Wednesday, July 28, 2010
We received an e-mail from S this past week asking the following question:
I know you are also busy with a family, etc, but I am looking for some simple, inexpensive ways to 'show' hospitality to my cousin and her 2 small children. They will be staying in our home for a few days. I have six children, so obviously, we'll have kid-friendly meals, snacks, etc, but I was wanting more creative ideas for making them feel welcome and pampered in our home. If you can help at all, I'd be very grateful.
Here are the answers from our staff, and we invite the rest of you to leave your answers in the comment section.
Hi S, thanks for asking such a great question! Hosting overnight guests when you have children is definitely a challenge but can also be fun. You seem to already have kid-friendly food taken care of so I'll just mention a few other ideas.
1. Assuming your cousin and her children will stay in a bedroom your children are moving out of - relocate ALL clothes, books and toys from the room that your children may need during the visit. Help your children understand that space is off limits to them while you have guests. I realize this can be extra work but it will help your guests feel like the space is theirs rather than like they are intruding.
2. Have all towels and washcloths for your guests stacked neatly in the room they will be using. This will help them feel comfortable and not like she's rummaging through your cabinets or closets.
3. Have an extra blanket in the room in case they get cool during the night. Also (assuming the 2 small children are not sleeping in cribs or pack-n-plays) have an extra set of sheets in their room in case there's a "accident" during the night. This way she won't have to wake you up during the night for clean sheets.
4. Put a working night light in the guests' bedroom and bathroom. Small children may be afraid of the dark in a new space so a night light will help. Also, being able to find the bathroom during the night is ALWAYS helpful for guests. I recommend you use regular night lights that have on/off switches and opaque (solid) covers.
5. Make a menu for the days your guests are staying and post it on the refrigerator. This will help your cousin prepare her children for what food they will be eating.
6. Assuming your children are older than your guests, baby proof the house. Consider items that your children have been trained to leave alone (a favorite lamp, a stack of magazines, a candy jar) and relocate them. Your children may be trained not to touch them but hers won't be.
7. Last but not least, make Welcome Bags for each guest. Use plain gift bags and have your children decorate the outside of the kids bags with markers and stickers. Use a pretty gift bag for your cousin. For the childrens' bags take a trip to your local dollar store and fill each bag with age appropriate toys, crafts, a special snack, new cup/bowl. For your cousin's bag include a purse size bottle of hand sanitizer (Bath & Body Works have some nice ones pretty cheap), a pen, a small notepad (a craft store might carry these for under a dollar), her favorite snack food, and a re-usable water bottle. Maybe a purse size bottle of sunscreen, her favorite body lotion. Think about items that will be useful and small.
All of these ideas are simple but take a little time and planning. I'm sure your guests will appreciate your efforts to make them feel special and welcome.
I would recommend that she make inexpensive gift baskets for each guest. Each basket can be appropriate for the guest's age and have a cute little tag with their name on it. For her cousin, she could find some inexpensive girlie/pampering kinds of things. For her cousin's children, she could have age-appropriate toys (e.g., coloring book and crayons, squirt gun or water toys). She might also ask her cousin what her kids' favorite meals are (if they're old enough to have favorite foods) and then make a meal out of those favorites. She could do the same for her cousin. Stephanie can also check around her area to see if there are any inexpensive/free family-friendly events going on and plan at least one "day out" for all.
There's my thoughts :)
When we have families with small kids come and stay with us (and we frequently do!) I tend to make a run to Michaels (craft store) or the Dollar Store and collect crafty items for the kids to play with. One time I found a package of pre-cut wooden paper dolls for $1! I set out colors and stickers for the kids to create their own puppets and then they were able to put on a puppet show!
Another time we made gigantic gingerbread cookies which the kids got to decorate (and the families got to eat!)
Personally, I'd go for planning some kind of craft or food activity that the kids can enjoy. They get excited and happy and leave with fun memories.
So what about the rest of you? What would you recommend to our friend S as she prepares to have little guests come and stay with her?
Do you have a question that you'd care to pose for the Offering Hospitality staff and readers? Please e-mail us at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll post your question and our answers!
Monday, July 26, 2010
- Encourage kindness in the way all members of the family speak to and about one another, within the home and without.
- Appreciate the different personalities represented within your family unit. We are all unique and it's wonderful to feel that our uniqueness is valuable to those we live with. It's important for all of us to feel safe within our homes and this means giving each other space to express our differences in a kind, patient, and respectful environment.
- We demonstrate your love for our family through what we DO as much as through what we say. This includes making the house an inviting place to be by keeping it tidy and giving it touches of personality. It also includes putting love and creativity into the meals we share. We can demonstrate love by prompting our family with questions about their day and then being good listeners as they share their highs and lows.
