For When Your House Has Issues

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I suspect my house might be like a lot of houses – its smaller, its older, its needy.

It has issues.

And such a range and variety of them.

Long term issues, short term issues and everything in between issues.

There’s the undone, the half done and the nearly done. Things that are broken, things that are worn out and things that need more time, dollars  and skill than we have at hand right now. And theres only so much you can do in one day.

There are maybe 100 items on my to do list. 200 if I get picky.

We have exterior trim with two different colour schemes going on – the old one and the new one because I’ve only painted the bit that I can reach and Ken s ladders are all out on loan. A garden thats gone mad – (but I kind of like it that way, all wild and free). Only half the kitchen is renovated. Our “big” room at the back is only three quarters painted (long story), a strip of the cornicing needs replacing because the Cockatiel ate it and there is a water mark on the ceiling left over from a now fixed leak. Every other room needs something done. I think we need new guttering and like we don’t have enough going on we have a dark and suspicious looking stain in the bottom of the toilet that no amount of double gloved scrubbing with bleach, lime scale remover, Jiff or bicarb soda has budged. Our covered deck out back leaks buckets when it rains and reaches maybe 50,000 degrees when the afternoon sun hits it in the summer. Every window in the house could use a new fly screen, there are tiles on the front deck that need new grout and the balustrade always seems to need oiling.

And because things wear out and come loose and fall off as soon as I get one thing ticked off that list theres a couple more that get added.

– – – we’re a work in progress

So what do you do when your house has issues and theres no makeover team arriving from the Lifestyle Channel to fix it all up in three days .

What do you do when your to do list is very long but everything else seems short.

Heres one thing you can do.

Throw a party, put on a BBQ, invite a few friends for dinner, host a small group or invite all the ladies from church over for an end of year celebration.

Because I don’t want a “to do” list to dictate how I live in this house today.

Because my home and I suspect yours too is always gonna have issues of some sort or another – but that doesn’t stop it from serving me well today. It doesn’t stop it being a warm and welcoming place for friends and family to gather in now.

A few weeds doesnt ruin the bloom

See if I only focus on what’s not done I might forget all the things that we have done. If I only focus on its limitations I might overlook all the things my little house has to offer. A nice big outdoor area perfect for a few people to gather, an open plan lay out and a lovely wide kitchen bench perfect for spreading out afternoon tea amongst other things.

 

 

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Today after a Tuesday morning 20 minute speed clean.

Because if I wait till every thing is done and finished and sorted before I invite someone over I’d never have another visitor in my house – – – – and then I miss out – on the fun and the shared food and the laughs and the Scrabble games and the story telling and the heart connections.

Because none of it really matters. Not the to do list, not the undone, or half done or nearly done. What matters are people. If I miss out on people then I’m missing out on the best bits. People aren’t always easy, but there the best bits and they’re worth it.

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And here’s the angle I might not normally show you with ceiling damage and other lumps and bumps on show

After writing this post I worked out – that like me – my homes purpose isn’t to impress or compete – – my homes purpose is to embrace. That’s made inviting people in easier.  So I’ve been putting my welcome mat where my mouth is and throwing the door open more often and with much less stress than I once did. We  have our friday night women connect group at my place every second week – and I’ll just let you know Friday nights is not the night when we are all prettied up and ready to shine but it does mean I vacuum at least once a fortnight and – that time together with like minds, to connect and gather our thoughts and recharge a little after a busy week is like gold.  I said yes as well (with a gulp) when it was suggested it might be nice to have our ladies year end celebration at someones home.

So if your home is like mine and is not what would be described as an entertainers delight, if it has issues and is a bit askew and awry – well relax – your in good company. Here’s a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over after having my  “ladies afternoon tea party” that might help you  open your doors more often and not give yourself a heart attack in the process.

Hospitality – it’s not about you!

 We get thingy about our homes  and what they might say to people about us .  But – – – what if its more important what our homes  say to our guests about them. Things like – “your important to me”, “I’m glad your here”, “you can be yourself here”, “relax and take a load off” “your safe here”  – my house can do that with all its lumps and bumps and imperfections and things not done and waiting to be done – just as well as without. That starts with me.

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Focus on your homes strengths not on its weaknesses.

