Preparing For Thanksgiving (When You Don’t Feel Thankful)

This year has been tough. Humanity has been hit with a major health crisis, political turmoil, and natural disaster. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihoods. Churches and schools were forced to close due to the pandemic so there was no social outlet. People lost touch of reality, lost touch of friends, and lost part of themselves. Others watched doors close, dreams die, and lost all hope. For many, this Thanksgiving season is going to be difficult to go through with a grateful heart because they are carrying heavy burdens of pain and suffering.

While we do go through painful seasons, these seasons do not define our life. One of my hero women, Christy Wright, says this “You are not the season you are in”. Psalms 30:5b says “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” If I can offer you some encouragement friends it would be this: painful seasons do not last.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalms 46: 1-11

Gratitude is the art of being thankful. Thankful for what we have been given, and thankful for what we have been spared.

  • Did you wake up this morning? Some did not.
  • Did you eat breakfast? Some could not?
  • Did you drive to work? Some had to walk.
  • Did you wake up with your spouse? Some lost theirs this year.
  • Did you kiss your children? Some can’t have them.
  • Are you reading this? Some can’t see.

Did you know the art of gratitude actually has a chemical and physical effect on our bodies? Yes! Practicing gratitude releases dopamine. Dopamine is our “feel-good” chemical messenger. It tells out brain that we are experiencing pleasure. Practicing gratitude is just as pleasurable as eating our favorite foods or taking part in a fun activity. It reduces our stress and anxiety, and tells our brain that we’re happy so we feel happy. Even in the rough seasons, there is still so much to be grateful for. One of my favorite Thanksgiving passages comes from Psalms 100.

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalms 100:1-5 

How do we do this then? How do we go in to a season of Thanksgiving with a heavy heart?

1.) It’s ok to acknowledge your pain.

You do not have to guard your heart with God my friend. He made that heart and He knows when it is breaking. Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” When Jesus came to earth wrapped in human flesh, He did not do so void of all human emotion. He took on that which we experience. Jesus experienced loss and grief, but was able to turn it for the glory of the Father. He’s not scared or disgusted by your pain. Psalms 34:18 says “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We can be assured that our Father does not run when we tell Him we’re hurting. He is close, begging us to rest on Him and in His grace. He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

2.) Make gratitude your first response.

When you wake up in the morning, make a habit of vocalizing gratitude first thing. Start your day with prayer and a gratitude journal, or have an accountability partner you text with your daily gratitude. It’s amazing what starting with Thankfulness will do for our daily mood. We don’t have to pretend there is no pain, but we should learn to give thanks for what we have been given.

3.) Reach out to someone else who may be hurting.

It’s always harder to focus on your suffering when you are helping someone else through theirs. Reach out to someone who lost a spouse and invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Reach out to a family who lost their income and offer to bring groceries for Thanksgiving. Reach out to someone who has had little human interaction and ask if you could come visit and bring dessert. Check with your local church for some names who need help paying a bill, an encouraging letter, or just some extra prayer. When we get our eyes off of our misery and focus our energy on others, we start to notice our own blessings even more.

4.) Plan Thanksgiving Dinner.

There’s nothing like sitting down and planning a holiday menu to lift my spirits. If that works for you, then grab a notebook and start planning. Whether you want family, friends, or both. Whether you want potluck style or formal sit-down. Whether you want traditional turkey or more modern baby back ribs. It doesn’t matter. Just start planning and make it happy for you and your family.

My prayer is that even in the midst of this rough season you can find encouragement to continue on in thanksgiving and praise to our Creator and Savior. Happy Thanksgiving!

~Paige

3 Ways to Host Friendsgiving

A few years ago I was first introduced to the term “Friendsgiving”. I fell in love with the idea. Our friends are often as close as family and should be celebrated. For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of Friendsgiving, allow me to explain. The concept was introduced in the early 2000’s and has been slowly growing since. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time spent with family, but people had started to realize that they also wanted to spend this beautiful holiday with their friends. Friendships are so sweet and they give us much to be thankful for. Thus began a tradition of Friendsgiving. A Thanksgiving inspired meal with friends.

Proverbs 27:9b (MSG) says …”A sweet friendship refreshes the soul”

Friendsgiving does not have to be any one set way. Last year I decided that I wanted to celebrate in the style of an afternoon tea. I invited some dear ladies to gather around and catch up over a cup of tea. It was such a sweet time of fellowship and fun and will be an annual event. There are so many fun ways to celebrate with friends, but sometimes it’s nice to have choices narrowed down. Below we’ll look at 3 ideas for celebrating Friendsgiving.

1.) A Friendsgiving Tea

This is how I choose to celebrate Friendsgiving. It’s super fun and allows everyone to slow down before the rush of the holidays. Instead of a formal sit-down tea party, I plan a cozy autumn tea with open seating and buffet style food arrangements. The menu is usually simple, but it is a delicious Fall inspired spread. This was the 2019 Friendsgiving Tea menu. This menu will be sufficient for a party of 10-15. If you have more guests, add another type of sandwich and dessert. (TIP: If you have guests with a known gluten allergy, it would be kind to offer some sandwiches on gluten-free bread.)