- Find a ministry for your whole family. When the whole family is involved with the hospitality process then "your lives together can naturally overflow with the love of Christ poured out on those with whom your life naturally intersects."
Let me back up. I've written a fair amount on [my] blog about my housekeeping skills (or lack thereof) and my attempts at improving them lately. My house is by no means unsanitary, or even typically cluttered. It's not unsightly or out of control. But it isn't usually super clean, neat or tidy either. It's lived in.
I get motivated to clean and do everything all at once. My house is spotless. Then I give myself the 'break I deserve' after working so hard and watch my house slowly deteriorate until the next wave of motivation hits. In the mean time I only clean here and there as necessary (like I keep the dishes and counters clean, but fail to sweep or deal with the pile of clothes at the foot of my bed).
Yesterday I got a call that someone wants to come see our house tomorrow. So today--I cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Rob worked in the yard and the kids 'helped' us both a bit. We've spent the day busily preparing our house to show.
On days when we have company coming over, I spend the whole day cleaning my house from top to bottom. I like a presentable house. There are only a few good friends that I don't at least make some attempt at cleaning for before they come over. And if you're coming over for the very first time, my house will sparkle for you and nothing will be out of place!
For whatever it's worth, I'm capable of being an excellent house keeper. I just choose not to exercise that skill very often... hence my struggle with the state of my home.
My husband is far more orderly than I am. He likes everything to have a place and he prefers that those things actually reside in the place they belong. He shuts doors and drawers after he opens them and puts his shoes away after he takes them off. Novel, right?
I know he really enjoys a clean house and a comfortable home. I know it's a great way to help him want to come home after a stressful day at work. I know it's a small -- no, a big -- way I can show him how much I love and appreciate him and want to do something nice for him. Yet, rarely do I do that. I clean for others. I clean for showings, and small group, and company... but rarely do I make sure my house is in tip top shape for the most important person in my life. Kind of sad, huh?
Up until a few minutes ago I'd never thought about the fact that I'm unintentionally sending him a message that other people are more important than him by the manner in which I care for my home. I'm definitely going to add this to my list of things to work on. Keeping it real...
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Did you know that food allergies affect about 2 to 4% of adults and 6 to 8% of children in America? In our home allergies affect 75% of the children and I have an intolerance to many foods. Food Intolerance is actually much more common than allergies. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerance such as Lactose intolerance. Which is the most common food intolerance, affecting about 10% of Americans. There are many differences between allergies and intolerance, but the most basic is that intolerance is not life threatening. Just unpleasant for that person.
With the growing numbers of people having food reactions, how are we to accommodate that in our hospitality? Do we have to make expensive organic meals that are prepared in a sterile environment? Since hospitality is all about showing the love of Christ to others, we should really have their best interest in mind. It doesn't feel good to know that you may have given your dinner guests food poisoning, but when serving food that may contain allergens that is essentially what you are doing. Maybe even worse!
Monday, July 19, 2010
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
"The Marthas among us need to work more on preparing our hearts to serve others before we prepare our homes -- maybe some of you Marys need to learn to help us with the housework!"
Friday, July 16, 2010
I saw the table on the other side of the furniture store showroom and decided it would be perfect in my new living room. Taller and wider than a standard coffee table, it would be great for working puzzles and holding appetizer trays during parties! So I handed over my money to the salesperson and grinned at the thought of my new table in my new living room.
Until it arrived home. Boy, was it big! At first I thought I could make it work. And it did work. That is until we began hosting fellowships and a weekly Bible study in our home. Then I quickly discovered it worked great for holding appetizers but it left a narrow space for my guests to walk around. This caused my guests on the far side of the living room to feel awkward when they needed to maneuver around the table and exit the room.
Awkward for guests is NEVER a good description when your goal is hospitality. Eventually I accepted the fact that the table is too big for my living room. Today it resides in my basement where it proudly holds up boxes of junk. I haven't given up hope of one day owning a house big enough to use the table comfortably but in the meantime I learned a valuable lesson:
When decorating my home I need to consider if the items I'm using will make my guests feel comfortable or awkward.
It was an expensive lesson but one I learned very well!
So, is your home hospitality friendly? Or do you have a piece of furniture, a pile of pillows, or possibly a lighting arrangement that makes you guests feel uncomfortable? What changes can you make to make your home more comfortable for guests?
