Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Unity

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Welcome to day 2 of Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool As a veteran homeschooling mom, I know how much God has led our decisions about homeschooling. He has given us the wisdom and vision to walk out His call to homeschool our girls. He has also empowered us to have a sense of unity about homeschooling. My husband and I are in agreement about God’s call to homeschool, and we pray for God’s continued unity between us. We also enjoy a sense of unity between our girls. That is nothing short of God’s grace in our lives. Our girls are not perfect, but we don’t struggle with a lot of the sibling rivalry that many families deal with. Our girls do occasionally get on each others’ nerves, but for the most part, they are best friends who enjoy living life together.

While I have encouraged this type of unity in our family, it is not something I can pull off alone. It is a gift God has given us. If you are lacking unity in any area of your family life, look to Psalm 133:1 and Romans 12:10 as a way to pray for your family. “God, thank you that Your will for us is that we walk in unity. Your word says that it is good and pleases You when we are unified. Grant us grace that we may walk in unity in every relationship in our family. Bind my husband and me together that we may seek common goals. Strengthen the relationships among our children that they are truly good friends who love, encourage, and bring joy to each other. May they be devoted to one another, honoring the other above themselves.”

Arguing among siblings and division among spouses do not have to be tolerated in your family. Give those situations over to God and ask Him to bring peace and unity to those relationships. Be encouraged that He wants Your family to live in peace and unity much more than You do.

Check out my other post in this 5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool series about wisdom.

If you’d like to see other 5 Day Hopscotch posts on iHomeschool.net, please click here.

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Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Wisdom

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Welcome to “Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool.” As you might imagine, this is a subject that is near and dear to this homeschool mom’s heart. I know the power of prayer, and homeschooling is definitely too big of a job to go it alone. Any education about educating our children needs to be bathed in prayer, and homeschooling is no different. After six years of homeschooling, I can honestly say that we would not have made it without God’s sustaining, leading, teaching, and comforting us all.

Whether you are merely curious about homeschooling or you’re a seasoned veteran at it, we can all pray that God would lead us to follow His wisdom and vision in how to best educate our children. Using Ephesians 1:17 and Colossians 1:9 as a model, we could pray something like, “Lord, we ask You to give us Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation on how to best educate our children. Lord, our greatest goal is that they know You, so please grant us Your wisdom as we make this important decision. Fill us as parents with the knowledge of Your will that we may walk in a manner worthy of Your calling. We want to please You by using our children’s education to bear fruit for You. Strengthen us with Your power, according to Your glorious might, that we might attain steadfastness and patience.”

We certainly want God’s wisdom to guide us as we make the decision to homeschool, and we will need His wisdom to guide countless decisions throughout the school year. Come back tomorrow for the next day of “Five Days of Praying For Your Homeschool.”

Want to read other posts from the 5 Day Hopscotch on IHomeschool.net? Click here.

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Social Media Strategies for Preteens

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Parents, let’s face it: social media is here to stay. Our children live in an age that we never foresaw when we were their age, and that age comes with an incredible opportunity for both positive and negative outcomes. Kids have the opportunity to “speak” to masses of people everyday. They have the responsibility to use that type of power to encourage, build up, be funny, and inspire, or they can use it to make fun, be sarcastic, criticize, or be downright mean. Social media is a huge responsibility. And without us educating them on how to use it properly, they will have a difficult time avoiding pitfalls.

Though my daughters don’t use social media yet, my oldest is on the cusp. Many of her friends are already active on Instagram and other sites. Because of my work, I am quite active on social media, so I see what goes on. Parents, if I can give you one word of advice for protecting your children on social media it is this: Do not allow your child to be friends/followers with anyone online that you are not friends/followers with first. While this won’t protect your children from every potential risk, it will go a long way. You need to see what your children are seeing on social media. Fortunately, I have seen very few posts that I felt uneasy about, and I know that this is because so many of my friends closely monitor what their children and their children’s friends post online. The other parents and I have an open door policy that whenever we see something sketchy online, we bring it to attention. Just as our children need our guidance when they are learning to ride a bike, use a stove, or mow the lawn, they need us to help them get social media right, too. Let’s give them the tools and guidelines to help them be successful on social media, just as we would in any other area of their lives.

