What New Zealand Taught Me

Randy and I just got back from a trip of a life time to Napier, New Zealand. Napier is a small little town on the North Island that is charming, quaint and nothing short of splendipitous. I think that means very very spectacular.

We stayed with missionaries who pastor a church in Napier and who work a lot with youth/teens. Our nearly two weeks in New Zealand was spent speaking in a variety of platforms. Randy preached at church twice and spoke to a group of teens for a three day retreat. I spoke with the teen girls and led Umbrella Prayers at a women’s conference. And we had a lot of table time discussing missions, culture, God and lots of other stuff.

The sights were amazing. Sheep everywhere and fantail birds were our favorite. We never saw a Kiwi bird and from what we understand you don’t see a lot of them. Magpies were these black and white birds that are beautiful and just when I was getting all excited about them being pretty and having an adorable name I learned that they are mean birds that pluck the eyeballs out of sheep. Yep. So that was disappointing. Somebody needs to tell those birds about Jesus.

Through this trip I learned how much comfort I find in the prayers of believers. I knew traveling to NZ might be hard for me with some of the various health issues I have but after 48 hours of travel/waiting and still not being there I knew we would need the prayers of believers to sustain me/us. So I blew up Facebook with updates and requests for prayer. And so many of you supported us through prayer and God heard you.

God gave me a strength and energy I know I don’t possess to speak on Friday night. We had been traveling since Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta and we finally arrived on Friday afternoon around 3:00pm. I spoke that night at 6:30pm. Our luggage hadn’t arrived and I was wearing the same outfit I had been wearing since Tuesday. Ewwwww. I spoke in the same outfit but thankfully had time to get a quick shower (yay) and put back on the same clothes. I was speaking on very little sleep and major jet lag but God empowered me and I felt confident His Spirit spoke through me that night.  I learned to always, no matter what, pack an extra pair of clothes when you fly out of the country. 

I learned that even though prayer is HUGE it’s not prayer that gives us the strength. It’s our God. And if it was just you and God alone He would be enough. Even without the prayers of others. This might sound confusing with my previous paragraph on the desperate call for prayer from others. But let me explain more…..

It was that first Friday night in NZ  after I had spoken and I was so tired. When I went to sleep I knew I had two more speaking sessions the next morning. I was going to bed with still no luggage therefore my travel outfit, speaking outfit and pajama’s all in one were still clinging to my body begging to be changed. I desperately grabbed my phone to text a prayer request for energy for the next day and luggage to arrive. And that’s when I realized that the time zone was totally off. I’d be texting in the middle of the morning and I didn’t want to wake anyone up. (Randy had gone to bed early while I was at my session and was in a deep sleep or he would’ve been my prayer partner.) It was such a surreal moment for me. I was almost discouraged at the thought of not having anyone to pray for me in that moment and that’s when I felt God putting inside of me the truth that He alone is enough and able to hear. It’s HE who we pray to. It’s HE who hears our every cry. He alone is my Rock. I would even be teaching on these things the very next day and yet here I was about to freak out at the thought that I had nobody to intercede for me when I felt I needed it so badly. I laid my head on that pillow and said, “Lord, it’s just me and you and I know you will be my help in my time of need. Please give me the strength for tomorrow. And clean underwear!!”

I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and as I walked down the hall there I saw our luggage lined up against the wall. I went to bed at 10:30pm and our luggage hadn’t arrived. But at 3:00am it was there. The airport had delivered our luggage around 11:00pm that night. Ahhh yes, this is our God. Even cooler than clean underwear arriving is this Facebook message I received Saturday morning from a friend in the States who said this:

Hi Melody! I’m not sure what time you are speaking but I checked the time in NZ and it is 6:45 there so I’m guess you could be speaking now or anytime soon. And I woke up at 2:45 a.m for no apparent reason or maybe for the apparent reason to pray for you. Father, thank you for bringing Melody and Pastor Randy to New Zealand safely. I pray that You would renew Melody’s strength and keep her mind in perfect peace as she speaks this evening. I have no doubt that You have some awesome things planned including lives changed by Your power. Please prepare the hearts of the ladies Melody is speaking to tonight. May their hearts and minds be open and ready to receive what You want to speak to them through Melody tonight. Lord, I give You all the glory for the great things You are going to do. I ask these things according to Your will and in Your name. Amen.
And this is our God.
Her prayers were going on for me while I spoke on Friday night and God in his grace allowed me to read this on Saturday morning as a fresh reminder that yes God is the One who gives the strength but he uses his people to intercede for that strength and to encourage others.
More lessons learned from New Zealand to come because I learned some incredible cooking tips and we all know I need some of those. I can’t wait to share with you how to cook ground beef fast and healthy.