I know its easier said than done but all of our homes, if we stop and take notice, have more going for them than we think. Why not focus on that. While my house is small, the open plan layout at the back with doors onto the deck make it feel more open and roomy than what it is –  that’s one of the things it has going for it and  thats what made me say yes to a whole bunch of ladies coming over for the afternoon.

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Yes you have to walk through my incy lounge room  to get to it but I try and make it worth the trip. Do I let this nice open area right off my kitchen go to seed because of all the things that fall short or aren’t up to scratch. Seems a waste to me. The thing is when we are all there  talking and drinking coffee and eating food no ones worried too much about the paint work or the cornice that’s missing or anything else  – except the people they are with. The best way to detract from what’s wrong is to focus on whats right.

One of the things I find myself saying a lot  is – “it is what it is”.  It may not always be that way, it may be on its way to something else, but for now “it is what it is”. So I’m less inclined these days to  be trying to cover up all the dodgy bits (within reason) for the purposes of making a good impression. Here’s an example –  to get to the bathroom when we were all here for afternoon tea, my guests had to walk right on past the end part of my family room that is the catch all/ junk pile/waiting to be sorted out end. While I made sure no one was going to trip over anything there was no tying a bow on it, there was no trying to  pretty it up or disguising it by throwing a sheet over.

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I did say it wasn’t pretty. There  is music equipment, a lizard cage, tools, art supplies, storage containers, guitars, two holes in the roof waiting for down lights, damaged cornice, a sample of green paint on the door?! and toys the kids can’t bear to part with right now!!!

I’ve big plans for this little area and its better than what it was –  but right now “it is what it is” – I think we are all grown up enough to know that we all have messes and things in progress in our homes – do we need  to cover it all up in order to look good? Another thing I’ve learnt is to not be  apologising and drawing attention to all my homes faults and failures . This tends to put the focus squarely back on me and not on the lovely people I’ve  invited in. It’s quite a rude thing to do in fact, forcing people to acknowledge and reassure me that “no no it looks fine”.

Its worth remembering this – your homes greatest strength – the thing it really has going for it – – – – is YOU !!

Focus on why you have invited guests to your home in the first place?

When you  have people coming – ask yourself “what for”, and I don’t mean in a pull your hair out, wish I’d never done this kind of way. Having a clear idea of the purpose of your visitors coming will help you to know whats important to do and what isn’t. We want to make an effort but we want to make it in the right places. The whole idea of all the church ladies converging on my place was to have a relaxing fun afternoon tea where everyone could take a moment and enjoy a breather – a pre christmas reprieve. The key word was relax. The runner up was fun. For that I didn’t need to re tile the roof or repaint the lounge room or  even obsess over whether all the cups matched.

What I did feel I needed to focus on was :

1. Having plenty of cosy comfortable seating pulled around into circles and arranged in a way so it was easy to sit and talk . A place to put a glass and your coffee cup and your plate. Room to relax and enjoy.

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2. Having plenty to eat and drink  – for me I like plenty of everything food and drink wise and I also like to have it all ready and organised beforehand. I don’t want to be distracted or my visitors  distracted by trying to find enough coffee cups and dessert plates and glasses and running back and forward to the fridge to get milk and waters etc etc – thats not relaxing for anyone. No one wants to do that. So that’s worth spending my time on before hand. I made sure I had everything we needed – glasses, cups, plates, serviettes, drinks , eats, laid out and within easy reach so everyone could  easily dig in and enjoy and get down to the relaxing and having fun part. Make it easy for guests to do what they came to your home to do.

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3. Having things clean and fresh  – for something like this I want my house more on the  clean and fresh side than on the messy side and so do most people – not pristine, not spotless because I can’t seem to do that – but we all know too messy can be a distraction and is anything but relaxing. So yes I pushed myself a bit to get everything nice because I like things that way.  Everyone has a different idea of clean though so don’t kill yourself trying to clean to someones else’s standards – you’ll never get there. It’s your home, its OK to be you.

 

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My priorities are always a welcoming entrance – the front steps swept and some nice greenery near the door. Clean fresh “amenities” (well as clean as it could get) and plenty of soap and hand towels.  I like my kitchen bench which is basically the heart of the house cleaned right down and set up nice for eating and drinking. I like the floors swept and anything that might stop people from moving around freely tucked away.

