Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why Hospitality?

It's important that we understand the answer to this question, otherwise hospitality remains a foreign idea, or a cumbersome guilt trip.  God has so much more in store for us when we become hospitable women!

Hospitality is not man's idea.  It is God's idea for man's benefit.

As a Christian, I know that God's directives are for my best interest, but it's easy to try to rationalize my way out of those things that take me a bit out of my comfort zone.  However, despite my pitiful "But, God..." whining, He's not gonna change His mind, and it's for my good. 

So...Why Hospitality?

1. God chose hospitality as a means of serving, bonding, assisting, comforting, and building relationships...with both guests and strangers.

* Jesus’ life is an example of both receiving and demonstrating hospitality. His ministry
depended on the hospitality that others extended to him, such as the meals at the
homes of Pharisees, at Lazarus’s home, and at the home of Mary and Martha. Meals
were also opportunities to demonstrate and discuss the heavenly banquet to which
God has invited us . . . and others whom we need to welcome at the table.

* The disciples depended on hospitality for their mission (Matt. 10).

* The early church grew as its members spread the good news while depending on
hospitality extended by both believers and non-believers. Hospitality was a test to
determine the fitness of a person to serve in the office of deacon.

* Although some may have a special gift for hospitality, it is commanded of all
believers to show hospitality, which is a practical application of
agape (the Greek word for Christian love).

(*taken from

2. Hospitality strengthens love and reduces animosity between believers.

When people become consumed with their own lives and problems, they tend to become ingrown and self-centered.  Not only do they spend less time fellowshipping with other believers, they find it easier to criticize and find fault with the very people they should be helping to lift up. Walls build, and divisions increase.  Hospitality between believers is vital to healthy relationships and helps to open the conversation and allow for the Titus 2 principle, as well as accountability and encouragement.
When we walk into each other's homes and each other's lives, we tend to get a better grip on our common struggles, fears, and goals...and we have renewed appreciation for each other's journey.

3. Hospitality lifts the financial load of another.

In the days of McDonald's and Motel 6, Wendy's and Wingate, Culver's and Comfort get the idea...we feel that people have multiple ways of taking care of themselves.  If momma is sick and can't cook, daddy can surely run to the closest fast food restaurant and get some processed, fried food to feed the rest of the family.  If someone has a house fire, they can sleep at Super 8 with their insurance money.  If a Bible College group comes through, well hey, the church can buy them a bed and a continental breakfast at the Hampton Inn.  Unfortunately, progress and convenience have aided us in missing out on a Biblical principle and the blessings that follow.  There very well may be times that someone will refuse an offer of a bed or meal in our homes because they need more convenience or privacy, but one can never go wrong with a heartfelt offer and full intention of carrying the offer to completion.

4. Hospitality "helps" a messie.

Need some motivation to keep a tidy house?  Have company once a week.  Not your parents or your big sister (who totally get it that you're busy and don't have a spare second to clean), but people who you wouldn't want to greet with a mess.  Maybe some would think that this would lead to bondage, and maybe it would if the hospitality were coming from impure motives, but I'm guessing it would help the whole family be more aware of clutter and dirt.  And once it's clean, it's easier to maintain.

5.  Hospitality is a huge, practical training ground for children.

Want selfish kids?  Never ask them to share their toys or their food.  Never make them sleep on the floor while a guest takes their room for a night...or two or three.  Never make them consciously, tangibly give.  Most of us don't want to be anywhere near that type of childrearing, but what are we doing to counteract that natural self-serving spirit? 

6.  Hospitality gets us out of ourselves.

We are all busy.  Most of us think we are busier than our neighbors, busier than our friends, and busier than our enemies.  A few days ago, I was asking a distant family member about an upcoming family event, and she looked at me firmly and said, "We won't be there.  We are very busy."  I can't convey the condescending tone that she used, but her non-verbals as well as her intonation indicated that her life was much more complicated than the those of the rest of the family, and rather than go into the whole "priority" thing, I just smiled and moved on with the conversation.  Fact is, we make time for what is important to us.  Sometimes we just become too wrapped up in our emotions and commitments to make ourselves available to serve others.  That defeats God's purpose for us, and none of our excuses (as pious as they may seem to us) will be good enough to get us off the hook.  If we are too busy to be hospitable, then we are too busy. Ouch. :-)

There are a boatload of answers to the question - Why Hospitality?  However, I think these six give us enough reason to get started.  Stay tuned for the next post in this topic...

