lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Creating a Home of “Imperfect” Hospitality

Luke and I have been busy bees lately with a couple of big events back to back– his promotion ceremony to Captain, my 26th birthday and our annual Halloween party. We wanted to do each of these events “right” and celebrate with those close to us, but we were faced with one tiny problem…Our house is tiny. Literally.

A historic home on post, its charm doesn’t quite extend to closet size, open concept or entertaining. The rooms are chopped into smallish segments, and whereas our living space at Fort Benning could fit a sofa, loveseat and more, our living room here can barely fit just that same sofa alone, with barely any space to squeeze by on either size.

We debated not hosting our annual party, but it is an important event in our lives each year; we really enjoy dressing up in costumes and opening our home to our friends and neighbors, wherever we may be living. I told Luke we were simply going to have to make it work! And, we did.

halloween-2016

Somehow we had one of our biggest parties ever in the smallest space we have ever lived! And yet, everyone had a blast. (At least that’s what they told us. ;))

I’ve learned over the last few years that entertaining is less about achieving “perfection” and more about opening up whatever space you have along with your hearts to form relationships and share God’s love with your community. If I waited for “perfect” conditions here in my one-bathroom home, I would never find the space suitable to host a party or even a smallish dinner with friends! The best approach is just to push all the furniture out of the way, hide the breakables (and fire) from the kiddos, and just let everyone find space where they may!

luke-and-manda

A Pirate and His Parrot ^

Likewise, when Luke’s family visited, we squeezed 9 people in for three meals, many games of cards, lots of laughter and love. Did we have dining chairs, folding baseball field chairs, and desk chairs scattered about? Of course! Did it look “pretty?” Not necessarily. But, as I watched Uncle Jimmy tell a story, and all of the relatives were clutching their sides from the shared laughter, I knew it was worth it. I had to relinquish my version of a perfect matching table with everything “just so” in order to share those experiences with family. And we made memories we will not forget that weekend!

I will admit I was a bit fearful to move here, scared to “start over” rebuilding the kind of community and connection we had at Ft. Benning. But, that anxiety has long since faded as I have begun to find my place here at Ft. Sill. I joined the Redcoat Ambassadors through the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce this past month, and I am excited to see what relationships and connections I may form through this group; I can already tell they are a close knit family! I think so much of making a place into a home is a state of mind, as is happiness–it’s all about what you make it. The looks of pity that I received when I told some people in Georgia that we were moving to Oklahoma became my personal challenge to make this our grandest adventure yet! And it has been; Luke and I have joined a church that feels more like family, attended my first rodeo, run a 5K and so much more! This Spring, we have trips planned to Dallas and the Grand Canyon, and we cannot wait to see what else the Midwest has in store for us.

At a church conference a couple of weeks ago, I felt very convicted about building fellowship with those around me every day, those who walk beside us in our current season of life. I want to get to know my neighbors, my sisters and brothers in Christ as church, my coworkers, Luke’s fellow military service members; I want each of these groups to feel welcome in our home. My Sunday School classmate Sarah Hays is a genius at imperfect hospitality–except hers looks more perfect than anything!

Last Sunday, she squeezed more than 20 people into her home for “Friendsgiving,” and it was absolutely wonderful! She and her husband were kind enough to provide the main meat, and everyone brought a side or a dessert. They pushed their furniture aside, brought in some extra chairs, and literally opened their door to anyone and everyone who wanted to come! We ended up with more than enough food, and a great time was had by all! Plus she somehow made it look even better than Pinterest–a gal of many talents I am befriending purposefully to learn some of her hostessing tips! 🙂

Because I know what it is like to move to a new place and know literally nobody, I think I am more cognizant of this than most and understand the importance of building and sharing a community. Many of you that follow our story know that Luke was extremely sick when we moved to Oklahoma, and I moved into this house by myself. He could not get out of bed at the Marriott for almost 10 days–some of the scariest days I have known, and at points I felt pretty alone as we went from doctor to doctor searching for answers. I knew God was here with us of course, and some fellow West Point wives offered to help, but I didn’t know them yet or the blessing they would later be in my life (shout out Brooke and Nicole!). That is why when my neighbor asked if a friend of a friend could come to our Halloween party, a couple who literally just moved onto our street that didn’t know anyone here yet besides them, my reply was “Yes,” even though I had never personally met them. I will admit I hesitated briefly as my mind fell into that trap of worry about the “lack of perfection” my home offers. What if there just wasn’t enough room? Would it be too crowded, uncomfortable, did I have enough food? But I shook those feelings off immediately and said the more, the merrier! We squeezed everyone in just fine, and I am so so glad we did. Because that is one of the very sweetest families we have met here, and we have gotten to spend some more time with them since then, that I truly cherish. What if I had not agreed to a last minute addition to my “perfect” party? I would not have met a new friend! The space accommodated us all perfectly, especially since the babies seemed to prefer crawling on the floor anyway!

I want to be a friend to everyone, especially those who find themselves alone in a new place. My goal is to share Christ’s love with them. And, that is what I attempted to do through our Halloween party, what I want to do with an upcoming neighborhood Christmas Cookie Exchange as we team up to deliver bags of delicious goodies to those that live near us. That’s why I’ve stopped worrying about the dust, the undone laundry, the Halloween decorations that have long since been taken down. We both work full time and are doing the best we can. And, I want to share our home and ourselves with people in the meantime! The idea that hospitality has to be “perfect” is a myth I bought into for far too long. You don’t have to know someone well to open the door of your home and your heart; and it just might surprise you how very blessed you find yourself in return for having done so!turkey

I hope you all have a relaxing weekend and maybe build a connection with someone you don’t know! Luke and I are both working, but we believe in “working hard and playing hard.” Although we are going to be clocking a lot of hours through Tuesday night, we are so thankful my Dad and grandmother are coming to visit us here in Lawton on Wednesday. We will put the turkey in the deep fryer, the sweet potato casserole in the oven and then relax and enjoy one another’s company for a few days. If I don’t write before then, I hope you have a VERY Happy Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for much–my wonderful husband, my family, and our incredible community here in Oklahoma.

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