China Soup Bowls and Plastic Spoons – Hospitality gone wrong

Our sweet, elderly neighbor passed away two years ago and her children are in the process of selling her house. In their cleaning out and packing things up the daughter asked me if I would like her Mother’s china. I was so honored and thrilled to be gifted with this beautiful 12 piece place setting of  china.

Did you notice the totally adorable soup bowls? They have two handles. I’ve never seen such cuteness! I’ve had the china all of one week and we used it for the first time tonight. And totally not in the right way. Like for real.

We ate ice cream in the cutie patootey soup bowls.

With our new’ish neighbors.

I know. Tacky.

Here’s what’s tackier. I do dinner invites all wrong. First of all I have to get over myself and thinking everything has to be perfect before we have people over. And then when I finally do that I still don’t do it right. How’s this for a dinner invite: Show up at door step of neighbors at 6:15pm and say, “Ya’ll want to come over for dinner? Like right now. If you do we’d love to have you. If you don’t it’s okay too. We have to pick our kid up at 7:00pm so we don’t have long.”

Somebody slap me and say, “awkward.”

But my friend Amy Lively  has taught me much about loving our neighbors and I haven’t quite learned the “not being weird” part yet but I’m getting there. I hope she would just say, “Nah, not awkward or weird – you’re just inviting people where you are and where they are. Keep at it!”

My neighbors stared at me for a few seconds and then looked at each other and said, “Yeah, sure, we’ll come. Give us 5 minutes.”

I walked across the yard and back into our house and Randy said, “Melody, you don’t have enough food. That’s a tiny pork tenderloin. You need two.” And I realized he was so stinking right. There were three guests and four of us. We didn’t have enough. What the world was I thinking?!!

I’d heard of missionaries swearing their spaghetti had  multiplied at large gatherings where they didn’t have enough food. Of course I’ve read about the loaves and fishes in the Bible but I’ve never personally prayed and ask God to multiply our food before. But tonight I found myself praying for the multiplication of pork tenderloin. All I could do was pray and hope for the best.

I’m happy to say it worked out perfectly. I’m not sure if God shrank our appetites or multiplied the food. Either way, the food was enough. There were no leftovers but to my knowledge nobody went to bed hungry tonight. We had a great time talking and just being together. I left and picked up our son and came back and we talked for another hour and a half. And it was enjoyable.

Then I brought out the china soup bowls and told them about our former next door neighbor and how this was her china.

I scooped up the ice cream and went to grab spoons when I realized they were all dirty. I debated which was worse – using plastic spoons or taking dirty spoons out of dishwasher to wash and then dry. I made the rapid response of going plastic.

So there we were eating ice cream in 50 year old, gold-plated china with plastic spoons. I held up my soup bowl and said, “This is in honor of old neighbors and new neighbors.” And we all had a good laugh. And even though there was a quite a bit of awkward and risk getting there I was glad we pushed through it all.

 

 

 

 

Pushing through the Awkward in Friendship

Our small group met at a Pizza place for discussion over the book Messy Beautiful Friendship last night. Ya’ll we do book clubs all wrong. We meet every few weeks and discuss about 64 chapters at a time. It’s ridiculous but somehow it works for us and we like it.

Last night we discussed hospitality. Christine Hoover talks about “back door” friends. You know – the kind that don’t have to knock but just come on in. Maybe you grew up with back door friends. Our family did. Mrs. Flora lived next door with her husband and three sons. She had a signature knock with an added “yoo-hoo” but the knock meant nothing. She was just letting us know it was her coming through our back door. Our families, along with others on our street, were the best of friends going to each others homes often for dinner and parties. Sometimes it was pot luck sometimes not. Planned and unplanned visits. But there was a lot of “company” that didn’t feel like “company” growing up.

So our group started talking about how things seem different now. A lot less back door neighbor type friendships. We are mostly a group of 30 &40 year olds. Times have changed since growing up with backdoor friends. We are busy now. It used to be that the kids were little and under foot and no time to get the house ready for people to come over. Now the kids are older but we don’t want to miss time with them before they head off to college.

We talked about how it’s really easier to huddle in our own families than open our doors to other families. It takes planning and initiative to have others in our homes. And honestly sometimes it takes pushing through awkwardness as well. The awkwardness of not always having a perfectly cleaned home.

