Monday, August 30, 2010

Q & A: Crowded Spaces

Reminder: Next Monday - September 6th - we will begin our discussion of Women's Ministry in the Local Church.

This week we have another question from one of our readers, Becca:

I have been married for six years. In the first few years we hosted weekly hangout nights for our youth group kids in my home. I would clean and de-clutter big time so we could make room for rambunctious teenagers and their messes. I purposefully tried to clear all the stuff and unnecessary things out of the way because it got crowded and crazy. One of the youth said our home didn't look "lived in" and that comment stuck with me and made me wonder which part was too museum-like or uninviting.

Now when we have a birthday party or host a holiday gathering for family I find that our space is again, too crowded. I revert to moving as much out of the living space / dining room as I can to simply make room for people to move around, socialize, sit down and clear off spaces to serve food, etc.

What can a person do to open up a living space, still feel warm and inviting, but still accommodate a crowd of guests? Have you had this experience?

Here are the answers from our staff, and we invite the rest of you to leave your answers in the comment section.

From Stephanie:

I can definitely relate to feeling the need for more space when opening my home to guests. My home has just under 1200 sq. feet. I have an eat-in-kitchen that holds a 4 person table for my 6 person family. To say we have a small house (by current American standards) is an understatement.

So how do I handle the space constraints and hospitality?

I have accepted the amount of space I have and work within it. The fact is I cannot accommodate a party for 30 people in my house. I would love to but we would be wall-to-wall people. However, I have a large fenced backyard that is great for a party with 30-50 people. This means I don't volunteer to host church Christmas parties (when there's snow) but I'm your girl for 4th of July (which is usually nice weather in New England).

I have also set up my home to be ready for hospitality AND my family. If I have to jump through hoops and move around furniture I'm far less likely to have people over. So I have chosen to keep the decoration on my living room tables to a minimum and permanently relocate furniture that gets in the way of hospitality.

This isn't always an easy decision. For example, I have a beautiful hand-carved Indonesian teak chest that my in-laws bought my husband when he was a boy. I would love to display it in my living room. But I know that my children and guests would sit on it and put their drinks on it, which could damage the chest. With that in mind, I have chosen to store the chest until we have a bigger home and I can use it with less concerns about it being damaged.

I suggest you evaluate how many people you can comfortably hold in your home and consider how you can rearrange your furnishings permanently to accommodate a hospitality lifestyle.

You should also ask your husband how what his thoughts and feeling are about hospitality. Does he consider moving out furniture a pain? Is there furniture or decorations he could "live without?" Don't underestimate the great ideas your husband has, he just might surprise you.


From Crystal:

I just experienced this the other day. Hubby's birthday is at the end of July and we invited 10 adults and 16 kids over for a BBQ. Well, you know what happened? It rained! Not a little sprinkle that us Washingtonians could easily handle. No, it was full on pouring all morning and into the afternoon. Which meant I had to move my outdoor party inside. Our home is not large by any stretch of the imagination, but thankfully our living room and dining area are larger than average. So I was able to make it work.

First I removed any unnecessary large items. Like toys, my pile of sewing supplies and some of our homeschooling supplies. I neatly tucked these away in another location, then returned back to reasses the rooms we would be using. I pushed my dining room table up against one of the walls and placed the snacks out on it. I made sure there was enough seating for everyone and arranged the chairs so that there were a few smaller groups. I left out one box of toys that was appropriate for all ages (little people, duplo, etc) and two little riding toys to keep the little kids entertained. There were 4 one (some almost 2)year olds there and an infant, so keeping them entertained was a priority.

Praise the Lord that the rain let up and we were able to let the older kids run around outside and some of the adults chose to socialize out on the deck. Although, we would have still had a great, albeit cozy time inside it was nice to get out with all those kids.

Another suggestion I have is to maximize your vertical decorating space. If the only things in the room are large pieces of furniture or decorations that you remove every time people come over, it is always going to look stark and uninviting. Put some artwork up (even drawings done by your kids), hang a plant in an out of the way corner or decorations for whatever occasion you're all gathering for.

I hope my suggestions help!


Now we "open the floor" for the rest of our readers to leave their thoughts and comments! Thanks for asking the question, Becca!

To have a question posted on Offering Hospitality, please e-mail us at:

offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heads Up!

HospitalityOur next Recipe Swap will be held this coming Wednesday, September 1st!

