Posts Tagged ‘hospitality’

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.

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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.

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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.

hospitality

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?)

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

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

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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. //

 

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