Friday, April 30, 2010

Spiritual Disciplines: Serving

by Carrie B

This past week I've been reading Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life which has been motivational, impacting and even harsh (in a good way) at times. I'll be reviewing this book in total over at Reading to Know but I thought I'd share my notes from Chapter 7, "Serving . . . for the Purpose of Godliness" over here.

I LIKE practicing hospitality and yet this chapter still managed to make me want to say, "OUCH!!!!" a few times. Author Donald S. Whitney isn't the type to beat you over the head with scriptures. He just plainly tells you what scriptures say in a calm and straightforward manner. Scriptures do the talking on his behalf and he merely adds a little explanation to various verses. I really respect his approach to disciplining one's self to be more Christ-like.

I marked a few passages and here they are for you:
"When God calls His elect to Himself, He calls no one to idleness. When we are born again and our sins are forgiven, the blood of Christ cleanses our conscience, according to Hebrews 9:14, in order for us to "serve the living God!" "Serve the Lord with gladness" (Psalm 100:2, NASB) is every Christian's commission. There is no such thing as spiritual unemployment or spiritual retirement in the Kingdom of God." (Chapter 7, pages 117-118)
Did you catch that? NO one is exempt from serving the Lord. We serve the Lord when we are obedient to Him....including the command to be hospitable (and holding back complaints about it!) We are to serve Him by serving others (as He has instructed) and we're to do so out of gratefulness:

"The prophet Samuel exhorted the people of God to service with these words: "But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you." (1 Sam. 12:24). It is no burden to serve God when we consider what He has done for us." (Chapter 7, page 118)
We aren't to offer hospitality out of obligation but out of gratefulness for all that God has done for us.

These are the things that Whitney points out should be motivating factors in our desire to serve others:
  • Motivated by Obedience (Duet. 13:4)
  • Motivated by Gratitude (1 Sam. 12:24)
  • Motivated by Gladness (Ps. 100:2)
  • Motivated by Forgiveness, Not Guilt (Isaiah 6:6-8)
  • Motivated by Humility (John 13:12-16)
  • Motivated by Love (Galations 5:13)
Whitney said a lot of things in this one chapter alone that I think are noteworthy, but the most impacting and powerful statement he made for me was the following (which he put in bold too, emphasizing the importance of this message):
"Worship empowers serving; serving expresses worship. Godliness requires a disciplined balance between the two." (page 127)
He also shared this quote:
"Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed." ~ A. W. Tozer
Did you catch that? In order to be able to serve others, we must be in fellowship with God. We have to learn to worship Him and we have to have a relationship with Him. Without the relationship, without the worship, our "works" in serving others are completely dead. We have to be motivated by and through Him in order to be able to offer hospitality in a way that will accurately represent Christ to those we are serving.

That means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my family.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my church family.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve those in my community.

This means I should be worshiping God to better know Him and know how to serve my friends.
"Therefore, we must maintain that to be Godly, we should discipline ourselves for both worship and service. To engage in one without the other is, in reality, to experience neither." (page 128)
I loved the way that Whitney concluded this chapter and so I present it to you as food for thought:
"WANTED: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little or no visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity." (Page 129)
As always, I'm convicted that life is not all about me. It's all about God.

Learning tips and tricks and picking up advice on how to practice hospitality practically is important and certainly is a goal around these parts. But if we maintain this site and fail to point out that true service comes from learning to worship God and know Him for who He is, then we have done a great disservice to you (and to ourselves.)

This is a HUGE challenge for me and yet, at the same time, it's enormously exciting. Who can fail to benefit from learning who God is and entering into fellowship with Him?

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, as you can see, was impacting to me in the area of serving others through hospitality but there is so much more that this book has to encourage and instruct in. I heartily recommend it as a whole and would encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Children's Parties: Teddy Bear Parade

from Sky at The Journey to Sky


Being a military family and moving around a lot, I have learned that in order to make friends I have to first extend friendship! (Novel thought!)

Obviously hospitality figures a great deal in this.

We always celebrate St Patrick's Day, I feel a kinship with those Irish Christians eons ago, not only because I have a lot of Irish ancestors but also because I am a Christian.

I love sharing the legend of Patrick with my kids, and it's always fun to have a party!