Note: This was the best picture of the table I could find. We are decorating our Christmas tree in 2006.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Today's society doesn't really do etiquette anymore. We're all about being "casual" and "laid back." Rules and regs for interacting with others make us feel stifled and cause us to feel unnatural. Now, I'm not suggesting that we make a backyard BBQ a formal affair, but I think there is something to be said for understanding what manners are and how to execute them properly.
Showing respect towards other people shouldn't be optional. After all, there is a Biblical command to 'to do others what you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:31) and so I think it's important that we understand that there is polite way of treating others. You can show people, by your interactions with them, how much you value and honor them as people. (And, for the record, I'm preaching to myself here!!!) A display of good manners can be a mighty powerful thing!
"Our good manners show consideration for the feelings of others, while our bad ones reveal thoughtlessness and rudeness." ~ June Hines Moore
There are a few things to keep in mind when you are both extending and accepting hospitality and I thought it would be interesting to talk about what is considered to be proper manners as we interact with others. These tips are taken from Manners Made Easy for the Family: 365 Timeless Etiquette Tips for Every Occasion, by June Hines Moore. (I have previously reviewed some other books on etiquette that you might want to check out over at 5 Minutes for Books if you are looking for resources on this particular topic.)
Some tips from the book to ponder:
1. You learn manners at home - with your family. If you want to feel comfortable both giving and receiving hospitality - and you have small children - the best place to train them is at home, in private. You know what I'm talking about. Learning how to treat others when dining at the table, for instance, starts at home. How do we speak to each other as a family when we are sitting down for dinner? Do we let our little ones belch out loud, grab food from other people's plates, inform the cook very loudly that they do not like the meal that they are being served? A great way to practice hospitality is by learning how to be hospitality at home - alone. (I know wherefore of what I speak. I have a three year old. Boy.) Develop good habits and there will be little to nothing to worry about when others join you.
2. Practice connecting with others and making a good first impression. When you meet someone, meet and maintain eye contact with them. Extend a hand in greeting and, if you don't think it will positively kill you, add a friendly smile. You can honestly put people at ease if you show confidence in an introduction. It is not a requirement that you be one of those 'outgoing personalities' in order to put someone else at ease. Sacrifice yourself on the alter of friendship and hold steady with your gaze and friendly expression. I don't know about you gals, but I always feel tremendously awkward and ill-at-ease when I've met someone who won't look me in the eye or mumbles their introductory greeting to me. I tend to respond in one of two ways: a.) I try to get away from them as fast as I can to save us both the pressure of feeling awkward or b.) I over compensate.
For the record: I am not tremendously outgoing. But I do think it's important to establish a good first connection as that will help ease everyone into communications with one another.
Practical tip: If you are uncomfortable maintaining eye contact, look at different areas of the person's face. Quickly look at their mouth and then back up the eyes. Never leave their face (and don't stare at blemishes, obviously!) but train yourself to stay focused on the person in front of you.
"Handshakes are the physical greetings that go with your words." ~ Anonymous
3. This one is a tough one where I live - but children should be taught to address their elders with respect. I have to admit some degree of shock when I arrived in Oregon and heard children addressing adults by their first name. I was raised in the South and that just didn't happen.
What do you do in today's society where "Mr. and Mrs." are no longer a stiff requirement? When I was growing up, most ladies went with "Miss." For example, I would be "Miss Carrie" to the young'uns today. That is what I require from my children. I can never go the full Oregonian route and let my kids go around addressing every adult they see by their first names. At the same time, the culture has kind of made Mr. and Mrs. too formal. So I go with "Miss" and Mr." I feel like that's a good compromise for location and good manners. Either which way though - I think it's super important that children recognize the difference between kids and adults. Teaching the little ones honor is not a bad thing. Really, it's not!
4. Notice that people have different personalities. Some are more gregarious than others. Out of polite respect - if you are one of the gregarious ones - don't believe that everyone else is. Furthermore, if you are shy - don't expect everyone else to speak in whispers around you. Find a middle ground. Be friendly and confident, but reign part of your dazzling personality back if you are a less sedate person.
My personality is somewhat mixed. In some situations I'm super outgoing and friendly. But I have to feel very safe in order to be so. Otherwise I wish myself to be wallpaper, if not the wall itself. Gauge the situation. Practice paying attention to how other people are relating to you and try your best to match your greeting to theirs.
I kinda think this is common sense but I've been bounded at by individuals who don't seem to get the message that I'm in a quiet mood. Bottom line: pay attention. Make sure your greetings involve a true connection to the person standing in front of you and try to put them at ease.
