Archives for May 2009

Delightful Dining: The Service

Delightful DiningIn parts one through three of our “Delightful Dining” series, we discussed the people, planning the meal, and the meal atmosphere. Today we’re going to talk about service during the meal.


Take their coats. When people walk in the door, someone can offer to take their coats and purses, and place the items in a designated area.

Seat the guests. If dinner is on the table, go ahead and seat the guests at the table if they arrive together. Otherwise, show them where they can sit, such as in the living room, while they wait for dinner to be ready and the other guests to arrive. A host can sit with them, if possible, to start an appropriate conversation and help the guests feel at ease.

Pour the drinks. While a few people are putting the finishing touches on dinner, one or two people can find out what the guests would like to drink, and have the drinks ready at the table. If dinner will be several more minutes, ask the company if they would like to have their drink in advance. Extra beverages could be kept on the table, if there’s room, or in the fridge so they’ll stay cold.

Pray. Have someone designated to lead the group in prayer, thanking God for the food and fellowship.

Serve the food. This can be done several ways. If you’re having a buffet-style meal, allow the guests to go first. If the meal has been placed on the table, family style, guests can choose a dish, take what they want, and pass it to their left. This may be good for the hosts to start, as guests are often unsure of what to do and will wait to see an example. The other, and more formal, option is to serve the guests their meal at their seats. The company can sit down, and the cooks/servers can bring them their plates of food, restaurant style. This is a good option if there isn’t much extra space on the table, since food dishes in the center won’t be necessary, or if there isn’t much counter space to spread the food on. However, it will also mean more work for the hosts who will need to stay aware of empty plates so they can offer seconds.

Stock PhotoRefill drinks. Someone who is observant, and in a convenient location, can be on the lookout for near-empty glasses and offer to refill them.

Have nice conversation. Ask the guests an open-ended question about themselves, or about something you know they’re interested in, such as their children or a ministry they’re involved in. It’s okay for the hosts to offer information about themselves, too, but make sure to not dominate the conversation.

Clear the meal. All of the hosts can clear the table, put the dirty dishes in the sink, and put the food away, in just a few minutes. Insist the guests relax at the table while you’re doing this, and the person in charge of drink refills can refill drinks while this job is being completed.

Serve dessert. While someone is clearing the table, and someone else is refilling drinks, a third person can work on dishing out the dessert. When these jobs are done, everyone can simply take the dessert plates to the table, putting them in front of the guests first, then serving themselves and sitting back down.

Everybody, clean up! (Except the guests, that is.) Most of the clean-up should already be complete, so this job should be easy. Once dessert is over, take the dessert dishes to the sink, and load the dishwasher. Guests should not help with this (remember, you’re serving them), so they can sit in the living room and relax while clean-up is being completed.

Coming up

We’re going to close out this series by giving a few entertainment ideas, as well as offer menu suggestions, so check back soon!

By Davonne Parks

Delightful Dining: The Atmosphere

cc1In parts one and two of our “Delightful Dining” series, we discussed the people and meal planning. Today we’re going to talk about setting a proper meal atmosphere.

Atmosphere Planning

Much of the set-up, except the actual cooking, can be done the day before, so keep that in mind if the meal is set for a weekday, or for breakfast or lunch hours.

Choose music, if you’re having any. Soft dinner music can be relaxing as a background noise, but it’s not necessary, so decide if you’re going to have music, and if so, have the CD ready and take it with you when it’s time to prepare for the meal.

Allow ample time. If dinner is set for 6:00PM, don’t show up at 5:30! Everyone should meet several hours in advance to clean and prepare without feeling rushed (which can lead to stressed, snippy words). If there is extra time, people can touch up their look or just relax for awhile before company arrives.

Clean the house. Everyone should help with this. Closets and basements don’t need cleaned out, but areas that company will be in should look and smell presentable. Put uncaged pets and their food dishes in a different area of the house (or outside), and make sure to disinfect the areas they were in. Scrub the bathroom, clear off and sanitize kitchen counters, vacuum and mop, and make sure things are straightened up so the house has a tidy, welcoming feel in general. If pet or other odors linger, light scented candles, and if possible, open windows to let fresh air in for a really clean scent.

cc22Set the table. Use a pretty tablecloth, fresh flowers, or a candle to decorate the table. There’s no need to buy anything––someone involved will probably have something that can be used. Make sure there are enough chairs for everyone, and if an additional table needs set up, this is the time to do that. Fancy dishes don’t need to be used, but the table can still be set properly for a pulled-together feel. Steps 4–8 on eHow have helpful table-setting tips. Name cards are optional, but whether formal cards are set out or not, make sure to give the guests the best seats.

