Friday, May 28, 2010

Interview with Pat Ennis of Practicing Hospitality

guest interview with Pat Ennis, co-author of Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others which is published by Crossway Books.
Note from Carrie B. - I had asked my friend and contact at Crossway Books if one of the authors of Practicing Hospitality might be available for a blog interview. Ms. Ennis graciously offered to answer a few questions and I'm happy to share her answers with you below. Enjoy!


Thank you for inviting me to participate in the blog interview for Offering Hospitality. I am blessed that you chose our book Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others for your study and pray that my responses will enhance your enjoyment of the book. May your home always be a prepared place for those you love and a place of refuge to friends and strangers!

Pat J

1. What initially drew you to hospitality as a profession?

By profession I am a Home Economist/Family and Consumer Scientist. I am the establishing chair and professor of Home Economics – Family and Consumer Sciences at The Master’s College, located in Santa Clarita, California (Visit the Home Economics – Family & Consumer Sciences web page at or my blog at ). A strand of the profession includes the study of nutrition/food science/meal management. Hospitality is a part of this strand.

However, long before I was a professional Home Economist/Family and Consumer Scientist, I was taught hospitality skills by my godly mother. Consistently the gracious Southern hostess, though we resided in Southern California, she always made our home open to guests. I learned gracious hospitality skills from my mother and the academic principles to support the skills as a college student majoring in Home Economics.

2. In my hunt for books on hospitality, I've only managed to find a few. What drew you and Tatlock to the idea of writing a book on the subject of hospitality and how did you come to partner together in writing your book(s)?

Practicing Hospitality, the Joy of Serving Others is the third book Lisa and I partnered together to write. The first two, Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God and Designing a Lifestyle that Pleases God, are a snapshot of the Home Economics major at The Master’s College. When we completed Designing a Lifestyle that Pleases God we had to cut some of the hospitality content because we had reached our word count. The content that we deleted provided the foundation for Practicing Hospitality.

My relationship with Lisa spans almost 30 years. Originally her dad and mom were the teacher/sponsors of my Singles’ Sunday School Class. Lisa was a teenager and my interface with her motivated her to attend Christian Heritage College where I had started my first college character-based Home Economics Department. She graduated and I relocated to The Master’s College. The year she completed her master’s degree I needed another faculty member; she was interviewed and hired. We ministered together until her family grew to 5 children (2 biological and 3 international adoptions).

Lisa and I possess very different life experiences related to practicing hospitality, but we share a common commitment to biblical truth. As we blended our experiences, Practicing Hospitality emerged as a resource to challenge its readers to uniquely and creatively practice hospitality regardless of their season of life or marital status.

3. In reading Practicing Hospitality, I noted that you are a "mature single professional" (is, I think, how you termed it.) I've been talking to other single female friends that I know and asking them how difficult they find it to be to both extend and receive hospitality. They note it as a particular challenge, one expressing how awkward people feel around her single state in a room full of married couples and families. What advice would you give to the single, in particular, that might help to alleviate the awkwardness? You talked a bit about this subject in your book in Chapter 6, but I'm wondering if you'd have any additional or pointed advice to offer.

I am a “mature single professional” and as I shared in chapter 6, had I waited until I was married to practice hospitality, I would have missed hundreds of opportunities to minister to others. I truly understand the awkwardness at being a single individual in a room full of married couples and families. While my advice is not necessarily going to work for everyone, I can communicate what my gracious heavenly Father taught me that changed my entire outlook toward extending hospitality.

Early in my college teaching I was whining to Him about feeling like a misfit among married couples and families. He lovingly reminded me that as His adopted child I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) regardless of my marital status. My failure to acknowledge my position as His daughter caused me to be discontent and was creating within me a stand-offish, aloof attitude. I was much like a porcupine on a cold winter night—I desperately needed to be with others but my prickly attitude caused others to shun me. As I allowed my heavenly Father to soften my heart I found that my lack of a spouse was not the challenge in my interpersonal relations—it was my attitude. The truth of Proverbs 18:24 and Philippians 4:11-12 was once again reinforced in my heart—to have friends I must be friendly and I am to be content as a single woman. This is to be my attitude toward others regardless of whether or not they respond positively.

My experience with singles is that many are isolated because they choose to be. Rather than reaching out to others, they wait for others to include them. It is important for singles to “stretch out their hands” to families, couples, and others who are alone and in need of companionship. This action is a character quality resident in the godly woman described in Proverbs 31:10-31. The principle is applicable to all believers, not just women.

The single person has much more discretionary time and often resources than a married person. 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 reminds us that the single person has the freedom to serve the Lord with fewer hindrances. Failure to use the single status to reach out to others is poor stewardship of one’s unmarried status. Eagerly practicing hospitality, using the suggestions in our book, can “prime the pump” to stimulate singles’ creativity. Thinking “outside of the box” rather than wallowing in self-pity is a step toward fulfilling the biblical instructions to extend hospitality—and remember they are instructions, not suggestions (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). I know, from personal experience, the joy of having submitted myself to these instructions and have many rich memories because of my choice to obey them.

A final word on this topic—singles practicing hospitality is like learning to ride a bike or roller blades. More than likely while they are learning the skill they can get bruised, scratched, and will sometimes be discouraged. But for the accomplished rider or skater the thrill of the activity is worth every obstacle that occurred to gain proficiency. Though perhaps lonely, a single is safe in isolation—but that’s not what Christians were saved for (Matthew 28:19-20). May I encourage you to take the risk and extend hospitality? I believe you will find joy in doing so!