My best advice – focus on the areas you will be using. Just do what you can and –  what you can’t do probably doesn’t need doing anyway. I’d say none of us are in any danger of this but I’ll mention it anyway. While not having everything perfect is no crime – not making any effort at all definitely is. What I don’t want my home to say is “couldnt be bothered”or worse still “your not that important”. It takes so much less than what we think to make people welcome and comfortable in our homes. The very simplest of things say welcome – the table set, the kettle on, a candle lit, a good listening ear. Small things that speak volumes.

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4. Having some fun –  I don’t do “life of the party” – that’s someone else’s job. She turned up  about half an hour in and had everyone in stitches God bless her – I left her to it. My plan for fun was game of trivia with a few good interesting questions  – that worked as well.

Do Your Thing

You know the thing you love doing. My thing is making things look all cosy and comfy and inviting because my other thing is making sure people are looked after and are comfortable enough to relax and be themselves. That’s when the conversations get interesting. That’s where hearts are knit.  I know I probably go a bit overboard with the cozy comfort pretty factor but for me this is the fun bit. What keeps it fun is not over thinking it. For this I didn’t consult Pinterest or create a theme. I didn’t plan out the decor because this was afternoon tea not the Royal wedding  and  I much prefer just working with what I have. My go to quote when it comes to decorating (or doing anything really) is:

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.  Arthur Ashe

I started with my imperfect house and a back deck with issues where we were all going to get wet if it rained and fry in the afternoon sun if it was hot. It wasnt either – we had a cool dry day – blessings!!.

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Use what you have – I strung the bunting and used the flowers I had left from doing this  wedding. I pulled out all the candle holders and tea lights I could find and used all the throws and rugs and cushions I had around the house. I cut some greenery from the garden and moved my dining table out onto the back deck which I sometimes do in the summer and I used the whole event as a good excuse to hang some fairy lights that I’d been holding off on hanging till my deck area was all finished and complete!?! Oh I had fun. I did all of that because that’s my thing. Was it strictly necessary – not really but for me its part of making people feel welcome and important and honoured and that for me is a priority.

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Decorating may not be your thing – it might be the food or the entertainment or good conversation or getting everyone involved in an activity of some sort – karioke, line dancing, whatever – – – – but whatever it is just do your thing the best way you can to bless the people you’ve invited. Don’t try and do it all – don’t try and do whats not you. Cooking up trays of afternoon tea delights is very definitely not my thing so I arranged for everyone to  bring something along AND I got someone else to organise that as well. Enlist some help , phone a friend, let others do their thing and forget trying to do it all.

The end result of our afternoon tea party – we ate, we drank, we relaxed , we had fun – mission accomplished.

“our cup was sweet, our words were long, the day was warm and faith was strong” 

And all those issues my home has – really weren’t an issue.

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“Let’s trade in all our judging for appreciating. Let’s lay down our righteousness and just be together.” Ram Dass

Love to you today and blessing from my imperfect home to yours.

Tracey xx

Are you on Instagram? – well being the slow and steady type that I am, I have only just joined after all this time. Quite appropriately I mostly post photos of small projects and progress we are making around the house here. Come join me. Find me here or just click on the image on the right and let’s catch up. If you like feel free to leave your instagram user name in the comments so I can come say hi .

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Summer Holiday Road Trip

Each time for the first time. Each moment the only moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Would it be alright if I just shared some photos and thoughts with you today from our most recent adventure.

Now I’ll warn you  –  the thoughts may be brief but the photos are many!!

I’ll set the scene

One Kia Grand Carnival,  two mammas,  five kiddos with maybe a dozen electronic devices between them and  – – – seven hours on the open road to get to  my sisters house in central NSW.

Let’s call it a road trip – although officially it probably doesn’t qualify.

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www.waterintowineblog.comNow this photo I had to source  as I wasnt quick enough with my camera – it was a huge excitement though because this was the first time ever that I’ve seen  a whole mob of Kangaroo in the wild – or the bush as we like to call it – I’ve seen the odd one or two at a time but never a whole mob – there were maybe 40 of them and right next to the road – amazing.