Click here for another hospitable summer recipe!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hospitality and a Refreshing Spring Dessert

If you need a dessert that will feed a small crowd, check out this easy recipe here.  Look for a great veggie version later this week! 

My mom and I recently had a conversation regarding hospitality, and I've been more than a little convicted about my lack of attention to this Biblical theme.  Oh, there's always an excuse:
  • The house is dirty.
  • The kids are tired.
  • I'm tired.
  • My husband is tired.
  • My dining room table seats only 6.
  • We're so busy.
  • People probably don't really want to feel obligated to come to our house, and if we ask, they'll surely feel obligated.
  • My furniture is old, and splitting at the seams.
  • My kids might do something off the wall and embarrass me.
  • People might not like my food.
I want to think that God laughs at our petty excuses, but in reality, they probably make Him cry.  It's easy for Christians to link arms with the rest of selfish America, and keep our front doors locked tight and the blinds closed.  Obviously, the church is succumbing...if you don't think so, pay attention the next time your church hosts a 50+ member choir overnight.  See how many homes open up to host a college student.  God cries, I'm sure. 

So, I'm gonna do better.  We're gonna do better!  Remember, God doesn't ask us to entertain, He challenges us to show hospitality.  The dictionary definition of hospitality is as follows:

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

I don't read anything into this definition, other than simply showing people the love of Christ.  Why do we make it so difficult?  Hospitality benefits both the giver and the receiver.  Often, the roles end up being reversed, with the giver receiving an even bigger blessing. 

Over the next few days, I plan to share some posts concerning the why, who, where, when, and how of hospitality.  I'm not an expert, just simply a woman who wants to bless others with what has been given to me.

If you would like to check out my mom's article on hospitality on this month's Pilgrim Pastor's Wives page, click here.

"When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality."
Romans 12:13 (NLT)

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)

"Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!"Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)

***Feel free to share your favorite easy hospitality meal, or ways that you have overcome Satan's lies and received God's blessings regarding hospitality. I'd love to hear your perspective, and I'm sure others would, too!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring Brings...

big changes!

Two years ago, we decided to put our house up for sale. We worked hard to make it sparkle and shine, and put a sign in the yard. It was a very difficult time to sell, lending was tight, and our asking price was high. We had several offers, lots of showings, and positive remarks, but it just didn't sell. Greg and I both felt that if it didn't sell within six months, we would remove it from the market, and be done for awhile. And that's what we did.

About a month ago, circumstances aligned themselves in such a fashion that we felt it was time to drop the price and market again. All of this happened just before Granny's sudden illness, so we haven't been aggressive in marketing, but we are seeing some interest in the house.  Hopefully things will roll along quickly, as we are excited to get some painting and flooring completed and be ready to move into our next address:

The previous owners felt the need to take the white
porch fencing with them, so things look just a bit
different now.  :-)
We will be living in this home for at least a year, then hopefully it's to the country (i.e., no neighbors, clean air, room to roam, blessed quietness) for us!  As the Lord wills, of course.

 If you think about it, pray that things move quickly and smoothly.  We appreciate it.

***Greg has gently warned me that after this move, there will only be one more.  :-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Child's Grief

Since I couldn't sleep, I thought I'd grab the laptop and chat to whomever would want to listen. 
This last week as been quite the trip. We've laughed, cried, prayed, hoped, comforted, hugged, explained, anticipated, held, soothed, questioned, remembered, and accepted. Not necessarily in that order.

It has been interesting to watch my four-year-old grieve the death of her great-grandmother.  I've never really seen Allison cry unless she was hurt, mad, or tired.  To catch her sobbing at two completely random times was unusual, and I was really amazed at her perception of the events.  Today she was milling around the house and I heard her say, "Granny was always so nice to me."  I interjected myself into her one-sided conversation so that I could affirm her words and make sure she was ok.  She had a precious smile on her face, and it was apparent she was simply processing memories and verbalizing her thoughts regarding those memories.  It is good to see that happening.

My dad actually transported grandma's body from here in Lima to his hometown of Greenup, IL.  When it was clear that mom and dad would need to drive separately, Evan quickly offered to ride with Papa to take Granny home.  Although I didn't mention it to him, it seems to me he was comfortable with this process.   For an 11-year-old to want to ride with a deceased person for 300 miles is somewhat unusual, it would seem.  He did vent one frustration:  "Mom, it seems that I just want to call her an "it" cause it's really not her.  SHE is in Heaven."  I assured him that her body is still a part of her, and that he didn't need to refer to her as "it."  Interesting.  I think it was therapeutic for him to make that final ride with her. 