When you post to social media, it is just as if you have spoken directly to each of your followers. You can build quite a following on social media. Be cautious that what you say on social media is “heard” by each and every one of your followers. Only say the things you’d say to someone’s face. Before you post, imagine that you are making a speech and the audience is made up of the people who follow you. Only say what you’d say to them directly.

Remember who you are. As a child of Christ, remember His command, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” That means that you don’t make jokes or try to be funny at someone else’s expense. You don’t complain or criticize. And don’t forget that this verse addresses the things you say about yourselves as well. We are to speak (or write) things that build up other people. You have the power in your words to speak LIFE into people. Build them up with words that are encouraging, peace-making, inspiring, helpful, kind, gracious, healing, and accepting. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

The way you feel about yourself is magnified in what you post on social media. If you are self-confident and love others, it shows in the photos you post. If you are insecure and strive to get attention or impress other people, that shows as well. When you realize that you are God’s child, fully accepted and loved by Him, you will begin to love and accept yourself. You no longer feel the need to impress other people, because you aren’t striving for their acceptance anyway. That leads to loving and accepting other people as well. Your real life AND your social media posts become less judgmental and more kind, less about you and more about other people.

Respect people’s privacy. Social media is very, well… social. Whatever is said goes around the web very quickly. While you might be quick to share about your good grade, who asked you to the dance, or who you are dating, some people are more private about such things. It’s never a good idea to share someone else’s news on social media (or in person). It’s more prudent to let them share when and if they decide to. Extend this courtesy to your family as well. Never share publicly things that your siblings or parents don’t want broadcasted on social media, even if you think they won’t see it.

If you have even the slightest question about whether something is ok to post, ask before you post. Anything you post online goes around very quickly and it is permanent, even if you delete it. If there is any question whether a post could be hurtful, damaging, or misunderstood, ask your parents for advice before you post. Believe me, they WANT to see you being responsible with social media, and choosing your words carefully shows maturity. If you do make a mistake, be quick to take down the post and issue a short apology like “I took down my previous post because I realized it might be taken wrong. I’d never want to hurt anyone on social media, so I thought it was best to take it down.” We all make mistakes, but learning how to correct mistakes shows real maturity as well.

Catching Up

We have been in full summer mode around here. So much so that I haven’t had much time to post lately. I figured I at least owed you a few Instagram shots of what we’ve been up to.

MA did the Created For a Purpose camp again this year. We ADORE this camp! It’s all about how God created girls for His purpose, and He uses their interests in painting, crafting, cooking, sewing, etc to glorify Himself.

CFAP

While big sis was in camp, little sis and I walked a lot of miles on the nature trails around town. She was a trooper!

Walking Trail

We spent some time at my parents’ house at the beach. We swam in the bay, swam at the pool, and swam in the ocean.

Turtle

Our dear friends who live in southeast Asia came home for a visit. They have been there a year and have a year left. MA has missed her friend so much, so we were ecstatic to see them!

Lucy

My big girl has been growing out her hair for Locks of Love. I’ll admit, it has not been easy. She has really had a hard time keeping up with hair that long, and she and I have both wanted to cut it a thousand times. But when we remembered the little one that would be wearing that hair, we quickly decided it was worth it. It finally got long enough to be cut, so we did the honors this week. She is loving her new ‘do!

haircut

Several of our local parks have been having movie nights. This week I took the girls and a friend to see Madagascar. It was cute, but we ended up leaving before it was over because it was just TOO HOT, as in 91 degrees at 9:30 pm. I’ll bet your local park or library has events like outdoor movies. If you won’t sweat to death, you should take advantage of them. They are fun!

movie

Little Bit is a thumb sucker from way back. She was sucking her thumb in her ultrasound picture when I was pregnant with her. After she was born, it only took her a few weeks for that thumb to find her mouth, and she hasn’t missed a day since. But now that her permanent teeth are coming in, it’s time to give it up. I took her to the orthodontist this week so he could put her on his program to get her to stop sucking her thumb. She had a terrific experience, and she has done unbelievably well! She forgets every once in a while, but for the most part, she is thumb-free!

