I’m glad I could be flexible with our dinnertime last Sunday night.

We really wanted to see our friends, and their commitments on this particular Sunday included going from one thing to another. They were commitments of reaching out. Touching lives.

So when we asked our friends to come over for a steak dinner, we were willing to push our dinner later for them as 8:30pm was the earliest they could get to our house. We Coughlins love to eat early so this was a stretch for us. But not only did we want to see these friends, we knew that coming to our home would be a relaxing way to end a very busy day.

So I pulled out steaks I’d purchased at the “10 lb. Meat Sale” to barbeque along with veggies and salad from our yard (and of course yummy bread). My friend brought the dessert (delegation!)

We pulled fresh potatoes from our garden and after baking them, we sliced and seasoned them. Using crookneck squash and lemon thyme from the garden, we added sweet onions and peppers, olive oil and fresh limejuice and spices.

Preparing my steaks the simple way, I rubbed olive oil on each steak, sprinkled both sides with Stevia (or Splenda or regular sugar) and Costco’s steak seasoning. The bread was sliced, wrapped in foil, and placed in the oven.

All food was prepared in 30 minutes and ready for the grill!

One thing I noticed early in the evening was that we usually have music playing as we’re preparing for our company. But as I was setting the table outside on our patio, in the quietness of the evening, I heard the popping sounds of the barbeque. It smelled and sounded just like a campfire. I loved the silence that surrounded this magical sound. I stood there and shut my eyes and took it all in. I thought of our guests who were coming to dinner. I knew that our time would be good. It would not be taken up with wasted chatter or filled with dreary gossip. We’d be talking about things we are passionate about.

We all long for connection. We all long for purpose. And what this couple doesn’t know is that they actually help my husband and me to become better people. By cheering, supporting and encouraging us – in ministry and in the throws of parenting - they always seem to be there for us.

The Blessings of Flexibility

I’m thankful that I could be flexible last week to accommodate our friends at a late hour. I wasn’t always that way. Part of what I am continuing to learn about flexibility is that it starts with a willingness to do something different. A choice to go with the flow, make a schedule change. With that willingness a blessing is usually right there ready to follow.

But controlling behavior or inflexibility are enemies of creative living.

I'm posting a portion of one of my favorite devotions from my Women's Devotional Bible (Zondervan, 1990). I come back to it and read often. It's by Susan Lenzkes, and has been so helpful to me:

Many of us are crippled from birth. The backbone of our standard for living comes fused into unyielding rules and regulations. We are rigid in our determination to control life’s course and outcome.

How often have I tried to maintain control over my future and my relationships? How often have I thought I had life all figured out, "knew" how my prayers needed to be answered and how a situation needed to play out? Yet rarely does life work the way I think it should or want it to. We don't really have the control we seek.

But Lenzkes points out: There is a cure ... Each time life throws us a punch, we can do a deep-knee bend, forcing our muscles of faith, hope and understanding to stretch.

Through grace we learn flexibility and in turn build strength. Through prayer, we learn to trust God and let go of control we never had while allowing God to bless us with the control he does have. Lenzkes adds one final thought that has stuck with me as a parent: How often I have thought that if I could give just one gift to my children – besides a heart for God – it would be the golden gift of flexibility. 

That last sentence challenges me. I do want to give this gift to my children. I’ve had to learn to accept situations that arise when I’m least expecting them, to go with the flow and learn how to relax. But it hasn’t always been easy. Spur of the moment dinners or friends stopping in or calling one hour before they arrive challenged me, among other unexpected events in life.

Once I figured out that it wasn’t the food or presentation that people were coming over for, I let my guard down and began to enjoy.  Again, my willingness to not be so rigid turned into something far greater that had soul value.


Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy’s husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged(Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy’s regularly updated blog “4 Reluctant Entertainers,” which you can visit at www.reluctantentertainer.com. Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here. Visit Paul's website at: http://www.paulcoughlin.net/