Theme: Potlucks

Type up your favorite potluck recipes and get ready to link up to our post this coming Wednesday! This is an excellent way to collect new recipes to make and share next time you are facing a potluck and perhaps want to try something a little bit different.

Spread the word!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Building a Refuge

The following quote was originally penned by Peter Marshall, former chaplain to the US Senate and can be found in the beginning of chapter 13 of Elizabeth George's book A Woman After God's Own Heart.

"I was privileged, in the spring, to visit in a home that was to me -and I am sure to the occupants-a little bit of Heaven. There was beauty there. There was keen appreciation of the finer things of life, and an atmosphere in which it was impossible to keep from thinking of God.
The room was bright and white and clean, as well as cozy. There were many windows. Flowers were blooming in pots and vases, adding their fragrance and beauty. Books lined one wall-good books-inspiring and instructive-good books-good friends. Three bird cages hung in the brightness and color of this beautiful sanctuary, and the songsters voiced their appreciation by singing as if their little throats would burst.
Nature's music, nature's beauty-nature's peace....It seemed to me a kind of Paradise that had wandered down, an enchanted oasis-home."

image from Ikea's 2010 catalog

Doesn't that sound lovely? A home where it's impossible to keep from thinking of God? I was recently re-reading WAGOH and in chapter 13 she charges her readers to "build a refuge". She advises this can be done by "avoiding the negatives" (Prov. 14:1), "understanding that wisdom builds, "decide to begin building (it's never too late)", and to "each day, do one thing to build your home".

After some recent events in my life, the thought has come to me to desire a home like that, a haven of rest to all who enter it. We had some family members come to stay with us for a bit after their living situation proved to be less than desired. While they were here I wanted them to feel welcome, refreshed and safe. The opposite of their previous home, but how do I go about doing that?

I tried to do special things for them, like a simple brownie saved from our dessert with a little note attached that they could enjoy when coming home from work or finishing that load of laundry they didn't complete. Which I think fits under the avoiding the negative. I could have hoarded all those yummy treats for my immediate family or just left their laundry, but by doing small tasks for my guests I was able to show Christ love to them, through my acts of service.

God placed the desire there to serve others within my home, but I lacked the knowledge/wisdom of how to pull it off. I had to learn more! I began seeking God's word on being a good hostess and serving others, I re-read many chapters on caring for the home in my favorite books and even looked to some magazines for inspiration. I relized that there was lots learn and that through learning more, wisdom would build my refuge.

I don't want to appear like I have it all together, in fact the first night they were here I failed miserably at creating a refuge and found myself in a horrible argument with my new guests. It ended with forgiveness being sought and my decision to begin building (it really is never too late!) and the rest of their stay was relatively peaceful.

Which brings us to her last charge for all of us... Let's decide to each day/week or whatever, try and do one thing to build your home. As Proverbs 14:1 states:

"Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish pulls it down with hands."

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Life That Says Welcome ~ Final Thoughts

Howdy!  Crista, here!

I can't believe it's already the third week in August!  I hope all of our readers have been having a wonderful time this summer, with family, friends, kids, coworkers, church family, and neighbors.  I know we've been keeping busy and I'm very much ready to get back into my regular schedule as a middle school math teacher.  Since school starts for me next week, I'll be a little less involved here at OH, but I have a few closing thoughts from our book, A Life That Says Welcome (by Karen Ehman), before I "sign off for the summer."