 

New Zealand Update: Teen Camp 2017

Wednesday morning we left this modern yet quaint hotel downtown Napier and headed to Teen Camp.

The area we’re in is on Holiday which means it’s their Winter Break. So a handful of churches from New Zealand, Wellington, Australia and surrounding areas come together for a Teen Camp at Lake Taupo during their break. MiCamp is the camp facilities we’re gathering at for this retreat. Linking to it in case you want to see more about it.

It took us a few hours to get there but it seemed like 30 minutes with the hobbit land-ish scenery.

So these are the teens that were able to come to camp from Bay Baptist. A great group of kids we’re getting to know better.

And this was a taste of the ride to Lake Taupo.

None of my pictures with sheep walking the ridge of the mountains turned out good but it was breath taking. I felt like I was standing in the middle of Psalm 23.

So this is Mi-Camp in Lake Taupo……

And these are the Missionaries we’re visiting with, Joel and Beverly Shoaf. They’ve been here for 25 years and both are from North Carolina originally. Our church has supported them for a long time and Randy and I have gotten to know them over their last two furloughs. So when they invited us out to speak at their church, women’s event, teen camp we were thrilled. And humbled that their church and our church would make it possible for us to get there. Such a huge blessing and provision of our God.

Beverly is insane in the kitchen. I mean that in a 110% good way. She loves to cook and won’t consider anything less than fresh and homemade. She cooks for up to 150 people and it’s all homemade. Her daughter Sarah is following in her steps and is a great cook as well. So far she has made lasagna, chocolate cake with homemade cream and ice cream and homemade icing. Nacho’s. Breakfast casserole and has browns. And she has more good stuff planned.

And she’s really chill in the kitchen. Completely laid back but super organized and knows what she’s doing. There were a few hiccups with oven temps and lack of mixers, etc but she just rolled with it every single time even making time for teens that would come in to say memory verses or talk. We even sat down for a cuppa. A “cuppa” is a cup of tea or coffee. And why yes I am saying that with an accent.

The teens are very respectful and seem to be engaged. Randy has done a great job speaking in both sessions so far and he has one more. They do a morning chapel time and games and free time. An afternoon session and then a movie at night. A great program. Joel does all the planning and delegating of the camp and he’s done a really great job. They are both in their element for sure.

 

This afternoon I did an Umbrella Prayers session with the girls and we had a good time together. Precious to hear God’s girls suggesting we pray for their unsaved friends. We talked about how Sophie is clinging to the fact that God is Omnipresent. God is with us in New Zealand and He’s with her in Georgia and if and when she gets a little homesick I pray she’ll remember our God is right there with her as he is with us. That’s comforting.

Well, that’s all for today. If you think of it please pray for us and these teens. That if there are any here without Christ that they’ll go home with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Update: Anniversary out on the town!

I shared earlier that the church we have come to visit sent us out on the town for two days for our Anniversary.

Best day everrrrrrr!!!!!!

I’ll try to document as best I can in pictures but pictures don’t even do it justice. Napier is a beautiful little town on the North Island of New Zealand.

After a wonderful breakfast at a cafe in town we headed to the Pier to catch these sights……

Randy always puts his feet in the ocean no matter how cold or what season it is outside. If he’s walking distance to the ocean his feet will meet the water. He said it was freeeeezing cold. Even though he rolled his jeans up he got soaking wet. Still he said it was totally worth it. I was the “designated photographer.” No way was I going out there!

Then we went and toured an Anglican church that has some incredible history. There was a horrendous earthquake in 1931 in New Zealand and this church was in the middle of morning communion when it hit. Quite a few of their parishioners passed a way during the earthquake. Everything was demolished in the church except for the stone cross standing just outside the church. You will notice it in the pictures below.

Next we popped in the shops of Napier. Cobblestone small streets with people coming and going at quite busy pace. And then at 5:00pm sharp the town shuts down and becomes eerily still.

