Monday, November 14, 2011

What's in a Name?

guest post by Amy H.

What's In A Name?

There is just something personal and special about hearing or seeing your name.

When inviting others to our home, I like to think of different ways to communicate to them personally, "I am expecting you! I am excited that you're here! You're special and have a special place in our home!" Often it's in little details that don't take much time, but hopefully offer a warm welcome. Here are a few ways to welcome guests, by name!

As I was on my way home one day I found this easel out by a curb with a free sign. I quickly pulled over and loaded it up! After a coat of white paint it found a spot on our front porch. Day to day it has a welcome friends message, but when we are expecting guests my children often write a personal message on the white board. Do your children already have a similar easel? This could easily be made with a board and chalk board paint or an inexpensive white board.



Did you know that you can use dry erase markers or chalkboard ink pens on most plates? Our dishes are simple and I keep one on a little easel inside our front entry. It's a perfect place to write Bible verses, holiday or seasonal messages, and to welcome guests! When you're ready to change it, just wash it clean and write a new message!



Cups are another place for guests names. It's so nice to not be wondering whose cup is whose! With a little chalkboard paint on inexpensive plastic cups you are always ready for guests! I used painters tape to mark off my painting area and then followed the directions on the chalkboard paint, giving the cups 2 coats. After the second coat I promptly removed the tape and allowed the cups to dry for a week. Then, per directions, I colored over them completely with chalk. These cups do need to be washed by hand. As a warning, the paint could be scraped off; however, I used my set all summer and didn't have any trouble. Also, condensation on the cups may cause your chalk to run but we could still make out the names. That said, we really enjoyed using them as did our guests! They're re-usable, inexpensive, and won't break.



Place cards are another way of personally welcoming guests. I also think that place cards are helpful in letting guests know where to sit. My children often get to invite our guests to the table while I am finishing up last minute preparation in the kitchen. At times I've noticed our guests awkwardly wondering where to sit. With place cards they can confidently find their place! A 4x6 plain index card folds perfectly into a place card. We often stamp them with stamps to suit the "theme" of our table and then my children color them in and write the names on the cards. For Thanksgiving last year we made turkey place cards with my children's fingerprints (my pinkie made the body of the turkey, each of them used a different color ink pad and made the feathers). Prior to the meal we set out the cards with pens so we could write inside and communicate our thankfulness for each person. Not only did these serve as place cards, but were a keepsake and an encouragement for everyone.




How do you personally welcome your guests?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner for Six :: Building Community

guest post from Barbara H. at Stray Thoughts



When I mentioned on my blog how much I enjoyed our new church’s Dinner For Six program, Carrie asked me if I’d write more about it. I am delighted to do so.

It was begun in our church by a couple who had had a similar program in the wife’s former church. It had originally started as a group of eight, but eight people for dinner usually drifted into two groups of four, so they changed it to a dinner for six.

The basic idea is that whoever would like to participate in the program signs up at church on a page where they list their name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. It’s good to allow a good two or three weeks of announcements (via church bulletin and/or pulpit announcements or however your church does it) for word to get out and for folks to have time to respond.

Then the coordinator pairs people up in groups of six. Usually these are three couple, but singles are welcome as well. Sometimes a couple of girls or guys will team up to provide a meal when it is there turn, or sometimes an older single person might just be grouped with another six, making their group seven – it just depends on the person and situation. The coordinator does try to mix up the ages. The idea is to meet people you don’t already know.

When the coordinator assigns the groups, she then notifies them by either e-mail or a printed card who is in each group. Within a group she lists the couples in order from 1 to 3 with their contact information with explanation that the first couple hosts the first dinner and prepares the main course, the second couple listed brings salad and bread, and the third couple brings dessert and beverage. The first family listed (usually someone who has been at the church longer or who has hosted “Dinner for Six” in the past) contacts the others to decide on a date for the first dinner. Then after the first dinner, the second couple listed hosts the next one, the couples rotate what to bring, and the date for the next dinner is decided on, usually at some time while at the first. And finally the third couple hosts, the others rotate what to bring, etc.