First of all, a short recap:
  • Christian hospitality is not a suggestion.  It's a command.  I Peter 4:9 instructs Christians to "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."  Romans 12:13 says, "Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."  God has called each of us to open our hearts and our homes to others, be they strangers, friends, or family, in whatever ways we can using what He's given us.  We are to bless others by reaching out to them using our homes, our gifts and talents, and our time.  He will use us to minister to the needs of His children and to those who are yet to join His family.  We will not all be able to offer hospitality in the same ways, but we are all expected to join in God's ministry of hospitality.
  • Real hospitality is more a matter of the heart than anything else.  Before we extend a hand of hospitality, be it in our homes or on the road, we should examine our intentions and check them against God's desire for us.  Do we extend hospitality with a heart of humility and service, seeking to minister to the needs of those we serve?  Or, do we seek to entertain and impress?  If we are out to impress, our heart is in the wrong place.  If we are out to serve and to minister, then we are in step with God's call and His heart ministry.
  • Prayer and spiritual preparation is an essential part of the hospitality equation.  As much as we prepare our homes and our kitchens for guests, we must also prepare our hearts, so that we can make the most of opportunities when the Holy Spirit calls on us to serve with a warm cup of cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, or a meal for a family in need.  If our heart and spirit are prepared, we are better equipped to meet the real needs, physical and spiritual, of those He brings to our door.
  • It is essential that we include our family in our plans for hospitality.  If we neglect to make our homes a safe and comfortable environment for our family, then we neglect those to whom we have been called to minister first.  Our families should not play second fiddle to our church family, our neighbors, or strangers.  In fact, we can practice on our families and we can involve them in the hospitality process.
  • Hospitality is not just for our homes.  We can practice a welcome heart and life with those in our greater sphere of influence, such as those in the service sector (garbage man, grocery store clerk, postman, etc), our childrens' teachers, our coworkers, the homeless and needy of our community, and our city leaders.  There are many ways to extend Christian love outside of our homes and we should all look for ways to do so given the talents with which we have been blessed by our Heavenly Father.
  • Finally, Practice Makes Perfect.  Most of us are not perfect in our hospitality skills.  We can all learn something new and try something new.  Choose one skill you'd like to improve in, find someone who can give you some good ideas in that area, and then practice.  Practice on your family, your close friends, and whoever else is willing and available.  As you practice, be prepared to make mistakes.  I have to remind myself of this constantly as a teacher.  I will not improve if I don't try, make mistakes, and then learn from those mistakes.  Remember, though, that God has equipped us to do His will for us and when our heart is in the right place, He will bless those efforts, no matter the mistakes we make in the process.
Now I'd like to hear from you!  What have you learned along the way as you've read with us this summer?

To get this conversation going, allow me to share the biggest point I'm taking away from this summer series:  As a teacher, it is essential that I practice hospitality in my classroom and in the hallways.  This includes how I set up my classroom, how I make myself available to answer students' questions, how I speak to students and colleagues, how I present lessons, how I manage behavior, etc. etc. etc.  My first responsibility is, of course, keeping a comfortable and safe environment for my husband and (soon) children at home.  However, my very next responsibility is hospitality to my students.  I may be the only adult Christian influence these middle-school kids interact with all day.  I have to ask myself, "Do my students see Christ in me when they are in my classroom? when they see me in the hallway? when they see me outside of school?"  I recognize afresh my great obligation to be a living example of Jesus' heart of ministry to the students I see every day, those who are on my rosters and those who I interact with in the hallways.

Now, what have you learned?  Please share with us so we can learn from each other and keep the creative juices flowing as we seek to meet the needs of those who come across our path by God's divine plan.

Thank you for following along with me this summer.  As we head into fall, I wish you pleasant Autumn, full of the smells and colors of the changing seasons.  Here's to new school supplies, falling leaves, and cups of hot cocoa on those cool autumn mornings!

~ Crista <><

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Women's Ministry in the Local Church (winner)

As you will recall, Crossway Books offered one giveaway copy of the book Women's Ministry in the Local Church to one of our readers here at Offering Hospitality.

We will begin our discussions of this book in the month of September and we are excited to take away the excuse of at least one of you to read along and participate in the discussion with us! As for the rest of you, we do hope you will make an effort to pick up a copy of this book. I think the discussion is going to be quite fun, interesting and enlightening as we go along!

But enough talk! The winner of the book is:

Nikki at Cheap Like a Birdie!

I'm excited to arrange to have this book sent off to you, Nikki.

By the way, y'all - I recommend Cheap Like a Birdie as an excellent home decor website. Nikki does an awesome job 'decorating on a dime' so to speak and I think she has some great ideas to offer! (One of her favorite places to shop? Goodwill!) Check out her site for ideas, tips & tricks for making your home both a haven and a blessing to others!

Cheap Like A Birdie button 2

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Evaluating Your Hosting Experience

When I extend hospitality in my home I spend a lot of time preparing. I clean the bathrooms. I plan the menu and shop for groceries. And I cook the food.

I wonder though if my efforts at hospitality are over after my guests leave and the last dish is washed? Or is there another part in the process that's just as important?

Should I also evaluate me hospitality efforts? Should I "grade" myself (for lack of a better word) after offering hospitality?

Maybe grade is the wrong word since I'm not thinking about a pass or fail kind of thing. I'm thinking more along the lines of going over the experience as a hostess to see what we can learn from it.