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To create a buffet style tea, you’ll need two or three tables. I used three. One for food, one for tea, and a third for cold drinks such as punch (recipe below), ice water, and sparkling cider. Purchase a few fall colored (or neutral) table cloths and a roll of tape (trust me).

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To set the food table, use platters and serving tiers with varying height . Arrange taller platters in the back and plate platters in the front. Place plates and napkins at the far right end of the table and have guests start there. Unlike a traditional tea party, it doesn’t matter in which order you place the food. For this style it is not important. To decorate a food table, I use simple thin milk glass vases with 3-4 flowers and a sprig of green. (TIP: Purchase an autumn bouquet from your local grocer and split it up between 3-5 vases depended on bouquet size) I also used small ceramic pumpkins in neutral colors and fresh pears as part of the decoration. (TIP: Dollar tree and Hobby Lobby are the best place to get awesome Fall decorations without breaking the bank. If you can splurge a little more, T J Maxx and Target have beautiful selections that are impossible to resist.)

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To set a tea table you will need:
*Tea pot(s)
*Assorted tea cups and saucers
*Tea spoons
*Tea bag rest (if offering tea bags)
*Sugar (cubes preferably)
*Honey
*Milk
*Lemon, sliced or wedged (optional)

*Spice Pear Punch Recipe*

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6 cups Pear Nectar
4 cups Ginger Beer
Juice from 2 Lemons
~Garnish~
1 cup Fresh cranberries
4 Sprigs Fresh rosemary
3 Cinnamon sticks

2.) A Formal Friendsgiving Dinner

A formal dinner party is always a fun option if you have the time and the budget. For this you will want to send invitations 2-3 weeks in advance. You can send paper invitations through the mail, e-vites through online services, or even create a Facebook event. My favorite for formal dinners in traditional paper invitations through the mail. These invitations add a special touch of elegance to your event.

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The Menu can be tailored to fit any needs. This is often the most fun, and most stressful, part of planning a formal dinner. With a formal dinner you’ll want to plan everything well in advance. Sit down and write (or type) out your menu and the grocery list. You’ll also want to think about you decoration and color scheme. Keep in mind that less is more. Don’t overfill your table with elaborate floral displays or a full golden pumpkin patch. Keep it elegant, but simple. To save yourself some time the day of, I recommend setting the tables and dishes the evening before your dinner. Be sure that all linens are cleaned and pressed in advance. Try to steer clear of china with pinks and reds.

To set a formal dinner place setting you will need the following pieces: Charger, dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, bread plate, salad fork, dinner fork, soup spoon, meat knife, butter knife, water glass, wine glass, and napkin. You will place the charger an inch away from the table’s edge. The dinner plate is to be set next, followed by the salad plate, and finally by the soup bowl. The bread plate is to go at the upper left corner of the charger with the butter knife. The drinking glasses at the upper right corner of the charger.

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Example Formal Table Setting (With dessert fork and tea spoon) Add a charger and pumpkin for a beautiful formal Friendsgiving table setting.

The dinner fork belongs directly left of the charger with the salad fork resting to its left. The meat knife rests directly to the right of the charger with the soup spoon directly on its right. The napkin can be folded, shaped, or draped and placed either to the right, or on the dinner plate under the salad plate.

To serve the dinner you will start by seating guests and pouring drinks. (TIP: Consider hiring a professional wait staff or eager teenagers from your local church to help serve the meal.) The soup course is served first followed by the salad. Keep portions smaller as these are not your main course. After the salad is finished and cleared, the main course is to be served. There are 2 ways to do this. Scenario one: Have wait staff serve meat. The sides can be brought in and placed on the table for guests to pass around and serve themselves. Scenario two: You can have the dinner plates taken to the kitchen when the salad plates are cleared and have dinner served already plated. (TIP: Food is always served from the left and cleared from the right of the guest.)

Dessert can either be served at the table after dinner plates are cleared, or in the living room around a low table. Be sure to offer your guests coffee or tea with their desserts.

cranberrysauce.jpegPaige’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp grated orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries rinsed
Dash sea salt
*Cinnamon stick (optional)

Instructions
1) Combine the sugar, water, and orange juice in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved, and bring to a boil.
Add cranberries and return to a boil, then reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes until berries have popped and have slightly reduced.
2) Reduce heat to simmer and add orange zest and salt. Stir and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. The longer you cook your cranberries the thicker your sauce will be. (TIP: Your sauce will also thicken up after cooling) *If you would like a little extra holiday flavor, throw a cinnamon stick into the pot with the orange zest and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove the stick before serving and garnish with orange peel and a fresh cinnamon stick.
3) Transfer mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. (Can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until ready to be served)

3.) A Potluck Friendsgiving Dinner

The third style of Friendsgiving that we’ll look at is a potluck style dinner. This is the simplest way to host with a large crowd. Invitations don’t have to be formal, but can still be sent via mail if you’d like. I’ve found that for events with everyone bringing food, I like to use Facebook Events. It allows guests to post and see what others are bringing.

