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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!
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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 <><