In the past we stuck with small tea parties at home but this year we live in a great neighborhood with quite a few younger children and an excellent central park, so I thought a Teddy Bear Parade would be fun!

My mom took my brother and me to a Teddy Bear Parade a long, long time ago but other then that I just always thought it was a fun idea for little kids to feel involved in their decorations and feel proud strutting their 'loveys' around.

I added the additional fun of dressing 'medieval style' but only a couple people did, and even my own kids bailed on that idea. It was just too hot!

We passed out invitations, bought a bunch of green stuff, found some cookies on sale, made some tea and headed out to the park! Out of about 40 people invited, 20 showed up!




Sky blogs about her family and the military life at The Journey to Sky. Thanks, Sky, for sharing your fun idea!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 1

by Carrie

As I mentioned, I'm used to writing book reviews for a book in its entirety. However, once I got into Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others I realized I would want to move slowly through this book, picking out the finer points (as I would want to apply to my own life) and so I'm going to take this chapter-by-chapter.

There is much to share from this book and if I could encourage you to pick up your own copy, I would! (So there, see?, I just did.) It's worth it as there is so much to glean from.

Without further ado, I will offer proof that this book is fantastic by sharing my (painfully incriminating) notes from Chapter 1. Every week that I do this will look a little different, but hopefully this will get the conversation going.

NOTE #1 -

* The garment of hospitality is humility (1 Peter 5:5)

"The evidence of my application of this quality is demonstrated when I choose to step out of my comfort zone and invite into my home individuals with whom I may not be totally at ease, or those who may have unrealistic expectations about the event because, after all, I am a professional home economist. I am comforted, however, when I look into my "spiritual closet" and find the perfect garment for this occasion, the garment of humility. When I don this garment I am reminded that I am not too good to serve - and this is pleasing to my Heavenly Father." (Chapter 1, page 21)
Let me tell you all - there is nothing like starting a blog on offering hospitality to make one feel instantly self conscious about everything that they do. Talk about feeling like you are under the microscope! Yowee!!

Suddenly people I sent cards to before know that there's this blog and these challenges and while I'm not doing anything I haven't done before or naturally, it's still weird for me. I have to make myself keep doing what I do in some ways. I've worried myself up into a tither at times just thinking about how real life plays out next to this blog! When Crista and I get together (which we do with some frequency) then offering hospitality to one another becomes a much more consciousness affair. It's admittedly ridiculous and thankfully, most of the time, we're able to laugh it off. But there's a pause that wasn't there before.

Remembering that we are to wear a 'garment of humility', little caring how others view the extent of our hospitality, is a good thing to remember. It still comes down to doing what God asks me and requires of me to do and not what I do should be based on human expectations.

That said, I suddenly feel like my choices have been hoisted up into the spotlight!

NOTE #2 -

* Practicing hospitality helps us to overcome and avoid sin.

Exactly what do I mean by that?

As described by Pat Ennis' friend, Donna Morley, who shares this with the readers:

"I remember once meeting a Christian woman who said point blank, "I would love to get to know you by talking on the telephone from time to time, but don't expect our families to get together. No offense - it's just that we don't entertain and we like to keep to ourselves." After this woman's remark, I started to think how much this is becoming the norm in the Christian community. Why? Because we are living in a society that craves privacy and lack of involvement." (page 24)
I'm reminded of the following verses, specifically:

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

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the day approaching Hebrews 10:25
When we pull ourselves away from other believers, we remove ourselves from the ability to learn and to grow more like Christ. He made us to be people who craved fellowship and it is unnatural for us to hide ourselves away, refusing to speak to and/or fellowship with others. Now, I do think that you need to feel safe with the people that you are inviting in to provide this particular type of fellowship (i.e., the type that encourages you and builds you up in your faith). I'm not saying that we're to 'swing wide' open the doors to our homes and let all manner of potentially bad fellowship in. But I also think that we sin more because we do not allow for others to have access into our lives - to see us in our fine and worst moments.

When we are alone, we seek only to please ourselves. We do not worry about what others might think, do or say because they are not around for us to be consciously aware of. In our solitude we find out who we really are. In our solitude we let our hair down and live out what is the best and the worst of us. If we STAY alone, without others being able to rub up against us and point out our flaws, we're destined to either remain stale in our Christian walk (because it will never be adequately challenged and tried if it is never put to any tests - and other people DO put faith to the test!!!) or, worse, to spiral down into sinful patterns that will not benefit us short term or long term. We NEED other people to know us so that they can encourage us and build our faith (hopefully in a loving and trustworthy manner!)