Cook the meal. Non-cooks can help by chopping items, stirring food, washing dishes as they’re ready, or getting out and putting away ingredients as needed. Doing this will save the cook a lot of time and energy, and will help the overall cooking process to run smoothly.

Finishing touch. Transfer food to pretty serving dishes if possible, and place everything neatly where it will be served to complete the look.

Coming up

Next, we’ll talk about serving guests, then we’ll discuss entertainment ideas, as well as give menu suggestions, so check back soon!

By Davonne Parks

Delightful Dining: The Meal

cc11We’ve recently talked about serving a meal to other people, and we’re going to continue with new tips and instructions about planning the meal (full menu suggestions will be posted later).

Remember that these lists are for all of the volunteers, and are broken down in detailed step-by-step instructions, so you may only be doing a few items!

Meal Basics

Know special needs. Ask all guests and volunteers if they have any dietary restrictions (such as allergies or health issues), and write that information down to use when planning the menu. If the host has pets, this is a good time to ask about pet allergies.

Plan the menu. Keep this simple! If everyone in your group is an experienced cook, go ahead and cook a fancy meal; otherwise, stick with a simple dinner, which will be just as appreciated and a lot less stress. Keep the overall cost in mind. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables will be more expensive to purchase, as will most seafood and steaks.

Make a grocery list. Go over all recipe lists in your menu and write down the amount of each ingredient needed. People may be able to donate a few items from home, so check on that, then make a grocery list of everything else that still needs to be purchased.

Collect donated items. It’s better to collect all items the group volunteered to donate now. This way, you can make sure everything needed will be there, which is much better than having to run out to the store at the last minute if someone forgets or runs out of an ingredient right before the meal day.

cc21Buy the groceries. This can be done a few days in advance, but if there are items that may spoil, such as milk or fresh vegetables, don’t buy things much before then. Only purchase what is needed for the dinner. Make sure to buy enough, but don’t buy too much (this is where writing down the amount needed for recipes comes in handy). If there are two brands of cheese, buy the cheaper brand. That may only save you a dollar on cheese, but a dollar saved on several items really adds up! Remember that everyone is giving money based on a set budget.

Store everything. This is best done at whichever house the food will be cooked. Make a note on each item so someone in the house doesn’t accidentally eat something that’s for the dinner. All items that can be kept at room temperature can be left in the grocery bag and placed out of the way, so it’ll be easy to grab on cooking night.

Collect the money. Divide the final amount on the grocery receipt by the number of people helping financially to determine how much each person owes. Hopefully, everyone has planned and shopped carefully enough that each person only owes a small amount of money.

Coming up

Next we’ll talk about the atmosphere, so stay tuned!

By Davonne Parks

Delightful Dining: The People

cc1In keeping with our theme of service this month, we’re going to have a five-part series about serving others with a meal. We’re told in 1 Peter 4:10 that, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another…” Whether we can cook well or not, we can use our gifts to help serve this meal!

We’re going to start the week off by talking about enlisting help from others and inviting the guests; we’ll continue into how to plan the meal, how to prepare the host’s home, and the proper way to serve company. Then we’ll close off the week with a few suggestions for entertainment, as well as offer full menu suggestions and recipe links.

The upcoming lists and suggestions can be used by everyone involved in the planning, and volunteers can choose different responsibilities from the lists to complete. It may be helpful to print several copies for, or send links to, the other volunteers so they can have a reference during the planning process.

People Planning

Enlist help from others. Maybe your family would like to serve a meal together, or maybe a group of friends (or just one other friend) would like to be involved. Let others know your idea, and don’t turn anyone down who expresses an interest in helping. Also, be sensitive to other people’s financial needs––if someone wants to help, but can’t contribute financially, warmly accept their offer to help and tell them not to worry about the money.

Choose a place. Your group can pick the most appropriate house for the occasion––maybe someone has a large kitchen, or a big dining room table. Take advantage of that if it’s okay with their parents! If everyone has small spaces, don’t let that stop you––you can borrow a card table and chairs from someone or lay out a picnic blanket on the floor for younger guests. If the weather is nice, have an outdoor dinner, setting up card tables or picnic tables.