With a potluck style dinner, the host/hostess usually provides the meat and dessert. You could do a traditional turkey and a beef brisket, or you could go rogue and do ribs and salmon. The choice is yours. Below are some delicious side dish options for guests to bring. You can create a sign up list where everyone chooses from a side and signs up to brings it, or you could get brave and tell your guests to bring whatever they want. This will depend on the style of dinner you want.

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The easiest way to set up for a potluck is to keep everything super simple. Check places like T J Maxx, Hobby Lobby, and Target for fun themed disposable plates, cutlery, and cups. Set up 6ft folding table(s) and cover with a cute tablecloth. Go easy with the decorations, don’t choose anything that will take too much space, or be in the way of guests reaching for food. If you want candles, go for LED tea lights or battery operated candles. They pose a much lower risk for accidental fires.

Think about where you want the line to start and place the plates at that end of the table. Cutlery can be placed in caddies and set near the plates. Napkins can be placed next to the cutlery caddies. Always have a separate table for drinks because pouring beverages can slow the line down and cause potential messes. The food line up should be hot foods, cold foods, room temperature foods, salads, and finally breads and rolls. Be sure to put condiments near the type of food they pair with such as salad dressings with the salad, and cranberry sauce near the turkey. To help with temperature control, you can use chafing dishes to keep foods hot, or ice platters to keep food cold.

Paula Dean’s Green Bean Casserole

1/3 stick butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups sliced green beans
3 cups chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (2.8-ounce) can French-fried onion rings
Pinch All purpose Seasoning (or dash salt, pepper, and garlic)
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.) Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and House Seasoning, to taste, to the onion mixture. Stir well. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

These are only three of many ways you could host Friendsgiving. The most important part of the event, any way you choose to celebrate, are the friends that will join you to celebrate this beautiful holiday. Take a moment during the evening to look around and reflect on each amazing friendship in your life. Join together to say a blessing over each other, and praise God for the people he placed in your life.

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“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali

Happy Friendsgiving!

Paige Baldwin

5 People That Need Your Hospitality

This world is full of people needing to be loved and ministered to, especially this year. This has been a rough season for so many with financial hardships, health scares, and social isolation. While everyone deserves our kindness and hospitality, I’ve realized that there are groups of people that sometimes need a little more than others. These are people that often feel loneliness first and it effects them the hardest. Maybe you’ve identified some of these people in your own circle. If so, that’s great! You can start extending hospitality to them in practical ways. If not, I’ve broken down into 5 categories the main groups of people I think we can start with. Out of these groups we can easily identify those who need a helping, or encouraging, hand. We can then use our talents and God given gifts to bless them while we practice hospitality as Christ commands.

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1.) College/Seminary students


Think back to when you were in college. You were broke, away from home, and sometimes just needed a hot meal and an ear to listen. Consider connecting with a local college or seminary. Work with student services and maybe offer to host a dinner one night for a few struggling students. Seminary is a great way to reach out to families that need a little hospitality. Care packages are another way to show some hospitality to college students. Little baskets filled with nutritious snacks, soaps, and office supplies are much appreciated. This is a practical and tangible way to be a huge blessing to this demographic.

2.) New parents


When you’ve just had a brand new baby, sometimes it’s all you can do just to survive. Offer to babysit the older children, or come rock the baby, while they nap. Consider taking them a meal a few nights during those first weeks. A great tool is a website called Meal Train. It helps set up meal schedules for new parents. See link and description on my Resources page for more information. Even just dropping off a package of diapers and wipes can be a huge blessing to overwhelmed new parents. Consider mailing them a congratulations care with words of encouragement, practical advice, or favorite parenting books.

3.) Church family


Our church family is in desperate need of our hospitality. Look around the room and you’ll see hundreds of faces crying out for help in some way. One family might need a meal or even a bag of groceries. One couple might be desperate for a date night without kids. A housewife might need to be invited out for coffee and a listening ear. Some teenagers may need a fun safe game night with friends. Visitors may need someone to sit beside them and ask about their story. There are endless opportunities to show hospitality and love in our church if we look for them. Pray as you walk int o your worship service and ask God to reveal someone that needs your hospitality this week.

4.) Out of town/country guests (for parties, weddings, or funerals)


I’ll never forget the time my husband and I had to unexpectedly drive to Florida for a funeral. It was last minute and we were searching for hotels are we were driving. We got a call that said a sweet lady that knew the family reserved a hotel for us. It was such a blessing, we wept at her kindness and praised God for His goodness. Maybe you have room in your home and can put someone up there instead of a hotel. Either way, it’s such a blessing for people to not have to worry about the hassle and cost of lodging while they’re coming in from out of town. It’s a special way to make them feel invited and welcomed.