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I took some time to clean out the school room. I knew we had a few books we could get rid of, but I really had no idea how many. As it turns out, we have TONS. I spent the better part of an afternoon listing books on Amazon.com. I have already sold three books, so I am quite pleased that I finally got on this project.

school room

What have y’all been up to lately?

Service Projects for the Family

Service Projects for the Family

Teaching our children to serve others is one of our primary responsibilities as parents. God has given us the opportunity and the obligation to show our kids that serving other people is God’s way of living. Jesus modeled this type of servant behavior for us, and our children need to see us following Him in caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and evangelizing the lost. Serving together with our children teaches them empathy for others and gratitude for the blessings they’ve been given. Serving regularly with our children shows them that caring for others is our ongoing responsibility, not something to be done only on special occasions. The relationships we build while serving others provide us better opportunities for sharing the gospel. Here are a few ideas to get you started serving others with your family:

  • Contact a local ministry and ask if they need help in their office.
  • Help prepare food at a soup kitchen.
  • Contact a local thrift store and ask to help sort donated items.
  • Call a hospice center and ask if there are errands you can run for their patients.
  • Do yard work for an elderly neighbor.
  • Call someone who has recently had a baby and volunteer to take their other children to the park.
  • Bake cookies and take them to the police or fire station.
  • Collect toys for the cancer ward of your children’s hospital.
  • Hold a crayon and coloring book drive for an under privileged daycare.
  • Collect story books from your neighborhood and take them to a daycare that serves under privileged children.
  • Go on a prayer walk around your neighborhood. Pray for each home and the families who live there.
  • Go for a prayer walk through the halls of the hospital.
  • Hold an art camp or dance camp for under privileged children for a week during the summer.
  • Help out with VBS at a church that serves the poor.
  • Tutor students at your community center.
  • Pick up trash and/or do yard work at a church in a poor area.
  • Bake cookies or bring snacks to a community center that provides after school care for low-income families.
  • Go door-to-door in the neighborhood collecting canned goods for a church’s food ministry.
  • Have a lemonade stand or car wash to raise money for a ministry that provides clean water for third world countries.
  • Write thank you notes to veterans and deliver them to the VA hospital.
  • Contact a low-income nursing home to arrange for a hymn sing-a-long or children’s choir performance.
  • Visit a local shelter to pray with the staff.
  • Knit stocking caps and/or blankets and deliver to a cancer clinic.
  • Offer to babysit for an evening for a single mother.
  • Attend a ballgame of children whose mom or dad is deployed with the military.
  • Offer to drive carpool for a family who is going through a difficult season.
  • Invite a new family in your church over for dinner.
  • Write a note of encouragement to a missionary family from your church.
  • Ask a ministry to give you a specific item you can provide for them. Hold a garage sale to raise the money to buy it.
  • Befriend a widow and take your children to visit regularly.
  • Clean out closets and donate gently used clothing, toys, games, and books to the social services department for foster kids to use.
  • Provide respite care for foster parents.
  • Hold a bake sale to raise money to provide school uniforms for a foster child.
  • Cook and deliver a meal to a widower.
  • Offer to take a single mom’s children for the afternoon. Take photos and have a few good ones printed. Surprise the mom with them.
  • Mow the grass of a neighbor who is out of town.
  • Go door-to-door inviting neighbors to your church’s Christmas program or summer picnic.
  • Visit a low-income daycare to read to the children or do craft time.
  • Attend the ballet recital, choir program, or art show of a child who needs a little extra attention.
  • Hold a free car wash for all the neighbors on your street.
  • Make goodie bags for the homeless. Fill a plastic zipper bag with a bottle of water, a pack of crackers, hand wipes, a travel size deodorant and shampoo, and a pair of socks. Keep them in your car and give to people collecting money at intersections.
  • Collect old towels and money for pet food. Deliver to an animal shelter.
  • Pick up trash and pull weeds at a local park or community center.
  • Offer to run errands for an elderly neighbor or church friend. Make a grocery run, swing by the pharmacy, or give them a ride to church.
  • When bad weather is coming, call an elderly neighbor or single mother to check on them. Offer to let them come to your home before the weather hits your area.
  • Help a senior citizens with simple fix-it projects around the house like changing lightbulbs or cleaning gutters.
  • Plant a vegetable garden. Take some of your produce to a local shelter or soup kitchen, or share with a struggling family.
  • Make hand-made Valentine’s Day, MOther’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas (or any other holiday) cards and deliver them to an assisted living facility. Arrange to go during meal time so that you can visit with residents.
  • Plan a fun “family night out” for single-parent families. Show a family friendly movie and serve popcorn.
  • Hold a “dog wash” to raise money for a local animal shelter.

