Snowflake Stocking Holders, Scotch Tape, and Uncooked Appetizers

 

Can we just get real about parties? I’m so bad at them. I love gathering with people. I love warm and cozy homes. I love good food. But sometimes, as in most of my waking life, I do not have it together enough to host these kinds of events. Because I’m a pastor’s wife, it’s probably assumed that I have an innate gift for hosting. I don’t. I really, really don’t. I’m really good at buying dinner rolls and putting them in my own basket and showing up at someone else’s dinner party.

I co-own a small home décor boutique so people assume my own house is put together. It’s not. Any energy and time I have is devoted to my husband, my son, my friends, and my shop. Last year, two of our Christmas stockings hung from gaudy snowflake hooks. One was broken; like the giant snowflake snapped in half and I still hung that sucker on the mantel. The icing on the cake? I had no third hook for our newborn son so his stocking hung from scotch tape. It’s true.

This doesn’t even come close to competing with the year before. Patrick and I were asked to host the first stop of the progressive dinner for church board members. They would leave our house and head to another pastor’s house where everything was perfectly in place. It is a rare gift to present perfect meals and make guests feel at home, but they do it with such ease. Knowing that our guests would be leaving our house and heading there makes this story that much better.

We had recently opened the shop and I was working full time. Taking off work just wasn’t an option, so I left my husband in charge (the one that usually counts on me to do creative and pretty things).

I left recipes and instructions and Patrick took the afternoon off to prepare for eleven board members and their spouses. This was still our newlywed phase when I had next to no legitimate, grown-up, home décor. I had an obnoxious table runner from the clearance section at Meijer to throw on the middle of our Ikea table, and that was about the extent of my Christmas cheer. I laid out bowls for Patrick because he’ll be the first to tell you that bags of chips are perfectly acceptable serving ware.

I arrived home from work twenty-three minutes before the dinner began. The stars really aligned for me that night, friends.

Patrick did an amazing job. He utilized every recipe and vague instruction I left. He even did the dishes as he cooked, unlike the other person living in the house who uses seventeen bowls, eighteen spatulas, five spoons, and a band saw when she bakes cookies (see: Ashley Cooper).

When guests arrived, Patrick greeted them while I tried to finish up last minute details in the kitchen. The kitchen and living room are divided by a wall so no one could see my flushed face as I raced back and forth from the oven to table. By this time, the living room was packed. For seating, we had an inconveniently designed couch, oversized ottoman, and foldout chair from my college dorm. I asked Patrick to stall by giving instructions on the appetizer-style meal.

“…And in the other crockpot, you’ll find bacon-wrapped sausages… try to eat the ones that are cooked,” he confidently announced.

He actually said that…to people…with ears. You guys. I died. I did a dramatic soap opera faint against the refrigerator because I knew no one could see me. Try to what now? We were now all involved in an involuntary game of Russian Roulette. I had visions of board members in hospital beds sick with salmonella. If I had been a guest at this shindig I would have quietly found my coat and hightailed it out of there while the lining of my stomach was still intact. Instead, our guests were gracious. They were kind and understanding and complimented our tacky décor and even our food. They thanked us for our ministry. And best of all, I got to leave my house about an hour later and enjoy two hours of carefree fellowship at the other pastor’s house, eating the most adorable individual mousse desserts I’ve ever seen.

While I think we’ll all agree that heart is more important than hosting abilities, I’m working on entertaining guests, one stocking holder and completely cooked appetizer at a time.

 

Ashley Cooper lives in West Michigan with her husband, Patrick, and their son, Maddox. She spends most of her time proving to be the poster child for the INFP personality type: founding multiple businesses in mere minutes and accepting Oscars, all via daydreams. She craves and values deep human connection while tiring easily from too much of said interaction. Her love languages are coffee, chocolate, and kind words. Ashley grew up in the church and has never known her life without Jesus. But it’s in the recent years that she’s discovered the value of the Church and what it means to live a life of relational ministry. Learn more about Ashley at harrisandwillow.com.