5.) Your own family


We have to be careful that we don’t spend so much time offering hospitality to those outside our home that we neglect the ones inside our home. Our family needs our hospitality too. Your husband may need you to put down your dishrag and watch that movie with him. Your child may need you to cook their favorite meal or surprise them with their favorite dessert. Maybe it means packing a backyard picnic and leaving your phone inside to focus fully on them. It could mean a full on family vacation away from everything else. Whatever it looks like, be sure your family doesn’t suffer at your hospitable hand. Our family is, and should always be, our first mission field for hospitality. Our family should never feel like they are not as worthy of our love as our guests are.

As we practice the art of hospitality, it gets easier and we get more comfortable with it. We get more comfortable reaching out our hands, inviting in to our home, and opening up our hearts. Let us live a life of constant practice so that through us someone else may find love, healing, and rest. Keeping an open heart, and open door, is a beautiful way to fulfill our biblical command to extend hospitality.

Blessings,

Paige

Is Self-Care Selfish?

I published this about a year ago and I felt that I needed to republish it now. This is such an important topic, and one that we miss all the time. Have you ever tried to fill your gas tank using an empty gas can? Of course not, that would be stupid. Why then do we continue to attempt to give of ourselves when we are that empty gas can? There’s nothing left, but yet we keep saying yes. We keep scheduling more. We keep taking on more responsibility. And we remain empty. What good do you think you’re doing? You are doing about as much good as that empty gas can is doing for your empty tank. In fact, this is a dangerous road that will lead to bitterness, resentment, and burnout. In a world all about “self” I want to be really careful with how I say this, but you have to develop a habit of self care. I am not talking about selfishness. Selfishness is never thinking about others, but basing your decisions and actions solely on your own desires. Self care is taking care of yourself to the point where your tank is overflowing and you have an abundance of energy and love to pour out into others. That is the opposite of selfishness. That is love. We cannot neglect ourselves and think that we will be of any good to others, and that includes our own family.

It’s not enough to schedule a bubble bath once a month and go get a pedicure once a year. That’s not self care. We have to make self care a daily habit. We have to continually fill our tanks so that we have what we need to pour out into others. You may be a busy career woman, a full-time mother, or in another season of life that keeps you from taking care of yourself. I’m telling you friends, teachers, nurses, mothers, ministry leaders…you have to put a priority of taking care of you. If you don’t, you’ll have nothing left to give your family or your job. Neglecting yourself is basically praying to fail in your calling. You can’t be a good wife, mother, business owner, employee, or leader if you’re exhausted and burned out.

There are 5 main area that we must be aware of. These are often called your “wellness meters” but I like to think of them as our “tanks”. We cannot neglect any of these tanks. Neglecting one will lead to the draining of another because each tank ties in with another. We must attend to each one as if the rest depend on it, because they do.

Physical

Our Physical tank is our personal health and wellness. If our body isn’t well, we’re not well. If we’re constantly sleep deprived, filling up with convenient junk food, and dehydrating ourselves with caffeine, then we’re going to wear out very quickly. I know it’s easier to grab something quick to eat when you don’t have time to cook. We don’t even think twice about staying up super late to clean one more thing, and then drain an energy drink to compensate the next morning.  That isn’t a sustainable way to live. Self care starts with taking care of the physical body God gave us. This happens by practicing good dietary habits such as eating clean and drinking plenty of water. When we participate in physical exercising or engage in a fun physical activity we are strengthening our body. Seeing the doctor when we’re sick (and not just ignoring the problem hoping it goes away) or visiting with a chiropractor. Consider a good wholesome multi-vitamin or supplement for those areas we’re just not hitting with diet. Book a massage or pedicure to work out tight muscles in your back and feet. Practice deep breathing exercises. Do stretches at your desk to keep you from getting sore an stiff. Ask for a standing desk if that is an option for you . There are so many things we can do to care for our physical body, we just need to do them.

Spiritual

Our Spiritual tank is the most important tank to keep full, and the quickest to empty. It’s usually the one we neglect first and then wonder why we’re bitter and stressed all the time. How do we practice spiritual self care? We start by talking with the One who fills that tank. Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have been given, yet the least utilized. We are told to pray about everything and without ceasing. This is talking about living a life of prayerfulness and a lifestyle of constant, consistent, communication with our Creator. In Psalms 23, David says “He refreshes my soul.” Having regular communication with our Savior refills our spiritual tank. We must be filled with His love to be able to pass it on to others. We cannot expect others to go where we do not lead.

Another way to fill our spiritual tanks is by reading His love letters to us (the Scriptures). I find that the Psalms are especially restorative. I encourage you to read a passage every morning. Even if it’s a short Psalm, having God’s Word start you day will make a difference in your spiritual tank. I also recommend finding a devotional book to add to the routine. Find one that encourages and challenges you in your daily walk with Christ.

