Have you ever filled a virtual shopping cart (or 7) and come back to it day after day to stalk the items? Like to see if they have gone on sale, or if the color is still dreamy, or just to say hi? Kid’s clothes, rocking chairs, boots? Me neither. That is super weird! Well, except maybe this one time…. We moved to the Ranchito about the time that the first season of Fixer Upper premiered. I, like everyone in the country, tuned in every week to watch Chip and Jo transform houses and be stinking adorable at every turn. But, I did not become obsessed with shiplap, or subway tile, or demoing walls. Nope. All I wanted was that 10ft. long, white, distressed, outdoor table. You know the one, under the cool rusted candelabra, with the cute tray of lemonade and freshly baked cookies on it? I am not proud to admit how much of my brain and heart that table consumed. You see, for the first time in our lives, I had the perfect space for exactly such a table. I dreamed of dinner parties out by the pool, hosting a dozen friends at the mile-long table in all of its perfect distressedness.
So, I did what any seasoned online shopper would do. I Googled “Harp Designs.” If Clint Harp could build one for the “farmhouse,” he could build one for the “Ranchito,” I virtually designed the monstrous masterpiece, and put it in that cart. And….there it sat. There it sat for weeks. The shipping alone on the thing was almost as much at the table itself (and I live in Texas!). Oh, and the benches… those weren’t cheap either. When I suggested to the hubs that we rent a trailer and make a little road trip to Waco NOT DURING FOOTBALL SEASON you would have thought I had lost my mind! He then checked out the specs more carefully on the saved table and announced that he and his buddy could build that for me with a casual wave of the hand. Now, while I know these guys absolutely had the skills to produce the coveted table, they also had 7 children, 2 full-time jobs, 2 wives, and approximately 793 “honey do’s” between them. I wanted the table before we had to leave the Ranchito for the nursing home, you know? Finally, I let it go and explored the crazy option of having a local craftsman create one for me. Short story loooong, I ended up with a 12 foot table, four 6 ft. benches, and 2 chairs on the end. It’s every bit as distressed and dreamy and it was about 1/2 the price. Sorry Clint! (and THANK YOU White House Table Co. of Midland!!!!).
One of my goals during this #summerofsayingyes is to fill that table up every chance we get!
I believe in previous generations this was called “hospitality.” Doesn’t the word just make you feel warm and cozy inside? Like Thanksgiving or Christmas? Or maybe it doesn’t… maybe it causes a slight panic attack, or calls out one more thing you’re not good at. I don’t know what your relationship is like, hospitality and you, but can we talk about it a bit? The same summer that was spent stalking the table, I read Jennie Allen’s book Restless. For years I had avoided any and all books of this nature. I mean who had time to dream, to think about anything but the dinner and the laundry? Restless? As in I haven’t rested, slept, or sat down in a decade? You bet I’m rest-less! But, then the smoke cleared a bit and I found my way out to a magical little courtyard at sunrise every morning with this challenging book and some puzzle pieces God was putting together for me. What I discovered about me in that season was that I need deep relationship. I read this anonymous quote that resonated so with me during this time:
“I have the deepest affection for intellectual conversations. The ability to just sit and talk. About love, about life, about anything, about everything. To sit under the moon with all the time in the world and the full-speed train that is our lives slowing to a crawl. Bound by no obligations, barred by no human limitations. To speak without regret or fear of consequences. To talk for hours and about what’s really important in life.”
Do you know what is hard with four small children around your knees for infinity? Deep relationships. Do you know what is impossible? A complete conversation, much less these hours of uninterrupted sharing in the moonlight. But that is where God began to articulate this call to hospitality for me. He had blessed us with this physical space and He was making it beyond obvious of the reason. It was to create a place for deep relationship, gathering, and blessing others. Period. No excuses. I mean I even had my table…
Hospitality. It’s not just a Pinterest board, you know? Martha Stewart cannot be credited with the idea. That would be God. He created hospitality to show us a picture of His character like He created every other good and perfect gift.
Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”
1 Peter 4:9 “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Romans 12:13 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Titus 1:8 “Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”
Hebrews 13:16 “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Galatians 6:10 “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
AFTER ALL….Jesus says,
John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
God’s heart is one of hospitality. And here is the thing, it looks like these are imperative statements. Remember the 4 types of sentences from 3rd grade? Declarative (…), Exclamatory (!!!!!), Interrogative (?????), and Imperative. Like, it’s a command… hospitality. Don’t take my word for it, go back up and read those Scriptures again. So, I guess whether it’s natural for us or not, whether we saw it modeled well for us growing up or not, whether we are great cooks or not, whether we have the 12 ft. table or not, whether we have a bunch of kids around or not, whether it’s our gifting or not, we are all called to hospitality.