I think we must have said at least twenty times to each other, “I can’t believe we’re here and getting to see this town together in this way.” It really has been such a treat for us.

Don’t ask.

Tomorrow morning we will drive a few hours to a camp with our Missionary Host family where Randy will speak at a Teen retreat. This is their Winter Holiday so teens will be traveling from Australia, Aukland and other places to come to this retreat. Randy will speak three session and I’ll have a session with the girls where I’ll be teaching Umbrella Prayers. We would so appreciate your prayers for this retreat. There seems to be a lot of sickness around this area right now. Would you pray for healthy kids/staff. For a great time of strengthening friendships and building up each other in the faith. We have been blessed with great sleep so far and would ask that you continue to pray we sleep well so we can serve with energy and vitality.

Beverly, the Missionary’s wife, is an amazing cook. We’ve been the recipient of her incredible meals already. Think homemade mac and cheese, butter biscuits, chicken pie, etc.  Beverly does all the camp cooking during the retreat. And everything she makes is homemade. So I’ll be helping her in the kitchen. Stop laughing! those who know my track record in the kitchen. I’ve already warned her that I’m not nearly as “natural” as she is in the kitchen. But I hope to be the best help I can be to her without doing something utterly stupid. So yeah you could pray I don’t burn the kitchen down or cut my hands off while working.

I’m pretty sure we won’t have any wifi during teen camp but Saturday we come back into Napier and Randy will preach again on Sunday at Bay Baptist. Your prayers are carrying us and we appreciate it so much.

 

 

New Zealand: Our God moves Mountains

Our God moves MountainsMany of you have been praying and I want you to know that your prayers have covered us and carried us. From the very beginning we got off to a rough start with us missing the most crucial flight of all – the direct flight from Houston to Aukland. That led to an overnight stay and putting our travels now a full day later. Little did we know that at that time the booking agent with United accidently booked us for our final New Zealand flight based on CA time and not NZ time. So after the 13 hour flight into Aukland we were told they had us down to fly into Napier the day before. Two hours later we were on stand by hoping and praying, along with many of you, that we would make the next flight to Napier.

We listened and waited for our names to be called. Finally they did and Randy went to the desk. I stayed with our stuff. I could tell by the look in his eyes that something was up. He came back and said, “They have room. But only for one of us.” We had already discussed this possibility amongst ourselves and decided we wouldn’t split up. But when we heard that the other two flights going to Napier were also full and we would be on stand by we decided I should go ahead and go. Neither of us loved this idea but that’s what we felt was the best thing to do. We had hit so many obstacles at this point we wanted to push through.

As soon as I got everything rearranged in my carry on (had to pull resources I’d be using for my speaking session that night from one of Randy’s bags into my bag) the flight person dude said, “I feel so bad. I just told you that one of you could go but now there’s no room because of luggage limits.” I’ll be honest. I was a bit relieved I didn’t have to fly without Randy and not knowing if he’d catch a standby flight or not. As soon as I was celebrating this inside my sleep deprived head and Randy and I look at each other with a look of “Can you even believe this?” the flight person dude motions for us to come back to him and says, “I am so sorry but we actually have two tickets for you right now. Hurry and go.” We grabbed those tickets and vanished onto flight 5005 never looking back.

So here we are in midair as I type. Before take off we looked at each other said, “Can you believe this? This is our God.”

And so friends we thank you for persevering in prayer with and for us.

We haven’t changed our clothes since Tuesday. It’s now Friday morning in New Zealand. We gained an entire day. So really it’s only 3 days worth of…….well, you know……and if you don’t know let me explain it this way. Whenever we go somewhere whether car or plane we say, “And we’re off !!!! Like a dirty pair of underwear!” But we can’t even say that because we’ve been wearing the same pair of underwear since Tuesday. And we ain’t taking them off. Sleep deprived TMI story.

The flight attendant just asked me, “I thought you said you wanted coffee.” I said, “I did but I got hot and decided not to.” He said, “You’re quite indecisive today. I wonder why.” I said, “Might have to do with 3 days of travel with not much sleep. And I’m wearing the same clothes.” Randy said to me through clinched teeth and loud whisper, “Lets NOT tell the whole plane that, Melody!” I said, “I know right! This is why I’m scared to speak tonight. I don’t know what will come out of my mouth at this point.” Randy laughed and said, “Yeah, you’ll probably stand up there and do arm farts. “

And this is where the conclusion of our New Zealand Travel Chronicles end for today.