Finally, we look to worship to help fill our spiritual tank. Worship is showing reverence and adoration for out God. Worship fills our hearts with thankfulness and puts us in His presence. We should certainly participating in weekly worship with our church family. God tells us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together. Something amazing happens in our hearts as we gather together as God’s family and worship Him fully. Ways we can engage in daily worship include uplifting worship music, scripture journaling, and praise journaling.

Emotional

Our emotional tank is the next one to fill. Our emotional tank has a constant drain on it, especially if our spiritual tank is not full. Between the stress of life, anxiety, responsibilities, and our packed full schedules, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel emotionally drained. Our emotional and mental tanks feed in to one another. As one drains, so does the other. Our emotional health can be a hard one to regulate if we are not intentional about keeping it in check. Our culture experiences emotional highs and lows on a constant basis, and we’re not the best at keeping ourselves in balance. We feed those highs with entertainment and indulgence, and we dwell in pity when we hit the lows and often end up with a victim complex. We have to learn to control our emotions, and to fill our emotional health tank. The first way to do this is to go to sleep. We cannot be rational running on no sleep. If you need postpone a difficult conversation or task until you’ve had some sleep, do it. For your own sake, but also those around you. Maintain a daily practice of gratitude. Gratitude has been proven over and over again to elevate your mood and make you a happier, less stressed, person. Practice being thankful for the things you have and the people in your life. Know that it’s ok to ask for alone time. It’s ok to spend some alone time each day. Sometimes, all you need to feel refreshed is 15 minutes to yourself. Be careful not to use this one as an excuse to retreat from your responsibilities or your family, but if you need to take 15 alone for an emotional recharge, ask for it. Make sure your emotional tank stays full so that you are able to invest in others.

Mental

Our mental tank needs just as much attention as the others. Check in on yourself daily. Make a habit to stop and ask yourself  “how am I doing?” Are you battling depression? Are you catching your mind going to dark places? Do you fantasize about running away from it all and starting over? These are good indications that your mental tank is running on empty. This must be tended to immediately. If you’ve reached a point where you cannot fill your mental tank on your own, I encourage you to see a doctor or counselor. It’s never weak to ask for help, that is strength. Before you get to that point, there are some things to do on a daily basis that will help keep your mental tank full and healthy! Start with filling your spiritual tank. All healing and renewal starts by falling on our face before a Holy God and asking for His guidance. Next, consider taking inventory of your social media accounts. We live in a dreadful age of comparison. If there’s an account you follow that constantly stirs up anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, get rid of it. Why would you constantly want to dredge those feelings up inside of you? Get rid of the account, and then go to the One who tells you that you’re worthy, loved, and precious. Psalms 139: 13-18 (Please keep in mind that there is a huge difference between something that stirs up inadequacy and something that inspires us to be better.)

Mental health is a lot more than our emotional response and stress level. Mental health is also the choices we make to better yourself. Choices we make to numb our mind, or to stimulate it. One of the best things to stimulate our mind is to read a book. Yes, a paper book that you physically hold and turn pages. Make a goal to read a set number of books per year and then instead of picking up your phone at bedtime to mindlessly scroll through the same media feed you scrolled through an hour ago, use that time to read. Find a stimulating podcast that will teach you new things. Learn to play a musical instrument or a new craft such as crocheting or embroidery. Get a word-a-day calendar in another language. Put your mind into a constant state of curiosity and learning to stay full. Practice gratitude as a lifestyle and keep a contentment journal.

Social

Your social wellness is our final tank to look at. Friendships are crucial. The older we get the less time we seem to have, so we must be intentional about our relationships. The very first relationship you should pour into is your spouse. They deserve the best of you, not the leftovers. Go on a weekly date or have a “date” at home if you can’t get away. Take time to invest in your marriage with intentional conversation, genuine interest, and a constant state of learning your spouse. There is no better friend you should have than the person you married. If your spouse isn’t your best friend it’s time to take a step back and start heavily investing in them, re-cultivating that friendship, until they are.

All relationships take work. Having friends is work. They take investment, but they are worth it. We were not created to be alone. We were created for connection. Even if you are an introvert your social tank has to be full. Running on fumes in this department will lead to isolation and loneliness which will drain your mental and emotional tanks. (I told you they are all tied together.) Cultivate a habit of calling a friend, texting to check in on someone, writing a card, going to coffee, or hosting a game night. Have a friend that you can depend on and go to for advise and encouragement. With the abundance of social media, we live very unconnected lives. We retreat back into ourselves and think we’re doing good because we see our friends on social media. That’s not investing in your relationships, that is hiding from your relationships. Most of us are busy working professionals, wives, and mothers. While we might not always have time to get coffee on a weekly basis, we should be intentional about being presently active with the group of people God put into our lives. Whether it’s a ladies Bible study, a small group, or a girls night out. We should make some time to invest in these crucial relationships and keep our social wellness tank full.