To dismiss others from your life is to give your spiritual life a death sentence.

Nothing which is at all times and in every way agreeable to us can have objective reality. It is of the very nature of the real that it should have sharp corners and rough edges, that it should be resistant, should be itself. Dream-furniture is the only kind on which you never stub your toes or bang your knee. - C.S. Lewis

Speaking of trustworthiness....

NOTE #3 -

* Elizabeth was a trustworthy hostess to Mary (Luke 1:39-56) when Mary showed up pregnant on the pregnant Elizabeth's doorstep.

Let me say that word again - the PREGNANT Elizabeth was a welcoming and trustworthy hostess. (I don't know about you, but when I was pregnant, the last thing I felt like being was hospitable when temperatures hit 100 degrees and we had no air conditioning! Oh. And Jennifer. I'm not talking to you on purpose! It was a main point in the first chapter!!! ;D haha!) And Mary stayed for three months! That's a loooong term house guest, folks! Yi! Yi! Yi! (For curious readers, I am not going to test Jennifer's faith and love for me by visiting her for three months.)

Here is the list of qualities that Ennis attributes to Elizabeth as a hostess in Chapter 1 of Practicing Hospitality:

1. Elizabeth was eager to open up her home to an unplanned guest for an extended visit.
2. Elizabeth made her home a place of refuge for Mary.
3. Elizabeth maintained a confidence when shocking news was shared with her.
4. Elizabeth crossed intergenerational lives to extend biblical hospitality.
5. Elizabeth was patient for her guest to open the contents of her heart.
6. Elizabeth was more concerned about finding out what her guest wanted to discuss, rather than with what she might have wished to communicate.
7. Elizabeth was a clean vessel that the Holy Spirit could use to affirm the Lord's work in the life of another.

That's a pretty impressive list and I must say that I've never viewed Elizabeth quite in that light before! I think it's safe to assume that my respect and admiration for Elizabeth has grown by leaps and bounds since considering her as a model as to how one can offer hospitality. That's a long list of character traits to work on! And the hard thing is - I need other people in my life in order to practice and work on those traits! (And I need other people to make fun of my regular use of exclamation points to that I'll stop using them so much!)

This chapter, like all of the others, concludes with some recipe ideas as well as some notes for you to consider how you can turn around and apply the truths of this chapter to your own life.

A remarkable first chapter for a remarkably impacting book! It would be easy to grow weary thinking about how much there is to work on, as individuals, to show the love of Christ to others in the way that we treat them and bless them (in part through hospitality.) Baby steps. Chapter by chapter. Prayer. That's the only way to do it.

It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It's not the sort of comfort they supply there. - C.S. Lewis

Friday, April 23, 2010

Alice in Wonderland Party

Last week Jonathan took me to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010 film). (If you want to see my review of it, just follow the link.)

I guess in conjunction with this new film, Disney re-released their cartoon classic of the same title. Being that my husband (and, of course, my children!) had never seen this movie, I secretly snagged a copy and we had ourselves an "Alice in Wonderland party" wherein I could introduce my family to a movie that I loved growing up and we could have a fun time together while enjoying it!


I set the table while the kids were down for their nap so that they wouldn't see what I had planned for the evening. I picked up these "card plates" (see below) at Goodwill over a year ago. I think I paid $4 for 8 of them. Goodwill, btw, is one of my favorite places to snag things. I've decorated almost our entire house at Goodwill and I've picked up a lot of dinnerware there that is just a little bit unusual and is fun to look at. These plates were one of my early finds.

The cups were a Christmas gift from my mom and we've, sadly, not made very much use out of them. Being designed specifically for ice cream treats, I haven't WANTED to make a whole lot of use of them, if you know what I mean, but I thought pulling them out and serving our drinks in them would be a fun treat. I was right!

I pulled out everything red that I could find that had hearts on it to represent the Red Queen, of course!
My family LOVES pancakes and I seldom make them. It's a treat when I do, so guess what we had for dinner at our Alice in Wonderland party? I experimented with a new cinnamon banana pancake recipe too which was fabulous! Yum!

