Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Break for Offering Hospitality

Just a quick little note here to let you know that Offering Hospitality will be enjoying it's own little Spring Break here for the next two weeks.

We're just going to take some time to enjoy Easter with our families and take a short break from posting.

We'll be back again in May with new posts from our regular writers as well as guest posters.

Hoping you all enjoy a blessed Easter week.

See you again very soon!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Celebrating Easter with Family

Guest post by Amy H.

Here are a few ideas of how our family will celebrate Easter this year!

Exodus is my favorite place to start reading.

Each time I read the account of the Passover I am reminded of Jesus' sacrifice! The richness and true meaning of Easter is clearer to me as I gain understanding through the Old Testament. Then I move on the New Testament and read about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. He is our passover lamb, the ultimate sacrifice!

Ask someone to join you.

Easter is an excellent opportunity to invite someone to church. Ever notice that church is fuller on Easter than most Sunday's? It's because people who don't generally attend will come just because it is Easter!

Are your children involved in a special program for Easter or is there a Good Friday service? Great opportunities to extend an invitation!

Or what about lunch after church? We love college students and have had the privilege of spending several Easter afternoons with students who couldn't go home. And, since we don't live near family we've always appreciated invitations to spend Easter with friends in our area!

Or maybe a picnic lunch or play-date that includes coloring eggs and an egg hunt? There are lots of opportunities! Which one will you take? Go get your calendar and see what might work for you and then go ahead and extend your invitation!

Spruce up your home.

Spring is a traditional time to deep clean your home. Maybe you go all out, or maybe you get to one room. I recently deep cleaned our bathrooms. I washed walls, scrubbed the shower, and washed all the rugs and curtains. Truthfully, it only took a few hours and the results were amazing! It was so encouraging for me as the bathroom had been on my list for months! What area of your home needs a little extra attention? Go ahead and do it!

Flowers are another easy way to spruce up your home. Living in the northeast, it doesn't feel or look like spring yet. I've learned a $5 bunch of flowers can easily be divided into 5 different small bouquets and stays fresh for at least 2 weeks. I use bud vases, small glasses, and creamers to display the flowers throughout my home including our dining room, kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathroom. That little investment really adds freshness to our home!

If you've already extended an Easter invitation you might find yourself motivated to spruce up a little. Or maybe you'll spruce up your home and then be motivated to extend that invitation. Either way, I know you and your family will appreciate the freshness!

Think of Easter as a season.

Plan activities and reflections for the weeks leading up to Easter instead of just for a week or even a day. We have a collection of Easter books that we begin reading a good month before Easter. One of our favorites, Journey to the Cross by Helen Haidle, is more of a chapter book. Our family reads it together as a morning devotion in the weeks leading up to Easter.

For weeks my children enjoy indoor egg hunts with our resurrection eggs from FamilyLife or you can make your own. After the eggs are all found we snuggle up to read Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs, opening each egg as we read about it. I can't tell you how many hunts we've already enjoyed this year!

How about reading the events of Holy Week and encouraging your children to draw pictures that can be strung together into a banner or drawn along a time line to give them (and you) a deeper understanding of sequence and timing. This year I hope to teach my children where the story of the crucifixion is in the Bible and help them learn to find it themselves. This won't happen in a day, but in our house Easter is a season!

Ears are for listening.

Make an Easter playlist of cross-centered songs! Consider current worship songs as well as hymns. Compile your favorites together and listen to them often! It's amazing how music in the background can liven up an otherwise normal day, calm you in the midst of chaos, and focus your mind on the true meaning of the season. Rich lyrics will help you and your family meditate on Easter.

Really make meals special.

Resurrection Rolls are something we enjoy making together. I use this recipe, but use 2 crescent rolls for each one to be sure the "tomb" gets sealed well. We talk as we prepare them and then linger over our meal as we enjoy them!

In the past we've also had the opportunity to be part of a Christian Seder meal. I learned so much and would take the opportunity again. I've even considered planning a Christian seder for my family or planning with a group of friends to enjoy it together!

Meals can also be made special as children create place cards or other table decorations. This year my children colored pictures of flowers, taped a mini muffin paper in the center, and filled the muffin holder with jelly beans. They are so cute and will be a welcome addition to our table as we welcome guests this weekend. Just a little something different can make meal time memorable!