So friends,  is self-care selfishness? Absolutely not. In fact, self-care is quite the opposite. Self-care is saying “I love the people in my life too much to give them my leftovers, so I’m going to make sure I’m the best me I can be for them”. You are not disposable and you are not replaceable. You were made to be recharged and useful. But you have to take the time to recharge yourself because no one else can do it for you. Stop abusing your body, stop acting like a martyr, and stop giving away what you do not have. Take the time and invest in yourself. If you find yourself saying “I just don’t have the time for self-care” then it’s time to take a long hard look at your calendar because there are some things that need to go.

I love the people in my life too much to give them my leftovers, so I’m going to make sure I’m the best me I can be for them

 

Paige Baldwin

4 Easy Meals for Guests

Hello and happy September! I love the Fall season so much. I love a cooler air, and color of the changing leaves, the clothes, and ALL THE SEASONAL FLAVORS! Fall is my favorite season to cook and bake (followed closely by Christmas but we’ll wait for that). There are so many warm and comforting flavor combinations and textures you can take advantage of during this season. I’m going to share 4 easy meals (with recipes) that you can whip up either very quickly, or ahead of time for company.

Last Minute Dinner Company

You got a call, dinner company coming in an hour. That’s great right? Of course it is! You’re already prepared and you’ve got a delicious fall inspired meal you can produce in less than an hour. You’re making:

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Pumpkin Alfredo

For the Roasted Chicken Thighs: 6 Servings

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (I always like to do a few extra in case a guest is really hungry)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 2-3 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Onion powder
  • 3 tsp Dried Parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400o F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl mix together dry herbs and spices.
  • Use a paper towel to pat chicken dry, then rub both sides of chicken with olive oil.
  • Rub the dry mixture all over chicken.
  • Arrange chicken skin side up on your baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165o F.
  • Let chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

For the Pumpkin Alfredo: 6 Servings

  • 1 LB Fettuccine cooked, reserve 1 cup pasta water
  • 6 TBSP Salted Butter
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree (be careful not to grab the pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup Half & Half
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Parsley (optional for garnish)

Directions :

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add fettuccine. Cook until chewy, but firm. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and discard the rest.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter over medium low heat and stir in garlic. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  • Stir in Half & Half, Parmesan cheese, pumpkin puree, and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is full incorporated and mixture is heated through.
  • Stir in pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until sauce is your desired consistency. ( A thick and creamy sauce need only 1/2 cup, thinner sauces will need more.)
  • Add fettuccine and cook additional 2 minutes until pasta is well coated.
  • Serve garnished with fresh Parsley and additional Parmesan cheese.

*NOTE: Utilize frozen vegetables here to add brussels sprout or green beans. I always like to keep one shelf of my freezer stocked with bags of frozen veggies that I can pop in the microwave at the last minute. Aldi has a great selection of these bags!

Feeding A Crowd

You’re talking to your husband and he asks “hey babe, do we have plans for Sunday?” He wants to have his whole family over for a Sunday lunch and catch up. Great! Let’s pull out a Fall themed feast that won’t stress to the max having to cook for 10 people. We’re making:

White Chicken Chili and Cornbread

For the White Chicken Chili: 10 Servings

  • 1 1/2 LBS boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (I like white pepper for this recipe, but you can use either)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 can (small) diced green chilies
  • 2 (15 oz) cans white beans (Drain and rinse ONE CAN ONLY. You want the liquid from the second can)
  • Desired garnishes (can include sour cream, cheese, salsa, tortilla chips, etc)

Directions:

  • In a 6-8 quart crock-pot, mix together chicken stock, spices, and chilies.
  • Add the white beans and place chicken in liquid.
  • Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • Discard Bay leaves and remove chicken from crock-pot.
  • Using a hand immersion blender or stand blender, puree approximately 2 cups of the chili. You want the rest to be intact.
  • Slice or shred chicken and place back in the crock-pot.
  • Serve with desired garnishes and cornbread (recipe to follow)

For the Cornbread: 16 Slices

  • 2 cups Four
  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8 TBSP Salted Butter, melted (plus more more serving)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/4 cup Whole Milk
  • 3 Lg eggs

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350o F and butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  • In large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal. sugar, baking powder, and salt until well mixed.
  • In medium bowl, whisk together butter, oil, milk, and eggs.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix until combined.
  • Pour into baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out with no wet batter.
  • Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serve with butter.

*NOTE: You can use a store bought box of cornbread mix if you’d rather.