Did I already say that these pancakes were delicious? Ok, just checking....

A fun treat and addition to a meal with kids is sparkling water. We just welcomed a Trader Joe's to our town and I've been enjoying trying out their various treats. We picked up a bottle of their sparkling mineral water for $0.89. It added some flair to the meal.

But the best treat of all (food-wise I mean) was our splurge for Oreo ice cream cookies from Cold Stone Creamery. OH MY!

We had a GREAT time enjoying dinner and then watching the movie. It was a fun way to spend the evening as a family as we were doing things that were special and unusual for us. Decorating the table was a great touch and just made the evening feel like a party, which was, in fact, what we called it.

Family parties, I've decided ought to be the norm and not the exception. I have a feeling we'll be doing this again. Stay tuned!

Hospitality Challenge, Week 5-6

from Carrie

Scary looking, isn't it?

I don't know about you - but I don't think I've ever set the table this way in my life. No matter how many times my mother tried to grill this fact into me - I STILL have to ask my husband which side of the plate the forks go on! It's inconsequential information to me and I don't seem to want to waste the brain space on it.

Offering hospitality to others is a fearful thing to some people, partly because there are manners involved and sometimes you don't exactly know (or remember) what they are.

So this week your challenge is to practice on the people who matter to you the most - your family! No stress, no worries. Just create a festive looking table some night for dinner. Figure out what works and what doesn't for place settings on the table that you have. Try a new recipe that you think you might like to serve for a group. Make sure it works. Just work on your hospitality at home, within the home, and in order to bless those you live with on a daily basis.

I don't know about you all, but when I make a fun deal out of setting the table especially for my kids - they get excited and the whole meal is more pleasant, fun and interesting. So just try something new and work on fine tuning yourself and the "things" you have on hand to work with (i.e., special dining ware, cloth napkins, candles, etc.) in preparation for opening your home to others!

***
I did this this past week with my family and we had our own little Alice in Wonderland party which was a lot of fun! We plan to do more family parties in the very near future as a result of this experience.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Books About Hospitality

Because we're still a relatively new site, I want to let our readers know what to expect to see around here. Of course, I'm kinda of random and if someone e-mails me on the sidelines with a great idea for a guest post, I'm happy to rearrange the schedule a bit to share a good tip or two. This site is designed to be interactive and inspirational (as well as instructive) and so if you have something you'd like to see happen around here, or something to share, then please e-mail us at the following address:

offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

In the meantime, you can absolutely expect to see a running discussion of the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others. We'll be beginning discussing this book by chapter beginning on Monday, April 26th. In case you were wondering - there are eight chapters in this book (all of them entirely thought-provoking!) I'm almost done reading it myself and I've LOVED it! I'm looking forward to talking more about it over the course of the next eight weeks.

I'm also happy to let you know that we will be interviewing author Pat Ennis about this book and I'm excited to share that with you also.

I really believe that the books we read play an important part in shaping who we are and how we think. Books share and shape worldviews and I think it's important to keep reading all throughout life. (Hence I operate Reading to Know.) I always want to be seeking out and reading books that will help me improve my Christian walk. At the moment, I'm particularly honed in on books that talk about hospitality (surprise, surprise!) and I've purchased the following books for my home library.

I'd like to read and review them on this site and have a Hospitality Book Club of sorts around here. To that end, I'm presenting these books to you now in case you have a vote as to which we can read together, following Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others. If you have a particular preference, or just want me to read it and inform you of a particular title, please state your vote in the comment section.



I really admire Susan Hunt so I'm eagerly anticipating getting to Women's Ministry in the Local Church. I think this book will have, er, a lot of food for thought (and discussion!) Actually, if there is one among you who would like to co-host this particular book discussion/read, please e-mail me! I'd like this one to be a joint effort on the part of myself and another if at all possible. Any takers? (And if not, that's ok, because I have my eye on one or two of you for this one! Bwuuhahaha!)


It's been many, many years since I've read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, but I'm hankering it to read it again. I just read a biography about Bonhoeffer and now I'm curious to re-visit some of his writings.



I found Making Room: Recovering Hospitality As a Christian Tradition when I was browsing Amazon for books on hospitality and I snatched it up right quick! I know I keep saying this, but I'm looking forward to reading this one too!