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So we very gratefully arrived late in the evening at my sister Jen’s house and it just so happens it’s one of the comfiest little houses you could ever hope to find yourself in for a few days and I couldn’t stop taking photos.

Her home is a riot inside of vibrant colours yet it has this very relaxed and inviting “ come on in and stop a while” feel about it. Walking in you cant help but exhale and sink very gratefully into the closest comfy chair (or maybe that was relief of having survived a seven hour drive with 5 children – who knows).

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What I know from many a conversation I’ve had with my sister  is that she’s been very intentional over the last couple of years about how she wants her home to look and feel.

The main things she’s concentrated on are:

1. Having less stuff in her home – I’d say with persistent decluttering she’s reduced what she owns by about half. You can now see the bones and detailing of the house and appreciate the high ceilings and spacious open rooms and you can appreciate all the finer detail in pictures and soft furnishings because there is less.

2. Introducing fresh vibrant colour’s that she loves and is inspired by through out the house. She has changed the wall colour in the main areas from a pale cottagey green to a fresh clean creamy white that works to bounce the light around and acts as a perfect back drop to all the colour she loves.

3.  Making her home more functional and comfortable both for herself and for her visitors. So there is now  plenty of comfortable seating and separate areas dedicated to different purposes. A TV watching area, a crafting and sewing room, a reading area and the one I took most advantage of – a sitting and talking and drinking coffee area where everyone has a decent seat. So now I’m going to give a very honourable mention to the three seater leather lounge in her front room where two out of the three lounge seats are full recliners operated electronically if you don’t mind with the push of a button. Of course as you recline the footrest rises up to support and cushion your legs just where you need it and there are two more single lounge chairs that do exactly the same. That’s four recliners in one space. Really – need I say more except it makes conversations long and leaving hard.

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Here Jen has used old wooden clothes stands hung on her craft room doors to display some of her patchwork fabric. Too clever!!

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Jen’s intentionality has been rewarded with a home that truly reflects her I think. Her innate creativeness and her relentless drive to make a difference and show the  love of God to people is reflected in all the fresh life giving colour – a pushing back of the darkness, a showing up, a not giving in. Her home and heart tell that story.  Her home is a haven for many a weary traveller and any one needing a respite from the world for a bit and this time it was me, my best friend and the rowdy tribe of youngins we brought with us.

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Other things I really appreciated as an overnight guest was the very comfy bed although I would have quite happily slept in the recliner, the ceiling fan, the good light and reading material beside the bed, the pile of soft fresh towels in the bathroom, the stocked up coffee station and the Scrabble set ready and waiting on the dining room table.

Simple things that turned our three day stay into a truly lovely vacation.

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Now  the garden – oh my !!!  Full of old rusty things it is totally beautiful and inspiring and a lovely place to spend some time in the cool of the morning.

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And they loved getting their hands in deep with this fantastic craft activity that Aunty Jen had up her sleeve. You can find images and easy  tutorials for Sharpie T-Shirts here if you want to try it.

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And with the 43 degree heat (approx 109 F)  we were all  incredibly impressed with the local swimming pool.  Summer heat and water and nowhere else to be spelt a good time for all.  The kids were unstoppable and the best bit, the ipods, ipads and iphones didn’t get a look in. At last!!

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Seems running and jumping and climbing and splashing and pushing  and  shrieking madly for no good reason haven’t lost there magic after all.

In the dew of little things the heart finds it’s morning and is refreshed. Kajlil Gibran 

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So here’s to my lovely sister,  a generous and thoughtful host and an all round inspiration to me and many. By way of a very brief bio Jenny lives in Condobolin in central NSW where the works as a child and family health nurse. She sews and crafts avidly but always with a purpose in mind. In recent years she has been involved with Days For Girls an international organisation that  provides  quality sustainable washable feminine hygiene kits to girls & women that would otherwise go without. The kits enable the girls and women who receive them to not miss valuable days from their education or employment. Jenny co – ordinates  a local group  who happily and relentlessly sew, pack and send these amazingly valuable kits. To find out a more about this incredible organisation got to Days for Girls International  or Days For Girls Australia on Facebook.