4. In Chapter 7 Tatlock addressed the issue of "Hospitality and Culture." The chapter focused primarily on differences in world cultures. I read it and considered its application in terms of the culture differences between families (i.e., in finance and spending habits, home school vs. public school, families with a lot of children vs. those with one child, etc.) I think we put up walls between each other that are contrived from our own personal cultures and so I've been thinking about how to broaden your application. Would you agree with my wanting to broaden people's application to this chapter? Would you have any advice to offer on this particular subject?

Lisa’s extensive travel experiences combined with her husband’s passion for reaching the world for Christ provided the foundation for her to share so many rich thoughts and experiences in her chapter entitled “Hospitality and Culture.” These experiences were supplemented by the responses of our graduates from both Christian Heritage College (now San Diego Christian) and The Master’s College. Many live and serve our Lord internationally.

I, however, am a “homebody.” The closest I have come to international travel were three trips to Hawaii. So, while I affirm all that Lisa wrote in her chapter, I would encourage our readers to broaden their application to their own community. Perhaps the following suggestions will stimulate their creativity . . .

  • Building upon the response from question 3, demolish the walls of your comfortable social circle. If you are married, include singles in your next gathering; if you are single, invite a family for dessert and game night at your home, apartment, or dorm room. Choose to be countercultural in relation to your guest list.

  • Readily accept and extend invitations to those who are different from you. One of the greatest hindrances in our Christian community is that we tend to stratify ourselves. Yet, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he became all things to all men that he might save some. It may be awkward at first but you will soon learn to adapt—especially when you recall the truth of Philippians 4:13.

  • During the 2010 spring semester I taught a new class for our HE-FCS students entitled “Resource Management for the Aging.” The focus of the class was twofold—to stimulate an awareness of the largest population of individuals in America and to challenge the students to become wise stewards of their resources so they are prepared for their senior years should the Lord not return. The results of the class were incredible. The students, through the distribution of a Senior Saint Survey, learned much about senior saints, their needs, and, potential ministry opportunities to them. The need for intergenerational relationships was clearly revealed throughout the various class assignments. There is no better way to initiate these relationships than through the extension of biblical hospitality.

  • Begin to eradicate the barriers by embracing the truth of Titus 2:1-8. Be willing to be both a younger and older Christian in the lives of believers. Again, biblical hospitality provides a practical venue for implementing the intergenerational relationships outlined in this passage.

  • Clothe yourself with humility (1 Peter 5:5) as you extend biblical hospitality. Walls are built when we think that we have all of the answers or our choices are the best choices for everyone. Learn the difference between biblical mandates and preferences and then expand your borders to include people of differing socio-economic levels, family size, school choice, and even theological persuasions. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that as believers we should sharpen one another. There is no better way to abolish cultural differences between families than to purpose to dismantle the unbiblical walls we have constructed. Food is always a good lubricant to assist in the demolition process J.

    5. What is your greatest hope for the reader of Practicing Hospitality?

It is my prayer that the readers of Practicing Hospitality will prayerfully read the entire book and complete the activities at the conclusion of each chapter. Having assimilated the book, I pray the book will become well-used as it serves as a reference for becoming a doer of the Word rather than simply a hearer (James 1:22).

What is the main message that you would hope a reader of your book would walk away with? Obedience to embracing the biblical instructions to practice hospitality produces great joy and may produce eternal rewards.

I would enjoy hearing from your blog visitors and can be contacted at drennis (at) masters (dot) edu . Thank you again for the opportunity to interface with you electronically.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tastefully Simple

by Carrie B.

One of the original desires behind Offering Hospitality was not just to stretch ourselves and motivate others to practice hospitality, but to encourage and promote moms who operate businesses out of their homes. Occasionally, we'd like to highlight a few of those moms who we feel offer something special in the area of hospitality. Personally, I can think of few better to highlight than my friend Cacey.

Cacey was one of my "hospitality heroes" who taught me what it meant to offer hospitality to a.) strangers and b.) strangers who are staying in your home. You see, Cacey's husband and I went to law school together and she extended bounds of hospitality to me as a friend of her husband. She didn't know me directly but she was kind, friendly, and became my friend as well. Now our families enjoy getting together as we have traveled the same road of adoption with one another. (You can read their family's adoption journey HERE.) They welcomed home their new daughter about the same time we welcomed home our new son and recently came to visit us. It's always a delight to see them. Here is a picture of their family:

Cacey sells Tastefully Simple food products and I've tasted them in our home and have placed orders for particular products I like. (As a side note, one of the reasons she began selling Tastefully Simple foods was to raise money for their adoptions.)

I don't know about you, but when I have guests over I like to offer homemade goods. At first I wasn't sure why I would want to buy Tastefully Simple products. It seemed like I could make these things for myself - even if they didn't turn out exactly right. And therein is my argument as to why Tastefully Simple is a worthy product (not to mention a fun home business to run!)

My husband Jonathan and I are very much into hosting large party gatherings. We've had upwards of 60-80 people in our home for meals, events and fun times. We LOVE doing this!

I love doing it, but it's a pain to have to think about preparing all of the food myself! Timing warm dishes to come out perfectly and wanting to enjoy my guests and delight them with good tasting food is no small order! Enter: Tastefully Simple.