For example, as I thought through our recent 4th of July celebration I understood a couple of things about myself and my family better.
  • First, I realized that I need to be more considerate about the different personalities in my household when it comes to offering hospitality.
  • Next, I realized that all the advance prep work I did really helped me enjoy the party and that I should always prepare most of my work ahead of time.
  • Finally, I realized that I prefer talking with my guests to making sure food dishes are full and napkins are available. I really, really, really am not a "behind the scenes" kind of person.
Do you evaluate your hospitality experience? What questions do you ask yourself (or if you are brave, your family)?

Here are a few questions I thought of:
  • Was my guest comfortable? Why or why not?
  • Did my guests enjoy each meal item? Was there an obvious favorite? Was there an item they politely declined?
  • Did the seating arrangement work comfortably?
  • Did my guests feel welcomed and loved?
  • How can I improve the experience next time? What changes can/ should I make?
  • Did my family feel included in the process or neglected?
  • What can I learn about God, myself and my family from this experience?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on evaluating our efforts as hostesses! Please leave them in the comments so we can discuss this together.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Hospitality on the Road"

Hello and welcome back to Offering Hospitality!  If you're a new visitor, welcome!  For the past several Mondays, I (Crista) have been sharing my thoughts from the book "A Life That Says Welcome" by Karen Ehman.  To read the first 4 parts, click here.

So far in my thoughts about this book, I've been focusing on hospitality in the home.  While it is important for us to use our homes for hospitality, to both our family and to friends and strangers, hospitality is not limited to our own four walls.  Hospitality can be practiced in a myriad other ways, simply by sharing kindness and generosity towards those within our sphere of influence.  Who's in your sphere? Here are just some of the folks in my sphere: my neighbors, my parents, my sister and her family, my in-laws, my sisters at church (and their families), the service people who help us care for our home (like the garbage man), the check-stand clerks at Trader Joe's, Costco, and Win-Co (my 3 favorite places to shop), the mailman, and (most significantly right now) my students and coworkers at the school where I teach.

You see, most of us interact with dozens of people outside our homes and families on a weekly basis.  How wonderful would it be if the Christians in your community were known for their hospitality to those they encounter in the community?  Author Karen Ehman offers a good suggestion for how we can get started in practicing what she calls "Hospitality on the Road":  Start by making a list of the things you're good at, such as baking, crafts, writing letters, intercessory prayer, cleaning, organizing, or connecting with children.  If you're not sure, ask your family and close friends for their input!  Once you have a list of talents you can offer to those around you, make a list of ways you can use those talents to bless the people in your own sphere.  For example, if you make dynamite muffins, why not make up a batch and leave them with a thank you note for your garbage man?  Can you imagine how much he will be blessed by a surprise basket of baked goods for his rather thankless job?

