Archive for the ‘Hospitality’ Category

Hospitality Stories Part II

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

hospitality

It’s a bittersweet day. Today is the final post for my hospitality series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and found something useful along the way.

But, I’m excited to share another hospitality story  to end the series by one of my favorite people on the planet.

Marcella is a friend of mine from our seminary days. I met her  in the last couple of years that we were in Philadelphia, through a book club, and as soon as I met her, I wished I had met her sooner.

We also ended up in a supper club together, which was one of the highlights of my adult life, really. I have never laughed harder and felt so comfortable with a group of people.

Marcella was always throwing big parties and loved having people around. She’s an amazing cook, but even more, she has a sweet spirit that’s contagious. (Just look at that face!)

Marcella and her little boy, James

Marcella and her little boy, James

Hospitality Stories

Monday, November 10th, 2014

To wrap up my hospitality series, I’m excited to share stories from a couple of friends who I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around the table with many times. They’ve not only been hospitable to my family, but to many others along the way.

hospitality

The first story is by my friend Kristi James, a fellow pastor’s wife and blogger, with a serious wit. I always crack up a little when I think of her answer to the oft-asked question, “What’s it like being the pastor’s wife?

Kristi: “It’s better than being the pastor’s girlfriend.”

Yes, yes it is.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

When we moved to Asheville, we lived in a pretty cool apartment in a building that had been built to function as a hotel, but had been used as a mental hospital until the nineties.

As in 1990’s.

It was as gothic and creepy as you’d expect. Once a friend came over for the first time and when I opened the door, she was practically sweating. “I didn’t see another person the entire way up here!” she said. It was dark and quiet, making the whole thing seem even more eery.

In my mind, the ideal home for exhibiting hospitality is one that’s easy to find, has great curb appeal, and maybe even a double-wide circular driveway. Lined with great landscaping.

Our creepy third floor apartment was definitely not that.

And yet, we had people over. We gave them our security code to the building, or we ran down to let them in. We welcomed them, fed them, talked to them, and hugged them goodbye, even though it wasn’t an ideal setup.

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I come from kind of a quiet family so when we got married, I was sure that I’d never be the one to raise my voice. I’m soft spoken as it is, so it seemed unlikely that I’d ever be the “yeller.”

We didn’t have people over for a long time after we got married, because it took forever for us to get our house to a point where I felt like it was moderately presentable. I’m 9 years younger than my husband, and moving into the house he’d already lived in for years made it hard for me to feel confident in my ability to make good choices for a home.

Plus I didn’t really cook. (Clearly I was a real catch.)

We finally invited another couple over for the first time and I was super stressed. I felt the need to be a fancy southern host (although I’m neither fancy nor southern). I had several things working against me. We had a smelly dog that shed a sweater’s worth of hair right after you vacuumed, like a fluffy middle finger taunting you from the corner. Fancy southern women don’t have piles of dog hair in the corner. The kitchen had about 2 square feet of counter space and no dishwasher. Fancy southern women don’t have cluttered counters and unwashed dishes. I knew how to make about 3 things, so I made them. Fancy southern women use The Masters Cookbook and make…fancy things.

I scrambled around trying to make things JUST SO. Right before our friends came over, my exasperation with Duff’s inability to know EXACTLY what I needed help with at every moment without me having to actually verbalize it boiled over, and I yelled some words at him.

Everything about it shocked me. The volume, the tone, the actual words I used; it was awful. He handled it perfectly, walking calmly out the back door to the grill, while I fell apart, crying at the kitchen sink. I looked up and saw our friends walking to the door. Perfect.

***

Hospitality is bigger than having people over, but one of the easiest ways to bridge the gap between being an acquaintance and being a friend is to spend time in each others’ homes. Before Facetime was a thing, I had a friend who wanted to see where I sat when I talked to her on the phone, so she could picture it. Spending time in each others homes is like that – our idea of the person is more grounded and personal once we invite each other into our living spaces.