Their products come out PERFECT every. single. time. No joke! Every loaf of bread I've made, their flavored cheese balls, their marinating sauces, are perfection! When I'm hosting a lot of people, and I don't want to pay the expense of a caterer but I do want good tasting, easy-to-prepare and serve food (that tastes delicious!) I tend to go with Tastefully Simple. It's convenient. It's cheaper than a caterer. It tastes like catered food -- perfect! I don't have to put a lot of thought into it which keeps the stress levels much, much lower. When you are having 100 people into your home, anything you can do to lower the stress levels is appreciated, right?

But what about Tastefully Simple if you aren't in the habit of having 75 guests for dinner? What if it's just your family? Here are some products I've used for smaller events:

  • As part of our Easter dinner with some friends, I made the Sweet Strawberry Cheese Ball.
  • When my sister-in-law came over for a special dinner, I made their beer bread to go with our soup, because I know she loves the bread (as we all do!)
  • For a special family dinner, I used the Savory Wild Mushroom Slow Cooker Sauce. Dinner tasted like it came from a restaurant, but the meal was much cheaper and we even had left overs!
  • For a girl's movie night, I've enjoyed the Oh My Chai! beverage.
As I said - each time I make one of their products, it turns out perfectly. It's a fun treat and using their food takes the place of a dinner out, a catered meal or a run to Starbucks. It's just fun!

I'm happy to show off Tastefully Simple things because I'm happy eating Tastefully Simple things. I know Cacey's heart is safe and securely at home and she enjoys being able to minister to and fellowship with other women through this business. To learn more about what got Cacey started, CLICK HERE to read her story.

Visit to learn more about Cacey and her family and make a new friend while you are at it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 5

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

Click here to read my thoughts on Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Chapter 5 is entitled, "Hospitality and Your Home." The points I want to make out of this chapter are pulled almost from the get-go. The authors are making a point in this chapter that your home is to be a place of refuge, both for your family and for others. They give a list of things which your home should provide and mention two things in particular that I'd like to hone in on.

  1. The first is that your home should be a place of security - "a stronghold that is safe from the hostility of the world" (2 Sam. 22:3).
  2. The second is that your home should be a "refreshment for those who communicate the gospel" (Luke 10:38-42; Acts 9:35 - 10:23; 16:15; Rom. 12:13; 16:23; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; Philem. 22; 3 John 5-8)
1. Your home should be a place of security. The world is a harsh and vicious place. When we walk outside our front doors we are exposing ourselves to billboards, advertisements, people who intend to harm others, harsh words from those who do not know or make attempts to understand us, messages that contradict our faith. The world is a battlefield!

Our family should know that when they walk in the doors of ours (and their!!!) home, that they will find security in relationship with us. They shouldn't fear our emotions, harsh opinions or disgruntlement. Rather, when they come home they should feel secure in knowing that they are safe from the arrows and darts that the enemy assails them with nonstop.

I would say that this is a hard one for mothers to tackle. I mean, I'm always a perfect angel to my husband and we get along perfectly. I don't know about you guys, but I AM the perfect attitude. Ok, maybe not all of the time. And not even most of the time. I tire out easily and my attitude suffers.

But what am I really saying when I have a bad attitude and attack my family and rob them of the security that they could feel when they are in our home?

A translation of my foul attitude can only say the following thing to my family: "I believe God is dead." Because if I believed that God were alive, I would believe that a.) He can see my sinful attitude (and take issue with it!) and b.) He can help me to conquer it.

If I wanted to build a safe place for my family, I would live and speak as if God lives (because He does whether or not I confess it.) And where is our security to be found? In Christ Alone. So I can promote the idea of security and live the promise that God will take care of His people by addressing my sin attitudes. When I address my sin attitudes, I will be more peaceful. When I am at peace, my family will be able to feel that. They will feel more secure and can enjoy the promises of God more thoroughly.

This is a big hurdle for me but I'm striving towards this goal. The world offers enough grief to my family members. The least I can do is counter that with some joy and peace through Christ who strengthens me.

2. The home should be a refreshment for those who are communicating the gospel. This takes me back to Spiritual Disciplines: Service wherein we discussed how the only way to show hospitality and service to others is by and through the worship of God. If I want my home to be a place of refreshment - where the gospel of Jesus can be lived out and shared with others - then I need to have my heart poised for worship. I need to be engaged in daily fellowship with God.

If I do not know Him, then I cannot share Him.

That's a pretty simple and straightforward thought, but it sure does take a whole lot of concerted thought and effort to actively build this environment in one's home.

This chapter presented some pretty big ideas for me to grapple with. Practicing and offering hospitality is not an easy business, is it?! It seems like awful hard work. It's after reading these chapters that I have to go back to the key verse around here:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen" 1 Peter 4:8-11
Hospitality is something I am called to and therefore I need to work on these various aspects of my spiritual life so that I will be able to carry out the call to serve faithfully.

Oh yeah. And without grumbling too. Right....check that....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hospitality Challenge, Week 9-10

by Carrie

It's never a bad thing to go back to the source of wisdom to find out what it is God would have you do. When it comes to hospitality - have you asked Him where He might be leading you to serve and bless others?

This week's challenge is simple - pray (again) about what you might do to practice hospitality and offer it to friend and stranger alike.

Pray even about continuing to follow this site! Maybe this site is not helping you, but instead is just distracting you from what you should be doing. Maybe it's a time waster. It could very well be!

