So… You Want to Ask About Their Adoption {a guide}

If you’ve been around me for more than four or five seconds, you’ve probably heard me talk about my church family. Seriously. I love those people. I could list a whole plethora of reasons but that might (a) bore you or (#2) make you jealous. Not a good blog outcome either way.

But, I will take this opportunity to tell you just one of the things I love about them. I love their collective heart for adoption. We are a people who has been captured by the idea. Why? Two reasons come readily to mind:

First, because it is such a beautiful picture of the way God loves people and “adopts” them into His family. We cry out in a spirit of adoption, calling Him our Abba. Intimacy. Love. Family. It’s all about the relationship… not duty-bound religion.

But that’s not all; we’re bullish on adoption because we see God’s heart for the orphan all throughout the Bible. As we come to know Him, our heart mirrors His. For a whole host of reasons and circumstances, the heartbreaking truth is that there are children who have been left behind by their biological parents. We want to be a people who steps into that void and takes some of those children into our own families. Some of our families came to that place because they also struggled with infertility. Some did not. Either way, they have joined in God’s plan to love orphans by bringing them home and making them their own, very real sons and daughters.

While each of my friends would absolutely call their kiddos blessings, I know it hasn’t always been without struggle for them. Parenting never is. But, adoption comes with its own set of wrinkles. Not regret, mind you. But unique challenges just the same. One of those is the comments and questions that come from others – especially if their child is visibly of a different ethnicity.

Yesterday over at Rage Against the Minivan, Kristen shared this video that a friend of hers put together. It’s a great poke at some of the questions that sometimes come to adoptive parents. I pass it on as a good laugh but also as a reminder to be thoughtful as you inquire about these precious ones.

Video credit: Rain City Church on Vimeo.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

Balance in Motherhood

Balance. It seems to be an elusive goal for most modern women. We want to be able to do it all. To keep all the balls in the air – each one weighted perfectly so that we can keep this whole act going. I have my suspicions that balance might be nothing more than a buzzword. A modern construct that we talk about a lot but don’t really grasp.

What’s more, I’m not sure it’s even a laudable goal – does the Bible call us to balance? I don’t think it does.

Over at The Better Mom, we set out to tackle some of these very questions in an April series about Balance. As I read the pieces from my fellow contributors, I see many of them coming to the same place I have – questioning this notion of balance all together.

On Monday I shared some of my perspective in a post about “balancing” ministry and motherhood. Yes, I know Monday was two days ago. Sorry. I blame it on the marriage class that Rick and I are leading on Monday nights. And Caleb’s LAX season. And, Easter preparations. And, my friend in surgery. And… well, you know how it goes. Clearly, I am not keeping all the balls in the air. {wink}

Sigh.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

Grouchy Mommas?

grouchy-to-great-square-button-blue

Over at The Better Mom this month, we’ve been exploring the topic of anger. We’re calling the series “From Grouchy to Great.” And, it’s one that has resonated with moms like crazy. It’s been unbelievable to see moms responding to our posts by pouring their hearts out back to us in response.

I guess that means we’re on to something that a lot of moms wrestle with. And, it’s one of those things that probably comes with a lot of guilt and feeling alone. It’s not easy to admit that you wanted to (or actually did) cuss when you were talking to your teenager. Or that your anger boiled to the point of wanting to hit your child purely out of frustration. So, usually we hide those things, carrying our shame and hopelessness around with us all the time.

This month, my post there brought me out of hiding. I share one of my fails with you and the lessons God is teaching me as I learn to let my failures drive me to lean into His grace. You can read it here.

Also, if you’d like to read the whole series, you can go here. My favorite post all month was by my friend Ruth, who tried to get to the root of our anger. When I try to understand why I get so frustrated with my kids at times, I think it really is about my own idols. Ruth does a great job of exploring that.

Some of the posts were also very practical, which can be so helpful when you’re feeling hopeless. So, take some time to poke around over there (after you read my post, of course) (wink). I’m honored to write with these women who are so sincerely seeking the Lord.

Thanks for doing life with me,

Shannon McKee

Gathering in the Big Room {Bible Study}

BreadTime02Earlier this week more than 140 women came out on a cold, winter Monday night to gather together in the Big Room. It wasn’t a wine-tasting or a movie night or a girls-night-out or shop-at-home party. It was a Bible study. That’s it.

They came simply to study and talk about the Bible.

Some of them came desperate. “This is the last chance I’m giving it. I’ve tried to study the Bible before and it just isn’t working.”

Some of them came fearful. “Sometimes I’m afraid to even try because I often fail to follow through.”

And they came honest. “I try to read my Bible but I get distracted so easily. One minute I’m reading and the next minute I’m thinking about how I should go switch another load of laundry.”