The dinners usually take place over the course of three months, each couple hosting once a month, then there is a month in-between for announcements, sign-ups, and creating the new groups, then the next groups of six take turns hosting dinner over the next three months, etc.

Also, since it is designed for adults to get to know one another and since there are other activities and fellowships at church for the whole family, this is designed just for the adults, and those with children are expected to find baby-sitters (except when hosting dinner at their own home, of course). However, exceptions can be made within a group if desired. For instance, in one of our groups, two families each had one teen-ager at home, so when each of them hosted they invited the other teen to come. In another group, the host family had a teen daughter who volunteered to watch the child of another family in a group so they didn’t have to get a baby-sitter. But usually parents ask family members to watch their children or trade off with friends or hire an older teen or college student for the evening. Individual groups are free to have full family get-togethers if they want to. That is just how our church does it: anyone adapting this idea can decide to handle this differently if desired.

So far in the three times we have participated, everything has gone beautifully except for the first time: with that group, we had and enjoyed our first dinner as scheduled, but the second month, the grandmother of the host family was severely ill, and they were unable to participate then. The last month of the three was December, and the six of us just couldn’t find a date with all of the other things going on that month that would work for the three of us. Finally in January, while the new groups were being formed, we scheduled a night to get together at our home. The wife of one couple got sick that day, but the husband decided to go ahead and come since we had had such trouble setting a date, and the third couple forgot about it completely (lesson learned – touch base with everyone a few days beforehand to confirm that the date is still good for everyone.)

So our initial experience was kind of a fiasco, but every time since then has worked out great. It’s understood that things come up and a group may not be able to meet three times within the given time frame, but everyone just does their best.

Overall we have really enjoyed the Dinner For Six program, especially as we were new to this church. It was an opportunity to better get to know people we had already met and to become acquainted with people from different ages and stages we hadn’t met yet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Proper Place Setting

from Carrie



You do this, right? RIGHT?!?!

Yeah. I do too. (*Cough*)

Remember as you look around at various Martha Stewart homes this fall season -- food served on paper plates but with a smile is just as delightful (perhaps more so) than the most formally set and perfectly decorated table.

Let's make sure our hospitality spills forth from a proper heart attitude rather than a perfect place setting.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Easy Hospitality :: Take a Hike!

from Carrie


In the past we've discussed various ways to enjoy the fellowship and hospitality of others - particularly those having children that are not as well mannered. I'm not here to revisit that particular topic (although it can always stand to be revisited every now and again!) but to remind you that you don't necessarily need to avoid fellowship with those families but to remind you to be creative in the ways you do it!

Of course, summer provided (provides?) ample opportunity to play outdoors but you might find a few more chances to get out and explore the great outdoors before winter weather sets in. If you're going on a hike some evening or weekend, why not invite friends along to join you? You can walk and talk at the same time and the children can have loads of fun running about exploring the great outdoors!



With limited time left to enjoy decent outdoor weather (at least in my opinion) what could be better than grabbing some friends - or extended family members - and trekking out to breathe in the fresh air?

This past summer/early September we've tried to get out of the house as much as possible. Two or three times we invited other people to join us in our romps through forests and up hills. Once, we joined a group for hiking and then brought them back to our house and we made s'mores over the firepit in our yard. A few different times we invited people to join us for dinner, after which we hiked off the calories. Another time we met people for a walk and then went out for ice cream afterward.

Really, this is a fantastic way to connect with others, get some good exercise and enjoy a treat or two. You don't have to think about coming up with entertainment because entertainment is to be found in crooked trees, long walking sticks, fall foliage and fresh breezes that cool you down as you skip (or huff!) along. The kids run off their energy and the adults also get a chance to clear their minds, unwind and refocus.

Being outdoors is refreshing. Being with others just adds to the blessing. So - take a hike! But take someone with you!


P.S. Happy First Day of Autumn!


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Other Easy Hospitality posts:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn!

Hello hello hello!

Well, the summer flew by before we really knew it. Here we are looking at the first day of fall (this Friday) already!

Have anything fun planned to celebrate the changing of seasons?