Have Yourselves an Intentional Little Christmas

 

Cookies, carols, and chaos…these are the sounds, smells and reality of Christmas in our little ministry family this time of year! I don’t know about you but I find myself thinking, “December needs about 6 weeks in it instead of 4!” as we try to squeeze in one more church service, event or holiday party. For many of us the stress of impending family celebrations may also be looming over our heads. Do you travel many miles to be home with family over holidays? Do they come to you so you’re frantically trying to visualize room for one more air mattress while simultaneously trying to practice choreography for the Children’s Musical? All of these things, while great on their own, can compound into one big ball of stress. How do you decompress? Do you lay in a coma on the couch after the Christmas Eve service? Maybe you hibernate until January 1st? Or, perhaps you have young children so there is no rest for the weary and you will trudge on until the next scheduled nap or bedtime. Whatever your present reality is, let me encourage you. We’re in this together. We see you. We understand your feelings. We can empathize with the wondering if that special relative will give you a hard time for not coming to the family Christmas until after all the church services have ended.  We get you!

As a couple, my husband and I don’t have it all figured out yet. I won’t likely ever feel confident in this balancing act. Instead, we have tried to be intentional with making our own special memories each year around this season. We’ve moved several times. These traditions have been carried out regardless of our zip code. Here are a few things that we try to do.

Christmas Music – We sing it, and we play it as much as we can! There are so many renditions of the same songs but we always find our favorite artists for that particular year and play them until we could probably cut our own album!

Sweet Treats – My kids love it when the sign-up sheet for the class holiday party comes home. They’ve practically written down that their momma will bring the sweet treat before they’ve shown me the paper. Their faces are so expectant. The thought that they are almost too old to be excited for this makes me check that box and sign my name. It’s really a small thing to commit to when I think about how special it is to them. If you have kids and baking isn’t your thing, sign up for the festive napkins and plates. Dollar Tree is your friend. Find out in November how many are in their classes and buy them as soon as they show up in the store. Their little school party can be made special even if you really just want school to be over.

Christmas Tree Time Lapse – We have a fake tree! I said it. Let your judgements fall. For us, the fake tree saves our sanity every year. We can decorate during Thanksgiving break and actually enjoy our tree for the entire crazy month of December. We take it a step further than merely decorating said tree. My brilliant husband and his techy creativity has taken the chore of tree set up to an anticipated event in our house. The man sets up a camera and records a time lapse of our entire decorating experience. Each year, time is spent editing the footage into a fun little video that we can share with family and friends. We started this tradition on our daughter’s first Christmas. She is 11 years old now. Family members many miles away can watch and feel like they are in the living room with us. Our kids love to watch all of the past years together to see how they have grown and how our houses (mostly parsonages) have changed. We sit around the screen and laugh and remember. The last few minutes of every video will find us circling the tree and praying together as a family. Those are my favorite spots to pause on. We pray for us as a family. We thank the Lord for His evident hand in our lives. We pray for renewed strength to trust in Him for our every need. These moments are so special.

We are called to a different life. We are THAT family. We don’t have to apologize for it nor should we have to defend it. I have learned that I have to own it. We are a team. We GET to have a front row seat to watching Jesus intercede in others’ lives! We might even get to hand off that envelope to a needy family because the generous benefactor didn’t want their name attached.

What do you GET to do because of ministry life?

How have you been intentional with your family during the holidays?

Enjoy our latest time lapse here and may you and yours have a very special Christmas! Minute 3:15 is where I hit pause!

 

Jessica Sheets is a lover of Jesus and a former elementary teacher turned SAHM who can be found spontaneously bursting into song while scaling Mt. Laundry or baking for the next life group. She laughs every day thanks to her favorite individual, her husband Stevan, and her wonderful kids, Ella (10 yrs) and Ezra (7 yrs). Jess has been a pastor’s wife for 12 years and is usually the first to laugh (or turn beet red) during a sermon jest. She knew when she was 12 that the Lord was calling her to marry a pastor someday but had no idea what that really meant! She’s still learning along with Stevan as they navigate this adventure of ministry.