Because my enthusiasm for all of the above books ranks pretty high - I'm happy to let you choose which one we'll read and discuss next.

Your vote?

Since we're always looking for great resources - if you have a book on hospitality that you would like to review for us here, please e-mail us on the side: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, April 19, 2010

Children's Parties: Birthdays

guest post by Monica at The Homespun Heart



Birthday Parties - you either love to plan them or you stress about planning them!

I happen to be one of those who really enjoys planning all the details! I find it so fun to think of a great theme and then run with it. Creating a special day and lasting memories for the one we are honoring!

But, where to start? We are moms and we are busy. Time is short and getting creative takes time, doesn't it? Here are a few thoughts about planning a fun (and thrifty) party for that special little person in your life!

* Keep an idea journal or book: I have an idea journal that I keep handy for jotting down ideas for family celebrations. I jot down theme ideas and then sublist ideas under them including food ideas, decorating thoughts or favor possibilities. This is a great way to keep the ideas in one spot and revise them periodically as the party approaches. If you'd prefer - just tear out ideas from magazines you like or print out ideas you see online to save in one central spot. Coming up with the theme can sometimes be the hardest task and when you've got a theme, you can begin searching out ideas. Keep your eyes open to see what interests your children and even request their input in choosing a theme.

* Set a budget: Admittedly, I've been shocked at what others are willing to spend on parties while I thrive on seeing how little I can do a party for! I try to set a limit of $50 for our parties. This includes food, any favors, decorations and a gift for the birthday child. Think ahead of time about what a realistic budget might be for you and your family situation. One girl mentioned to me that she had a hard time keeping parties on a budget because when they invited the children - the whole families came and they fed all of them. In this case, try a non-meal time party or just mention cake and ice cream will be served on the invitation.

* Keep your eyes open: Once I have a theme, I find that I start seeing ideas all around me. Just sort of keep your theme in the back of your mind. You might find a great item at a thrift store (like the Strawberry Shortcake curtain valance I found that made a great table runner) or a clearance rack! Or, you may see an idea you could recreate at home for free. Jot all of these things in your idea book or keep a list with your clippings.

* Search online: there are lots of mamas who really enjoy the party planning and have super creative ideas. Let them do the work for you! Getting the ideas is half of the job! Add these to your idea journal as well.

* Work ahead: This is probably the thing that serves me the best. Once I've collected ideas and have jotted things in my Idea Book for a while - I can go through that list and narrow it down to what will actually work at our party. I might actually work on a party for months and months before it happens - just a few minutes here and a few minutes there can really add up and the earlier you have a theme, the more likely you'll see other ideas around to add to it!

* Get resourceful: When you see an idea you like online and find that you don't have all the supplies - try to challenge yourself to think of a way you could make something similar for cheaper or with things you already have on hand. For example, when my little guy turned two - I wanted to do a car themed party. I found a great post online with tons of ideas and she obviously had a color printer and everything looked so professional. I don't have a color printer, but realized I could print out a free clip art of a car and use it as a template to trace out cars on scrapbook paper. I used what I had and it looked great for FREE!

* It's the little things: Children just love all the little details! Fun shaped food and cheerful decorations are noticed and enjoyed by them! Try to see how fun you can make the party. But, they also don't see how much things cost or how fancy they are. Just do what you can and know that it will be special and meaningful to them!



* Be realistic: Have an idea for a perfect party game? Make sure to consider how many guests you are going to have, their ages, the weather, where you will do the game or if it requires pricey supplies. Don't overplan - children just love to play and be together and don't really need tons of activities or games planned!

* Keep it small: So far, we've had just family parties until our children turn three. When they turn three - they are allowed to invite three guests not including siblings (to prevent resentment!) and at four - four guests. I'm not sure how long we'll continue this trend - but it has worked great so far. Consider what would suit your family and home and then plan accordingly. More guests might be reserved for milestone birthdays or once every few years if you choose.

* Limit gifts: To this point, we've only had one birthday party where all the guests brought gifts. I like to take the emphasis off of gifts and do that part with family later. On all but this one party, I've written on the invitation that their presence will be our gift and no gifts were necessary. If you do have children bring gifts - I love the idea of putting two chairs in the front of a circle and having the recipient sit with the honored birthday child up front while they open the gift from them.