How will your family celebrate Easter this year?


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tips for Offering Hospitality to Strangers

guest post by Annette from Live, Learn, Love

Some of us forget to invite our neighbors over for a visit on a quiet afternoon, so it certainly feels foreign to invite a stranger into our home. Yet, there are times when it might be appropriate. Maybe there is a missionary on furlough needing a bed and a few meals while they stay in your area. Possibly you have relatives with whom you have recently been in contact, though you have never met them. Or maybe, just maybe, the blogging world has helped you develop a friendship.

My experience in offering hospitality in my home to a stranger occurred when my blogging friend, Jenny, traveled with her family to Pennsylvania from Arkansas on vacation. (You can read her account here and mine here.) We were very honest with one another in preparation of our time together, and here I will share a few thoughts.

Be honest about sleeping arrangements. When we recently hosted this family of five, we had two of the children sleeping on the floor (or very close to it)! It's what we could offer. Jenny was also very willing to use a hotel, but we both wanted to spend as much time together as possible, and floors weren't scary to her children. Our son used a Pack n' Play so one of their boys could use his bed, but my daughter was of an age that it was best for her to sleep in her familiar bed. We did get creative and let the youngest guest sleep on a crib mattress though! I would have felt awful if they were expecting a bed (or pull-out couch) for each person only to be disappointed and uncomfortable with the floor space.

Discuss expectations. If you are in a situation like ours where your guests would like to do some touristy things while visiting your area, you may want to offer ideas on activities close by and a bit further away. Will you be joining the family for every event? Do they want you to? Are afternoon naps a priority? Will your home just be a place of rest at night while they visit the attractions by day? By knowing these answers in advance, it can save awkward moments and unrealistic expectations.

Question food preferences. For many of us, hospitality is about food. Many, many people have food allergies, diabetes, or food preferences. My family tends to be a bit fussy when it comes to food. However, we often have visitors with allergies or diabetes. When Jenny and her family visited, it was important to me to ask a lot of questions about their vegan lifestyle so that I could accommodate them. By discussing this at detail, we were able to come up with meals familiar to my meat-eating family that Jenny's family could enjoy and eat, too. (We had oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J on homemade bread for lunch, and spaghetti with black beans or meatballs for dinner.) I even found a vegan dessert recipe since mine call for dairy products in one way or another. Not only should food preferences be considered, but drink options, too. Maybe skim milk is necessary or that morning cup of coffee. Some have a soda preference. Water may be the drink of choice, and you don't need to prepare any special drinks.

Meet the children. If children are involved, you might want to share family photos in advance so they can get to know one another. (Blogs sure make this easy!) Also keep in mind that though they are guests in your home, there are some house rules that you may want to share, while letting other things go. If your children tend to fight about sharing toys, you might ask in advance if there is one toy they would like to put aside that is special to them that they would not be required to share. Remember kids are kids. They won't get along perfectly all of the time. (Well, mine certainly won't!) Some children are shy, others are not. Just be patient as the children get to know one another.

Welcome friends. Some people keep meticulous homes. I am not one of those people. When having company, I do try to make sure my home is clean, yet still comfortable. (No one will ever be shocked that children live and are welcome in our house. It's evident everywhere.) Upon our friends' arrival, we welcomed them. The children immediately began playing with something or one another, and the grown ups got acquainted before tucking the children in for the night. While some families have a true guest room, we do not. We have a spare bedroom that is a true catch all. To prepare for Jenny's visit, I boxed up many piles of "stuff." I didn't take the time to look through the piles, but I did get it out of sight. Some would suggest flowers on a dresser or night stand for an extra touch. Most guests would appreciate that special touch, but find what is comfortable for you. Flowers are nice, but not my style. However, I did place a card on the bed to welcome Jenny and her husband.

Offering hospitality to strangers is not something that everyone will go out of their way to do. However, if you have (or make) the opportunity, I hope you will take that leap and are blessed with the rewards of deepening a relationship and making true friends. My family and I had wonderful experience welcoming Jenny's family into our hearts and home. Though there were thoughts of wondering if it might be awkward or weird, upon meeting Jenny, any fears were quickly put to rest. We had a great couple of days together and look forward to their next visit!

Hebrews 13: 2 says, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Though you may not have Moses' experience of hosting a messenger from God, you can trust you will be blessed as you bless your new friend!