Do what you need to do! Just pray about what that is this week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Children's Parties: Egg Party

Before Spring is totally over with, let's squeeze in another Springtime party, shall we? This guest post comes from Stephanie at Olive Tree.

Carrie asked me to write a little bit about a party that I have hosted for my girls and their friends. I'm guessing I'm not that only mama that looks at the egg-coloring tradition of Easter/spring with fear and trepidation. : ) I'll be honest. It's not something that I particularly enjoy. However. I have a first-born that likes nothing better than getting her hands messing in paint and such so for a couple years I have plowed through this activity with my girls.

When my oldest was almost three, I decided that this activity could definitely be more fun if we had some more folks involved - friends for munchkins AND friends for mamas. : ) Thus, our Spring Fling party was born.

The two times that we have hosted this, I have wanted to do this activity outside, but spring weather never managed to cooperate on the day of the party. We have managed to make do inside with a couple tables (usually one for bigger kids and a smaller one for those that need to sit or stand on the floor).


My menu has always been very simple. For the kids, I usually offer the choice of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit kabobs, and veggies and ranch dressing. All things that can be made or picked up fairly inexpensively - especially when you are selective about what fruits you put on the kabobs - a can of pineapple and a bunch of pretty grapes go a long way! For the moms, I make up a big bowl of caesar chicken pasta salad. One year I made this bunny cake (very easy!) but I have also done cupcakes which works just as well.

For the party, I provide all the egg coloring equipment - bowls, dye, etc. I ask the moms to bring a dozen eggs PER child and make sure they have on clothes that can get paint on them. : ) A few newspapers spread over the table and we are good to go.



You could expand on this party, if you wanted, to include a story for all the kids (maybe something like The Legend of the Easter Egg) before coloring.

This party has always been a lot of fun and definitely makes the activity of color eggs something I look forward to as it has become a time of fun and fellowship with other families.

If you are interested in hosting your own spring fling some year, you are welcome to download the invitation I designed here: download here. It can either be sent as a postcard or you can pop it in an envelope.


Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing. Stephanie blogs about her family and life over at Olive Tree. When you have a moment, wave a bloggy hello to her!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Children's Parties: Celebrating the Seasons

from guest poster, Monica @ The Homespun Heart

I don't know about you - but I love to celebrate even the changing of the seasons with my children. Sometimes these include opportunities for hospitality and sometimes they are just for my children. But, that is being hospitable to my own too isn't it?!

Here are a few ideas:

First Day of Spring: This is when we do our Easter baskets, egg hunt, dyeing eggs and all those things usually done on Easter. This helps us to reserve Easter for Jesus and His death and resurrection. Bunny biscuits, spring wreath, decorate, etc...

First Day of Summer: You're all about to think I'm a terrible mom because I (gasp) let my children eat ice cream for breakfast on the first day of summer! It's only one day a year and I bet they won't forget it! :) It was a fun day to introduce homemade bubbles and a trip to the neighbors pool as well!

May Day: This is a great way of taking hospitality to someone else! Save tin cans or juice cans and decorate them before planting inexpensive bedding plants (pansies are my favorite for this!) - then deliver all together with your little ones!

First Day of Fall: Have a Scavenger hunt to find lunch or make cookies to reach out to neighbors! Or how about this for the mommies?

Snow Party
: I used to live in Colorado and just love snow! Now that I live in the south, we don't see it very often and I thought why not bring some snow to my life and to my children by having a snow party!?

Homespun Harvest Party: This is one that I've done several times. I didn't do it this past year and my oldest has already requested we resume it next Fall! This is old-fashioned fun at its absolute best! Bob for apples, sack races, homemade donuts and taking home a pumpkin - this is a great way to celebrate Fall!

Caroling: how about singing Christmas Carols to your neighbors? Here are some fun ideas for this one!

Do you have a favorite way of celebrating seasons with your children and/or as an opportunity for hospitality? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 4

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

Click here to read my thoughts on Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.

Chapter 4 is entitled, "Hospitality and Management" which was probably the most difficult for me to read. Why? Because it talks about what you can do to manage yourself and your home better in order that it might run decently enough to offer hospitality to others.

There were some GREAT tips in this chapter - don't read me wrong!

It's just that....well...I'm not a list maker. Once anyone suggests that I start making a list I kinda zone out and take on the good ol' blank stare. I don't get lists. By the time I'm done thinking through one and writing it down, I could have accomplished about half of the things on the list already! I simply don't see the point.

Therefore I am a rather random organizer/cleaner/planner. I like flying by the seat of my pants pretty much.

Pity then that I married a list man. I'm pretty sure if I made lists we'd probably understand each other and our goals a little bit better. Instead, he keeps a list in his head and I tackle whatever project immediately catches my eye. Somehow or another, we've learned what each other expects when we want to have people over and we're running more like a well-oiled machine instead of like chickens with our heads cut off.

Lisa Tatlock authors this particular chapter and she is a good organizer. I imagine that Monica would find a lot to apply because I've noticed that Monica also makes a regular habit of making lists and keeping notebooks. (Am I completely hopeless?) If you are a list maker and a right royal organizer - this chapter is for you! If not, then your eyes might start to glaze over and you might start in with that blank stare. But don't go there! There are still things to be gleaned.