* Favors: To give favors or not to give favors - there are two camps on this! Since I like all the extra details - I love to do favors, but I do try to keep them consumable or practical when possible. For example, when my Rachel turned three she wanted a pink elephant party and I made little skirts for the favors. We gave them to the girls in advance so they could wear them to the party! It was so fun! And, both my girls have worn theirs multiple times since.

* Have fun!: I admit that all of this sounds really fun to me - but I know not everyone will feel the same way about it. I pour myself into the details because I enjoy it. If you don't enjoy this kind of thing - it may add more stress to the celebration than you'd like and your children would rather have fun than a stressed out mommy! If it starts not being fun anymore, step back and try to look at what you can cut out, delegate or substitute with a simpler solution.

Here are a few parties I've planned for my children on a budget:

BOY THEME :

First Birthday
Cars
Baseball

GIRL THEME:

Ellie the Elephant
Rainbows
Princess Tea Party
Butterfly

Friday, April 16, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Introduction

by Carrie

Side Note: Our Hospitality Challenges will now be offered every other week instead of every week. This should allow people more time for follow through (hint, hint!) The next challenge will post next week instead of today.

A few weeks back I purchased a copy of the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others. Even just a few weeks in, I'm happy to make a strong recommendation on behalf of Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock and their book!

If you've known me online for awhile, it's probably through my regular book review site, Reading to Know. I write book reviews on a regular (read: daily) basis. However, it didn't take me long to figure out that I wanted to treat Practicing Hospitality in a little different manner than I usually so when I review a book online.

Instead of reviewing this book in total in a single post, I'm going to spend some time sharing my notes from each chapter of this book. Starting next week I'll begin walking chapter by chapter, highlighting what I think are some of their best points and sharing about how this book is impacting me personally. I would love to have you all along for the ride and would encourage you to grab your own copy of this book to read along with me! (In fact, if you plan to do that, let me know!)

From the introduction which states the general purpose of the book:

"Our book focuses on developing both the Christian character and practical skills so that the act of hospitality is a joy for the host and hostess and a source of encouragement for the guest. This book is a collaborative effort. Each of us has very different life experiences related to practicing hospitality, but we share a common commitment to biblical truth. Hopefully, this will be an encouragement for you to consider how you can uniquely and creatively practice hospitality." (Introduction, page 17)
Published by Crossway Books, this title had my instant trust and I've not been disappointed by anything I have found inside of it yet! I have been stretched and challenged and have gained new insights on the whole idea of what it means to practice hospitality. I'm eager to share my findings with you so stay tuned!

***
If you are interested in reading along with - we'll begin by discussing Chapter 1 on Monday the 26th.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hospitality With Littles

This is a guest post from Monica at The Homespun Heart. Monica is the sister of Carrie of with all that i've been given who has guest posted here a time or two. I would encourage you to check out The Homespun Heart if you've never done so, as Monica blogs about faith, family and creativity in a way that I find totally inspiring and uplifting!

Awhile back, Monica blogged about how to practice hospitality with little ones and she gave us permission to share her thoughts here. She has some GREAT tips and ideas which I'm delighted to be able to share with our readers.

*****
from Monica @ The Homespun Heart

How do you get past the fear of having a not quite perfect home (not picked up) with three littles and still welcoming drop in friends?

This comment was left on my recent post about hospitality. And, it is a great question! In a lot of ways, I think we have to get over wanting our house to be perfect when people come over. Our children are simply not going to keep every little thing put away!

I have come a long way in this area - maybe even too far to the other extreme now, where when a guest stops by I don't usually think about all the clutter on my counters or how many dust bunnies are on my kitchen floor.

If the guests drop in - there should be less expectations on our home. We did not know they were coming and our lives are lived in our homes. Do you have any suggestions to share on drop in company?

If I know we are having guests, obviously I will take some extra measures to present our home than when someone stops by unannounced. What comes to my mind is productively occupying our children so that once we've tidied the home for coming guests, they are not undoing it all!

Here are some ideas:

* Involve children in the welcoming of company: let them help in ch
oosing who comes, color a welcoming picture or decorate a sign or chalkboard you've written on. If you have a sign welcoming them - this will draw their attention up rather than to dirt on the floor! And, will give them a big welcome and let them know you are glad they are there. You could also provide a sheet of paper and just ask your child to color on it. It could be cut into place cards which you add the names to!




