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Full Stomachs, Full Hearts (Can’t Lose?)

Since the first hint of a possibility that we might even consider moving to Utah, I’ve constantly felt like this transition was in God’s hands. Everything we prayed for, everything we were anxious about, it all just came together. It’s felt right from the beginning and I have continued to feel God’s abundant presence over our lives.

When house hunting, I prayed for a home that would allow us to host others frequently. To invite in family, friends and neighbors to enjoy each other’s company, share stories and build relationships. To have a Braverman-style backyard full of people.

We closed on our new home the same day my nephew arrived from Tulsa to spend five days with us this summer. He got to be there the first time we walked in as homeowners and spent our first two nights in the house with us. Right off the bat, an answered prayer, our family got to break it in. This made me feel immensely grateful.

This weekend, exactly three weeks after we moved in, we got to host our first backyard cookout. We spent the day smoking chickens and prepping food and drinks. We invited the only real friends we’ve made here so far (who, by the way, we met at church – holy miracle!). We also invited our neighbors, who we’ve quickly befriended. And when my neighbor text me an hour before the shindig asking if she could invite some other neighbors to join us, I just thought, “Absolutely!”

The Hayley of years past would have been totally stressed out by this ask. Four extra people! We need more food! We need more plates! We need more chairs! Instead, I went with “the more the merrier” approach, and guess what? It was TRUE.

So, where are all my foodie and tablescape pics, you ask? Well, there are none. It wasn’t that kind of party.

Instead, this “dinner party” was nothing like the ones I used to imagine I’d host. No elaborate place settings. Not enough matching chairs. No beautifully arranged food to display. Instead, we pulled the steaks and chicken off the grill when they were done and threw them on those big handy cafeteria trays for people to serve themselves off of. We put the salads and fruit out on the table and told people to fill their plates. And they did. And it was delicious. And wonderful.

It was not even remotely Pinterest worthy. I didn’t take a single photo to show how beautiful it was. Because it was not beautiful – it was kind of a mess, honestly. But more importantly, we were having too much fun to take photos. It’s emblazoned in my mind forever. All the kiddos playing in the yards between our houses. Our friends’ daughter jumping on the trampoline for the first time. Then adorably crawling all over the cornhole boards, hilariously stepping in the hole by accident and making us all laugh and cheer (three points)!

Everyone chatting and sharing stories, getting seconds and thirds from the table. The kids (okay, me too) shooting Reddi Whip straight into their mouths in addition to their fruit bowls. Everyone helping and cleaning up together.

Honestly? It was SO good for my heart. Just feeding people. Just loving people. No need for fancy decor or gourmet food. Those things are definitely fun on occasion, of course. But so unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

So grab the paper plates, cook (or order!) the food, and invite the people.

It’s all about the quality time and memory making.

People should try it more often and see what happens. It’s pretty cool.

Happy #Gratitudesday!

Had to take this picture the next day – the aftermath of fun on the patio!

{Bonus points today to those who caught my Parenthood and Friday Night Lights references. And now I’m off to go restart both series on Netflix for the billionth time…)

-by Hayley Westwood
My Life, Elevated

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