Here are some other ideas you might consider:
  • Do you remember the U.S. postal service?  You know...they deliver things to actual mail boxes...not email in-boxes!  Why not send someone a handwritten note?  I've received a few of these in the last couple years and have been blessed each time someone thought enough of me to write a card, put a stamp on it, and put it in the mail.  I have a wonderful friend who sees funny, sarcastic cards she knows I'll appreciate and she'll send them to me.  She even sent me an anniversary card (the kind a wife might give her husband) simply because the card was so stinkin' funny!  That WAS a treat to get in the mail, random though it was.  A handwritten note shows someone you care enough to take extra time on their behalf.
  • If someone invites you into their home, take along a hostess gift, such as a candle, a baked good from your kitchen, or a jar of preserves.  It'll probably surprise your host and make them feel as welcome as you do in their home!
  • Practice hospitality on the road by offering your services in a local homeless shelter, rescue mission, shelter for abused women, or orphanage.  Places like this do so much for the less fortunate in our communities and they rarely have all the help they can use.  Your children can even serve with you!  Karen's children served pickles and olives at the homeless shelter when they were only 3 years old.  The guests of the shelter were blessed by the smiles of the children and the children began to learn early to serve and love those from all levels of society.
  • Send a care package to a college student, someone in the military, a friend in the hospital, or a child at camp.  I received a few rare, precious packages as a college student and as a camp counselor and it was also a very welcome surprise.  It was always refreshing to me to know that someone "outside" was thinking of me!
  • Buy the coffee for the person behind you in line at your local coffee stand or shop.  I'll never forget the woman at the Portland Airport last Christmas whose coffee I paid for.  She said very sweetly in a slight southern drawl, "Well, bless your heart!"  Her sweet face sticks in my memory as a reminder that generosity and surprise blessings last far beyond my tall decaf skinny vanilla-nut latte!  In LA, my husband and I bought a latte for the guy behind us.  It turned out that he was going in for a third interview for a job that day.  Our act of kindness gave him a boost of confidence for his interview.  His smile, too, sticks in my minds eye.  I wish I knew if he got the job!  Whether he did or not, he was blessed, and so were we.  His smile of gratitude was worth every extra penny at Starbucks.
  • Here's one that's near and dear to my heart:  What can you do to bless the teachers in the schools near you?  First of all, you can PRAY PRAY PRAY!  Whether or not we have children enrolled in public school, we are all affected by what happens there.  The taxes we pay are used, in part, to fund the schools.  The teachers in the schools are showing their students how to live and function in society.  The children coming out of the schools are our future leaders and policy makers.  They need prayer.  We (teachers) need prayer.  We also need to know that those in our community recognize how difficult it is to manage all the mandates coming down while also trying to teach our students the essential skills -- both academic and personal -- to become productive members of the community.  Even a card and a basket of muffins or cookies is enough to give a little boost of encouragement to a teacher's day...and we need that encouragement so much!  Christian teachers, especially, need the prayers of our brothers and sisters in the faith.  We face a lot of opposition in the public sector, sometimes subtle and sometimes very blatant.  Our job goes beyond teaching the children and managing the classroom.  We're also responsible for representing Christ to our colleagues and students.  That, in and of itself, can be exceptionally draining.  Please consider how you might encourage the teachers, administrators, support staff, and students of a school near you.  Our schools need Christ, now more than ever!
Karen offers many more suggestions in her book for how we can all practice hospitality on the road...too many to list them all here.  I would highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of her book, but I'd also like to hear from YOU!  

What have you done to be welcoming and kind to others in situations outside of your home?   Please share your ideas in the comments below so we can learn from each other!

Have a wonderful week!
Crista <><

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Tips for a Simple Summer Party

I'm glad parties don't have to be elaborate or expensive. If they did, I'd never host one at my house!

In case you are often at a loss for ideas like me, I want to share 10 tips for a simple summer party that I used when my family hosted our church's 4th of July potluck celebration this year.

* Use cloth napkins as a centerpiece/ table runner. I found these blue and red cloth napkins at Walmart. At 2 for $1 I couldn't pass them up!

* Solid red and white platters make functional decorations. These were also $1 each and are plastic. White will go with any theme and the red can be used at Christmas, Valentine's and any summer event.

* Solid colored plates and cups keep the theme but are often cheaper than designer versions.

* Pull the theme together with one piece such as napkins. I found these for $1 a package (20 in a package I think) at Walmart. Check NOW for end of summer clearance items at your favorite stores.

* Use different seasonal items from your collection. The tin pails (there are 2) have imprinted hearts for Valentine's Day but they worked great for a summer look to hold plastic ware.

* Shop your local dollar store! The blue basket and the white rocks in the vase both came from the dollar store.

* Use small items that can be stored easily. The 4 US flags I bought will fit in a tub for next year once the summer is over.

* Decorations are often obscured by the food. I'd much rather have a table full of food my guests brought than a table full of decorations.

* Summer is the perfect time for a Potluck Cookout Theme! On your invitation include your main dish (we provided hot dogs and hamburgers) and make suggestions for cookout or picnic type foods your guests should bring. Ask them to RSVP with the item they are bringing a few days before the event so you can fill any gaps in the menu.

* Provide only water and lemonade for drinks. Sodas are expensive and take a lot of space! We used 2 - 5 gallon thermoses; one was filled with ice and water while the other held lemonade mix and ice.

When it comes to hosting an event I am all about simple, functional and inexpensive! Everything you see in the first picture (except the food) cost me around $30. Not bad for a party of 35!

Do you have any tips for simple summer parties and decorations? Please leave them in the comments so I can learn from you!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

"When there is room in your heart, there is room in your home."

(Image found at
Greetings, OH Friends & Guests!

Thank you for sharing your time with us today!  I am so glad you're choosing to learn along with me as I read and try to practice what I'm learning from "A Life That Says Welcome" by Karen Ehman.  If you're just joining us, I am on Part 4 of a discussion of Ehman's book.  To read Parts 1, 2, and 3, click here.  Today I'd like to share some thoughts from Chapter 5, "The Myth of the Too-Small House."  