But I share those two stories because while that sounds romantic, it isn’t always perfect.

Your home may not be exactly what you want it to be. We live in a house now and while it’s easy to find and has some curb appeal, we have street parking and it can be kind of a pain. But we have people over all the time, and you know what? No one has ever turned us down because they have to walk a few hundred feet to get to the door.

Your mental state might not be perfect. Wouldn’t be nice if you could be cool as a cucumber and impressive whenever anyone approached your house? “Who me? I’m just whipping up a batch of meringue by hand. My mixer’s broken but it’s fine! Everything else I needed to do is done so I figured this would be just the thing to fill the time!”

NO. Never going to be me.

Instead, I’ll try to make sure things are reasonable – a toilet that won’t gross you out and handsoap in the bathroom. But your feet will probably crunch on a stray cheerio and you’ll see crumbs from last night’s dinner on a child’s placemat. I might be mad (but I probably won’t have just yelled at my husband because while I’ve yelled since then, the years have softened me a little and it doesn’t happen as often). I might be tired. I might end up needing you to help me with something. But I want you to be there, at that moment. I’m not going to wait until I’m perfectly ready.

Because I’m not ever going to be perfectly ready.

Instead, my imperfectly ready is the best I’ve got to offer.

But when it comes to hospitality, the imperfectly ready is more than enough.

(Also, I ran out of sugar, can you bring a cup?)

***

Connect with Kristi at her blog, And Babies Don’t Keep, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Helpful Hints for Showing Hospitality with Older Kids

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

hospitality

 

It’s hard to believe that most of my kids fit into the “older” category now. And by older, I mean, able to unload the dishwasher without breaking dishes (most of the time), setting the table (without breaking dishes), and clearing the table (well, you know…).

It seem like just  yesterday that I was home alone most Saturdays with my 3 little ones, while Duane was off studying for seminary. Those days were intense, yet I have  many fond memories of chubby, little hands pouring, scooping, and stirring with me.

I don’t think I would have survived our seminary season without the people that stopped by, ate with us, and made us laugh. Plus, when kids are young, they go to bed E A R L Y, so we had ample time to linger with company once the kids were asleep for the night.

Now…not so much. They protest going to bed at 9pm and really don’t want to miss out on the fun. I can’t blame them. They’re becoming their own people now, able to ask adults questions and enter into conversation.

Sometimes I want to shove them off, so I can have a coherent conversation, but in more mature moments, I realize the need to lay down my  desires for the sake of their  participation in our community.

Honestly, I’m grateful that my children are growing up alongside other wise adults and their children. Jesus, have mercy if I’m the only one speaking into their lives.

With that said, let’s get on to some helpful hints for showing hospitality with O L D E R kids.

#1 Spell it out. I’m pretty sure I said this in my first post, but kids do a lot better if you tell them what’s happening for the day before the day starts. Let them know that you’ll need their help at a specific time and for how long.

#2 Assign chores.  Get a feel for what they actually like doing (even though sometimes they just need to do what needs to be done, ya know?).  Aidan often helps Duane out with yard work, while Abby and Stephen prefer to help me in the kitchen.

#3 Set the table properly. There are tons of Google images on  proper place settings. I printed one and kept it on the table every night as a guide until they knew how to set the table appropriately.

#4 Let them participate. If your child likes to cook, let her/ him make one of the side dishes or dessert. If your child is artistic, let her/ him create a menu or design place cards.

#5 Hospitality Manners Check List.  I found this printable and immediately hung it on our refrigerator. I tweaked the title a little, however, from Hospitality is a Virtue to Hospitality is Our Response to Jesus’ Love for Us. (Ok, I get that I’m slightly nerdy.)   Regardless, it’s a great list to teach kids how to treat guests with reminders like:

Always offer to take a guest’s coat or belongings

                                  or

Always walk a guest to the door when leaving.

 

Bonus Tip: I just found out today that SheReadsTruth.com is beginning a hospitality study for the next two weeks.