A few tips and advice from Tatlock when it comes to preparing yourself and your home for others:

" . . . [T]he truth is that there is no secret to managing your home with excellence - it is simply hard work!
Consistent effort is required to have an orderly and prepared home, whereas ideleness nullifies hard work. You must work diligently - every day. According to Scripture, the consequences of idleness are always disastrous:

  • want (Prov. 20:4)
  • poverty (Prov. 10:4, 20:13)
  • hunger (Prov. 19:15)
  • bondage (Prov. 12:24)
  • apathy, and ruin (Prov. 24:30-34).

(Chapter 4, page 105)
A friend of mine makes use of the to help her keep her house in order. The concept behind FlyLady is to spend a specific amount of time every day cleaning "zones" in your house. The idea is that if you fulfill the responsibilities given to you in e-mails on a daily (weekly?) basis, then your house will always be in a state of general order. Eventually, if you are cleaning "in the zone" you'll have cleaned and decluttered your whole house. It's a great idea but I haven't done it yet. (Tsk, tsk!)

If one of your excuses to not offering hospitality to others is that your home is not in a state where you feel comfortable inviting people into it, then both Tatlock and likely the FlyLady would urge you to bring your home into order. Not only will YOU feel more relaxed about having guests in, your family would probably also appreciate the peace which a clean home can bring.

"Understand that orderliness, not perfection, is your goal." (Chapter 4, page 111)
There are a lot of good reasons to bring and maintain order in the home. It is not an easy project to keep the home maintained. Certainly it takes a lot of concerted thought and effort. But the end results are worth it:

  • The freedom of knowing that you are ready to have unexpected guests come calling at any point in time and you'll be ready to host them.
  • Peace and a calmness in the home and in your person.
  • The ability to really relax.

I don't know about you all - but the ability to relax within my own home and in the company of my guests is something worth working towards! Agreed?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Family Party: A Family Ball

guest post from Stephanie at Stephanie's Mommy Brain

I asked Stephanie to share about one of her family parties because I really do feel like it's important that we learn to celebrate life with our families FIRST! Our families, those we love and care the most for, should receive the very best of us. Plus, they are great people to practice being creative and having fun with! There typically isn't anyone to impress -- but plenty of loved ones to DELIGHT with your enthusiasm for life. So without further ado, check out how Stephanie chose to celebrate and enjoy a little party with her family . . .


I've learned a lot of lessons during my 7 years as a mom.

I've learned to always keep a change of clothes for my kids in the van. I've learned the Magic Sponge really make crayon disappear. I've learned to never leave home without Cheerios in the diaper bag.

And I've learned that showing hospitality to my family is always a possibility but seldom planned.

It's always a possibility because my children are constantly asking me for permission to do
all kinds of things. Just today they wanted to color pictures at the kitchen table, read books together, me to come look over the fence at a cat, help me cut up strawberries, play with sidewalk chalk, and play baseball in the backyard.

Each one of those requests was an unplanned opportunity for me to demonstrate hospitality to my children. Some I said yes to. Some I said no to.

A couple of months ago my children presented me with an opportunity to host an unplanned Family Ball. They had been reading a Disney Princess book and were inspired. So after supper everyone changed into nice clothes (not play clothes), put on shoes (we're a barefoot kind of family) and met in the living room.

My husband turned on some music and we all danced together. Daddy and daughter danced. Mama and sons danced. Siblings danced. And Mama and Daddy danced. We had fast dances and slow dances and everything in between.

It took 30 minutes of my time, no money, and a lot of laughter to create a special family memory. Now that's my kind of hospitality!

Do you ever host a Family Dance for your children?

When not dancing with her children, Stephanie can be found sharing her adventures as a stay-at-home (schooling) mom of four at Stephanie's Mommy Brain.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Practicng Hospitality: Chapter 3 continued (guest post)

from Melissa at Breath of Life

I was excited to learn my good friend Carrie would be blogging through Practicing Hospitality. I'd been meaning to read it for a while but had never gotten around to it. She gave me the inspiration I needed to pluck it off my bookshelf and get reading. Then she asked if I would be willing to guest post, and I was even more excited because Hospitality and Family (the topic of Chapter 3) is near and dear to my heart.

2008 was the Year of Peace and Simplicity in my home. I purged the house of anything I didn't absolutely love, so that the items that do matter to our family could have a more prominent spot. I cleared my calendar. I learned balance. The benefits have been enormous.

As a result of the changes wrought in my life, I can testify to the truth of this chapter. There's a lot of great advice packed into Chapter 3, much of which I wish I'd read earlier...and is highlighted now. Some of my notes:

If the Lord has given us a family, extending hospitality to our family is our first priority. Once we have established the ministry of hospitality within our family, we can then broaden our hospitality to include extended family members, friends, strangers, the needy and the poor. (pg. 74, emphasis mine). Did you catch that? We must put our families first. It's practical, and Scriptural. The Proverbs 31 woman put the needs of her own family ahead those in her community. I confess, for years I struggled with this. I was great at having a clean house when guests came (as long as they didn't open the closets). I hosted weekly Bible studies. My home was where most of the extended family gatherings occurred. Yet if I didn't have an event to prepare for, my house was a complete obstacle course to be navigated.

One of the most important things I've learned is that . . . Keeping an orderly home communicates our love in a tangible manner. Our family benefits from our management on a daily basis. (pg. 83). My husband loves being able to find things now. So does my daughter, and so do I. Knowing exactly where something is keeps me from losing precious time looking for it, and has greatly reduced the stress in my life. Is everything always perfect? No. But the overall peaceful atmosphere of our home makes us less frazzled, and less likely to be bothered by the occasional basket of unfolded laundry in the living room.