Don’t forget to stay in touch with the people you serve, as building relationships with them is what service is all about. As you build relationships, ask people how you can pray for them, and follow through by praying for their needs together with your children. Prayer and service are powerful ways we can reach our neighbors and our world for Jesus Christ.

The Table: How Good Food Changes the World

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I love the table. I’m not talking about an actual physical table made of wood or iron. I’m talking about the table as the gathering place of family and friends to share a meal. It is where food is consumed, but it is also the place where ideas are exchanged, dreams are shared, sorrows are carried, and joys are doubled. It is one of the places that true Christian community is built. At the table, we carry out daily the kind of unity that Jesus called for in His last time around the table with his friends, the time He washed their feet and shared the bread and the wine, the body and the blood.

The interesting thing about the table in scripture is that, aside from the Last Supper in the upper room, it rarely involved an actual table. Jesus gathered often with His disciples, and many times scripture points out that it was around a campfire while they cooked fish. Being around the table with people you love can come in many forms. It can look like tailgating before a ballgame, overloaded plates balanced carefully on laps. It can happen lounged on a picnic blanket at the park with friends, moms chasing toddlers who are too busy playing to eat. But I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that my favorite times around the table involve my family and friends, a real table loaded with delicious dishes that have been lovingly prepared so that the people I adore most are here with me for a while, talking and laughing, sharing and dreaming, growing and learning.

Don’t get me wrong; I love good food. But the reason I write recipes here day after day is so that you can have the same community with your people. The food is merely the calling card that makes people want to come in. Good food is the ploy that mothers and fathers all over the world use to pull their chickens in to roost for a little while. It’s the vehicle by which good communication happens and relationships are strengthened. I’m convinced that time around the table with people who are wise and godly can guide our children and ourselves to heal the world.

The table is the place that ideas, though possibly opposing ones, are discussed civilly and with respect. It is the place where children learn that parents are a wise authority who have answers to many of life’s questions, answers learned from years of experience. It is the place where generations can build bridges, where grandparents see that all teenagers aren’t irresponsible and teenagers see that the ideas of their grandparents are still quite relevant. The table is the place where friends who have broken home lives can come and rest and experience stability and see that their voice is important and heard, their sorrows carried for a while. And the table is a place of celebration, first out of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, and secondly for the joys of life.

If your table isn’t what you want it to be, what changes would you make? If your table is a place where love abounds, would you practice true Christian hospitality and invite others into that space on occasion so that they, too, can benefit from time there?

Modesty: What Our Daughters Need to Know

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I wrote this post on modesty last year, and it remains one of my most popular posts. I think the reason it resonates with so many of you is because you are raising daughters, and you want the same things for them that I do for my own girls. We want our daughters to know that their value comes from the fact that they are children of God and not from the approval they receive from others. If you are raising daughters or have already been there and done that, I’d love to hear your comments. What did you do right and what do you wish you’d done differently?