Meal Delivery for A Sick Friend

Your friend, or family, or neighbor, etc….is sick and you want to take them some Fall inspired soup that will be both delicious and healthy. You’re taking them:

Carrot Ginger Soup with Whole Wheat Bread

For the Carrot Ginger Soup: 4 Servings

  • 8 medium Carrots
  • 2/3 cup Red Split Lentils
  • 1 small Onion
  • 3 tsp grated Ginger (fresh)
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 TBSP coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Pumpkin seeds for crunchy garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Wash, peel, and cut carrots into chunks. Rinse and drain lentils.
  • In large pot, heat olive oil and add onion. Cook until onion starts to soften.
  • Add carrots and lentils. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add stock, salt, ginger, and turmeric.
  • Bring soup to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add in coconut milk.
  • Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth.

For the Whole Wheat Bread: 1 Round Loaf

  • 2 cups Water, warm
  • 2 tsp Salt (I like using flaky sea salt)
  • 1 tsp Yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour

Directions:

  • In large mixing bowl, mix together water, salt, and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Add in flour and mix until well combined.
  • Cover dough with buttered plastic wrap or clean dish towel and let sit at room temperature overnight (or about 8 hours).
  • Place a dutch oven in your oven and pre-heat to 450o F. Once heated, carefully remove dutch oven and place on counter.
  • Flour you hands and shape dough into a circle. Drop into dutch oven.
  • Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for additional 20 minutes.
  • Remove bread from dutch oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving or wrapping in clean cheesecloth for transport.

*NOTE: You can always save yourself time and buy a loaf of crusty whole wheat bread from your local grocer or baker.

Overnight Guests

You had some company in town and you want to make them breakfast. You don’t want them to feel like they have to get up and come to the table to be able to eat, they need to relax. You make them:

Cranberry Orange Muffins and Coffee in Bed

For the Cranberry Orange Muffins: 18 Muffins

  • 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped
  • 2 TBSP freshly grated orange peel
  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 TBSP cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Orange Juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 2 LG Eggs, beaten

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Pecans, crushed
  • 4 TBSP cold unsalted butter

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 TBSP orange juice

Directions for muffins:

  • Preheat oven to 425o F and butter a muffin tin (or you can use muffin cups).
  • Wash cranberries and drain off water. Place in medium bowl.
  • Add in nuts, orange peel, and 1/2 cups sugar and stir well to combine.
  • In large bowl combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender.
  • Add orange juice, eggs, and cranberry mixture and stir to combine.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and top with streusel mixture.
  • Bake for 5 minutes at 425o F.
  • Reduce heat to 350o F and bake for an additional 16-18 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to wire rack and drizzle glaze on top of muffins.

Directions for streusel:

  • Combine flour, brown sugar, and pecans in a small bowl.
  • Cut in butter with pastry blender.

Directions for glaze:

  • Combine powdered sugar and orange juice to make glaze. Use more or less orange juice as needed to reach desired consistency.

For the French Pressed Coffee: 4 servings

  • 8 cup (34 oz) French press
  • 10 TBSP Coffee beans, coarsely ground
  • 6 cups fresh boiled water
  • Milk

Directions:

  • Bring water to a boil, then let sit for 2 minutes.
  • If grinding your own beans (highly recommended) grind to coarse grind.
  • Measure out 10 TBSP (can add more if you like stronger coffee) and place in French Press
  • Pour hot water over ground and stir to coat all grounds.
  • Let steep for 5 minutes, then push plunger down.

* NOTE: Place plate of muffins on a tray with French press, mug, small carafe of milk, and cloth napkin. Take to guest bedroom and leave on table just outside door.

Hopefully this guide will help you in someway this Fall season! Read through the recipes, or come up with some of your own, and then make a list of things to always have on hand for an easy quick prep. I love cooking for guests, and I really love cooking for guests in the Fall season. The delicious aromas that fill my house alone are worth inviting guests over! If you have any cool Fall inspired recipes or tips that you’d like to share, drop a comment below. I would love to feature your recipe here on the blog!

Happy Fall!

Paige

Invite, Welcome, Love

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Matthew 10:42

I am often asked why hospitality is such a big deal to me. Why is it that I enjoy having people come to my home? There are several answers I can give. First, I like to feed people. I think for me, this is the biggest reason. I like cooking for people. It’s my love language. Food offers so much more than physical satiety. Food can be a comfort to some,  fun for others, and sometimes it can literally be necessity for someone going through a hard time. Second, not only do I like to feed people, but I like to make them comfortable. Sometimes people just need a refuge away from their own busy chaotic life, or to see something beyond their four walls (especially true during this global health crisis). If my home can be that refuge, then I will swing my front door wide open and welcome you in faster than you can ring the doorbell. Third, sometimes you just need to feel invited. That YOU specifically matter enough to be invited into someone else’s sanctuary. Even when I have a packed full schedule and life is spinning out of control, I still smile when I receive an invitation. I may not be able to accept that invitation, but it makes me feel so loved just that I was thought of.