Thanks for praying and reading!

Update: Just landed in Napier and it’s gorgeous here! Thank you God for moving some mountains to get us on those planes and getting us here.

New Zealand Update – Landed in Los Angeles LAX

I’m glad to report that we are now proud owners of a carry on bag. It has been a life saver. So glad we have it. Randy and I spent lunch together in the Houston airport packing our new carry on. We were beaming with hope and joy. Now we are official world travelers.

We arrived in Los Angeles and this airport is awesome! And the people watching has been fantastic. I love diversity. It is such an amazing thing and speaks to such a creative God. Being in Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles and watching people make business deals on their phones while eating lunch and catching their flight is pretty crazy. I’m still in “stay-at-home-mom, pastor’s wife, small town girl” mode so all this has me feeling like I live under a rock. But I’m fascinated by it and I love it.

Our flight to Los Angeles LAX was a good one: movies, reading, studying. Now we’re killing time in the airport until 9pm tonight when we fly to Aukland.

We are sold out for New Zealand these next few weeks but our hearts are still very much with our church back home. VBS is going on this week in the evenings and we are praying for kids to come to know Jesus. Also we have a mission team going to Jacksonville, Fla after that so we have a lot going on that’s close to our heart.

Meanwhile our kids are hanging out and having a blast with Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles.  It only took 24 hours and my Mom had those kids with her in the world’s largest Ferris Wheel downtown Atlanta. And when it got to the top she remembered she was afraid of heights. This.is.my Mom.

I’m not sure what internet access will be like once we get to New Zealand. We are supposed to arrive there on Friday morning at 9:00am I think. If all goes as planned. Thank you for praying for us. It’s a gift we appreciate more than you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Mission – in New Zealand!

Randy and I have the privilege of traveling to New Zealand to be with long term Missionaries, Joel and Beverly Shoaf. Joel is the pastor of Bay Baptist Church in Napier, New Zealand. We’re super excited to come alongside them in serving teens, women and their church body. Randy will be speaking at a Teen conference as well as preaching in their church and I’ll be speaking at a ladies conference and with Teen girls.

And what’s super cool is that we’ll be celebrating 24 years of marriage in New Zealand! How awesome is that.

So our journey began yesterday when Randy’s parents took us to the Atlanta airport. We haven’t flown in about 24 years to be exact. So we have no idea what we’re doing but my man figured it all out. He kept saying “we’ll figure it out when we get there.” And we did. I’d much rather figure it out the year before we get there but I guess the day of works. LOL.

We pretty much look like “haven’t-flown- in- 24 years- world class travelers” Because of some misunderstandings of United baggage policies we didn’t bring a carry on bag. In fact at the last minute we unpacked our carry on bag we had planned to take and put a lot of stuff in our personal bags making them weigh about 80 pounds together. Randy has these on his shoulders while I carry the winter coats and miscellaneous stuff. Along with cross body strap over my chest making me look just a tad shy of the woman who carries a black leather fanny pack.

As far as flight delays….. well, the Lord saw fit to say yes to the thunder and lightening bolts yesterday afternoon in Atlanta and therefore our flight was delayed allowing us to miss the only direct flight to Aukland, New Zealand for the week.

Gotta love this reminder in Job that the lightening bolts report to God Almighty. Job 38:35 “Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”

So we stayed in a hotel at a discounted rate. The airlines couldn’t control the weather as Job pointed out ever so clearly in the verse above. So we couldn’t be mad at them. We were thankful for a bed to sleep in.

Vagabonds. That’s what we look like right now. We take up an entire corner with all our stuff. I’m in the process of trying to convince Randy to let us purchase a carry on bag with wheels. This would save his back and shoulders (ya’ll he is such a gentleman he simply will not let me carry one of the bags. I have tried so many times.). There’a BrooksStone in the airport. And of course we all know airport prices are crazy high but considering we’re on the front end of this trip and we have 3 more flights in front of us and 3 on our way back I think this would be a great idea. And we have borrowed all of luggage so far so this would not be a duplicate but providing a need. We’ll see if I win this little persuaded discussion. LOL.