Grandaddy Mills’s Vegetable Soup

Living in Alabama, you never really know what you’re going to get when it comes to weather. Night before last, Jonathan and I moved the girls to the basement for the night because we were expecting tornadic weather in the night. After three rounds of thunderstorms that produced multiple tornadoes (none of which came too close to us), we were in the clear for a little while. We were expecting more storms yesterday afternoon, but they never really materialized. We went to bed last night breathing a huge sigh of relief and thanking God for His protection over us. We awoke this morning to reports that the Alabama Gulf Coast, along with parts of the Florida panhandle, were flooded. I checked immediately with my parents, who live in Orange Beach, and sure enough, they had 18″ of water in their house.

flood

A picture like that is enough to make most people sick to their stomach, but my parents are some of the most positive people I know. They’ve been through flooding before. They have cleaned up and rebuilt and redecorated. My dad’s comment about last night’s damage was, “It’s just stuff.” Mom’s reaction was to pray for the safety of their friends and neighbors and the people involved in the clean up process. She is also praising God that He will work it all together for good. Make no mistake, they aren’t super humans who aren’t disappointed and overwhelmed at the prospect of cleaning up that mess. They just choose to have a good attitude about it. I wish I could make them a big pot of soup to make it all better.

When I was a little girl, my Grandaddy Mills did a lot of the cooking at my grandparents’ home. Whenever we’d visit them, he’d always make a big pot of vegetable soup. Their home was a place of comfort and belonging. It was a place where my brothers and I could run like wild banshees through their huge yard or sit for hours on their front porch swings. And since we southerners connect all of our life experiences with food, his vegetable soup became a symbol of warmth, comfort, and the sense that all was right with the world. Since I can’t get to Orange Beach to bring soup and help clean up my parents’ house, I’ll share my Grandaddy Mills’s Vegetable Soup with you all. I hope that when you make it, it will bring the same sense of peace to you.

vegetable soup

This is a soup that we make a little differently every time we make it. Because we usually use what we have on hand, the veggies are always a little different and sometimes the meat is, too. I usually leave out the okra, but I always add corn and butter beans. I didn’t have celery this time, and the soup was delicious without it. I used leftover ham from Easter instead of hamburger meat, and it was delicious. Leftover roast is also a good addition. I’ll give you the recipe, but know that you can change it up any way you think your family will like it best. How do you do your vegetable soup?

Grandaddy Mills's Vegetable Soup
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Cook Time
2 hr
Cook Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound hamburger meat, browned
  2. 1 can diced tomatoes
  3. 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  4. 1 quart chicken stock
  5. 1 can butter beans
  6. 1 cup sliced okra
  7. 1 medium onion, chopped
  8. 3 stalks celery, chopped fine
  9. 5 buttons garlic, chopped fine
  10. 3 carrots, chopped
  11. 2 medium potatoes, diced
  12. 2 cups cabbage, chopped
  13. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  14. 5 tablespoons red cooking wine
  15. 1/3 cup sugar
  16. salt to taste
  17. 1 tablespoon black pepper
  18. 1 tablespoon Tabasco pepper sauce
Instructions
  1. Brown and drain hamburger meat. Return to pan with onions, celery, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and spices. Cover and let simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary.
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Gap Year Experiences

There’s a new-to-me phenomenon in education that I’m all shook up over (in a good way). I’m seeing more and more that high school seniors are taking a “gap year” between high school graduation and college to travel and/or work abroad. I couldn’t be more in love with this idea. The majority of students who take advantage of a gap year experience report that the two main reasons they do so are burnout from the competitive pressures of high school and the desire to find out more about themselves. When I was a high school senior, this wasn’t really a socially accepted or parent accepted notion. You went straight from high school to college, and that’s just what you did. Looking back, I think so many kids could have benefitted from a year off to figure out where they want to go in life and what they want to do with their time for the long haul.

The American Gap Association (Who knew there was such an organization, right?) reports that the three highest rated outcomes of a gap year are:

  • Gaining “a better sense of who I am as a person and what is important to me”
  •  Giving students “a better understanding of other countries, people, cultures, and ways of living” 
  • Providing students with “additional skills and knowledge that contributed to my career or academic major”

Missionary and blogger Seth Barnes says that sending his two oldest children on World Race’s gap year experience is “one of the best things we ever did to help them lead full lives and make their faith their own.” He says further, “(A gap year) introduces you to the person that God wants you to be. You’ll learn how God wants to use that to live the life he created you for.”