I love their response to the following question:

“If all those party planning and design ideas on my Pinterest boards don’t look like true hospitality, then what does?”

In Jesus we see that hospitality begins in the heart.

Yes. Yes. And yes.

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For my next posts in the series, I can’t wait to share  hospitality stories written by friends who’ve  made hospitality a lifestyle, even in the chaos of kids. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful Hints for Showing Hospitality WITH Young Kids

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t looking to be impressed. They’re longing to feel like they’re at home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.” –Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

hospitality

 

If you don’t remember anything from this hospitality series, memorize the above quote. The same exact thought rolls around in my mind often, but she communicates it more eloquently than I ever could (which is why she wrote a book and I write on this self-published blog).

I really think that is why so many of us are afraid of hospitality, especially once kids arrive on the scene.  We realize that it’s hard to juggle  time between kids and creating a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, so we settle for nothing.

After I wrote the first post for this series, a good friend of mine reminded me that she wishes her friends with kids would let go of worrying about hoy many toys are put away or baking the best apple pie; she just wants to be with them, to be seen and known.

We all want the same, deep down. But we’re surrounded by sleek images of dinner parties for 15, with decorative name cards, two kinds of glasses, matching plates filled with roasted parsnips and beets, prepared with goat cheese and arugula,  then drizzled with honey, and we think: “If that’s hospitality, I don’t have  time for it.” So we settle for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong: I kinda love a cooking challenge and I like to serve things that are  outside of the box.  There’s nothing wrong with that. But, there have been plenty of times when I’ve served scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls or a big pot of chili.

I’ll tell you another secret.  I have a small house and 4 kids. I don’t have a dining room and we call our fenced-in front yard the bonus room. It can be frustrating at times to have guests over, especially in the winter when we can’t rely on the “bonus room.”

But we’re committed to a life of hospitality with the resources we’ve been given. You probably won’t get filet mignon at my house, and you certainly won’t get name cards, but you will be fed and we hope you’ll laugh (or cry) while you’re here, too.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the main point: Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Children.

#1 Lay a foundation.  Kids, even as young as two,  can help around the house.  Get them started with easy chores while they still think it’s fun. My two-year-old is actually quite proud of himself when he hands me the clean silverware from the dishwasher to be put away in the drawer.

If they start helping now, it becomes part of a normal routine. Then, when the time comes to have people over, they’re already used to helping out.

#2 Keep things accessible. For young kids, it’s important that you keep some things on their level. At our house, we have an entire lower cabinet dedicated to kids’ dishes, cups, snack bowls, etc. That way it’s easy for them to serve themselves, but also to access meal necessities when other kids come over.

#3 Prep, prep, prep. This might be a no-brainer, but do everything you can before your guests arrive. It’s really hard to fuss with cooking as your guests arrive while you’re shouting at your 2-year-old to get out of the trash.

Crock pot meals are great way to prepare in advance. Plus, your house smells good all day long. Often, if I’m making a dessert, too, I’ll make it the day before so I don’t have too much to do in one day.

#4 Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Speaking of dessert, baking is one of the best ways to introduce young children to cooking. They love to  scoop, pour, and sprinkle (with a little help, of course).  You’ll have a little extra clean-up, but again, if you start them early, they’ll think it’s fun, not a burden.

Abby is now at an age where she can make cookies totally on her own, and that’s a sweet reward (literally) as a mom.

#5 Plan ahead. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (C’mon, you know THAT movie.) Sometimes we have the best intentions, but if we don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. Take a few minutes each month to schedule hospitality  into your life. You’ll make somebody else’s day in the process. Don’t you like getting invited over places, especially after you’ve had kids?!

#6 Embrace the chaos. It’s not always pretty. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, but serve some grilled cheeses once in a while, too. The most important thing is to have people over (homework: memorize top quote).