On another note – we’re not sure where our luggage is?? Yeah, and we didn’t do that thing that world class travelers do – pack an extra change of clothes. As in nothing.

I got up this morning from a great night’s sleep and was like, “Hey, Randy I’m going to get dressed and go get some coffee. Oh wait, I’m already dressed.” Yeah, so that was kind cool.

So now we’re in Houston waiting to board our plane to Los Angeles where we’ll have a 6-7 hour layover. Then we fly out at 9:00pm to Aukland, New Zealand and then from there we’ll fly to Napier where we’re staying. We are scheduled to arrive at 9:00am Friday morning. This is a day later than originally planned and that’s if we stay on schedule. We’re praying we do. Also praying we might sleep on the plane considering I speak Friday night. Who knows what might come out of my jet lagged mouth at that point.

Well, that’s the update from the Houston airport.

Check back for more travel tips from your local haven’t traveled in 24 years world class travelers.

 

 

 

 

Umbrella Prayers Leader’s Kit

The Umbrella Prayers Leader Guide is designed for you to lead an Umbrella Prayers event in your own home or in a large group setting. While I personally love leading Umbrella Prayers at various women’s events there’s nothing more satisfying than leading Umbrella Prayers in my own home. And even more satisfying than that is teaching others how to lead Umbrella Prayers in their own home. The place where we do life on a daily basis can also be a gathering place with other women centered around our God and prayer.
If you have a desire to lead an Umbrella Prayers event whether large or small I have everything you need in this digital leader’s training guide. The cost is $60 and includes one copy of the “Umbrella Prayers” workbook. Purchasing the leader’s kit also gives you access to purchase additional copies of the Umbrella Prayers workbook for $10 per book plus S/H. Umbrella Prayers Workbooks are not otherwise sold separately. They only come with a workshop or event.
As a leader of an Umbrella Prayers workshop you determine the cost of your workshop based on what  you decide to provide for the ladies attending your workshop. The book is $10 and if you provide umbrella’s, food, door prizes and decorations then you would build all that into your price per person. In the leader’s guide I talk about pricing, registration, and where to find the best deal on supplies. 
Your digital training guide includes the following on a thumb drive:
  • Training Guide: What is Umbrella Prayers, Biblical teaching outline to accompany your Umbrella Prayers event, Step by step how to create an Umbrella Prayer.
  • Hosting an Event – a practical guide including where to purchase supplies and options for simple registration.
  • Event Schedule Sample – a mock-up event schedule
  • Promotional Materials for Umbrella Prayers (bulletin insert, poster size, regular size – all digital copies of an original hand painted design for Umbrella Prayers. Built in space for you to include your own personal details.) 
  • One hard copy of the spiral bound, full color Umbrella Prayers Workbook

  • Access to more hard copies of the Umbrella Prayers Workbook at $10 per book plus S/H.
If you are interested in purchasing the digital Umbrella Prayers Leader’s Guide please email Melody at melodyhester@yahoo.com.

What the church can learn from the community of AA

 

 

Alcoholics Anonymous or AA is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. Some people don’t believe in God and sadly instead call on a “higher power”.

**I especially love Celebrate Recovery as a Christ-centered recovery program as well as Teen Challenge. I reference AA today because most people are familiar with it and even though I’d prefer Celebrate Recovery or Teen Challenge as a program I still see something beautiful that is formed inside AA that the church should take notice of. **

I’ve never attended a recovery group so I don’t know firsthand but I’ve repeatedly observed some important things in many people who have. They took the time to share with me and these are things I keep coming away with as a general observation.

  1. A strong commitment to each other in the group – what is shared stays confidential and there’s a respect for that ground rule. There doesn’t seem to be judgment or condemnation. Instead there’s a general understanding of each other. Everyone is at their lowest. Level playing field. The weakness is great. And there’s something in that low, weak place that creates a deep bond with those also in the same place.
  2. An outright acknowledgment of their problem. “Hello, my name is____________ and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s stated at the beginning of every single meeting. Each person states is aloud as they start their meeting. An ownership of their problem publicly. Ironically everyone sitting beside them say the exact same thing. And somehow saying it loud over and over again and hearing it from others solidifies the fact that they’re all in the same boat.
  3. An understanding of just how important their “meeting” is. For some it will be a life long commitment knowing that missing a meeting can be the start of a downward spiral. It’s not the meeting itself that produces some kind of magical moment but the connection and motivation from the group is often what one needs in a weak moment. In a Christ-centered group the Bible is their source of Truth and Comfort. Calling on the Holy Spirit for help and strength is where they turn. And this is crucial in daily sustenance for not only the alcoholic but for the depraved sinful person as well. For me. For you.