Set a tentative date. Tentatively set a specific date and time, but have a few possible dates in mind that will work for your group. This will allow some flexibility when talking to the potential guests in case most of them aren’t available on your first date choice.

cc2Designate jobs. There are plenty of jobs available that don’t include cooking! An artistic group member can plan on setting the dinner table or decorating the dessert. Someone who loves to talk on the phone could call to invite the guests. An organized person can manage everyone helping to make sure all needed areas are taken care of, and they could make to-do and grocery lists. The shopper of the group could pick up the groceries from the store, and the person who loves math can figure out how much everyone owes so one person isn’t stuck with most of the bill, or which store to shop at to get the best deals. No matter what everyone’s talent is, if you think creatively, you can use those talents to help with this event.

Plan a guest list. Allow your group to have input on this so you can all decide who to invite together. Keep this simple, and invite somebody who wouldn’t expect it. If there’s a lady at church who often does things for others without reciprocation, invite her (and her husband, if she’s married). Or you can invite an elderly couple, or someone who’s spouse has passed away. Maybe a neighbor lives alone and would love an evening of fellowship. Keep the guest list fairly small (four to eight people is a good amount), but make sure to include everyone in their household––if you invite an elder and his wife, also invite any children who are still living at home.

Finalize the date and time. The phone person can call around to tell all guests and helpers the exact date and time to be marked on their calendars.

Exchange numbers. Make sure the guests have your phone number, and you have theirs, so you can contact each other if any plans change. It may also be helpful to make a phone number sheet with all of the volunteers’ names and numbers to copy and pass around to the group who’s serving (a great job for the organizational person!).

Coming up

Later, we’ll discuss other aspects of planning this dinner. You can start planning now by following the “people planning” list, and continue later with the details that will follow. Enjoy serving Christ by serving others!

By Davonne Parks


Gifted Girls is featuring baking this month, so we’re posting photos, and linking to recipes, of things we’ve baked and cooked. It’s so easy to serve others with food (Matthew 25:34-40)––you can just cook something in two small pans instead of one large pan, or double a recipe, and take half to someone in need, whether you’re making a simple dessert from a box, or a fancy dinner.

Things we’ve made
Click on photos to be directed to recipes.

Baked Apple Pancake - Made by Davonne and Lily Parks

Baked Apple Pancake - Made by Davonne and Lily Parks

Ultimate Brownies – Made by Davonne and Lily Parks

Ultimate Brownies – Made by Davonne and Lily Parks

Sugar Cookies – Made by Carol Gartman and Davonne and Lily Parks (recipe not available)

Sugar Cookies – Made by Carol Gartman and Davonne and Lily Parks (recipe not available)

Peanut Butter Cookies – Made by Nathan and Lily Parks

Peanut Butter Cookies – Made by Nathan and Lily Parks

Your turn

Click on a link above, browse our Cooking Corner, do an online search for a recipe you’d like to try, or open up a recipe book. Once you find something that strikes your fancy, check to see if you have most or all of the ingredients, shop for what you don’t have, then start cooking! You may just discover a skill and interest you didn’t even know you had (1 Corinthians 7:7b).

Next month

Next month is the start of our special summer edition of the magazine, and in honor of that, we’re going to feature bedroom and household decorations. If you’ve made something for your home (picture frames, pottery, pillows, wall art, paintings, etc.), send us a photo! You can e-mail all entries to Info @ PierceMyHeart .com (remove spaces).

By Davonne Parks

Swimming Around Guys

aag1I believe that it’s fine to go swimming with guys, as long as I wear a modest bathing suit. I’ve heard others say we shouldn’t go mixed swimming at all. What do you think?

For most of us, it would be a new way of thinking to change our lifestyles when it comes to swimming arrangements. And probably a lifestyle that females think nothing about, but a change that guys would, honestly, probably not want but would benefit from. Guys have an incredibly hard time controlling their eyes and thoughts. They will be tempted to lust over females no matter how modest the bathing suit is or isn’t.

To go swimming in the presence of the opposite sex is not in itself a sin, but I do believe there are many things we should not do to keep a brother or sister in Christ from stumbling (1 Corinthians 10:32). Avoiding mixed swimming may be one of those things. A girl going swimming with guys may cause many of the guys to stumble and fail at controlling their eyes and keeping their thoughts pure. Truthfully, the best way for you to avoid causing males to stumble and to respect guys in that area is to change your swimming arrangements and to only swim with other girls or with family.