Ryan experienced his most touching moment at the hospital during one of the last times that we gathered around Granny for prayer.  Greg had brought the kids up for a "goodbye," as she was failing and unresponsive.  As dad was praying, he began to mention how grandma had prayed over his sick body many times when he was a boy and God had definitely touched him.  My dad had some pretty serious illnesses within the first few months/years of his life, and Grandma's prayers played a key role in his recovery.  Dad broke down during this prayer for his momma, and it was if Ryan suddenly connected the dots in this mother/son relationship.  He was touched.  It was a special moment.

The Sunday of Grandma's passing, we waited until the kids woke up for church before breaking the news to them.  Because she had been so low that week, it wasn't a complete shock; however, ten days previous to her death, she seemed a picture of health.  So, we didn't really plan on any of this. After Greg went into the kids' rooms to tell them, things proceeded a bit normally and they began to dress for church.  I stayed in bed a little longer, due to a late night at the hospital and then all of the communications during the night just after her death.  Pretty soon, Kaitlynn crawled into bed with me.  She was sobbing.  She said that lots of times when she would be staying at Mama and Papa's house, everyone else would get busy.  She would sneak into Granny's apartment and Granny would spend time with her.  She would definitely miss those special moments, and the finality of an empty apartment was hard to take.

We have never tried to shelter our kids from nursing homes, hospitals, or funerals.  We want them to understand that tragedy, aging, and death are a very real part of life.  We know that their acceptance of those realities will impact how they live their lives.  But...they haven't ever been as up close and personal with it as in the last week.  So it was a time of questions and answers, to be sure.  It's important to be real with the answers, and we have done our best with that. 

It will be interesting to see how long they are impacted by grief.  The differences in their ages and personalities will play a role in that, and I expect that their experiences will vary.  I'm glad they have the memories.  They don't have to wonder what Granny was like.  They knew her.  She was very real to them.  That's a treasure.

During one of the Illinois viewings, some of
the great-grandchildren wrote notes for Granny.
A couple more were added after this photo, and
they were tucked into Granny's hands to go with
her.  This was one of the ways the children
expressed their grief.
Kaitlynn bursts in the door from school today hollering, "Mom, are ya feeling any better?  You look TERRIBLE!"  Yes, my blondie has a way of calling things just like she sees 'em.  I can add that to a complement from one of the boys last week, "Mom, you need some sleep.  Your eyes are all black underneath."  It's a good thing I don't derive my sense of self esteem from them...I'd probably be half way to suicide by now.  :-)
In Kaitlynn's defense, I'm sure I do look terrible.  I guess I just need to find a way to teach her to gently break the truth.  That will net her more friends, I'm sure. 

Unfortunately, what I thought was a little upset stomach after lunch yesterday turned into a nasty virus that still hasn't run its course.  When I went to school yesterday morning, I had my usual bottled Starbucks drink (I know, I know), and gave four piano lessons.  Pretty soon it was lunch, and I had some leftovers from the weekend.  By 2:30 in the afternoon, I was attending a committee mtg at the vocational school around the corner, and things started feeling really weird.  I dashed down to the vending machine to grab a Coke, thinking I just needed something to settle things a bit, but things never  settled, and I flew home with the kids after school to do a two-hour cleaning blitz on the house (we had a 6 o'clock showing).  With trembling hands, a sick stomach, and a cold sweat, I helped Greg make beds, dust the furniture, clean the floors, and all the other necessary "make it look good" techniques, and we finished just as the potential buyers pulled into the driveway.  After spending half-an-hour with them, I was at the end of my endurance, and hit the bed! 

26 hours later, I'm not feeling as well as I had hoped, but I'm thankful for all of the texts of encouragement that I have received from my friends and family today!  One friend even brought a delicious dinner of homemade chicken-n-noodles, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and brownies for my family.  I think that bringing a meal is one of the most thoughtful things someone can do for a person who is grieving, sick, or recovering, and our church is amazing when it comes to this type of care.  Bless you all.  :-)

As you can imagine, the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion.  I have had many "firsts" during this time, and my next few posts will probably be in reference to my grandmother who recently passed away.  I understand that not everyone gets how difficult a loss like this would be, so please know that my thoughts are more for me than for anyone else.  My grandma and I have always been very close, even more so within the last five years that she was living in my parent's home.  Through this time, the memories have surfaced like never before, and it has been a time of real emotional bonding within our family. I'm so thankful that my brother and sister live close and were able to share some really special moments with grandma in the last hours of her life.  Although we showed her our love regularly, we were able to spend as many moments as we wanted there in the hospital telling her our hearts.  That was a blessing. 