What if we as the church recognized our own personal weakness and lowliness for what it truly is. If we viewed our sin and the consequences of our sin as sickening as the effects of an alcohol addiction.  I wonder how that might impact our connectedness and community with each other.

Instead of being tempted to share the latest gossip or negativity about a person I wonder if we might cut each other a break more often. The eye rolls and avoiding certain people might disappear. When tempted to tear down someone with words we might pause and realize they’re actually a fellow brother or sister connected in a deep way. And you don’t do that to your own. Nor should we do it to outsiders. But we treat those in the body of Christ especially well according to Paul. (“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:10)

If we are convinced we all have the same great massive need and that we have been rescued by the same great, one of a kind, real life hero, Jesus Christ, then I wonder if we’d understand just how important our “meetings” with each other actually are. Whenever they are….. Sundays or midweek.  , These meetings for Christians are critical in our own survival of the world. The “meeting” itself is not magical. It’s the coming together with the presupposition that we’re all in the same great place of desperate need for the only One person who can fill that need. Nobody is better than the other. The need is the same. The solution is Jesus and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that’s why we can go home filled with hope. Hope that even when we slip and mess up we have a place of safety to return. Not only that but it can be a safe place to say out loud, “Hello my name is _______ and I messed up royally this week.” But none of that can happen until we acknowledge our deep depravity and need for grace.

We need the community of Christ-centered brothers and sisters speaking Truth into us. Praying for us. Encouraging us and being there through thick and thin. Relating to and understanding that we have more commonalities than we think. The deep low of sin and the incredible high of being redeemed by our Savior is our common ground as Believers. It’s level ground at the foot of the cross. We’re all in the same state.  If we really see it as this – as being a part of a group of people who have been rescued from  our-sinful-selves then I believe deeper community will take place in our churches. The kind you see in AA and Celebrate Recovery groups.

My prayer is that the local church will see her great need for divine intervention because of our sin on a daily basis. That we will hit rock bottom and see our greatest need for Jesus.

How do we practically cultivate a spirit of deep healthy community within the local church? Because recovery groups, focus groups, prayer groups, theology groups are not the same thing as the church. There’s a very important distinction between Christ-centered groups and church. But we’ll talk about that later. Come back this week for more discussion.

 

 

 

 

China Soup Bowls and Plastic Spoons – Hospitality gone wrong

Our sweet, elderly neighbor passed away two years ago and her children are in the process of selling her house. In their cleaning out and packing things up the daughter asked me if I would like her Mother’s china. I was so honored and thrilled to be gifted with this beautiful 12 piece place setting of  china.

Did you notice the totally adorable soup bowls? They have two handles. I’ve never seen such cuteness! I’ve had the china all of one week and we used it for the first time tonight. And totally not in the right way. Like for real.

We ate ice cream in the cutie patootey soup bowls.

With our new’ish neighbors.

I know. Tacky.

Here’s what’s tackier. I do dinner invites all wrong. First of all I have to get over myself and thinking everything has to be perfect before we have people over. And then when I finally do that I still don’t do it right. How’s this for a dinner invite: Show up at door step of neighbors at 6:15pm and say, “Ya’ll want to come over for dinner? Like right now. If you do we’d love to have you. If you don’t it’s okay too. We have to pick our kid up at 7:00pm so we don’t have long.”

Somebody slap me and say, “awkward.”

But my friend Amy Lively  has taught me much about loving our neighbors and I haven’t quite learned the “not being weird” part yet but I’m getting there. I hope she would just say, “Nah, not awkward or weird – you’re just inviting people where you are and where they are. Keep at it!”

My neighbors stared at me for a few seconds and then looked at each other and said, “Yeah, sure, we’ll come. Give us 5 minutes.”

I walked across the yard and back into our house and Randy said, “Melody, you don’t have enough food. That’s a tiny pork tenderloin. You need two.” And I realized he was so stinking right. There were three guests and four of us. We didn’t have enough. What the world was I thinking?!!