I hosted something in my home recently and when everyone left and I was working in the room we’d all been in and something caught my eye. It was dangling in midair. It was a pine straw needle at least 7 inches long. As I got closer I realized Charlotte’s web was taking residency in the corner of our dining room. Not only that but I could’ve written the names of everyone at the table in the layer of dust on the secretary in the corner of the room. I’m not even kidding. It was that bad. Of course nobody said anything about it but I KNOW people had to have seen it. I don’t even want to know what others might have noticed as they’ve come to our home over the years. These are just a few of the awkward things we’ll have to push through in order to build community with those around us. But it’s worth it. Because as we set aside our desire for things to be “perfect” we discover the beauty of real friendship and it takes us places we’d never experience without pushing through the awkward.

Our group started laughing at the fact that nobody offered up their homes to meet in for our discussion on hospitality. We all had really good reasons for not meeting in our homes. It’s Summer. I’m going out of town and super busy. My kids are leaving for the Army. I don’t get off work until late. I hardly know some of you people…..legit reasons. Like we totally get each other.

But guess what. We all decided we want to push through the awkward for the sake of beautiful friendship and we changed our plans for our next two meetings. Instead of meeting at the Japanese Restaurant like planned we’re meeting in our homes.We put out the “the house may not be clean” disclaimer and when one of us said, “it may be sub sandwiches for dinner because we leave out of the country a few days later” someone quickly offered and said, “Nope, you provide the plates and cups and we’ll bring the food. It may be chicken from the store but we got the food covered.” And I have no doubt we’ll enjoy our time together in our homes where we do life with our families and hopeful with each other a little more often.

And friends, this is what learning and growing with each other looks like.

 

 

Celebration of Influence

A ladies event I participated in years ago called “Celebration of Influence” has impacted me every year since. The luncheon was a special day where the ladies in our church invited someone who had influenced our lives in some way. We treated them to lunch and did everything we could to make them feel special and appreciated.

We chose a gorgeous log cabin in the mountains that hosted weddings and other events as our venue. It was beautiful.

Each lady in our group had taken time to write a letter telling the person we invited how they had influenced our lives personally. Letters were placed at each place setting with their names inscribed on a place holder.

After we shared lunch together we gathered in a circle and heard brief snippets of how our friends and guests had influenced our lives. It was so neat hearing from each other and how their guest had influenced them over time. We had a special speaker as well and she spoke on friendship and sharpening each other.

Ever since this time together I have taken on the practice of listing the people of influence in my life each year. Not an exhaustive list but I pray and ask God to help me see the people he put in my path the past year who had influence on me in some way. And then I pull out the old fashion paper and pen and I write a letter to that person. Stick an address and stamp and I just threw a Celebration of Influence party. It’s that easy.

So maybe you’d be encouraged through this to think of just a few people in 2016 who have influenced you. They might know already but chances are they don’t know the extent. Why don’t you tell them? And as you’re thinking about who has influenced you offer a prayer to the Lord asking Him to help you be an influence in somebody’s life in 2017.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

31 Days: Day 16 – The Ministry of Presence

The ministry of presence = showing up and simply being there. It’s a powerful statement even when words aren’t used. To just be there.

Sometimes words are exchanged and God’s word is part of that and many times not.

Don’t feel the need to fill in the silence with words, scripture, stories of how you understand but really you have no idea (and that’s not your fault). Silence makes us uncomfortable and awkward making us attempt to cram the silence with words. Sometimes God gives us words of comfort and encouragement to share with others but when he doesn’t lets be okay with it.

Jason Gray shared a powerful story at a concert a few weeks ago. He was talking about pain and how we try to avoid it so many times. He was walking though a difficult season himself and he sort of unloaded all that was going on with one of the  guys in his band. Jason said he felt weird and strange about it and figured the guy was going to offer lots of advice next. But instead his friend said, “Okay, I’m going to do two things: I’m going to hug you and we’re going to just stand there for two minutes.” Jason said it was kind of awkward the whole man-hug thing at first and they laughed about it but then he just let go of the awkward and cried and cried. The other guy never said a word to him. The two minutes was up and he said he will never forget the power of that moment. The ministry of presence.

“Not Right Now” is a song Jason Gray wrote in the midst of a season of pain in his life. It’s one of our favorite songs in our household right now. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

31 Days: Day 14 – Come To My Table – God’s Hospitality & Yours

I was introduced to Sue Donaldson author of Come To My Table just a few months ago. Our introduction was timely because hospitality was something I was struggling with. Still kind of am. This and this are just two examples of my less than stellar hospitality moves and there’s more where that came from but we’ll just leave it at that. Yep.

What Sue helped me see through her book is that hospitality is really a model of what Jesus did for us. He invited us in. To sit and commune with him. To be with him. He didn’t wait for us to be at a certain place in our walks of life – the invitation has always been there and is always open for anyone He paid the great price necessary for us to be welcomed into his presence.