* Set out the dishes and then have children help set the table while you are preparing the meal. How I often do this is to hand Emily one plate and say, "This one is for Daddy's place." When she comes back we repeat this for each plate, napkin, fork, knife, spoon, etc... it takes longer and she really can't handle multiple plates right now anyway!

***
To read the rest of Monica's suggestions CLICK HERE. It will take you to her blog post entitled Hospitality with Littles which is worth spending some time thinking about!

Thanks, Monica, for encouraging me to involve my children in the fine art of extending hospitality to others!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Offering Hospitality on a Budget, Part 2: Simple Suppers

by guest poster



My name is Carrie, and I write about life and stewardship at with all that I’ve been given. Hospitality and frugality are two of my main interests, and I think they can certainly go together.

In my first post, I discussed the details and fun of hosting a potluck-style supper. But of course you can serve guests an entire meal without breaking the bank. For the past two years, we’ve hosted two sets of neighbors for a winter meal to thank them for keeping an eye on our house during Christmas vacation. For last year’s dinner, I served French bread pizza, spinach salad and brownies with ice cream. Here are some of the details--this is for 6 adults and 4 kids:

I used two loaves of French bread (purchased on the day-old rack for 90 cents each)—cut in half length-wise, this made 4 pizzas. I made four different kinds, but of course you could simplify this part and just make two varieties. We made pepperoni, cheese, BBQ chicken, and alfredo with ham and pineapple (my husband’s favorite). Obviously, the toppings you choose will vary in price.

The recipe for the spinach salad can be found here. All of the ingredients are inexpensive, especially if you can snag a bag of spinach on sale for 99 cents as I often do.

For dessert, I confess to using brownie mix (on sale for $1, and snazzed up with a handful of chocolate chips thrown into the batter). We buy the big buckets of ice cream when they go on sale for $4.99—that amount goes a long way!

I did not add up the amount I spent on this dinner, but I’m pretty sure the total cost was under $15. I think that’s pretty good for 10 people!

Having others over for a meal doesn’t have to be expensive. What are some of your recipes or ideas for offering hospitality on a budget?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bowing out for a good cause...

By: Jennifer Claire

Well, it is official, I, Jennifer, am resigning my position as a staff writer for Offering Hospitality as I have a new little bundle on the way and much (including morning sickness) to pre-occupy me for the next several months.  

My sister-in-law, Carrie, and our friend Crista will continue Writing, Editing, & Managing this blog, they have done an amazing job so far, don't you think?  And, they have lots of special guest writers, stories, and ideas to share with you!  So, stay tuned as the journey continues!

In the mean time I shall bid you all an affectionate farewell and leave you with some pictures of my son and soon to be BIG BROTHER!

 

Blessings & fair thee well...
   Walking in the Shadow of the Almighty,
               Jennifer Claire

Ultimate Blog Party

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

Well, we're a little late to the party but maybe that's fashionable? What am I saying? This is the Offering Hospitality blog wherein we talk about the do's and don't of - well - offering (and accepting!) hospitality, right? One of the main rules about being a guest is showing up on time, right? Isn't that so? Well, we do our best around here but we're not perfect.

We're a relatively new blog and this is our purpose:

To will feature tips, stories, encouragement, and a Christian perspective of hospitality and how we can better apply this concept to our lives in the busy era we live in.

We love to interact with others and share thoughts and ideas. We hope you'll browse our site and consider sharing this challenging journey with us wherein we're stretched a tad beyond our comfort zones and encouraged to find ways to bless others.

Here are some of our initial posts to give you an idea of what we're about:

- Defining Offering Hospitality

- Learning to be hospitable without complaint

Thank you for stopping by and we look forward to getting to know you!

Hospitality Challenge, Week 4

from Carrie

This picture cracks me up! In a strangely amusing way, it describes my position when it comes to talking on the phone. I am a blend of archaic and modern. The phone exists to be a personal boon to me. I use it when I need it. And, let me tell you, I don't find the need to use it very frequently! It's a modern convenience that should be that - a convenience. Like, "The HOUSE IS ON FIRE" sort of convenience. The lifesaver sort.

But MUST we use it to communicate with one another? Sigh. E-mail me. I'll e-mail you back. Or we can talk in person. But please, oh please, don't call me on the phone!!!

