Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Coffee in the rain...

I am sitting in the coolest coffee house with my youngest daughter.  And it's raining - God loves me.  God sees me.  God cares about me.  God uses rain to remind me of these truths. 

And we are enjoying a cup of coffee in this old house, with a beautiful garden, turned into a coffee shop.  What a great way to relish a rainy morning! 

I have been blessed to spend time this past month with all three daughters, my sons-in-law and our grandchildren - three, now, with the new baby grandson.  He is precious, by the way, and already knows his Nanna's voice.  And my honey got to fly in for Father's Day weekend, too.  I love these people, big and small!  It's so easy to tell them I love them and to show them with encouraging conversation, by changing poopy diapers, fixing meals, doing laundry, bathing preschoolers, cleaning my oldest daughter's house while she is recovering from a C-section, playing with blocks on the floor, drawing with chalk in the carport, kissing bo bos and precious faces, lots of hugs and going to bed exhausted and very content. 

As easy as it is to express love to my family, I am becoming aware that I need to do a better job of letting my friends know why I love them.  In the book, Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist writes about the importance of telling our friends what we love about them.

The heart of hospitality is creating space for these moments, protecting that fragile bubble of vulnerability and truth and love.  It's all too rare that we tell the people we love exactly why we love them- what they bring to our lives, why our lives are richer because they're in it.  

She and her husband have a tradition of toasting their friends on their birthdays over a meal.

Each person comes ready to say something about what that person has brought to their life in the last year or a prayer for the year to come, and after dinner, we toast with those thoughts.

What a great idea!  I think my honey and I may have to start this tradition.  Shauna writes about an evening where they and a group of friends toasted another friend who is a great encourager to all of them.  She had asked his wife about foods that he liked or had special meaning to him to determine the menu for dinner.

The food was good that night.  I loved being able to serve foods that were meaningful to Nathan, that represented his story and history, and we had a great meal together.  But that night wasn't about the food.  The food and the table and laughter helped to create sacred space, a place to give someone the gift of words.  That's what the night was about - sacred space and words of love.

Before I went to Louisiana to help my daughter, my honey and I taught a 5 Days to a New Marriage class for our spiritual children.  The night before we left, we had the last class which began with a meal. Then we all enjoyed a time of telling each person in these three couples what it is we love about them - what each of their personal strengths are.   It was uncomfortable for each person as we all took turns expressing these sacred words.  But, each one left feeling loved and appreciated for who they are, with an understanding of the strengths in who God created them to be.

There is something about loving people over a table of delicious food in someone's home.  There is a connection made that can't be reproduced in a Sunday school room or a room at the church used by a life group, even if food is involved. We've tried, but it's not the same. It is a privilege to be hospitable in our home to express God's love to people.  The food doesn't need to be fancy or expensive.  It just needs to be tasty and nurturing, with the guests' tastes in mind. 

God reminds me all the time how much He loves me.  Now, I get to let my friends know how much and why I love them.  I've got some plans to make...

Friday, June 7, 2013


My new grandson is just so precious!  And every time I've sat down to write a post in the last two weeks, I've had an opportunity to hold him, instead, so my daughter and son-in-law can get some sleep.  The sacrifices a nanna will make...  I woke up at 4:00 this morning, so I thought I would take advantage of the quiet to write about hospitality. 

My husband and I talked, before we got married, about how hospitality was going to be an important part of our life.  Both of us grew up in hospitable homes so it seemed like the normal thing to do and it has been an important aspect of our lives and ministry in our home; so much so that our daughters all practice hospitality in their homes, as well.

When our youngest daughter came to see her newest nephew, she handed me a book that a friend had given her and said that I would probably enjoy reading it.  She was right!  I am planning on purchasing my own copy of this delightful book - Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.  It is full of honest stories of life and the importance of hospitality in ministering to herself, her family and other people along with recipes.  Here is a sample of her philosophy of hospitality:

I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are.  Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about.  And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

She goes on to encourage people who don't know how to cook to invite people over and order pizza.  Serve the pizza with bagged salad and bottled dressing. 

Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul.

The next time or the time after that, try grilled flatbread pizzas, and make your own vinaigrette for the salad.  The next time, try a dessert and an appetizer, and little by little, build a sense of muscle memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patterns for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table.

It takes some time to learn, to try and fail and make a mess and try again.  It takes even longer to get truly comfortable, to feel at home with a knife in your hand, to read through recipes as a guideline or set of ideas, to read through and add your preferences and tastes, your history and perspective.  But it's a lovely process, with not a minute wasted.  If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that's a skill for life -  like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive.

I'm not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off.  I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.

 It's a perspective on hospitality that my honey and I practice - making people feel nourished in our home with food and love, providing a place where they can kick off their shoes and relax and talk about their struggles without judgment. You can provide that for the people you love, too.  Just simply start where you are. 

More to come:  hospitality and special dietary restrictions