And for the believer hospitality is just one way we can model Christ’s outreach to others. Sue talks about lessons we can learn from the Ultimate Host (Jesus). The following things are highlighted and underlined in my book:

To be God’s invitation to the world, we may have to walk through unfamiliar territory and invite the unexpected guest. We all have people in our world who are easy to include. We can’t get enough of them. Then there are others. We feel awkward around them. We are not inclined to serve them, much less welcome them at our table and into our lives. But, God has invited the world, and that includes both kinds of guests. We need to ask, “Is God’s invitation supposed to come through me?”

She talks about God’s timing in hospitality and this really struck a chord with me because I like to know what’s going to happen and when. So when she asks this question, “Can we relax when things don’t go as planned? Can we trust God knows what He’s doing even if the coffee pot breaks at the last minute or a surprise guest arrives an hour later than everyone else? Will we let Him be God in the unexpected?”  That’s a hard one for me.

Also the topic of feeding our kids healthy greens came up in the book. I loved what Sue says about this, “My purpose is to feed them (our kids) well, whether or not they recognize the value of green, or any other color. But besides good vitamins, I need to serve them a God who loves and forgives, and provides purpose for their lives. And they will see it best when I’m living it out. I’d better make sure they see a mother who rejoices and relaxes in doing her Father’s will. That’s a nutrition that will hold them in a good stead and guide them to eternity.”  Next to this I have written in the margin of my book “is this me?” I can’t say rejoicing and relaxing are words I’d use to describe my hospitality right now. I get stressed over making sure everything is just right. But through this book my eyes were re-opened to the fact that it’s not about me or the food. It’s about relationships and simply opening up our lives to other people even in the middle of our own mess. I love how Sue puts it, “Food just accompanies the main event: God’s welcome and ours.”  

I think I also found great comfort in hearing that hospitality is hard work. Sometimes I think that because hospitality is hard for me personally that I’m just not cut out for it or it’s just not a good fit for me. But that’s the farthest from the truth. And to hear that it’s hard from who I consider to be an “expert” makes me feel better. Sue points out that, “hospitality takes effort, and sometimes you see the results and sometimes you don’t. But that shouldn’t keep us from doing the work, sowing the seed and presenting the food God offers.”

The practical tips that Sue shares in helping our families get involved in hospitality has been a big help to me as well. Also, the recipes in the back of the book are excellent. Sue shares how to serve large groups economically and quick serves that you can pull out of the freezer.

I’ve never been one to freeze stuff and pull it out because I feel like it’s not as fresh but I tried it last week when my Mom’s in Prayer group came over early one morning and it worked perfectly. I had frozen a loaf of pumpkin bread and it was just as fresh and it was so easy to serve. Everyone else brought something too and we had a great time together. I’m definitely going to be freezing more!

Come To My Table is a wonderful book that has helped frame my thinking when it comes to hospitality. I’ve been given hope that I really can do this.

If you’d like to win a free copy of Sue’s book please leave a comment here on the blog or on Facebook telling us one of your most greatest all time epic kitchen fails. Ha! Oh yes I did ask that. Names will be entered in a drawing next Monday and the winner will receive a copy of the book in the mail. Whoo-hoo! 

Okay, the answer to my question for me would be a roast I cooked the other week that was hard as a rock. Another time I put vanilla on our steaks instead of Dale’s steak sauce. Also, a poundcake that completely fell. I never understood that term “my cake fell” until that day. Still tasted good. My Mom is an excellent hostess and we always had people over when I was growing up. One time we had the preacher’s family over (whose son I married) and she accidentally put garlic in the cake instead of salt. I’m still not sure how that happened??? That was her epic culinary fail. It’s more fun sharing hers than mine. Thanks Mom for giving me writing material. I love you.

 

Shoot! Did it again…..

You guys! I ruined yet another meal and had another kitchen-freak-out-moment. So much so that our eight year old wrote out a prayer for me to put in her War Room –  “Dear God, help my Mom not to be so frustrated. Amen.”

Arggghhhhhh!!!!!! I hate it when that happens.

I mean…..I’m ever so thankful for the opportunity of growth and maturity that lies before me. (bull)

So here’s the lowdown – I was making an easy but good meal for a family in our church who just had a baby. I wanted plenty of food so they could have leftovers. So I made a fail proof roast – or so I thought. Rice and green beans.

Put the roast on high for four and half hours and it was hard as a rock as I was cutting it. I had no back up plan and didn’t have time to pick up something at the store. This was my only option at this point. I doubled the gravy recipe which ended up overflowing all over the stove sending me into sheer frustration. I had ten minutes to pull this meal together and be at Sunday night church. I thought the double gravy might make up for the toughness of the roast????? Maybe it did – perhaps? Okay, so we all know it didn’t.