Before my husband and I bought our house last March, we lived in a two bedroom apartment and found it difficult to have people over as much as we would have liked.  We didn't have much in the way of toys or space for kids and we could really only comfortably host one other couple for a meal.  I will say that as two-bedroom apartments go, ours was a nice size and we were blessed some decent furnishings for our place.  However, we often did not host the way we really wanted to because we didn't feel that our space accommodated very many people, especially families with kids.  Despite our limitations, however, we did manage to host a New Year's Eve party our first year in the apartment, welcoming 8 guests to our abode and using our living room as our dining area.  We also enjoyed having guests for lunch or dinner and games, usually just one couple at a time, which was always a blessing to us and - I think - to our guests!

(I encourage everyone to get their hands on this book, whether you buy it or check it out from a local library.  Karen offers SO MANY great ideas for warm hospitality and I can't cover them all here.)

I am sure many of us would like to have a house that is bigger than the one we're in or more nicely decorated than the way it is now.  There are many excuses we can come up with for not offering hospitality in our homes: It's too small, we don't have a large enough table, we don't have nice-looking furniture, etc. etc. etc.  Believe me, I've used all of these excuses myself, which is why I'd like to remind us all why we're even interested in this whole issue of hospitality...

"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

1 Peter 4:8-11

You see, God has not called us to be hospitable only if we have a large house and nice furnishings and a large grocery budget.  He has called us to minister to others by offering hospitality using what He's given us to work with.  I think we'd all be amazed by how God loves to provide for even the simplest needs when we make the effort to follow His commands and bring glory to Him.  As Paul told the Philippian church, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).  That includes offering hospitality on a tight budget and in tight living spaces!  The real roadblock to hospitality is never the amount of space or money that we do or do not have.  The real roadblock is what's in our hearts.  If we have a heart to follow the Lord's command and to bless others, He will provide all that we need in order to do so as we faithfully seek Him and trust in His provision.  

So I'll ask you what I've had to ask myself: where is your HEART in your current hospitality practices?  It may be time to spend some serious time in prayer asking God to reveal the motivations and intentions of your heart in this area and ask Him to direct you towards His call and command to offer hospitality to strangers and church family.  If your heart is already "in it," Praise God!  This may be a good time for you to seek the Lord's guidance in who you might be able to encourage on her journey towards hospitality!

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~

Here are a few suggestions from Chapter 5 about how we can best utilize tight spaces and offer hospitality to others:
  • Dejunk your home and store only those items that your family really needs.  Keeping your home clutter free is one of the best ways to make it a welcoming place to be.  Surveys have shown that a clean and clutter-free environment is most preferred among guests, not beautifully decorated or immaculate homes!
  • Search your home for hidden storage space, such as the space under the beds or the unused upper shelves of a closet.
  • Get creative for finding and using storage containers.  For example, talk to your local grocery store manager about discarded display set-ups.  Sometimes these can make wonderful storage bins for your kids' bedroom or your garage!  (Side note:  One of my absolute favorite birthday presents was the cardboard 7-Up castle my mom picked up from Roth's grocery store for my 7th birthday.  The castle was taller than me and it had two tiny rooms I could crawl into and play princess.  You just can't find castles like that at Toys-R-Us!  Best. Birthday. Ever.)
  • If you don't have room at your table for multiple guests, try "lap meals"...things that you cook up in a crock pot, like soup, chili, or taco meat.  You can do chili, baked potato bars, salad bars, and taco salad all in one bowl and still hit all the major food groups!
  • Keep your hosting to smaller groups of people, like just one couple at a time.  It doesn't have to be a huge party to be used by God!
  • Serve snacks, like popcorn and soda, or dessert to keep things simple.  A nice slice of cake is always welcome fare to guests...adults and kids alike!
  •  Take your hospitality outside!  We live near a park so it's easy for us to invite people over and then go to the park with a picnic.  It's a fun way to give adults time to have adult conversation while kids can play nearby on the park's play structure.  This is also a fun way to singles or childless couples to connect with parents of small kids!
What are your ideas?  Do you have some ideas to share for using small living spaces to offer hospitality to others?  We'd love to hear them!

I wish you a greatly blessed week as you seek to serve our Lord in the ways in which He calls you!

~ Crista <><

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cooking With Martha Stalwart

A Tip from Around the WWW from Carrie

What's that? Martha Stewart? Nope.