So to finish off I always like to leave you with a link to something good to read. Some people have been writing genius posts while I’ve been holidaying and putting my feet up and this one’s a beauty. If your like me and get a little overwhelmed at this time of year with the  4000 things we need to be doing or not doing in 2016 in order to  be successful then here’s a post that will calm your nerves. It’s from one of my favourite bloggers Heather at Recollected Design and is full of  good simple honest advice about getting yourself on track as you head into this wonderful new year. You’ll find Five Steps to a Redesigned Life an easy and inspiring read. Just click on the title .

God Bless

Lv Tracey xx

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Simple Hospitality and Other Non Events

www.waterintowineblog.comHow sweet is it to be rounding the corner of the seasons and welcoming in the warmth and loveliness of spring. Spring – full of possibility and opportunity but the cold not quite finished with us yet either – cardigan weather I call it. Warmer in the day but still chilly at night so if you go out doors you still need something warm on, like a soft stretchy cardigan that you can pull in close around you. Still cold enough too for an outdoor fire and I’m hoping to squeeze one or two more in before the cold is gone entirely. And the garden – it’s getting ready to shine. Warmer days warm the heart and because it’s the season of change and new growth I’ve an inkling to be making room for something I’ve been holding back on for a while. Holding back, not because it’s unpleasant or difficult but because I over complicate and over think and make it hard for myself. Ever do that?

So in the spirit of the season I’m saying yes and making room for more people around my table and at my kitchen bench and maybe sitting on my verandah with their feet up, I don’t mind.  I’m making room because I know that opening my home involves opening my heart and although I struggle with that sometimes – it’s  something my heart wants  more of.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:8-9

See I have a tendency to shut the front door – literally – to close the world out and just do my own thing and that’s OK occasionally when it’s needed but – – – if I do it too much, I get insular and stuck in my ways, the house gets lonely and I do too.

Time to shake out the cobwebs.

I complicate things though – I always think everything needs to be all pristine and organised and dare I say it – perfect before I invite anyone in and if I don’t have time to do that then I tend not to bother. I’m blaming it on plain old pride and all the years of doing “events” – all the staging and arranging to make places and spaces welcoming and lovely – where everything is prepared and organised and tweaked down to the last detail and things run like clock work – I love to do an event but it’s hard work and it’s exhausting and it’s the exact opposite to what I want to be doing at home. So when I think visitors – I think “event” – and I immediately think –  not prepared and not ready.

But then my house isn’t doing what it was made for.

My home’s purpose is not to impress, it’s purpose is to embrace.

My wee little house is no staged event and it doesn’t have to be. It’s  where I lay my head and my heart and I wear pink slippers till lunch time somedays. I’ll always be making it look nice and work well if I can, I’ll always be making it warm and welcoming too because that’s what I love doing – but perfect – not even nearly.

So what if I invite  you in anyway.

It feels like a risk, it takes trust – because we think our homes tell people about who we are and  – – what if it says the wrong thing?

Yet true hospitality has nothing to do with perfect but  everything to do with opening our hearts and letting people in ready or not. Hospitality is about connecting and accepting and including and that happens heart to heart not with sparkling cutlery and scented candles. It happens when we let our guard down and  kick our shoes off. It happens when it’s about you and not about how my house looks.

Hospitality is this:

”People should leave your presence feeling better about themselves, not better about you.” Shauna Niequist

The theory’s been tested – I’ve had a few impromptu visitors just recently and you know what – the walls didn’t cave in because I wasn’t all “prepared”, they didn’t leave in horror because the house wasn’t all gussied up and sparkly, no scented candles, no home baked cookies, no “entertaining” going on, just the kids inhaling lunch and rampaging around the back yard while we drank cups of tea. My guests didn’t need perfect or organised, they needed some good conversation, a listening ear and a place to relax and take a load off for a bit. Now that I can do any old day of the week – I’m made for that.

My head might think this:

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But my heart says this:

Chosen www.waterintowineblog.com I love it when I get a chance to do this:

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 But this works just as well.

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This probably won’t happen at my place

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So even if  this crazy brain say’s hospitality is too much hard work –  my heart says – the door is open, come on in, relax, be at ease, be yourself – your welcome here and I may or may not take off the pink slippers.

I’m officially giving myself permission to NOT make an event of having people over, in fact I’ll make it a non event.