A lot of them came with a mixed bag of emotions. Guilt. Anticipation. Hopefulness. Failure. Burden. Delight.

There’s a lot going on their lives. It intrigues me when I think about the fact that it’s a room full of 140+ stories. Every woman there has a story. A story of spiritual ups and downs and encounters with God and desert times where she wondered if God even exists at all. They each have stories of brokenness and stories of success.

For example, on this past Monday, I knew of one woman who had just received a promotion to become a partner in her firm. In that same room was another woman preparing for her D&C and grieving the baby who died before she ever got to meet him/her. Could they be in two more different places?

And, yet, they both came. We all came, crowding into the Big Room for Monday nights. To bring our stories – our lives, really – before God’s Word. To mingle them with the stories of other women and the women who have gone before us, and to submit it all to His order of things. His perspective. The Creator, Sustainer, and Rescuer. We peek into His heart and that peek makes sense of all the rest of it.

Is that not one of the most profound things you’ve ever heard? God’s story – alive in the center of 140 stories!

 

A Hip-Hip-Hooray for Soup

The weather has turned here in Northeast Ohio. Less Fall. Definitely more Winter.

Yesterday was one of those days when big, wet flakes fell all day long. (It was a bit magical really.) In the kitchen, this signals my soup season. Bowls of steamy soups and stews with their accompanying warm breads will attend our table for many of the winter evenings ahead. Soup does something to my heart. Something really good and wholesome and real. I’m not sure I can really explain it but I found a couple of paragraph’s in Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine that seemed to capture it for me. Shauna must be a kindred spirit. {wink}

Soup, it seems, is the ultimate comfort food – warm, soft, slipping down the throat with ease. We eat soup when we’re sick, when we’re snowed in, when we’re heartbroken… when we need to be soothed in some deep way.

Soup is cold-weather-dark-sky food. Soup is peasant food – odds and ends, bits and pieces, a way to stretch a piece of meat or a handful of rice. And the best soups are made, I think, when we treat them as such – earthy, simple, slow, soothing. Soup is the wool sweater, not the little black dress. It’s the cardigan with the elbow patches, not the pressed shirt and tie.

I love that line near the end: Soup is the wool sweater, not the little black dress. I am a wool sweater girl in the deepest places of my heart, I think.

So yesterday when the snow was layering our yard with its frosty sprinkles, I did the most logical thing I could think of. I made soup.

Not just any soup, mind you. It was my Beef Barley & Mushroom Soup. It has barley in it. And that makes me think of Ireland. Ireland is the place where some piece of my soul resides, I’m pretty sure. Waiting there for me with a cuppa.

And now, I am offering you a little bit of myself: my Beef Barley & Mushroom Soup recipe. Which I almost always make with Beer Bread. (You can find that recipe here.)

Enjoy. Just promise me that you’ll share it with some people you love AND with some people that need an invitation to welcome.

Beef Barley & Mushroom Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 15 minutes
Meal type Soup
Misc Serve Hot
By author Shannon McKee

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 carrots (sliced)
  • 1 Medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 2/3 cups pearled barley

Directions

Step 1
Brown ground beef and onion in a dutch oven or large soup pot. (I have a big Calphalon pot that Rick got me for Christmas one year. When I’m not using the slow cooker, it’s my favorite soup pot of all time.) Drain off the grease.
Step 2
Add remaining ingredients except barley and bring to a boil.
Step 3
Add the barley, bring the boil down to a simmer, and cover. (Note: Pearled barley can be hard to find. For those of you that are local, I get mine from Kent Natural Foods, which Rick has affectionately termed my hippie store.)
Step 4
Simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Uncover the last 15 minutes.
Step 5
The kids really like it when I put out a bowl of co-jack cheese as a soup garnish.

The Beer Bread takes about one hour to bake so I start it shortly after I cover the simmering soup. Add a spinach salad and ‘ta da’ – a healthy, heartwarming meal is served.

Grace and peace around your table this winter,

Shannon McKee

In Which I Come Out from Hiding {A 31 Days Confession}

peek-a-booOK, it’s time. So this is my way of slinking back onto the blog. I’m feeling a little sheepish about the whole thing because I totally tanked on my 31 Days of Hospitality. I mean, like, epically tanked. Like, didn’t even make it halfway through.

So, I thought if I just crawled off to a nook somewhere and ignored you guys for a month, that it would make it better. Hiding is what I do sometimes. {Yuck.}

But, it didn’t make it better because when I visit the blog today in December, it looks just like it did in November. And at the end of October. With that Day 13 of what was supposed to be 31 Days of Hospitality posts. And, it just stares at me and says “fail.” I hate that part. Stupid blog. {wink}

(That’s the funny thing about hiding. The thing you were hiding from is usually still there when you come out. Just older and more complicated now that it’s been sitting a few days – or months, or years.)