So there I was again – showing my true colors and serving less than stellar food to people I love. And yeah, I was frustrated about it. Nobody wanted to be in that kitchen with me during those moments of meltdown. To top it off my crockpot cracked. Ha! No really it did and I promise it’s not because I slammed it against the wall. Just a perfect ending to a disasterous meal.

I took the fixings to the family and explained that the roast would be a little tough. Very tough in fact. As in I’m-praying-your-teeth-don’t-break tough. But it was made with love. The beans and rice would be good. She assured me the roast wouldn’t be tough and it would be wonderful. I just accepted that and knew she was in for a surprise.

I just finished a great book called “Come to My Table” by Sue Donaldson. She gives great tips and hints for serving and welcoming people. She has opened my eyes to so many new things in this area of hospitality. I simply love this book. Soon I will be giving away a copy of it because I want others to know about her too. It’s too good to keep to myself. Sue texted me after my latest fail (last night) and reminded me nobody is super mom or super servant and that’s why we have Jesus.

Good words for me. Maybe good words for you too.

Let’s not let the mess ups and mistakes keep us from what God is calling us to do. It’s just another opportunity to remind us of how much we need him.

Dinner tonight? TACO TUESDAY on Monday because I know I won’t mess it up. Ahaha!!!!

Linking with Kelly, Laura, and Jen and mentioned over at Sue’s place today.

I freaked out and told him he should’ve married someone else.

It was a fabulous Missions Conference at our church this past week. I love it so much every year. And every year I say it’s the best one. This year we decided to have the small group of Missionaries and  pastoral staff over to our house for lunch.

So fifteen minutes before the Missionaries get to our house for lunch I exclaimed to my husband who was frantically helping me get the porches cleaned off and the house picked up, “You should’ve married someone else. I can’t do this. I suck at this!”

No lie.

We both laughed and soon enough I was over my freak out moment. It was the first time I had bought most of the food for our guests. I’ve always prided myself in making the food. It’s what my Mom and Mother-in-law always did. It’s what I want to do for our guests because we all know homemade food tastes better than store bought food. But this time around because of unexpected circumstances and being out of town four days prior to our Missions Conference I was way behind in things.

I knew if we kept our lunch plans I would have to buy the food even though several people had offered to help. I turned it down because I still thought I could swing it myself. See why I have to pray for humility? This.right.here.

I reached out to a new friend who is helping me through her book and blog. She gave me some great ideas and tips which helped a lot.

Sue asked me for an update on how things went. I shared the truth about the pre-company freak out moment but how once they got there we had such a great time together and how awesome it was. How we loved sitting on the front porch hearing stories of how God was working in their countries.

IMG_2534

She asked me these 3 questions:

What did you learn about hospitality? What did you learn about God? What did you learn about yourself? 

I’ve been thinking about these things ever since. As I read her book I realize I’ve been missing some major pieces to understanding true hospitality. But don’t worry – this isn’t the kind of book that makes you go away feeling like a heap of condemnation just came barreling down on you. Quite the contrary. It makes me jump at the thought of doing this hospitality thing with different eyes.

I’ll talk more about her book in another post. I’m going to be giving away her book and another book that I’m digging right now and want you to dig with me. So check back soon for the giveaways!

Have a great week!

 

Hope for Hospitality – Easy Recipes

I’m sharing three easy recipes that will never fail you in cooking for a group of 6-8 people. You might could set it on fire by covering it in gas and lighting a match but other than that you really can’t mess this up.

Missionary Chicken

6-8 pieces chicken, 1 1/2 c. long grain rice, *1 stick butter melted, *1 can crm mushroom soup, *1 can cram celery soup, *1 can crm chicken soup, *1 can of milk.

Combine *soup mixture together and pour about 1 cup on bottom of greased deep dish. Dip chicken in *soup mixture, lay on top of rice in deep dish. Pour remaining soup mixture over chicken. Add slivered almonds to top. Bake at 300 for 2 hours. Or 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.

I’ve only made this the 2 hour on 300 way so I can’t attest to how it comes out with the 45 min. cook time. But I assure you the 2 hour cook time makes this the most tender chicken and fabulous rice.  It’s okay to layer the chicken on top of each other a little bit so don’t worry about that. And yes, the rice is uncooked rice when it goes in your dish. It’s called Missionary Chicken because typically when missionaries come to speak at a church the service goes long and therefore whatever your cooking cooks longer and might burn. But this recipe can really keep cooking over the 2 hours and not get tough. Your friends will enjoy this dish.