If you are looking for new recipes, you might want to check out a cooking blog that is run by a few friends of mine (and several acquaintances) called Cooking With Martha Stalwart.

Their recipes are conveniently labeled so that you can find recipes for:






For some new tips, tricks and ideas - check out Cooking With Martha Stalwart at

Fun stuff!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Recipe Swap - School Days Are Here Again

Welcome to the Offering Hospitality Recipe Swap, month 2!
This month's challenge is make ahead lunch recipes!

Whether you are a homeschooler (like me), your kids to attend school elsewhere or are packing a lunch for yourself or your hubby, a few extra minutes each morning would be much appreciated (right?). So, I kind of took the idea of once a month cooking and came up with the idea of make ahead lunches. These can either be prepared that night before or possibly up to a week ahead of time. Using our time wisely can help us better serve our family and make more time available for other forms of hospitality. How sweet would it be to place one of these into our loved ones lunch box? Just make a batch, individually wrap, freeze and then the morning they're needed place one in each lunch you make. If you're at a loss for ideas and need to get those creative juices flowing, head on over to parents magazine and read their great ideas of healthy options for school lunches.

Now, onto my recipe...

Sweet and Sour Meatballs Bento Box
Meatball Recipe:
1lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
about a Tbsp of milk
one egg
tsp minced onion
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
one small can pineapple tidbits, drained juice reserved
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 500 F. In a large bowl, mix ground meat, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, minced onion, minced garlic, salt and pepper until completely combined. Roll meatballs; place close together on broiler pans or rimmed cookie sheets . (I use my pampered chef bar pan) Bake for 15 minutes or until internal temperature is 160F. Cool.
While meatballs are cooking and cooling, mix the cornstarch and brown sugar in a sauce pan. Add pineapple juice, soy sauce and red wine vinegar; stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Cool.
To freeze and use when needed place cooled meatballs and sauce into a freezer bag. Add pineapple tidbits to bags. Seal and freeze.
To cook after freezing:
Oven: Place meatballs and sauce into an ungreased baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350F for 30 minutes or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
Slow cooker: Place meatballs and sauce into slow cooker. Cook on low for 2 to 5 hours or until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.

Packing the bento box:
Place meatballs w/ sauce into appropriate compartment. Add a serving of rice to another, cucumbers and grapes as well. For a more grown up bento box, add a nice salad with some Asian ginger dressing to complete the meal.

For more great bento recipes, check out this cookbook.
Not sure what exactly a bento box is? It's just a partitioned lunchbox. Like Tupperware that fits all together perfectly. Here is an example:
Available through
Don't feel like you can't make this dish because you don't have a bento box. Any containers can be used.

Hoping each and every one of you have a blessed school year! -Crystal

We're looking forward to seeing what recipes you might have to share with us this month! Don't forget to grab one of our Recipe Swap buttons and post it on your site along with your Back-to-School Recipe! If you haven't already snatched a button, here is the code to do so:

<a href=""><img src="" height="128" width="150" border="0" alt="Hospitality"></a>

Monday, August 2, 2010

Women's Ministry in the Local Church (giveaway post!)

by Carrie, for the Offering Hospitality staff

We're going to briefly interrupt Crista's discussion of A Life That Says Welcome by announcing our next book discussion (which will begin in September.) In announcing this next book, we'd also like to host a giveaway of the title, courtesy of Crossway Books.

Crossway has very generously offered to give away a copy of Women's Ministry in the Local Churchto one of our readers here at Offering Hospitality.

This next book discussion will be a little different in that it will involve several different women taking a part in the study. Readers/bloggers who will discussing this book with us here, on a more interact level, include:

Carrie at Reading to Know (& Offering Hospitality!)
Stephanie at Stephanie's Mommy Brain (& Offering Hospitality!)
Melissa at Breath of Life
Ronnica at Ignorant Historian

But it's always more fun to include the thoughts, opinions and impressions of other readers. We wanted to make sure to announce this book in advance, to give you all time to grab a copy of this title. We also are excited that Crossway Books is partnering with us in this by providing a copy for one of you.

How to win? Simply leave a comment in the comment section below! Simple.

This contest is open to U.S. Residents only and will be open through Sunday, August 15th.

We hope you'll join us in talking about Women's Ministry in the Local Church regardless of whether or not you win. I've been reading a little of the book and it looks terrific and like it has a lot to offer! Should be a good discussion!