So, this is me. Coming back out of hiding. To stare that epic fail right down. Even though it just reminds me about my weakness in following through. My ongoing struggle. Rearing its ugly head even when I’m really excited about something and have the best of intentions.

No more hiding. For today, anyway. (Maybe never, by God’s grace. Oh, how I need His grace.)

I think I’m going to finish that 31 Days.( Just not in a row. Obviously.)

I need to finish it. I need to follow through. Because: #1, I believe what I’m writing about; and #2, I’m desperate for God to take my broken places and make me into a woman who follows through. Even on blog posts. Because it’s really an issue of my word.

What’s that you say? “Oh, it’s just a blog post, Shan. What’s the big deal?” Well, true. On the face of it, that’s true. But, it’s a pointer to the deeper things of yielding my life to Christ and letting Him work in those hidey holes that I go to. When I feel like I’ve failed or like I’m not following thru on things He puts on my heart.

And, so now you know what Rick and kids have known all along. I don’t always follow through. And, then I usually “hide” to try and cover it up.

But, I’m back… not just to finish the 31 Days. But, to keep wrestling through life with you all, my precious readers and friends.  Let’s keep peering through the glass together (dimly though it might be), until we get Home and we can see clearly.

Home – where I’ll never, ever need another hidey hole in which to hide.

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

31 Days of Cultivating Hospitality: Day 13 {The Decline of Hospitality}

obstaclesObstacles. Those things that get in the way of forward progress. The great thing about them is that they can be overcome. With a little effort and forward thinking, of course. But they’re not impassable.

There are certainly obstacles to genuine hospitality. There are simply things that get in the way. Things that hinder us.

There is no question that something is holding us back from welcoming people in. According to Focus on the Family Canada, hospitality is really struggling. Take these realities from an article on their site by the Coughlins: during the mid to late 1970s, the average American entertained 14 to 15 times a year. By the late 1990s, that figure fell to eight times per year – a decline of 45 per cent. They conclude that if this trend continues, the blessing of hospitality will be nearly extinct in less than one generation.

So what IS holding us back? I think that some of the things that hold us back are a result of the culture we live in. Others are personal to us.

Let’s talk first about our culture (because that’s a little safer than talking about us, isn’t it?!?)

We live in an American culture that values independence.

Let’s face it, our culture doesn’t encourage us to be vulnerable and dependent on each other. The very foundations of our society encourage us to our personal rights and happiness as a primary pursuit. Even our most intimate of relationships are hampered by things like pre-nups and ways out and the like. We keep each other at arms length and we, frankly, sort of like it that way. It has been said of us that we build the largest houses in the world, but nobody is home.  And, when we are, we’re in our perfectly equipped home theaters or our private backyards. Which, could be kind of cool for sharing with friends but I would posit that most of those spaces sit alone. Rare is the person who builds those spaces and actually uses them to extend invitation.

Author Ken Gire states it this way: “We have big things – we know big things. But we don’t look into each other’s eyes. We’re starved for a life that not only senses the sacred in the world around us but savors it. We’re famished for experiences that are real and relationships that are deep.”

I think he’s right – we sense the soul sickness and the relational disconnect. But, we’re hesitant or ill-equipped to change it. So, we stick with the status quo.

Which brings me to my second observation about our culture: Restaurant Living.

When we do find ourselves reaching out to fill that void, we’re much more likely to meet a friend out. At a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or movie theater. The rise of eat-out opportunities have replaced much of what used to take place in each other’s homes. I’m not against restaurants – it’s a nice break to eat a great meal out. But it simply is not the same as being in someone’s home.  The lingering and the life sharing don’t take place in a restaurant like they do at home. As well, when you’re in someone’s home you get a feel for who they are and how they live. It’s a glimpse that you can’t get at a restaurant.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about two other cultural issues that hinder us in our pursuit of hospitality: the media issue and the overprogramming.

In the meantime, do either of these resonate with you? What is it about our culture that keeps you from practicing hospitality?

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

___________________________________________________

31 Days HospitalityThis post is the 13th in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed the beginning, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.

31 Days of Cultivating Hospitality: Day 12 {The Best Scone Recipe Ever}

finishing touchesBefore we start talking about the barriers to hospitality, I thought I’d take this Sunday breather to share with you my scone recipe. Scones are my absolute favorite thing to make for the people I love. I don’t know why it has become my thing. But, it has. I guess I started making scones when we worked at Bowling Green State University – which means it’s been at least 15 years ago. That’s a lot of scones.

And you all have been asking me for my recipe for… well, years. It’s never been a secret. It’s not original to me. But, some measure of lore has developed around my scones and I’ve kind of found some secret delight in that.