Now that I have myself in tears again, I'll leave you with a picture of Eric and I with our cousin, Chris Nichols.  Since grandma did not communicate anymore after Chris arrived, we hope that she could at least hear all of our reminiscing.  Had she been able, she would have been shaking with laughter.  Her giggle was so contagious!

A very late night/early morning at St. Rita's Medical Center
~Eric, Stephanie, Chris~

Monday, April 16, 2012

Here I Am...

sitting in McDonald's playland, spending some quality time with my kids.  It's unusual that we are the only people in this large play area, but it's probably a good thing.  I'm listening online as my brother is giving a radio tribute to my grandmother.  He is playing her favorite song, and you can find the link below if you would like to enjoy it, too. 

Each of us has our own special connection with Granny, and one of Eric's has been that she listened to him on the radio each M-F afternoon/evening from 2-10.  When she moved from Illinois 5 years ago, Christian radio immediately became one of her best friends.  Eric is going to miss knowing that she is on the receiving end of his ministry.

My granny loved gospel music.  She played the guitar, and always had a special fondness for Southern Gospel.  She took Ryan and Evan to a Legacy Five concert in February, and loved every minute of it. 

Her radio was on day and night, and it wasn't unusual to find her reading the newspaper - with a book turned upside down on her lap, the radio blaring, and her dvd player competing with the radio.  She loved it all.  :-)

Granny was unassuming.  She was satisfied in knowing that Jesus had given Himself for her sins, and she was amazed at His love for her.  That was enough to satisfy her heart completely.  Here is Jason Crabb and The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir...

We love you, Granny.  I especially enjoyed shopping for you this morning.  I know your Heavenly robes are more stunning that what we picked for you to wear to your funeral, but I still think you would have liked the new dress.  :-)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Plan B

If last week was productive, this week is just the opposite!  Life as we know it can come to a screeching halt pretty quickly, can't it?  My time has been split between the hospital and school with a little sleep crammed in between.  Thanks to those of you who have been praying.  My granny is keeping us guessing...she gets a little better, then a little worse...but today has definitely brought an improvement.

Easter was a wonderful time of meditation/celebration.  This year we really didn't participate in any of the extra-curricular Easter activities.  No egg hunts, no parties, just worship.  The girls were excited to receive new dresses, and the boys are way beyond that and couldn't have cared less that they were wearing something old.  :-)  It was nice. 

Each moment spent at the hospital has been a poignant reminder of the uncertainty of life, and the surety of death.  I have watched a grieving family remove a mother from life support after several days of hopeful waiting.  I have listened to the wondering, the questioning, and the painful recognition of finality.  It's had a sobering effect on my spirit.  Kind of put things back into perspective for me.

We're unsure of what the next few days and weeks hold, but we know Who's holding the days and weeks, and that's what matters. 

Looking ahead short-term, there is one more school day before spring break.  What could be more exciting than that?! 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I Smell Progress!

Dontcha just love those 'git-r-done' weeks?! We had one of those last week, and this ain't no April Fool's joke! :-)

At our house:
  • Front beds mulched, grass planted
  • Shower floor repaired
  • My closet organized for spring and unused items removed (who knew I had 16 denim skirts?)
  • My dresser drawers organized
  • My nightstand drawers organized
  • Bedroom dusted, hardwood swept, rug vacuumed
  • Bathroom cabinets organized
  • All of the girl's stuffed animals, dolls, and books boxed
  • Kid's closet (they all share one the length of the bedroom wall) cleaned and organized
  • Laundry room counter cleaned and organized (it is about an 8-ft counter - clutter collector)
  • Photo albums, VHS tapes, and miscellaneous unused home decor boxed
  • One replacement window installed (4 to go)
  • A couple of hours spent at Lowe's and Menard's
  • A breakfast date at Bob Evan's with my sweetheart (and a bogo coupon)  :-)

It's amazing what we can do when we roll up our sleeves and get busy!  Tomorrow night I plan to clean out the girls' dressers and tape off the boys' room for painting.  It would be awesome to have most things finished by the long-awaited vacation day - Good Friday!