Instead of  trying to have everything perfectly organised I might  just make sure the kettles on and/or the wines open and theres a comfy place for us to sit. And  to make it easier for this stress head to open her home without too much thinking about it, heres a few very simple things I’ve done to take the pressure off. If you’ve got any more to add to the list share away below but for now I’m keeping it simple and uncomplicated.

  • Keeping my table cleaned down. My dining room table is made for people to gather and that happens more when I keep her clutter free and ready. On an average day it’ll look something like this.

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And I’ll spare you the bad days.

  • I’ve made up another stash – cups, paper plates, tomato sauce (because kids cant seem to live without it) salt and pepper, paper napkins, some cutlery, which I’ve unceremoniously (after I took a nice photo) thrown into a basket that I can grab at a moments notice when needed. That’s a whole lot of things I don’t have to think about pulling together when there are few little mouths  to feed in a hurry.

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  • And I’m keeping a few basic items for snacking on in the cupboards – yes up high away from the kids – that can be pulled out when needed. Salsa, corn chips, microwave popcorn always go down well as well as a few drinks – the rest of the food will just have to take care of itself on the day.

But  – – – if the basket is empty and my secret stash has been raided and even if my table has sewing on and papers strewn, my  door will be open and  – – – – you’ll be welcome any way.

May we remember that as long as we answer the call to give attention to others without demanding theirs in return, we are true hospitality makers. And may we relax knowing that simple is always, always enough. Kristen Strong 

Thanks so much for reading. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Tracey xx

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The Look of Love

  I wrote this post for Women Connect last week – it’s a little bit of a follow on from my last post Love is Sweet so I thought I would share it here.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

IMG_2063Love –  well its more actions than words isn’t it? And sometimes seeing love up close in action well – it’s astounding. A few weeks ago I saw love in action in a big way. It wasn’t grandiose or loud or self seeking. It was everything the opposite – a labour of love – it was people, serving and doing  and continuing to do even when they were tired and sweaty and hadn’t drunk enough coffee. People motivated purely by love and a desire to serve and be a blessing and help make something special happen.IMG_1834Love – it takes all shapes and forms and that day I saw it moving furniture around, carrying boxes, unloading cars, setting up tables, hanging lights, ironing tablecloths, arranging flowers and a hundred other things. People determined and generous in giving there time and energy and staying the course with a shared purpose in mind.  A moment and a day to come together to serve and to celebrate.

IMG_1783Hearts are knit

Friendships  are sealed

Family is forged

It was humbling and inspiring.

And I saw this.

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16 NLT

On that lovely day, as in life, there are those – thank God – who join in and run along beside you and who keep you running till your reach your destination. In fact they run ahead and show you the way when your slowing down and not sure your gonna make the finish line. And it’s not in them to bow out half way through, they stay the distance. Those ones – they save your life,  they are worth more than gold.  These are the ones I want with me when things get tough, when the rubber hits the road, when adversity comes.  They don’t go when the going gets rough, they move in closer, they do more, they stay long and I’ll be forever grateful that God has given me those kind of people in my  life.

And then there are those on the sidelines – those who cheer you on, urging you forward, handing you coffee and water and whatever else you need, offering words of encouragement and doing what they can but in fact do far more than they know.

Every part doing their part. And with this sort of unity I know we can move mountains, I know we can overcome in this life.

IMG_2070 It reminded me what church family is really about.

“so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” Romans 12:5

And it reminded me too that I was treated like family long before I felt like I was family. The love and generosity shown to me when we first moved here to Wollongong  stays with me. Ethan – just a little thing then – in hospital for weeks with a broken leg and Olivia on the way. There were women from our church – and others –  who hardly knew me but who gathered around and visited in the hospital, and brought food and drank coffee with me and prayed and talked and kept us company and then brought more food again – for weeks.  That kind of love you don’t forget. That kind of love changes you.

IMG_2074Humbling, inspiring, astounding.

And Success is showing up and kneeling down. Success is faithfulness, success is faithfully showing up, success is faithful obedience, success is service, success is kneeling down to serve and going lower and decreasing, so He is lifted higher and He alone increases: Success is showing up and kneeling down.  (Ann Voskamp)

IMG_2063Big love and a heart full of thanks to you all today. Tracey xx