Monday, December 10, 2007

Open House/Open Heart

I'm enjoying the wonderful sensation I call the "afterglow" of a hosting an event that went oh-so well! It's our first "Willis Hospitality" on a big scale here in Raymondville.

The time leading up to this day is a blur-interrupted by speed bumps like the broiler not working, the pans and stovetop not being exactly right for making candies and homemade custard pastry cream..and even a deep knife-cut finger. But we made do!

I had a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to bring food to help out-and made the menu so all they had to do was sign their name to the item they wanted to bring-that way we didn't have any repeats. I made the last 7 items on the menu.

The menu included:
vegetable trays with dip
fruit trays with dip
4 bags tortilla chips and 1 jar salsa
crockpot of cocktail meatballs in sauce
crockpot of cocktail sausages in sauce
tortilla roll-up slices
assortment of cookies
Southwest Cheesecake (for cheese spread)
Mini-Sandwich Rolls with Deli Meats and Cheese
Swedish Nuts
Walnut Christmas Toffee
Veggie Pizza
Cranberry Scones
Homemade Cream Puffs with Homemade Custard Pastry Cream
Rumaki (Cocktail Water Chestnuts)

Oh-and I made a punch that went like hotcakes. It's funny because I was concerned I didn't make enough-but Russ said I had plenty because most folks always want iced tea. Not tonight. They were clamoring for the punch, and we had to make more several times. They wanted the recipe, and it was just light lemonade from a mix, and sliced sweetened frozen strawberries, thawed. They were all calling it "that yummy strawberry punch."

I think the hit of the night were the Swedish nuts. I usually make them once or twice a year for church events-because they always go over well. They don't take much skill--just patience because they look so ugly during the cooking phase!

One almost flop was the Christmas Walnut Toffee. It just didn't set up as well as it usually does, and so didn't crack apart sort of like peanut brittle. Instead, the bottom layer never turned to toffee-staying a sort of off-white soft candy. So, Russ cut the candy into squares, like fudge, and the parts that didn't crumbled up he made into little balls. That worked, and looked so festive! And so delicious that no one knew it was a flop that was "repurposed." What would I do without Russ coming up with Plan B?!

Here's the cool part. We walked the neighborhood earlier the week and placed invitations at each home, so that not just our church family were welcomed to our Open House, but our neighbors as well. Some commented on how cute the invitations were (a tri-fold sheet, with a candy cane taped to it that became the hanger for the invitation). I didn't get the guest book going until about a half hour into the party, but I think we had 7 neighbors attend, 8 other non-church guests, and 49 church folks, for a total of 66. Considering we had several families sick and out of town, that was a good number. We normally run about 35-40 on Sunday nights for our regularly scheduled services, to give you a comparison for why we were THRILLED with an attendance of 66! Especially considering getting to know our neighbors.

We always believe our homes are to be used for God's service, and surrender all we have to His service, so we were JAZZED to see it used in this way.

And not meaning to gloat (well...maybe just a little), but the weather was just perfect for the gathering. If anything, it was a little too warm. I think the high today was 86! We set up folding chairs under our carport, and our side porch is adjacent to that, so we placed the 3 tables of food and drink outside-and then allowed them to come in for tours of the home, and to sit and visit. Then, when it was time for our evening service, we just all sat outside (we were going to go in and enjoy the air-conditioning, but with the breeze, it was nice to be outdoors where it was a testimony to the neighborhood.) Our song leader played his guitar and led us in a mixture of secular and faith-based Christmas songs for a little fun and a little inspiration. The carport did a great job of trapping the sound and making it resonate as if we were a trained choir! So beautiful. In fact, I saw some ladies brush a few tears during songs like "O Holy Night" and "The First Noel."

Russ had me read a funny reading about Martha and Mary when Martha was fussing about Mary not helping in the kitchen and then he gave a short devotional on that thought.

Clean up was quick and I had plenty of help.

It was just a great joy to see all the work of the last 2 months culminate in something so uplifting!

Many hugged us tightly as they departed, and told us they had been starved for fellowship and they are so excited to see how much we implement fellowship into our Christian service.

God never made us to be islands unto ourselves-we need each other to get through this time on Earth!

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