Communion Meal Brainstorming

Tonight I’ve been working on ideas for a communion meal at a church. Here’s the brainstorming document I put together after Googling and thinking. I’m quite curious to hear your creative/unique/symbolic ideas for communion services or meals.

My youth pastor from high school is planting an international church in the Netherlands. Kent and his wife, Leslie, have been missionaries in the NL for seven years, and they’ve been in Maastricht since January, starting Damascus Road International Church. I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in little ways from a distance, and Matthew and I had an incredible visit with them when we were in Europe in September.

I remember from the beginning, back in January, Kent has talked about wanting to host communion meals with the church, where it’s more than just taking communion in a church service–it’s a full meal, shared together. They’re doing it for the first time on December 12. Kent and I got talking about it via email a few days ago, and I ended up putting together some ideas.

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Harry Potter Party Plan

I kept a running list of ideas for the Harry Potter Party in a text document in the Parties folder on my laptop. When the party finally came together for the Deathly Hallows premiere, I just opened the doc, added new ideas, created to-do lists, and organized it. I was able to send it to the hosts a few days before to keep them in the loop.

Here’s the plan for the party. I had to make some alterations the day of the party–those notes are in green.

Party Order:
Guests arrive on platform (7 pm)
Photos against backdrop
Sorting into houses (teams)
Muggle quidditch relay (back yard)
Feast (dessert – dining room)
OWLs trivia game (dining room)
Reading from Deathly Hallows (library)
Astronomy tower (upstairs balcony) We ended up switching the library and the astronomy tower for flow reasons.
Awarding of prizes – House Cup (dining room)
Movie (Theater – several of us got tickets for the 12:05 showing)

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Harry Potter Party Prep

I’ve been planning this party for three years.

Seriously. (Siriusly?)

Three years ago, in the fall of 2007, I started reading the Harry Potter books. (Finally. I HATE having to wait for books to come out, so I never start a series till they’re all done. Waiting for multi-part movies is bad enough.) So of course, as I read them, I couldn’t help but come up with party ideas. I think Patronus Cookies were my first idea, when I found a reindeer-shaped cookie cutter in a Christmas set. I’ve had a Word doc going on my computer for probably that long, where I’ve jotted recipe, game, and decoration ideas.

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Personal Note

I am looking forward to sharing my Europe posts. Hopefully I’ll get those up soon. Leaving was so sad…I am looking forward to re-experiencing it through pictures and words and sharing the stories.

I’ve been working through some personal things since we’ve been back. I’ve been quite sick twice (or once, with a relapse?), ran a marathon with an injured leg and recuperated from that, and started taking antidepressants. Whoa. Which of those is not like the other?

I’ve been dealing with depression for several years, off and on, though I don’t think I realized it. I’m excited to be taking strong steps toward health now. I talked about depression on my personal blog yesterday if you want more of that story.

Enjoy the weekend…Maastricht and München coming up soon!

Six Days to Prepare for Company

My friend Lydia wrote a great post about preparing for houseguests. She breaks the process down into six steps over six days. I highly recommend this post.

My In Laws are coming into town next week! I am excited to shop for and carve pumpkins, go on a picnic or two and, most importantly, spend quality time bonding with these people who are so important to us. Their impending arrival does tend to send me into somewhat of a tizzy. Keeping up with daily life plus preparing for company can be daunting, but I have a rhythm that I usually follow with excellent results. Here are my 6 ways to Prepare for Company.

Read the rest of her post at her blog Small Town Simplicity.

Student of Hospitality

I’ve been a guest myself for the past few weeks, enjoying the hospitality of my friends and family members.

My mom watched my kids, Joshua (almost 2) and Katherine (just turned 4), for two weeks while my husband and I traveled in Europe.

"Grüß Gott" - traditional Bavarian greeting. Literally, "Greet God."

We visited:

-Kent & Leslie, my former youth pastor and his wife, who are missionaries planting an international church in Maastricht, the Netherlands

-My dad, stationed in Germany with the Army, in Garmisch, at an American military resort in the Alps

-College friends in Essen, Germany

-Friends from Rhode Island who just moved to Munich

Then after Matthew and I got back to the States, I flew the next day to Colorado to pick up K and J from my mom and got to spend a couple days with her and my brother Daniel.

I felt so taken-care-of by the generous hospitality we received. Next week I’ll blog all about our European adventures and the great lessons I learned about hospitality that we’ve already been trying to incorporate into our lives at home.

Welcome goodies from Karin in Munich

BEST Baked Chip Dip Ever. So easy.