Fall brings a lot of opportunities to celebrate any variety of things with family and friends and we look forward to sharing some new ideas with you, as well as gleaning ideas from you.

If you would like to provide a guest post sharing how you and your family intend to celebrate some aspect of the season, please e-mail Stephanie and Carrie at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

Also, if you have a question regarding some aspect of practicing hospitality that you would like to pose to us and our readers, please e-mail us that as well.

We'd love to hear from you!

In the meantime, we've got some stuff in the works so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Holidays


Provided the sun has made an appearance in your neck of the woods, the chances are that you are enjoying spending more time outdoors, soaking in the sunshine.

Summer is typically a time of exploring the great outdoors and traveling to spend time with family and friends.

The same is true of us here at Offering Hospitality so we're going to take a little summer break and will see you back here in the fall ~ which will be here before we know it. (Time is flying!)

In the meantime, if you have any questions or topics you would like us to address in the fall, please leave us a note in the comment section below and we'll prepare to respond to you. (Feel free to also send us an e-mail with your ideas, suggestions or to inquire about preparing a guest post for us.)

Enjoy your summer, ladies! Make the most of it! We'll see you soon!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sickness: A Hospitality Opportunity?

Guest post by Amy H.


I was just finishing getting my sick daughter settled in and the mess cleaned up when my phone rang. It was a friend who knew my daughter was home sick and called to check on us. Through the conversation she encouraged me, offered to run to the store for me, and even offered to take care of my younger daughter or keep my older son after school. Wow! I was so thankful! My friend had taken an unexpected opportunity to show me hospitality as our family dealt with sickness.

We've all experienced sickness and I think can agree it's never fun! How can we offer hospitality in the midst of sickness? With a little thought and some advance planning we can be a little more prepared when the opportunity comes, and this is one opportunity we know will come!

Here are a few ideas for helping others when they're experiencing sickness:

When children are sick, consider making a little care package that might include:

*books
*movies
*games
*printed coloring pages/ coloring book
*new crayons or markers
*fun straws or cups to encourage fluids
*a get well card made by your children
*stuffed animal
*beads with yarn to make bracelets, necklaces, etc.
*a bath toy
*a "fun" box of tissues
*puzzles (even homemade!)

These items can often be found inexpensively. Library sales sell good books for almost nothing, crayons and markers will be on great sales in August in preparation for back to school, and coloring pages can be printed out for free and customized to the child's interests. One time my daughter received a stuffed animal that was "pre-loved". Her friend chose one of her own to give away and her mom washed it before giving it to us. It's even more special than if it was brand new!

When dropping off a care package, it is best for only the parent to get out of the car. Call ahead to make arrangements which may include just leaving the gift by a door or knocking instead of ringing a doorbell. Also, prepare all children that they will not see their friends (unless it's a wave through a window!). Preparing them ahead will give them realistic expectations. And remember, this is a drop off and not a visit.

For the parents of sick children:
  • give a phone call, ask how they're holding up and what they need
  • offer to run errands
  • if you can keep siblings then offer
  • inquire if they want any homework collected from school
  • bring them a little treat or cup of coffee
  • bring them a bouquet of flowers to freshen up their home
  • bring them magazines to browse for enjoyment, encouraging them to rest!

In closing, I had an opportunity that I am so thankful I took! It meant a little schedule rearranging, but it was so worth it! A friend's daughter was sick, and upon a doctor visit was diagnosed with strep throat. Of course this meant a trip to the pharmacy, once the prescription was ready. Thankfully this mom knew her daughter needed to rest at home, and called me with her need. Would I come over while she ran to the pharmacy? Yes!

I went over and kept my children in the car, happily entertained with books, and went in her house to check on her daughter about every 5 minutes. This allowed my friend to run the errand, her daughter to rest, and our family to be blessed by helping. She asked me and I was truly honored. I was thankful to be able to help and appreciated her honesty in what she needed, especially since I wouldn't have anticipated it on my own!

I've experienced hospitality in the midst of sickness and learned that it is an opportunity to offer hospitality!

How can you offer hospitality in the midst of sickness? 

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Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister. Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.