Why I Continue to Invite: Loving the Imperfect Welcome {Guest Post and Giveaway!}

We've had the honor of knowing Sue Moore Donaldson for a few years now and love the simple way she offers encouragement and easy ways to show God's love through hospitality and mentoring! Sue is nothing if not honest and real about how she chooses to share the love and hospitality of God (however imperfectly) with others. We know you're going to love her and her wisdom as much as we do. (We're also giving away a copy of her book Hospitality 101: Lessons From the Ultimate Host A 12-Week Bible Study! See details at the end of this post!)

Because God welcomed me perfectly, shouldn’t I welcome others perfectly?

That doesn't happen. Ever.

I've learned to love the imperfect welcome. With me, it's the only kind, yet God kindly uses imperfect offerings--culinary fails, awkward conversations, and a house with mice and no walls. In spite of my messy self, God does sweet wonders for those extra people at my table. So I keep inviting, anyway. Cooking and hosting, imperfectly--and I love it.

The Bully in the Mirror

"Be nice to my friend; I love her."

My text message zinged off in response to my sweet friend's texted lament one early morning.

She was frustrated; berating herself for grieving the loss of a pregnancy, determined that she should be "over it," and wanting desperately to feel only happiness for those pregnant around her instead of this mixed up mess of simultaneous grief and joy.

She is a woman filled to the tippy-top with mercy and grace for those around her, and yet, on this hard morning, the voices in her head were being undeniably cruel.

And my gentle response was to push back on her inner bully, reminding her that life almost always is a kaleidoscope of grief, joy, fear, courage, and everything in between, and that there is no shame in quietly mourning while also outwardly celebrating.

She is not alone in allowing her inner voice to speak with viciousness. I'm guilty. My best girlfriends are guilty. Every woman I've ever met, if we've had a chance to sit and quietly share our life's story, has confessed her inner bully.


10 Books that Teach Kids Kindness

"Did you know that everybody has a bucket, Mom?"

The question came out of nowhere. Still rubbing the sleep and early-morning confusion from my eyes, I huddled back into the warmth of my comforter and turned toward the daughter who had just climbed into bed with me. Looking intently at me--her adult teeth still a little too big for her, the sprinkle of freckles across her nose inviting a smooch, her hair in a wild bedhead tangle--she tried again.

"Everybody has a bucket, and you're either a filler or a dipper."

Ah, now it was starting to make sense. She was talking about Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids (Bucketfilling Books) by Carol McCloud. In it, the author describes how everyone has an invisible bucket, and that we have the choice to fill other people's through being kind and loving or to "dip" into them by being unkind.

The concept is easy for kids to grasp, and it's been a topic of conversation here since that morning that my daughter asked me if I'd read it. After school that day, she asked if I had remembered to be a filler that day and couldn't wait to tell me what she, in turn, had done. "Did you fill a bucket today? I did! I smiled at everyone, and I hugged Jaicie."

I'm a huge book nerd, and my children have started to become that way too. A few months ago, I joined an online community called The Intentional Book Club, and it's been a catalyst for me to go through the hundreds of books we have around our home and analyze whether they're in our home for a reason or simply taking up space. Because kindness is something we want to emphasize, I've been reading through books we owned or borrowed from the library to see if they are worthy of a spot on the bookshelf. With that in mind, I thought I'd share 10 of the books that teach kindness that are kid-approved and mom-approved by our family, in the hope that they might help your family, as well.

Why I Don't Tell My Kids to Be Nice

Crunch crunch, smack. Like nails on a chalkboard, I could hear the open-mouthed chewing of one of my children from across the room.

Chew with your mouth closed, please, I admonished her. As the evening wore on, other mannerisms arose: Please. Thank you. Excuse me. May I? I’m sorry. But the one admonishment that never crossed my lips? Be nice to your sister.

It’s not because I have exceptionally well-behaved children. They are just as likely to tattle because one sister threw a book at the other as they are to be amicably playing Polly Pockets together.

It’s also not because I don’t care about manners—a quick scan of social media is enough of a testimony to how we could all use a little more civility.

But the truth is, I don’t want an outwardly careful response to mask an inwardly careless heart.

Ignoring My Mom's Advice {Podcast and Giveaway!}

"Can I hug you?" She asked excitedly as she practically vibrated with happiness.

I eyed-balled the New York City native warily, considering, once again, how wrong I was in my perception of New Yorkers before giving her a hug. I'd helped her out, but my small kindness didn't warrant hugging a complete stranger, even by Minnesota Nice standards. And she was just the tip of the ice berg when it came to New Yorkers and unexpected kindness.  

Our family trip to New York City was filled with misadventures of over-the-top kindness in ways that made me laugh even as I began to rethink all the stereotypes of New Yorkers I've clung to over the years. 

But it wasn't until I was rather sadly descending the steps to St. Paul's Cathedral, having discovered it's massive wooden doors locked up tight, that I discovered that ignoring my mom's usually sound advice was one of the best decisions I made on that trip, opening us up to the kindest of all the kind acts we encountered in the Big Apple.  

When Anger Overwhelms Us

We had a conversation several weeks ago with one of our kids who is struggling with anger, specifically towards God. It’s understandable, since three of our five kids are adopted from foster care, and came to us with lives they’ve lived without us, unknown and unshared. We know this on one level, and yet as parents it can be so easy to forget.

The anger came out as a comment during a recent discussion. It was spoken offhand, as though daring to share it aloud meant fully committing to this truth, looking for a bad reaction from us. Instead my husband and I sat with the statement, unwilling to scold or judge. After a few moments I whispered, I can understand why you’d feel this way.

Anger can be a natural reaction to things that happen to us or to the people we love. When hard questions about life and why things have to happen the way they do go unanswered, often anger is there running right alongside the longing for why couldn’t things have been different. All too often, no one dares to ask that question aloud, but it whispers to us in the hollow of night, with no response back. It’s heartbreaking to not have answers for our kids. Especially answers that could soothe their heartache.

We’ve realized, as we see it play out before us, that anger is also a way to hide or to not feel the emotions that are buried deep below the surface. Anger is a way to ignore the pain and hurt. And I understand this, too. I—like my children, like all of us—am adverse to feeling pain and conjuring up old hurts I’d rather not remember. I'd much prefer to forget. And yet, left alone and unchecked, anger can destroy us from the inside out. A cancer to our hearts, minds, and very souls, left to fester it will eat away at our joy, our peace, our very lives. Anger, when allowed to grow, can easily turn to hate—hate of self, of others, and of God.