That said, there are people (so I'm told) that love to be called on the phone. They like it when people ring them up to touch base. They don't feel as if their day as just been interrupted. They just feel blessed that you were thinking about them and wanted to call them up and say hello.

Although I personally do not find my ringing telephone to be a blessing, I have friends who DO. I try to remember this and make the effort to call them up, just to say "hello." But it's a great effort. A HUGE sacrifice. (See? If you've ever received a phone call from me you should fall over backwards and consider yourself beyond blessed.) haha!

At any rate, my personal challenge for the week will be to call someone who I know likes a phone call. Someone I don't normally call. Just because I can. Just because maybe I should.

Or maybe I'll text them. =D For me - that's also a great sacrifice even though I know it's a primary means of correspondence for some.

At any rate, let's say the hospitality challenge of the week is to contact someone using a method of communication that maybe isn't your usual style, but that you know means a great deal to the person you're connecting with!

Sound good? Go for it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Children's Parties

from Carrie, for all of us here



Raise your hand if you've ever had any difficulty thinking (or wanting to think about!) hosting a party for children? Maybe it's a birthday party and maybe it's a special event - either which way, it seems like a lot of work and a big headache!

Over the course of the next few weeks, we'd like to share with you some personal stories from various people who have successfully thrown fun parties for kids. Some are simple, some more elaborate. The common bond these women have is that: they actually THREW THE PARTY!

Do you have a children's party story to share? Some advice or tips to offer based on your own experiences (both the positive and the negative?)

Please e-mail us at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com with your stories and suggestions!

We'd love to include your party suggestions/pictures that you are willing to share with the group at large.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

With Thanks!

from Carrie, on behalf of Offering Hospitality

Thank you to all of you who have stopped by and visited and have left a comment for us (and others) to consider! As we said from the beginning - this site will not be able to survive or exist without feedback and interaction and we really appreciate you taking a moment to comment and suggest!

Since starting this blog, we have been delighted by the news of a soon-coming arrival into our family (i.e., Jennifer is pregnant!) and so we might hear from her a little less. We have goals for this site but the first goal to realize is that we keep our OWN homes in order. If we are unable to do that - we shouldn't be keeping up this site! So I hope you'll choose to follow along with us in this journey as we continue to explore and offer new ideas for offering hospitality, as well as sharing resources and information, sporadic though we may occasionally be!

In the meantime, we have some fun stuff up our sleeves from some guest posters. Stay tuned and, again, thanks for following along and for providing input!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Offering Hospitality on a Budget, Part 1: Potlucks

by guest poster


My name is Carrie, and I write about life and stewardship at with all that I've been given. I was excited when my blog friend, who is also named Carrie!, asked me to write on this topic, because hospitality and frugality are two of my main interests, and I think they can certainly go together.

Before my husband and I were even married, we knew that we wanted to regularly invite others into our home. One of the most common (and frugal!) ways we’ve done this is to host potluck-style dinners. I always make a main dish and usually a side or dessert, and then the rest of the meal is up to our guests. We’ve actually made it a tradition (except on holidays) to not assign a certain type of dish. This aspect has added to the uniqueness of each gathering. I don’t think any of us will forget the time we ended up with several desserts but a sparse selection of “real food.” The kids loved it. =)

I like to make things that don’t need last-minute fussing, especially since we rarely eat right away. Crockpot dishes are handy for this. Most recently, I made chickenetti—it’s delicious, frugal, and easy to make!

We keep the set-up simple, as well. If several young children will be present, we get out a small kids’ table, which our 3-year-old thinks is wonderful. I put stacks of (real) plates and silverware on our counter, and we create a buffet of dishes in the kitchen. I like to set napkins and pitchers of water on the table so they are easily accessible. I occasionally mix up some lemonade or iced tea, but offering just water is a great way to keep things simple and inexpensive.

Regarding the size of the gathering, we’ve found that we can comfortably accommodate a dinner for 10-12 guests. We ended up with 19 people at a recent potluck, and it was unfortunately more chaotic than enjoyable!

Potlucks really are a nice way to host a meal. I hope you’ll consider it sometime soon as a fun and frugal means of opening your home to others!

***

Do you have an idea for practicing hospitality that you would like to write up and have featured as a guest post on Offering Hospitality? Please let us know!