I learned this recipe from my friend Jocelyn. She used to bring it to our newlyweds small group, and the entire pan would DISAPPEAR in minutes. If you didn’t hustle to the table, you missed out. Super easy:

  • Spread a package of cream cheese in the bottom of a square glass baking dish
  • Pour a small jar of salsa over it
  • Sprinkle with shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend)

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes till the cheese is melted. Serve with any kind of tortilla chips. We are partial to the King of Chips: Tostitos with Lime.

The Return of Castle Parties!

Tonight is the season 3 premiere of the TV dramedy Castle. As serious Browncoats (fans of the sci-fi Western Firefly), Matthew and I were excited to learn a couple years ago that Nathan Fillion would be starring in a new show. We vowed to watch it and promote it no matter what it was about. Because he’s The Captain.

(Joked one friend: “I would watch Nathan Fillion in a painting show.” Other friend: “Oooh! Nathan Fillion’s doing a painting show?”)

It couldn’t have been more of a bonus to find out the show was about a writer by the name of Richard Castle. (My maiden name is Castle, and I’m a writer. And so are my brothers. They like the show too.)

Anyway, so we’ve watched the show from the first half-season and did as much as we could to promote it. ABC picked it up for a full second season (and all the Browncoats breathed a sigh of relief, fearing a repeat of Firefly’s cancellation after a half season) and now a third.

Somewhere along the way we started inviting friends over to watch Castle with us on Monday nights. An informal hangout became a weekly ritual that grew in number of guests and elaborate traditions, including an expansive snack menu (must haves: Swedish Fish, chips and queso, Sour Patch Kids, and my “Monday Night Men” – Ben, Jerry, and Rick. Oh, and Matthew.)

Several weeks ago, our friends starting saying, “I can’t wait till Castle starts again! When’s our next Castle party?” Last year we had friends visit from Atlanta and join us for Castle night. One friend who moved away a few months ago is driving down from Massachusetts and staying over tonight.

Tonight’s menu: 7-layer Mexican dip with homemade guacamole and lime chips, baked Mexican dip (recipe here), ice cream sundaes, mozzarella sticks (in soft pretzel dough! How nom is that?), and various drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic (we usually get Newcastle ale – because that’s funny). Guests are bringing movie candy.

Tonight: whether you’re a regular Castle-watcher or not, invite some friends over to catch the Castle Season 3 opener, 10/9 Central on ABC.

How to Give Directions

Getting lost is one of the most frustrating occurrences for both guests and hosts.

(Or maybe that’s just me…I have an amazing proclivity for getting lost. When we first moved to Rhode Island, I drove around with two maps in the car – an atlas and a customized MapQuest [does anyone even use MapQuest anymore?] printout with “home” and “church” and other important locations marked on it. I still got lost. Frequently. Part of that can be attributed to RI’s lack of proper street signs, but I’ll claim most of the blame as my special talent. One time, we were invited somewhere new for dinner, about 5 miles from my work. Matthew drove separately and got there before me. I got so lost that even repeated phone calls couldn’t rescue me, and Matthew had to leave the dinner, find me, and guide me to the house. Dinner was really cold by the time we sat down to eat.)

You don’t want that to happen to you. Or your guests. So give them good directions.

By that I mean, don’t actually give them directions (of the “turn right at the brown house” sort). The webcomic XKCD agrees that’s rarely necessary anymore, since most people have GPS’s in their cars or smart phones with Google Maps apps.

Here’s what I do mean:

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Flexing My Rusty Small Group Hosting Skills

Opening a home for a Bible study / home group / small group feels very natural to me. I grew up as a pastor’s kid seeing my parents model this kind of organized hospitality. When I was younger, I mostly noticed the house-prep aspects of hosting home group: the bathroom and main areas of the house had to be clean, snacks had to be prepared, chairs had to be set up in a circle.

In high school, I co-led a youth small group and experienced the role of facilitator for the first time. People had to be invited, and welcomed when they arrived. The flow of the evening had to be gently led, people (and the mood) transitioned from games and ice breakers to study and discussion…fun to serious to snacks. The conversation had to be directed, everyone given a chance to speak, all viewpoints balanced and heard.

I’ve helped facilitate small group meetings/Bible studies since then – the newlyweds group my husband and I led for several years, the women’s classes I’ve coordinated.

It’s been a while since I’ve done small group hospitality, though. So when I started an 8-week short-term study for women recently, my long-learned skills felt rusty. I tried to remember everything I needed to do, and over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten back into the groove.

If you’re new to leading or hosting a small group, or if it’s been a while, here are some of the lessons I’ve re-learned.

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