Also, if you have kids, chances are you’re having other kids over, too (though I suggest inviting over all different kinds of people in different stages of life). It can be loud and chaotic. I used to dream of having a playroom, one where I  could shut the door and talk to our guests uninterrupted. It never happened. But the guests at some of our most chaotic dinner parties have become some of our best friends.

It just takes time. Hang in there. Don’t settle for nothing.

We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes.  We’re spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it.” -Bread and Wine

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Disclaimer: I like Pinterest. I think it’s a great digital filing system. I actually find and file most of my recipes there. Cookbooks are virtually obsolete in my house (that’s another subject). BUt I do think there’s a negative side to Pinterest. It’s so darn pretty that I do think it creates pressure to be extraordinary, when ordinary would be just fine. Glennon Melton from the blog, Momastery,  wrote a GREAT article about this idea called Pinsanity. Read now! It’s hilarious.

 

// Let me know if you have any more helpful hints to add to this list in the comment below. //

 

Showing Hospitality WITH Your Kids

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

hospitality

We moved around the kitchen together, putting away, picking up, drying, washing. I noticed her sighs become heavier along the way, no longer muffled but full-blown. The knot of anxiety tightened in my chest; the forceful whisper of her sigh was louder than a freight train in my ear. At that moment, I just wanted someone–anyone–to help without sighing.

I also wanted to give her a piece of my mind.

“DO you know how much I do around here? DO you understand that you have free food everyday and a roof over your head because of what other people do for you? So, can you P L E A S E put away a few dishes WITHOUT sighing?”

Okay, that’s happened. More times than I’d like to admit. I like a quick fix, especially when we’re getting ready for company. But this time, I paused before I reacted (key) and thought before I spoke (really KEY).

I took her face in my hands and said: “Part of the joy of having company is the preparation. It doesn’t have to be a drag. We get to anticipate the arrival of our guests all day and work together to create an inviting space.”

She softened a little after these words and replied, “Yeah, you’re right.” Her eyes began to twinkle with the same anticipation that I had. Then, guess what? The sighing stopped. Really.

We continued our work, but with a new willingness to enjoy the work together.

Oh, this scenario is rife with parenting lessons like:

#1 “A fool (me) shows his annoyance (at sighing) at once, but the prudent overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16).”

If I just take a few second to collect myself, things usually go a lot better and the situation doesn’t escalate.

#2 Kids love to have things spelled out for them. Sometimes a plan comes together perfectly in my mind, but if I haven’t communicated that vision to my kids, it flops. It’s always helpful for them if I explain what’s happening for the day and what I expect from them before the day begins. There’s usually less groaning and sighing because they know what to expect.

#3 The real reason for this post: You can be hospitable, even if you have kids, even WITH your kids.

Honestly, I often get incredulous responses when people find out I’m hosting a dinner party. I guess it’s the whole 4-kids-thing (including an almost 2-year-old toddler). I agree, partly, with their responses. Sometimes I think I AM crazy for adding extra mouths to the table when I already feed 6 people EVERY day.

But the truth is: I’d go crazy if I didn’t invite people into our home.

I’ll let you in on a Davis family secret: one of the best ways to get over the aggravations that rumble under the surface of everyday life is to have other people over. (Stop laughing; I’m serious.)

It’s a chance for us as a family to stop navel-gazing and begin thinking about the needs of others. It’s amazing how many tensions have melted away when our attention turns away from ourselves toward others.

I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I’ve been doing this gig for over 13 years.

One more thing: Life doesn’t have to stop when you have kids. A slower pace sets in, for sure, but it’s also an opportunity for your kids to GO with you and TAKE PART in the things you value.

Okay, so now that the pep talk is over, here’s the breakdown of the next 3 posts:

#1 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Kids 

#2 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Older Kids

#3 Hospitality Stories

I really hope this series is helpful for you. Please feel free to shoot me any questions during the hospitality series in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

I’ll sign off with these two L O V E L Y quotes about hospitality. (And really, who doesn’t want to entertain angels?!)

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

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