate.

There are no pictures of Abby’s burnished gold hair hanging in a wet braid down her back.

Claire’s happy blue eyes looked directly into mine as she excitedly showed me her seashell treasures.

Instead of pulling out my camera I dug my toes into that sugar white sand and dipped them into the gulf.

My eyes followed the black shadow of the seagulls as they glided low across the sky.

Then I closed my eyes as I lifted my face to feel the sun and took in a deep deep breath of clean salt air.

I didn’t use that third eye at the beach today but I saw it with all of me and I took a hundred photos in my mind.

Everyone of us is a photographer in a sense. We all take pictures and store them in the album of our mind. For some of us the album is full of all the black and white have-to-do-this moments. For others it’s the images of bitterness, their sepia tone coloring our relationships. Others may have the high color intensity of memories that almost hurt our eyes because we keep them so sharp and in focus and we never forget…good or bad we never allow them to fade.

What we really need is to balance those bright vivid moments so that we aren’t so blinded by a few experiences that we miss other moments. We need to let the sepia of bitterness continue to fade and blur until it’s unrecognizable. Our black and white reality needs to be softened by the well balanced correctly exposed colors of everyday life that have a hue and tone of thankfulness.

A Girl and Her Dog

I’ve never done much in the way of pet photography. Much to our children’s sadness we don’t have any pets so I don’t have a muse on hand to practice that kind of thing. This girl, however, takes the most amazing photos of her dog.

I found her when I was looking for inspiration for doing our friend Kait’s pictures with her Irish Setter puppy, Sherlock. Kait has not only big plans to be a certified dog trainer, but she also wants to train Sherlock to work with special needs people. A noble goal for a pretty girl and her adorable puppy, don’t you think?

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

This one makes me think of some kind of shampoo commercial 🙂

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

Told you she’s pretty. Kait is the oldest of nine kids (one of only three girls in the bunch) and is one of Sarah’s dearest friends. She’s also into photography herself which is pretty cool.

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

How cute is he?

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

Pace, FL portrait photography Pensacola Senior girl puppy Irish Setter

They say that the journey of life is sweeter with a dog and I think Kaity has found that to be true. I’m content to just take cute pictures of her and Sherlock 😉

Christ Is Risen!

St Chrysostom resurrection image
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.

It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Sam’s World ~ It’s Extreme

boy autism spectrum sams world

The dictionary defines the words extreme as “existing in a very high degree…going to great or exaggerated lengths…exceeding the ordinary, usual, or expected.”

That pretty much sums up life with autism. 
Everything with Sam happens in the extreme ~ the good and the bad. I think it’s why autism is so exhausting. Autistic life happens at a very high degree and certainly exceeds the ordinary. Everything is just more
Take for instance, Sam’s view of going to school. This is his first year in school (we previously homeschooled him) and he loves it. Like he is sort of bummed that we’re off next week for spring break kind of loves it. He literally runs across the parking lot to the door every morning. He is never difficult to wake up in the mornings either.
The other morning I tried to encourage him to be less Sam like in his arrival. He response was to tell me, “Mom, it’s a big day!” I had a sudden moment of panic that I had forgotten something and asked him why. “Because it’s a school day!” he said with a grin and off he bounded.

This extremeness is evident in all aspects of his life. Video games and television have a huge impact on him because he feels everything, he plays everything with such an intense complete focus that totally absorbs him. And when he has to be done it’s almost as if he is an addict and suffers from withdrawals. It can be brutal on everyone involved.

What it looks like is hard to explain. He’ll be agitated and antsy. He’ll have a difficult time controlling his mouth. And let me just be real honest here, there is nothing worse or harder to deal with then the persistence of an autistic child who will not and cannot control their words. The sheer ability for repetition could be used as an instrument of warfare. I say will not and cannot because there is a certain amount of this that is willful, a choosing to persist. But there is a large part where he literally and physically cannot stop himself from speaking, from saying the same phrases over and over again. He is utterly out of control and way way over the top. This is made even more of an issue with puberty. Girls get all kinds of emotional and boys just want to fight something.

It has to be terrifying for him. That feeling of complete and total loss of control, of feeling and acting like he is going to fly into a million little pieces. We like to think that total abandonment of self control would be freeing but the opposite is actually true. Spinning wildly out of control is like that horrifying feeling you have as you’re falling out of a tree and there is no way to stop yourself from hitting the ground.

boy autism spectrum sams world

So we work to ground him…to make him feel safe…to physically connect him with the world. Currently we’re in a grounding mode. Monday through Thursday there are no electronics. This means no tv and no computer. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday he is allowed half an hour of computer (internet) and maybe, but not back to back, half an hour of the Microsoft paint program. He is allowed to watch one movie on Friday and one movie on Saturday.

It may sound like we’re talking about grounding as in restriction, (That’s it young man! No tv for two weeks!) but that’s not really what we mean. It’s more like we’re grounding him in the sense that we’re acting to connect him with the foundation of reality and helping him attach to the real world and find his place in it.