My friend Melissa, whose beautiful 18 year old daughter Meredith is also participating in the World Race Gap Year program says, “I personally feel that traveling to other cultures cannot be substituted with the class room. Young people need to see that the way we live is not the only way; the way we worship is not the only way. We tend to want to stay in our bubble and not venture out, but that is not Biblical, and to me, tends to make a person even more self-centered instead of other-centered. Meredith has seen unspeakable evil, but she has also seen incredible joy in hardships (like the typhoon-ravaged Tacloban, and people who praise God for what little they have while living in squalor). You cannot duplicate that experience just going straight to college.” Meredith’s gap year experience has taken her to three countries in nine months to work with people in poverty. She’s been to Honduras, the Philippines, and Botswana.

The American Gap Association reports that students participating in a gap year experience gain a better ability to focus on academics once they returned to college. “Taking a 1-year break between high school and university allows motivation for and interest in study to be renewed.” Not only do students do well in school, but they also fare better after graduation. Students who participate in a gap year experience are overwhelmingly more satisfied with their careers after college. Upon further questioning, participants explained that by participating in a gap year in which they saw more of the world and the problems people face, their focus became less self-centered and more others-centered. As a result, the careers they chose were ones that brought great satisfaction because they were more geared toward serving other people.

Are there risks to taking a gap year? Of course. My friend Melissa says about her daughter, “The biggest risk to me is that the student may not wish to pursue higher ed afterward. But that is with my mama hat on, and my fear of the unknown future. Of course, I think that Meredith needs an education so that she has skills to offer on the mission field when she returns. That is not necessarily God’s path for her, however.”

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Have you or your children taken a gap year? If so, what was your experience like? Benefits or risks? Share!

Food and Fellowship

I recently downloaded Shauna Niequist’s new book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. I’d heard Shauna’s name in Christian circles, particularly as a conference speaker, but I’d never really read any of her writing. However, the other day I came across a podcast by Tsh Oxenreider in which she interviewed Shauna, and I was so struck by her use of food as a vehicle for friendship and grace and love that I wanted to hear more. I love it that her “thing” that she uses to connect with God is food and gathering people around her table. She says,” My friend Nancy is a nature person. To know her is to know that the created world — mountains, wildflowers, sunshine — is the tie that binds her to God, that demonstrates His presence to her in the deepest ways. For my dad, it’s the water. The sounds and smells and rituals of life on the water bind him to GOd in ways that nothing else does. For my husband, Aaron, it’s music. And for me, it’s the table.

“What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and Spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table. I believe it’s the way I was made, and I believe it matters. For many years, I didn’t let it matter, for a whole constellation of reasons, but part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what you really love.”

I’m still reading the book, so I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on that later, but one of the questions Tsh asked had to do with what I consider genuine biblical hospitality, that virtue that welcomes people into your home and your life though you might not be prepared or have everything perfect. The question that Tsh asked was, “If someone stopped by your home unexpectedly just before dinner, and you just had to pull things from your pantry that you had on hand, what would you serve while you pulled together a dinner?”

Shauna’s answer surprised me because many of the things she’d consider an adequate offering are thing I usually have on hand, too. Her list included a tray of grapes, cheeses, crackers, cashews, fig jam, dark chocolate, and a bottle of wine.

Appetizer tray

The tray I put out for my family earlier in the day included crackers, cheeses (white cheddar and lightning jack), grapes, mandarin oranges, Conecuh sausage (which I usually have on hand in the fridge), BBQ sauce, cashews, and raspberry fruit spread. If we are serving guests, I will sometimes also include kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, chicken salad, or hummus and chips.

It’s not the food that matters as much as the gathering of hearts and minds and connecting with each other in a way that advances the gospel and shares the love of Christ. It’s about encouraging and being encouraged. But the food is the vehicle that we gather around, as Jesus often gathered with His followers over fish and bread.

When entertaining friends and family, what would you offer to them as an appetizer? What foods do you use to gather your people together? And what are your thoughts on true, biblical hospitality?