I’d heard of missionaries swearing their spaghetti had  multiplied at large gatherings where they didn’t have enough food. Of course I’ve read about the loaves and fishes in the Bible but I’ve never personally prayed and ask God to multiply our food before. But tonight I found myself praying for the multiplication of pork tenderloin. All I could do was pray and hope for the best.

I’m happy to say it worked out perfectly. I’m not sure if God shrank our appetites or multiplied the food. Either way, the food was enough. There were no leftovers but to my knowledge nobody went to bed hungry tonight. We had a great time talking and just being together. I left and picked up our son and came back and we talked for another hour and a half. And it was enjoyable.

Then I brought out the china soup bowls and told them about our former next door neighbor and how this was her china.

I scooped up the ice cream and went to grab spoons when I realized they were all dirty. I debated which was worse – using plastic spoons or taking dirty spoons out of dishwasher to wash and then dry. I made the rapid response of going plastic.

So there we were eating ice cream in 50 year old, gold-plated china with plastic spoons. I held up my soup bowl and said, “This is in honor of old neighbors and new neighbors.” And we all had a good laugh. And even though there was a quite a bit of awkward and risk getting there I was glad we pushed through it all.

 

 

 

 

Pushing through the Awkward in Friendship

Our small group met at a Pizza place for discussion over the book Messy Beautiful Friendship last night. Ya’ll we do book clubs all wrong. We meet every few weeks and discuss about 64 chapters at a time. It’s ridiculous but somehow it works for us and we like it.

Last night we discussed hospitality. Christine Hoover talks about “back door” friends. You know – the kind that don’t have to knock but just come on in. Maybe you grew up with back door friends. Our family did. Mrs. Flora lived next door with her husband and three sons. She had a signature knock with an added “yoo-hoo” but the knock meant nothing. She was just letting us know it was her coming through our back door. Our families, along with others on our street, were the best of friends going to each others homes often for dinner and parties. Sometimes it was pot luck sometimes not. Planned and unplanned visits. But there was a lot of “company” that didn’t feel like “company” growing up.

So our group started talking about how things seem different now. A lot less back door neighbor type friendships. We are mostly a group of 30 &40 year olds. Times have changed since growing up with backdoor friends. We are busy now. It used to be that the kids were little and under foot and no time to get the house ready for people to come over. Now the kids are older but we don’t want to miss time with them before they head off to college.

We talked about how it’s really easier to huddle in our own families than open our doors to other families. It takes planning and initiative to have others in our homes. And honestly sometimes it takes pushing through awkwardness as well. The awkwardness of not always having a perfectly cleaned home.

I hosted something in my home recently and when everyone left and I was working in the room we’d all been in and something caught my eye. It was dangling in midair. It was a pine straw needle at least 7 inches long. As I got closer I realized Charlotte’s web was taking residency in the corner of our dining room. Not only that but I could’ve written the names of everyone at the table in the layer of dust on the secretary in the corner of the room. I’m not even kidding. It was that bad. Of course nobody said anything about it but I KNOW people had to have seen it. I don’t even want to know what others might have noticed as they’ve come to our home over the years. These are just a few of the awkward things we’ll have to push through in order to build community with those around us. But it’s worth it. Because as we set aside our desire for things to be “perfect” we discover the beauty of real friendship and it takes us places we’d never experience without pushing through the awkward.

Our group started laughing at the fact that nobody offered up their homes to meet in for our discussion on hospitality. We all had really good reasons for not meeting in our homes. It’s Summer. I’m going out of town and super busy. My kids are leaving for the Army. I don’t get off work until late. I hardly know some of you people…..legit reasons. Like we totally get each other.

But guess what. We all decided we want to push through the awkward for the sake of beautiful friendship and we changed our plans for our next two meetings. Instead of meeting at the Japanese Restaurant like planned we’re meeting in our homes.We put out the “the house may not be clean” disclaimer and when one of us said, “it may be sub sandwiches for dinner because we leave out of the country a few days later” someone quickly offered and said, “Nope, you provide the plates and cups and we’ll bring the food. It may be chicken from the store but we got the food covered.” And I have no doubt we’ll enjoy our time together in our homes where we do life with our families and hopeful with each other a little more often.

And friends, this is what learning and growing with each other looks like.