Randy’s Rice 

In deep dish greased casserole combine the following:

2 cups long grain rice,  1 can consommé soup, 1 can french onion soup, 2 cans water, 1 stick butter (not melted)

Cook on 300 for 3 hours or 350 for 1 hour. I always cook on 300 for 3 hours.

Okay, listen carefully because I couldn’t believe this either. You just dump it all in the dish – no need to mix it, stir it, or anything. Even the stick of butter just floats on top. This comes out looking like brown rice and the top & sides have a crunchy layer. I don’t care for rice but I really like this stuff.

Pot Roast

Snag whatever roast is on sale – sirloin or chuck roast is what I get. Put in your crock pot with dry Lipton Onion soup mix on top and any veggies you want. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

These are excellent Sunday meals because they cook while you’re at church and you pull it out when you get home. Only need to heat up the beans or whatever sides you serve with it. Easy meal! I usually put my roast on late at night Saturday and set my timer for 6 hours. I check it in the morning and add time to it if I need to. It stays warm in the crock pot until ready to eat.

Okay, so clearly these are not the healthiest meals in the world but they are easy, nice meals to serve your family and guests. If you don’t make it a habit to eat like this ALL the time you’ll be okay.

 

Hope for Hospitality – non dinner ideas

So we’re talking about hospitality and the art of having people in our homes. Because really, our culture doesn’t do this anymore. We’re busy, we don’t feel like we can, we’re afraid, our house is a mess, etc. I’ve said all those things before too.

But I think having people over is important. It builds relationships in a warm setting. Sure you can talk at church or at Chick-fil-A over lunch but there’s something special about going to someone’s home for conversation and simple food.

If you’re not ready to have people over for a meal yet but you want to have people over consider these simple serving ideas in your home:

  • Lemonade or Sweet Tea on your front porch. Don’t have a front porch? Your living room will do just fine. You could serve girl scout cookies if you want – everyone loves a girl scout cookie.
  • Ice cream in the summer or a simple dessert – a frozen heated up pie will do just fine.
  • A cup of coffee. Could serve muffins with it but you wouldn’t have to.
  • Fresh fruit cup – simple, easy.

Remember the important thing is not the food but the time spent together. It’s about the message you send that you care by having someone in your home even when it’s not perfectly clean or put together.

Even if hospitality doesn’t come natural it can still become a practice. One that will most likely become easier the more you do it.

Check back in a few days because I’ll be posting three super easy recipes for when you do have people over for dinner or Sunday lunch. I promise you’ll love them.

 

 

 

 

Hope for Hospitality

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 7.31.09 PM

Do you ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of having people over to your house for dinner? Like you want to really bad but you’re pretty certain you’ll burn the beans, send the twice baked potatoes flying across the room (true story) or forget to put out silverware along with sending your guests home with salmonella?

Confession: I do.

I haven’t always felt that way but in the last few years I’ve grown more inhibited in the area of hospitality. It took a few epic kitchen fails to put me in a, “I’m not good at this anymore. I can’t do this” attitude.

A few weeks ago I was thanking a sweet lady in our church for the ice cream dessert she brought us when I was down with my leg and asked her for the recipe. She said, “Melody, I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the recipe but I’ll also make it for you when you have company over sometime.”

I said, “Yeah, well, about that…. I’ve not been doing much of that lately because I’ve lost all confidence in cooking and being a good hostess. But I really want to get back into it. Will you pray for me in this area.” She agreed to do that for me. I thanked her for the offer to make dessert and told her I would take her up on it hopefully sooner than later.

Since that conversation we’ve had several families over for Sunday lunch and guess what – I didn’t kill any of them! I found a few things that made it easier on me to serve and lessen the stress. I purposed in my heart ahead of time that this was not about the food or how I entertained. It was simply about being with people and enjoying the time together. And it worked out just fine. Sure, I forgot to put out the napkins but someone else got them for me. And actually the green beans needed more salt but it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t make a dessert but someone showed up with two pies. It all worked out.

So a few things come to mind:

1) God hears our prayers. Even the simple ones from the kitchen sink.

2) Hospitality comes in all forms – sometimes it’s offering to make a dessert for someone else’s  dinner party. And sometimes it’s inviting people over for a simple meal.

3) Having people over doesn’t have to be a huge deal especially when we get our thinking right.

Check back for more on hospitality this week. We’ll talk about easy recipes, ways to keep it simple and alternative meal options. Hope you’ll join us and always feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Linking withKristinHolley and Jennifer today.