...our love, dedication, and other biblical character attributes manifested toward our family are a testimony to the world of God's powerful work in our lives. (p. 75) I recently experienced this first-hand when my mother-in-law (who is not my biggest fan) spent the night with us. She commented several times about the peaceful atmosphere and tidiness of our home. I don't think she's ever seen my house messy in the 17 years we've been married (remember, I was great at keeping up appearances), but it's obvious to me that the overall changes in our home are obvious to others. How did I get there? I offered some quick tips here.

God's strength is for what He plans for you to do - not stamina for everything you might want to do!
(pg. 75) To me, this was the most important line in the entire chapter. As a perfectionist who's a full-time working mother, Sunday School teacher, choir member, daughter, sister, and friend...well, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Throw in selfish habits like reading and blogging, and it really doesn't take long for my plate to be way past full. I've had to learn that: (1) I cannot do it all and (2) sometimes, good is good enough. I confess, I often have to remind myself that snuggles and giggles are more important than a clean kitchen. But I try to remember that my 'tween daughter will soon be gone. I only have a few years left to pour myself into her life and to teach her how to be a better wife, mother, and homemaker than I.

I challenge you to ask your husband and children how they feel about your home. Do they feel as if they're afterthoughts? (Honestly, my family probably did...because they often were.) When we put more effort into making sure others feel welcome in our home than we do for our own family, we are ignoring the greatest calling God gives us as women.


Melissa blogs about life and faith at Breath of Life. Thanks, Melissa, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 3

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

See my thoughts on Chapter 1.

See my thoughts on Chapter 2.

Although I do recommend this book as a whole, if you own a copy and want to just read along with where we are at, that's doable with this book. Each chapter is divided by subject and so it's easy to just hop around randomly if you like.

When it came to Chapter 3, I found so much meat inside of it that I wanted to discuss that I asked my friend Melissa from Breath of Life to contribute to the discussion. She'll be posting her thoughts on this particular chapter in the next couple of days so stay tuned for that. In the meantime - here were my notes from Chapter 3 which is entitled "Hospitality and Family."

Note #1 - Family First!

Now, I want to be careful with this chapter because I think that it's very tempting, especially as a harried mom of younger kids, to use one's family as an excuse not to practice hospitality. "Family first!" we are tempted to say, with exhaustion written all over our faces. I'm certainly not downplaying the strength and energy it requires "just" to tend to our families. Most certainly they are - and should remain - our top priority. Just don't read this post like it's an excuse to you, handed over on a silver platter, excusing you from serving others. Because if you are reading this chapter in that light, then you are reading it incorrectly.

The flip side is, of course, that we can neglect our families while trying to "serve" (or perhaps impress?) the community. We have to delicately manage our schedule to serve our family effectively so that we can serve our community effectively in turn. Here's a quote from the book which I appreciated:

". . . [G]enerosity and kindness extended to others become an extension of our family hospitality. We see this modeled in the example of the Proverbs 31 woman. She fed, clothed, and managed her household before extending her hand to the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:10-31). The needs of her own family were met before she journeyed out into her community." (Chapter 3, page74)
For me personally, it's easy to think in terms of what I "need" to do for my church or what I "need" to do for a friend who I feel needs my help. My temptation in the past has even been to serve my relatives ahead of and above my family. My desire in those moments is to drop my home responsibilities to tend to people who I feel need more from me than my family does.

Certainly there are times when we should ask our (immediate) family to allow for our momentary absence so that we can tend to needs that God has called us to care for. But at the first opportunity we should want to RACE back home and raise our little ones and care for our husband and our marriage. When we married, we covenanted to become one with our spouse and that means putting their needs above all others. I appreciate that Ennis and Tatlock point this out in their book as I found it to be both admonishing and encouraging. Finding this balance is undeniably hard, and painful in a variety of moments - but we are to tend to our own households first and make sure that they are in order before we expose ourselves and our family to taking on/taking care of the needs of others.

Note #2 - Involve the Kids!

Again, it's easy for me to want to look outside the four walls of my home to see where I can consider myself useful. (Note how I carefully worded that!) When I'm bored with three year old activities, I can find myself peeking over the proverbial fence, trying to find a new way of feeling fulfilled. But instead of that, maybe I should be asking myself how I can 'shake things up' in my own home to inspire creativity, imagination and love of serving others within my own kids.

"I can become frustrated with my children because I begin to view them as interruptions keeping me from accomplishing my list of tasks rather than seeing them as the priority for my time and energy. As I mentioned earlier, neglecting to include my children in the process of hospitality can plant seeds of bitterness in their hearts - they will not be excited about reaching out to meet the needs of others." (Chapter 3, page 79)
After reading Monica's post about Hospitality With Littles, I've been inspired to find ways to include my kids in accomplishing tasks, instead of trying to find ways to occupy and distract them so that I can accomplish my Almighty To Do list all by myself. Yes, it takes a whole lot longer to get ANYthing done. But! The end result is satisfactory. Everyone is happy because everyone has played a part in creating some really fun memories. Score!

Note #3 - Use Discretion!