This can be applied to so many other situations in life other than swimming, such as wearing revealing clothing at work, or even church. But the point is to be mindful of those around you and their walk with God, as well as being pleasing to God. It’s also important to remember that guys are created differently than girls, and that includes sexuality. Although it may not affect you, or tempt you sexually, when you swim with the opposite sex, it does affect and tempt guys. While I think this is a struggle that is hard for girls to comprehend, it is something you seriously need to consider when striving to please God.

By Adam Grimenstein

10% off Bathing Suits – Last Day!

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– Davonne Parks

Civil Service

itw1Recently, an interesting case on the news caught my eye. I didn’t know anyone related to it; I didn’t know anything about it. I just found myself reading a live daily blog of what happened in court. This was a murder case. It seemed as though everyone was speculating which way the jury would vote, even myself. When the jury reached its verdict and it was announced, I found myself astounded. I questioned if perhaps they had reached the right decision. Many in the community criticized them because they felt the evidence they saw pointed to the defendant being not guilty.

Then some thoughts came to my mind. Our country has a legal system that affords people the opportunity to be judged by an impartial jury of their peers. This system selects randomly among registered voters to find people to come hear cases. Once they show up for duty, prosecutors and defense attorneys then ask different types of questions to find people who have not had prior knowledge of the particular case or who they feel will be impartial to the alleged offender.

The responsibility

These twelve people did not ask to be given this case. They didn’t choose to be on a jury, and they certainly didn’t want to send a man to prison for life. But they had a civic responsibility to make the best decision they could given the evidence. No matter their decision, they served their community to the best of their abilities and I had no right to criticize them for doing a job that many people don’t want to do. These people who are chosen cannot have any stakes in the outcome of a trial, but by the time it is over it can sometimes affect them for life because of the weight of a decision they had to make.

There are so many jobs in our society to which this relates. Any public or civic service seems to be the first to draw criticism. There is an old saying, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.” Those who criticize someone who is doing their best to serve others should consider how difficult that job may be.

To question, or not

itw3Occasionally there are times when we must question our system. If it is not tested, we won’t be able to find and fix any problems with it. But questioning and criticizing are completely different. By questioning, we are able to ensure our legal system is set up in a way that serves the public as a whole. Criticizing only creates negativity and doubt in our system and could lead to a lack of trust in and discontent with the system as a whole. If people do not trust the legal system, it makes it harder for our government officials to do their jobs. Police officers would lose the trust of the community, judges would be despised, it would lead to more criminals being left on the street.

Many times people are asked to take on a responsibility within an organization, church, company, or community and then are criticized because of how they perform. Often, those who are quick to criticize are among the last ones who would volunteer to do the job. Perhaps that is another reason for us to be slow to criticize others.

Someone who is making decisions based on the facts and following after the Lord may not be popular among those of the world. But as long as they are doing what is right and just, we should support and respect the decisions they make. And, without criticizing, we should accept their decision because there could be more to the situation than meets the eye.

Beyond public service

This criticism stretches far beyond public service positions. This scenario can be applied to almost any situation. A teacher who must punish a student does not do so because they want to, but if they allow that student to go about breaking the rules, then all students will think they should be allowed to break the rules too. Pretty soon, you have no rules or structure and no learning. That teacher’s responsibility is to make sure he or she creates an environment that allows all students to learn.

A parent does not discipline a child because he or she wants to. But without discipline, a child will not be able to learn right from wrong, and God’s standards of obedience. It is not an easy job to be a parent. When I was growing up, I didn’t understand why my parents disciplined me as much as they did. There are so many days now that I thank God that I had parents who cared enough about me to discipline me. And we should all thank our parents more for caring, because without that caring and teaching, we may end up on the wrong side of the courtroom with twelve jurors deciding our future––or perhaps one Judge, the Lord, deciding our fate without us ever learning to serve Him above all else.

Colossians 3:22: “Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.”

By Sarah Ancheta

What If?

jft2a“’If’ is a big word,” was the reply I received in a text message from an acquaintance, upon my asking of different “what if” statements. I stubbornly hit reply, ready to come back with something clever, because I was frustrated. Then, I paused. I canceled the reply, and reread the message. “If” is a big word … Something struck me each time I re-evaluated it. I’m doubtful the person meant much by it, but the statement has embedded itself into my thoughts, and often comes alive again.

More often than not, I get anxious about “what ifs.” No matter the occasion, I can always find something to “what if.” It’s not that I am a pessimist (far from it); it’s simply that I want to prepare myself for not-so-good outcomes or instances. What if I don’t pass chemistry? What if I never find a good husband? What if something happens to my parents? We could what if ourselves all day long! Although I still let these thoughts creep in at times, I strive to give my cares to Him, and let Him take all my worries away (1 Peter 5:6-7).