If we are to lead others to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, it will be through His attributes displayed in us and extended to them. How do we do that? It’s quite simple when we go to God’s Word. We follow Christ’s model that He laid out for us throughout the Holy Scriptures. Throughout Scripture we see a rhythm of three steps used by Christ. He invites us to come, He welcomes us in, and He loves us sincerely. We too can use this model as we cultivate relationships with one another and with strangers around us.

3 John 1:8  “We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.”

Invite

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 

Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Throughout Scripture we see a rhythm of invitation from God extended to His people. We see God inviting us to rest in Him when we are weary. He invites us to drink from the Living Waters and never thirst again. He invites us to walk with Him in peace and harmony. The final invitation is to Salvation and a place at His table for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Over and over again we are invited to “come” and take part in something He’s provided for us.

We should be following Christ’s example and inviting others to “come”. We can, like Christ, invite others to rest, to participate, and to dine. For those of you who face anxiety about opening your home, take heart. This doesn’t always mean inviting into your home. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, then pray about it. Ask God for clarity, wisdom, or a change in heart. In the meantime, there are so many other ways to invite others. You could invite a friend out to coffee or to a movie. Invite a friend or co-worker to a picnic in the park. Invite the new couple at church to dinner out and maybe catch a concert after. Invite your mom or mother-in-law to join you for a spa day. Plan a trip to the zoo or botanical gardens with your small group or mom’s club. The opportunities for invitation are endless, but they are meaningful if done in the spirit of hospitality.

Keep in mind that not all invitations will be accepted. Today more than ever schedules are packed full of commitments, and others take a while to open up to new relationships. Don’t get discouraged by these obstacles. Keep showing Christ-like hospitality and extending those invitations. God will honor your hospitable spirit.

Welcome.

Luke 9:11 …He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 

Romans 15:7 “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Webster’s dictionary defines the word welcome as “received gladly into one’s presence or companionship”. God is once again our example as many times throughout scripture he welcomes us into fellowship with Him. God has gladly received us as believers into His family and will welcome us into His presence one day in Glory. In the scriptures, Jesus welcomed the crowds as He traveled and taught the Kingdom of God. Even when He went to be alone and the crowds would follow Him, we see Jesus welcoming those in need over and over throughout the His Earthly ministry.

What does this look like for us? While we’re no longer in middle school welcoming other girls into our club, we as women still have social clubs whether we think we do or not. How about welcoming the new woman in your small group by making a effort to include her in conversation. Not only include her, but engage her in the conversation by asking open ended questions. Show her that you are interested in her, and not in what she thinks of you. Welcome the new mom into a play group by placing a hand on her shoulder and telling her you’re glad she’s there. Send her a follow up text message after play date letting her know how good it was to see her. Welcome a visitor at church by allowing them to share your row. Welcome one another with a smile, a hug, a fist bump (or elbow bump if you’re still doing that). Make a decision that you are going to make someone feel welcome wherever you may be.

The biggest way to make someone feel welcome is to simply include them in the activities and conversation. Pray and ask God to place someone on your heart who needs to feel welcome, then follow His leading in obedience.

(HOSTESS TIP: If you’re having a large event, try to greet everyone as they arrive. However, enlist the help of a trusted friend or two to help engage all of the new attendees or guests. If you have an event with 30+ women, chances are that you’re not going to be able to sit down and engage in meaningful conversation with everyone. This is where you ask for help so no one feels left

Love.

I John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”

Kindness is the best way to show love to one another. Kindness not just in words, but also in our actions. Kindness can take many forms, and can be so simple once we take the time to stop and recognize the situation. Walking in the park, you might not think about all of the opportunities for simple kindness. But if you purposefully go into to the situation asking how you can show kindness, then opportunities will leap out at you. Are you walking with a child? Be patient and let them stop to pick that dandelion for the tenth time (I was that child). Are you about to pass another person on the path? Offer a smile and a hello. Is there a dog someone didn’t clean up after? Yes that’s right, get a baggie and clean it up yourself.

Kindness can be paying for coffee for the person behind you, inviting family to dinner, offering to pick up groceries for your elderly neighbor, a “thinking about you” card sent to a friend, an offer to babysit for new parents who desperately need a date night, and so much more. You can find a kind word or action in any situation. There can be so many opportunities is we are willing to recognize that we have the power to make someone else’s day better.

Here’s the thing though friends, we’re not taught to just love strangers and non-believers. No, we’re told to love one another. This seems like the hardest concept for some Believers to grasp and it’s sad. In John 13:35 we’re told “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We can show love to strangers as much as we want, but if they don’t see us showing that same love to one another, it will all be in vain. We cannot fight and bicker among ourselves as Believers and expect the world to want anything to do with the Savior we claim as ours. Love starts in the heart, floods into the home, spills over into the church, and then cannot be contained in our community.

Friends, with Christ as our example, let us continue the rhythms of inviting one another into a relationship Let us welcome one another with open arms, and then love one another as Christ loves. The difference we can make to a dark and lost world is limitless if we follow the example laid out in Scripture.

~Paige