Admittedly, this one isn't so much a struggle for me but I mention it because I know that there are women out there with far more sympathetic hearts than myself. (Not that I'm cold and calculating but still.... I worked in a District Attorney's office for awhile and so my sympathy levels are much lower than others tend to be.) I DO think it's very important to exercise discretion over who you invite to have influence in your home (even if it's just for a short while). Little moments can create lasting impressions on little ones:

"Use discretion. Practicing hospitality with family requires wise decisions for their safety and well-being. Discretion implies that we are careful and exercise wise caution. Compassionate women are vulnerable in a sinful world. "The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps" (Prov. 14:15). We should be careful to exercise discernment with strangers and attempt to make wise decisions that allow us to be involved with meeting the needs of others while also considering the welfare of our family." (Chapter 3, page 83)
In other words, choose wisely who you will expose your family to. Not every guest is a "healthy" one and it's good to know who you are allowing to walk through your front door.

Certainly fear should not rule the day, causing your doors to not only remain closed, but dead bolted from the inside. At the same time, nor should we fling the doors open indiscriminately.

This chapter closes with a quote from Edith Schaeffer which I think paints an accurate picture of how the doors to our homes should work when it comes to offering hospitality.

"A family is a door that has hinges and a lock. The hinges should be well-oiled to swing the door open during certain times, but the lock should be firm enough to let people know that the family needs to be alone part of the time, just to be a family. If a family is to be really shared, then there needs to be something to share." - Edith Schaeffer
Honestly, I could write a whole lot more on this particular chapter alone but I'll stop there and let Melissa fill in with some of her thoughts in a bit.

Naturally, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well! Leave a comment below and let us know what you are thinking about all of this! This site is meant to be interactive, for the encouragement and benefit of others so we hope you'll 'speak your mind' a bit around here. Looking forward to sharing more myself, so stay tuned!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ready for a Little Space Day Fun?

by Carrie B.

Ok, it's not like we're in the habit of offering rewards for having fun by practicing hospitality around here. But this is a fun thing to do with kids, so we'll make a little exception.

As I mentioned the other day, today is Space Day!

Want to practice throwing a little mini party just for your family or your kids? Well, what better incentive is there to know that if you GO HERE and link up your Space Party Post, you can win a copy of this book:

Doing anything fun to celebrate Space Day and have a little extra fun with your family today? Do share! You have the whole weekend to post about Space Day - you just have to put your party link over on that post.

Have fun playing!

Hospitality Challenge, Week 7-8

by Carrie B.

We've been working up to this but you had to know it was coming!

This week your challenge is as follows:

Invite someone over for dinner.

After you pick yourself up from the dead faint you went into (provided you pay attention to these challenges at any rate), be of good cheer! By now you should realize the following things:

1. You can serve slop;
2. Your house can be a total disaster;
3. Your kids can be low on sleep.

None of this will matter. The important thing is that you extended an invitation to someone and made them feel important. They don't care about the State of the Household so much as they appreciate the invitation and the blessings which you have extended to them.

Now, of course, you can make this meal as fancy as you like and the atmosphere more or less comfortable. Choose something that works best for having people over and keeping it as low key as possible. You can order pizza! You can host a potluck if it makes you feel better! You can eat outdoors or inside or whatever works for you. Clean the bathroom or just remember to check and make sure that the toilet was flushed when last used. (You scoff? I've done that.) But invite a friend or two in and enjoy their company.

Once you do it, it won't seem to scary.

And if you are regularly in the habit of having people over - don't fall out of it! Keep it up!

Most importantly: HAVE FUN! Because it is fun. Truly. Trust me!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Family Party: Space Day

by Carrie

HEY! This Friday is Space Day! Want to practice hospitality on your family and plan a fun space-themed day for them? To learn more, CLICK HERE!

I'm planning a party for my kids and I'm just extending the challenge (and the fun of it!) to you also.

You've got two days to plan. Want to try? Come on! It'll be fun!

"Movin' Movin' Movin'...keep those boxes movin!"

Today I'd like to share a great blessing Dave and I recently recently received: the gift of a moving party! In March we purchased our first home and spent our spring break (we're both teachers) packing and preparing to move. On the Saturday before we were to return to school, a moving team from our church showed up at 9:00am to help us move from our two-bedroom apartment to our new home across town. Here's how it all happened...

Dave goes to Men's Breakfast each Friday morning at our church. A couple weeks before the move, the men at the breakfast told Dave, "Oh, you're moving? Talk to Clay!" As it turns out, we have a Moving Team Captain at our church! When someone in the fellowship is moving, Clay sends out an email with a date, time, and address and a team of guys shows up on the appointed day! Wow! These men were awesome!! They were at our doorstep at 9:00 am and didn't waste anytime getting started. We ended up with a team of 7 guys! Two men brought their mini vans, another brought his SUV, and all three vehicles -- plus our truck and small U-Haul trailer -- were filled up in no time. The team was on their way to our house with their fully-loaded vehicles by 10:00. While they were gone, a couple guys who stayed back got to work wrestling our too-big-for-the-apartment couch out the door and down to the sidewalk. (Did I mention it was a second-story apartment?) It was awe-inspiring to see how hard these men worked on our behalf! By noon, when I arrived at the house with pizza for everyone, the majority of our stuff was moved (save some miscellaneous brickabrack and clothes). Dave and I were able to start settling in that very afternoon because of our Moving Team's hard work and efficiency!

I would encourage everyone to keep their ears open for opportunities like this to serve. It was a HUGE blessing to us to have such a competent moving team to help us out. Wouldn't it be cool if your local church was known for it's moving team? I've heard of a church somewhere here on the west coast that is...apparently they own a couple moving vans and are available to help move anyone in the community in need of assistance. They even keep pieces of furniture on hand for those who need items for their homes. I don't know where the church is, but I'd love to find out! I think this kind of ministry is one of the most practical ways to care for our community, friends and strangers alike! (If you know about this church, please let me know!)