It’s human nature to worry, but because we are under God’s care, we have no reason to worry! Nothing good comes from worrying (Matthew 6:27), and we can go to God, in prayer, with all of our troubles (Philippians 4:6).

So then, what if we tell our concerns to Him, stop worrying, and focus on doing the work of a Christian––for Him––instead? We are told that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6b). As we think of peaceful things, many of us imagine a beach with calm waves, a wooded area surrounded by wildflowers…or, even waking up on a snow day and realizing we are out of school! Each of us has different things that give us a sense of happiness and security. But if we allow God to take complete control, the peace we will receive is so awesome and powerful that we cannot fully comprehend it. God is truly so good.

Don’t stress; don’t worry––just take each day He gives you, let Him take control, and find true peace in Him!

By Hannah Smith

Study Party

friends2Tests and finals can often be very stressful, and one of the best things we can do to help relieve the pressure of the upcoming tests is to be prepared. A fun way to do that is to host a study party, so we can serve our classmates (1 Peter 4:10), and hopefully learn something new in the process. I’m going to give you a few study party tips and suggestions, then you can adapt them to meet the needs of your own study group.

Study Games

Charades. Your group can take turns acting out the people and events that will be on the test.

Jeopardy. The judge announces a problem that the contestants have to write on a piece of paper and figure out the answer to. (This works great for math tests.) The first person with the correct answer gets a point, and the person with the most points at the end of the game wins (although everybody who learned during this game is a winner!).

Popcorn. The first person reads a few paragraphs; then they randomly pick the next person to read. Make sure to be fair in choosing new readers! This continues until the entire reading assignment has been completed, and a discussion can follow to make sure everyone understands the content. Extra tip: Pay special attention to the definitions of words in bold – they’re likely to show up on the test!

Rhyme. Remember difficult facts by making up chants, rhymes, or one-line jokes that will jog your memory.

Remember: When playing study games make sure you actually pay attention to what you’re supposed to be learning and make sure to thoroughly study what will be on the test.


friends1Picking out the best snack for your study party can be tricky, so make sure to keep it simple! Have everyone bring their favorite snack to make things easier on you, but have a few of your own items on hand. You could browse through our Cooking Corner articles for some inspiration, as well as look over the following ideas.

Multi-part cereal. Any cereal that has different food items in it is a fun choice, because every bite has a new taste.

Chex Mix. This can be purchased pre-made at most grocery stores, or you could make your own out of chex cereal, peanuts, cheetos, and pretzels.

Popcorn. It’s so easy to make––all you have to do is pop a bag in the microwave and wait.

Fruit and veggie trays. These will help keep energy up and calories down when the munchies hit hard.

Ice water. Sugary drinks like sodas and kool-aid will give energy for a little while, but that energy will quickly drop, leaving everyone more tired than they would have been without the sugar boosts. Consider having drink mixes like Crystal Light so people can add a little low-calorie flavor to the water.

Outside-the-party tips

Pay attention in class. This is where a good grade starts. If you have a difficult time focusing on or remembering facts about certain subjects, take notes during class. This will help you to stay focused during the class, and will help you to recall and look back on important information after class.

Complete your homework and other class assignments each day. Once you fall behind, it’s very difficult to catch up again, and one study session or unhealthy all-nighter isn’t going to make up for a semester’s worth of missed work. It’s much better to stay caught up; then you’ll only need to brush up on your facts before test days. Plus, when you’re always caught up, a pop quiz will never leave you in a panic!

Learn to budget your time. It takes a lot of self-discipline to start studying for a test two weeks in advance, but if you can pace yourself, you’ll learn and retain more information––and you’ll be able to get much-needed rest the night before the test because you won’t need a last-minute cramming session.

extra9Eat a healthy breakfast. Skipping breakfast or filling up on junk will deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to function at its best, and will leave you tired and foggy-minded. This can make even the most prepared students scrambling their tired, hungry brains for facts they would easily recollect on a full stomach.

Arrive to class early. This will give you time to settle down and focus. Take out your test supplies, including an extra pencil or two, and place them neatly on your desk.

Remember that it’s only a test. While we should always do our best, receiving a bad grade isn’t the end of the world. In the end, the only thing that’s going to matter a Christians is that we lived our lives to glorify Christ, and that we did everything we could do for His sake. Ecclesiastes 12:12–13: “…much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

By Michelle Jane