5. Dress appropriately. Today's society likes to indulge in shock value that is oftentimes inappropriate. If you move in conservative circles, there is certainly less worry that you are going to see more of a person than you really want to. However, we conservative types have a different problem. I've noticed that it can become an issue over which females always appear in dresses and skirts, and which prefer to wear pants. Try not to let this be an issue! A good rule of thumb is to ask a kind question at some point, inquiring as to what the position of the other person is when it comes to dress and how they arrived at their conclusion. Asking questions is a good way to learn about another person, if your questions are presented in a respectful manner.
Who knows? Maybe they'll change your mind!
But the bottom line is: dress appropriately for the situation and strive for modesty. You'll never offend someone by erring on the side of modesty. Dressing well shows a respect for others.
More says in the introduction to Manners Made Easy that: "We put rules of etiquette in our head, and we put manners in our heart. The rules in our head guide our behavior and keep us from embarrassing ourselves. The manners in our heart keep us from embarrassing someone else."
I think that puts it well. Be polite makes good sense on the whole. Manners can maintain or save relationships that are always at a risk of being broken. Interacting with people can be confusing at times, but if you put the effort in, I think you'll find that the friendships created and developed are well worth whatever sacrifices must be made on your part.
Meet people half way and be genuine. Treat them, not as you are, but as you would want to be treated: with respect!
Monday, July 12, 2010
- Karen felt that Pat was thrilled to have her over
- Pat had Karen's favorite cup of tea and a throw blanket waiting for Karen to snuggle up in for their visit
- Pat always had her Bible open on the kitchen counter, as if she had just finished reading (demonstrating devotion to growing in God's Word and that she sought her counsel from Him, rather than from books on entertaining)
- Pat always asked Karen how she could pray for her, and then prayed for her before she left at the end of their visit (the key here being that Pat asked how she could pray for Karen and then actually prayed for her right then and there)
- Pat's lunches were simple fare, but Karen experienced something akin to a gourmet meal because of Pat's thoughtfulness
- Despite outdated furnishings, Pat's home was always tidy and inviting
"More than anyplace else on earth, [Pat's] home made me feel welcomed and pampered while I was there and refreshed when I left." (page 16, emphasis mine)
Note: Instead of making a guest uncomfortable, I think it would be better to observe and listen carefully and then pray for my guest in my heart or after they've left. This way, I'm lifting them and their needs to the Lord without causing offense or discomfort for my guest.
Can you think of any people in your life who regularly show heartfelt hospitality to others? How have you felt when you were a guest in their home? What specifically did they do that made you feel welcomed?
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
Friday, July 9, 2010
I would see the fashionable furniture tastefully arranged in the new rooms.
I would see the familiar decorations artfully hung on the new walls.
I would see the new counter tops clean and the new floors spotless.
And then I would have that familiar feeling of guilt and inferiority that in my own home I had left dirty dishes piled in my sink, dirt caked on the kitchen floor and more than a couple of faint footprints on the walls beside my children's beds.
But, for once, I saw something in her home I didn't expect to see. I saw dirty dishes in her dishwasher.
That's when I had an epiphany - even an amazing hostess doesn't always get her dishes washed before guests arrive. She just hides them in the dishwasher. And ITS OK! With that one revelation I felt the guilt and inferiority roll off my shoulders and land on her spotless floor.
As I've thought about that moment in the months since visiting my friend, I've wondered, "why did I ever feel guilty and inferior in her home?" At no time has my friend EVER expressed judgment or disgust with my less-than-spotless housekeeping. In fact, she's always seemed comfortable and pleased to be in my home.
So what is it that causes these negative feelings?
I think the root cause lies in a dangerous game I learned to play at an early age called "Compare Myself to Others." This game only has two outcomes: feeling pride over my (false) superiority or feeling guilt over my (false) inferiority. Either way I miss an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my friend.
So, I am determined NOT to compare my housekeeping skills to those of my friend, but instead to rejoice that God created us both unique and equipped us differently for the tasks of caring for our individual families and homes. Then I will feel thankful for my friend's homemaking skills and our relationship will become even more valuable to me.
And the next time I visit her home, I'll smile to myself as I wonder... does she dirty dishes in her dishwasher?
Have you played "Compare Myself to Others" when receiving hospitality? What kind of impact has it had on the hospitality you give? Will you join me in resisting comparisons and choosing thankfulness for our individuality?
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Best Potato Salad Recipe
3 pound(s) unpeeled red potatoes
3/4 cup(s) chopped white onion
3/4 cup(s) chopped red pepper
3/4 cup(s) chopped celery
1/2 cup(s) finely chopped dill pickles
3 chopped, hard-boiled large eggs
2 tablespoon(s) dill pickle juice
1 tablespoon(s) cider vinegar
3/4 cup(s) mayonnaise
Freshly ground pepper
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