We all need that. We need people and practices in our life that ground us…that connect who we are with the real world outside of the ones that we can escape into through entertainment or the one we can create in our own minds that are shaped only by our own perspectives and inner dialogue. Not a safe place for anyone, autistic or not.

There are other things we do to help ground him in a physical sense. Big heavy work helps him almost as if the added weight forces him to feel the ground underneath his feet and helps him find a physical location for himself. This is one of the reasons that weighted vests and blankets are so helpful with young children in therapy. It seems to connect them to time and space in a tangible way.

I mentioned that Sam is easy to wake up in the mornings. In this week’s Sam story I’ll share a little about that routine. Every morning his alarm goes off at 5:30. For a while he was getting up and coming to ask me to come get him at 5:45 which is his actual wake up time. (Mine is at 5) Before bed one night he wanted to remind to wake him up at 5:45 and said  he was tired of having to get up and remind me at 5:30 every morning. We had a lengthy discussion about the fact that I certainly didn’t need him to be up at 5:30 to remind me to wake him up at 5:45. His alarm apparently is set for both times because I hear it the second time as I am coming into his bedroom. Practically every morning I also I hear, “You’re late.”

Rotten boy.

boy autism spectrum sams world

The Bird Watch Continues

I hope you aren’t getting bored with the bird posts because frankly I am still utterly fascinated. The little things are just so incredible to watch.

I’ve been wanting to get a particular photo of them and have been completely frustrated with my lack of success. Their hearing is some kind of crazy and even when I am being my most stealthy (and I have five kids so I can be stealthy!) I wasn’t having much success.
Basically I wanted to get a silhouette of them on my door. Nothing fancy, I’ve just enjoyed seeing their little outline as I walk past the door so I thought it would be a cool image. I almost had it the other day, too.
The father (or baby daddy as we say) was perched on the inside of the wreath and his silhouette was perfectly outlined. My camera was close at hand…I walked very quietly up near the door…sloooowly raised my camera and…
Tried to change my exposure so I wouldn’t blow out the image and the clicking sound caused him to fly away.
At that moment I realized that if I wanted the image I was going to have to put the camera on auto and hope for the best. No time to get all artsy.
Today, when I wasn’t even thinking about it, I saw him land on the wreath again. Moving quickly to grab my camera I flipped it onto auto mode and sneaked back into the hall foyer. He was still there!
A few hours later I noticed that the mama was on her nest with her head turned at just the right angle to see her silhouette if I stood on my tippy toes. I grabbed my camera and managed to get the shot of her.
(The bird like shape at the bottom is a leaf from the artificial flower that decorates the wreath.)
Technically speaking they aren’t the greatest images in the world. The shadows are uneven in their lighting  but they still make me happy. 
I can’t wait for the babies to be born. Although from what I’ve read the mama stops cleaning up after them at some point which means I can expect quite an icky mess in a  few weeks.
Not sure I’ll post a picture of that though.


Parenting is hard and sometimes it can be really hard.

You have to make difficult decisions and then follow through with them. And sometimes you can explain the reasons behind your decision and then sometimes you can’t.

Everything we do should be done for the benefit of our children…for their good. Even when they don’t think it is.

Our goal with every decision, with every act and moment of discipline is to strengthen our children in their faith, in righteousness and obedience.

And sometimes we screw it up.

Sometimes you realize that all the correction hasn’t been a lifting up but rather putting down; oppressive instead of liberating.

Those are interesting words aren’t they? In relation to sin and correcting I mean. I haven’t thought about it that way, not really. But Scripture is full of the imagery of God lifting His people up, of raising them up out of the pit.

Our correcting, not just as parents but as brothers and sisters in Christ, should be done with that same idea in mind. We correct, not so that we can defeat the sin in our children’s hearts, but so that we can lift them up out of the pit of their sinfulness.

It is a battle to be sure and sin is the enemy and we do want to defeat it. But if we are so intent on defeating the foe, on waging war against the sin itself, it is quite easy to forget the personhood of the one that we seek to liberate.

I’m not saying that we should not correct ~ far from it actually. But our correcting needs to be focused on the redemptive work in the mind and soul and heart of our child and not just the big black ugly sin.

Why? Because we want to shape and form a heart that not only hears correction but loves it. Because sometimes we want obedience in little things because there will come a day when He will want obedience in big things.


Test Kitchen #54 ~ Remix Addition Beef Pot Pie

A few test kitchens back I shared this recipe for chicken pot pie and mentioned that I wanted to try it with beef.

beef pot pie recipe

Well, I did and it was fantastic! I think it may be more of a favorite in our house than the chicken version. I cooked the roast all day so that it was basically falling apart and swapped out the veggies so that we were using potatoes, mushrooms, chopped onion, and carrots but you could keep them the same and it would be just fine. (I may or may not have only used carrots, celery, and mushrooms once since that was all I had on hand.)

A mighty fine meal that feeds quite a few…can’t go wrong with that!

beef pot pie recipe