But, you’ve been faithfully reading my 31 Days – even though I skipped one day somewhere in there and even though I’m bad, posting at night instead of in the morning like a good little blogger should do. So, this is your reward. My scone recipe. Which is really Emilie Barnes’ scone recipe with a few adaptations. Emilie Barnes was my inspiration for hospitality when I was a college girl dreaming about having a home of my own someday. So, I guess it’s fitting that one of her recipes would make its way into my 31 days.

Here you go, faithful reader. I think you’re the bomb. Happy Scone Making!  Please promise me you’ll share them with someone else who needs a a warm welcome and an invitation into your life.

Emilie’s Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cubes buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 egg

Directions

Step 1
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in 6 tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
Step 2
Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. (If you don't have buttermilk, use regular milk.) Mix until dough clings together and is a bit sticky. Do not overmix.
Step 3
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and shape into a 6- to 8-inch round about 1 & 1/2 inches thick. Quickly cut into pie wedges or use a large round biscuit cutter to cut circles. THE SECRET OF TENDER SCONES IS A MINIMUM OF HANDLING.
Step 4
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, making sure the sides of scones don't touch each other. Brush with egg for a shiny, beautiful brown scone. Bake at 425F for 10-20 minutes, or until light brown.
Step 5
Note: You can add all kinds of extras to your scones, depending on your taste. Try cut-up apples, ginger, currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries, orange, almond flavoring, fresh berries, cinnamon, or even chocolate chips. My favorite is cinnamon chips (from Walnut Creek in Ohio).

You can add all kinds of extras to your scones, depending on your taste. Try cut-up apples, ginger, currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries, orange, almond flavoring, fresh berries, cinnamon, or even chocolate chips. My favorite is the cinnamon chips. I get mine from the Amish grocery store in Walnut Creek, Ohio. They are tiny and cute and yummalish in the scones.

I also like to serve my scones with homemade whipped cream. Which is really just whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla, beaten at a very high speed for a few minutes. It’s simple but so worth the extra effort. (I mock the spray stuff in the can when I pass it in the grocery. “Rediwhip! Ha!”)

A warm scone with a dollop of homemade whipped cream is to-die for. Seriously. You’ll never be the same.

You’re welcome,

Shannon McKee

___________________________________________________

31 Days HospitalityThis post is the 12th in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed the beginning, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.

31 Days of Cultivating Hospitality: Day 11 {Obstacles}

obstaclesIf you’ve ever been the recipient of invitation and experienced the warmth of being cared for by another, you know that hospitality truly is a beautiful thing.

But, if hospitality is so wonderful, why do we hesitate to do it? What keeps you from opening your home (and your life) to others?

I can think of eight reasons that keep us from offering hospitality to the people in our lives. They are obstacles that clutter the path forward, making invitation more challenging.

I think I can even boil them down into two basic categories: personal and cultural.

    • personality
    • busyness
    • lack of skill
    • feelings of insecurity
    • modern American culture
    • restaurant living
    • online/media-driven lives
    • overprogrammed church life

This week we’ll take time to look at all eight. I’m guessing you’ll find that some resonate with you more than others. But I think it’s important for us to identify the things that hold us back from hospitality if we’re to overcome them. Because obstacles are meant to be conquered. {wink}

Grace and peace,

Shannon McKee

___________________________________________________

31 Days HospitalityThis post is the 11th in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed the beginning, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.

31 Days of Cultivating Hospitality: Day 10 {Stories that Inspire}

Yesterday we talked about Jesus’ ultimate form of hospitality: His invitation for our souls to come and rest. I couldn’t get away from this idea of Jesus’ invitation without thinking a bit about heaven. For His invitation to Himself is not only beautiful today; it’s also a glorious future hope.

In that vein, today, I wanted to share with you from one of my favorite passages in the Narnia series. I love it because it’s another invitation to come in. It’s from book 7, The Last Battle. Three of the Pevensie children are there along with many of the creatures we have grown to love. They find themselves on the cusp of a new Narnia. One they don’t completely understand and yet, somehow, recognize in various shades and shadows. As if they had seen wisps of it before. Only not really.

“‘[The old Narnia] was only a shadow or copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.’ His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet as he spoke these words…

“…It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea is you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking-glass. And the sea in the mirror or the valley in the mirror were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.

Licornedos

“It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed and cried: ‘I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Breeee-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”

Did you see the invitation? Feel the welcome? Come further up, come further in! A few pages later the talking Mouse, Reepicheep, repeats it: “Welcome, in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in.

Come indeed. Because of our great invitation and hope, we can be people of welcome. You who have been welcomed… be transformed into people who welcome. Invite them into your life. And then invite them into the story they have been looking for all their lives.

Come further up and further in, 

Shannon McKee

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31 Days HospitalityThis post is the tenth in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed the beginning, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.

 

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