One last moving idea...this didn't happen for us, but it occurred to me in the week following our move how nice it would have been: when someone moves, have we ever considered putting them on our "meal chain?" At our church, when someone is in the hospital or is recovering from a major family event, their name gets put on a meal chain, kind of like a prayer chain. Women from the fellowship gather together meals for the family to help them out during their recovery. What if we did this for those who had just moved? I know Dave and I were in no mood to cook at the end of a long day of teaching, surrounded by boxes and mayhem. We were okay because it was just the two of us. I can't imagine being in the same position with little ones needing love, care, and attention in the midst of their big adjustment to a new home! What a blessing of hospitality it would be for a just-moved family to be taken care of for a week or so by their local church family!

I'd love to hear stories of others who have been blessed in a similar way. Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments!

Happy Serving!
Crista :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Practicing Hospitality: Chapter 2

by Carrie
If you are just checking in with us here, I'm going through the book Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others chapter by chapter and sharing what I'm learning as I go along. I wrote about what I gleaned from Chapter 1 last week and now I'm moving on to Chapter 2.

This chapter is titled "Hospitality and Strangers" and opens with Hebrews 13:2 which says:

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Showing hospitality to strangers is admittedly a tough one for me. I really prefer to know who is coming into my home or be given an awfully good reference by someone who knows them quite well. (It stands to reason that I also have to trust the reference!) I think, to some extent, in today's society we are forced to be incredibly discerning over who we open up our homes to. Our families have a right to be our top priority and we need to be discerning over what will benefit and bless them first and foremost. (This is particularly true, I think, when you still have children at home.) We have a duty and a responsibility to protect our family and so it's good to know who you are welcoming into your home. (I'm not arguing that the husbands should be involved in this decision making process because in my mind that's a given. I am assuming that you and your husband are extending invitations together where it counts and when it matters most. Don't assume that because I'm addressing women that I'm dismissing men. But this post could become awfully long if I addressed that issue - like I'm presently doing - and I'm trying to keep this contained!)

That said, clearly we are not expected to show hospitality just to those we know. I think the level to which we can individually practice this with strangers will vary by person and season of life. That said, here are some "safe strangers" that I think we should be very eager and willing to offer hospitality to:

1. Our church family.

I can count on one hand (ok, maybe two!) the number of invitations that our family has received from our church family in the last few years. Usually the invitations that we do receive come from the same people. We certainly enjoy the familiar (quite well, actually!) but it does a person good to step outside of their comfort zone and make people feel welcome.

If you are well established at your church, why not consider inviting someone who is new over for dinner some night? I can't imagine a better way of making them feel welcomed to the family. Are you new to the church? Make a point to sit in the same pew or seat every week and get to know the immediate people around you. Invite them over for dinner. Seriously - whoever has greeted you and talked to you for a bit - invite them over! I promise that while the conversation might feel stilted at times, in the long run - this will pay off!

* As an added encouraging note - I've talked with quite a few people who left their church because no one ever invited them to be a part of the body in any real or significant way. You can make a significant difference in the faith walk of your church family by making an effort to CONNECT with them. You never know who really needs a friend until you ask.

2. Military families. Are you part of a military family living on a base? I can't speak to this one as well as I can to other situations, but it seems that military families have a common bond and can find ways to share life with one another. If you are not a military family and you happen to live near a base, one way to extend hospitality (and a thank you to the men, women and families that are sacrificing and serving our country!) is to take care packages to families that you connect with in that position. (Maybe we can have a military wife or family member speak to this issue? That would be helpful for the rest of us. (E-mail on the side with thoughts on that: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com.)

3. A Mom Group. Part of a mom's group (MOPS)? Invite one of the moms over for a play date. Even just once. You don't have to do it twice if it doesn't work out and you and your children don't click. But you can try it once and be gracious in getting to know her, offering smiles if nothing else.

These are just some quick ideas of "safe strangers." Maybe you can think of some more. At any rate, I do think we should exercise some caution in who we invite into our homes and we should be discerning about the company we keep. We also cannot escape the command to offer hospitality to strangers.

Moving on a bit . . .

I thought the most important point that was made in this chapter was that we are to offer hospitality as a result of our gratefulness for all that God has done and is doing in our own lives. Hospitality should be a natural extension of gratitude!

"Paul uses the last few chapters of Romans to exhort believers to be obedient because of their gratitude for God's work in their lives and their love for Him. This is the context in which we find the command to practice hospitality." (page 49)

Are you a grateful person?

Last fall I read and reviewed Choosing Gratitude, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and, let me tell you!, it did a number on my attitude.

I've consciously been working on my attitude, particularly after reading that book. In fact, I could stand a reread and a refresher course already! I heartily recommend Choosing Gratitude (if you click on the title it'll take you to my review of the book) and would suggest after reading what the good ladies of Practicing Hospitality have to say - that Choosing Gratitude might be the appropriate place for you to begin your foray in the world of offering hospitality.

I'm going to stop there for this chapter as I think that's enough to chew on for the moment. (Or, it's enough for me at any rate!)

Blessings and wisdom on you all as your pursue what offering hospitality means for you as an individual with exactly the right set of giftings to serve yourself and others well!