Obviously, I’m reading a great book right now. (You knew it was coming). Sally Clarkson and her daughter Sarah have crafted a lovely work called “The Life Giving Home – Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming.” Sally’s heart for creative homemaking, parenting, and educating her children have been an inspiration in my life since “The Mission of Motherhood.” (READ IT!!!) In “The Life Giving Home” they discuss the idea that we are living in a homeless generation. The isolating combination of corporate moves that separate us from our family of origin and the impact of technology that elevates virtual relationships above real ones has left us homeless in a sense. Clarkson says, “I’m referring to a different kind of homelessness, one that is spiritual and emotional. It’s the homelessness of those who have their basic needs for housing, food and clothing met but do not have a sanctuary designed to preserve all that is precious in life.” Later, Sarah Clarkson writes, “One of the first obstacles I find in presenting a vision for the importance of home is the almost unconscious assumption on the part of many modern people that home is inherently a sentimental notion and that beauty is peripheral to spiritual formation. Action, mission, productivity, study-these are considered essentials. But beauty? Good meals? Gardens? Art? Gracious atmosphere? A safe haven for the spirit?” Evidently not.
I am one of the lucky ones that saw hospitality done well growing up. My Nannie was the consummate hostess. My grandparents had fancy, catered Christmas parties where valets would park your car and waiters walked around with drinks and hor d’Oeuvres. She would have luncheons for her “Bridge” girls all the time. When there was a family holiday meal, she would have the tables set days in advance complete with name cards and labels for what food would go in what dish. She always used to say that it was a gift you could give to family and friends… a lovely home to walk in to, a space to feel loved and served, a meal to enjoy, a conversation to fill your soul. And so it was, a gift to all of us blessed enough to be welcome into their home and into her generous spirit of hospitality. I carry that call, that gift, that example very close to my heart.
What does that look like- IN MY REAL LIFE? This has been my quest over the last couple of years. There is so much freedom within the command of hospitality that it can be quite the adventure to press into. Basically, there is no right or wrong way to do it, but there are endless possibilities. For my family we have begun the tradition of an annual Family Fall Festival. It’s a good, ‘ole fashioned night filled with hay-rides, face painting, apple bobbing, jumpers, and treats. We hire the “hot dog man” and we invite the whole town.
It has been baby showers and birthday lunches for my tribe that I love so. In the summer, we have a standing Wednesday Ranchito swim party. Now, if that is just my immediate group of friends, we have about 40 children between us. This little weekly shin-dig would literally give my husband a heart attack if he ever walked into it.
Obviously, this means birthday parties for my kids and holidays with family and friends who are family. Sometimes we have a huge Easter pot-luck and egg hunt, sometimes it is an intimate brunch. There is the annual wine/cheese/and prayer night before the school year starts. During the summer months, when the demands on our schedules are much less, I am taking a cue from my “really good at reaching out to people” friend and trying to be intentional about inviting a different family over once a week for a meal. And then there are the spontaneous texts of, “Wanna grill burgers tonight? Bring baked beans and chips.” And yes, there have been long, lovely dinner parties with pin-worthy food and table settings. There is room for it all, an appropriate hospitality for every occasion.
Doesn’t all of that sound like fun? It is. It really is. But do you know what else it is? A lot of work. Costly. Time-consuming. 40 dripping wet children do not leave your home unscathed. Feeding 300 people hot dogs is not cheap. Planning 4-course dinner parties takes a bit of concentration. Reaching out to new people and welcoming them into your sanctuary can leave you feeling vulnerable and insecure. Sometimes my kids don’t want to share their stuff. Sometimes my hubby doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing to host. Sometimes I want to be served (which I am, all the time. I have hospitable friends) Anything worth having, doing, being comes at a cost. Hospitality is no different. Like I said, I was lucky and saw it done really well growing up. I don’t want that legacy to die with me. I want my children to see Mommy and Daddy putting intentional effort into building a space where others are cherished and fed-both physically and spiritually. I want them to always know that we are only blessed to bless others, whether that be with our home, our food, our time, our friendship (our toys, our mermaid tails, our bikes)…
So, sometimes it’s Pizza Hut. And sometimes it’s Pinterest. My Nannie’s generation would probably turn their noses up over the casualness that hospitality is offered today. No place cards? No plan? Paper plates? Those can be sweet, sweet times of building home into a homeless generation. I do it. I love it. I get that there is power and a realness in inviting friends into your messy house and ordering a pizza and sitting on the floor and going for it. Yes to Pizza Hut. But, can I appeal to the harkening back of a time when hospitality really was a gift given to those welcomed in? When it was special? When it took effort? I want my children to see what it looks like to set a full table and get dressed up and maybe even rifle through the drawers to find some antique place card holders. What if it could be real and beautiful?
Not perfect, never perfect, but a gift. An out-of-the-ordinary night. An act of sacrificial love. If you are stuck pinning beautiful meals but haven’t issued an invitation yet, maybe it’s just time to call Pizza Hut and a neighbor. If the delivery guy is on your speed dial, maybe it’s time to dial it up a notch. Can I challenge you too in this #summerofsayingyes to try out a new hospitality? Invite some acquaintances and see if they might become friends. Press deeply into friendships and see if they might really be family in the end. Find your own way somewhere Pizza Hut and Pinterest.
A little bonus today… A RECIPE! This little gem is great with pizza or beef tenderloin. Around my tribe, we just call it THE salad.
It takes no time to whip up and is a perfect place to start this little beckoning to hospitality. Here you go:
1 bag of baby spinach
toasted pine nuts
mason jar of poppy seed dressing
Slice strawberries and toast pine nuts and put them in the bowl of spinach. Kind of take forkfuls of softened goat cheese and dollop all around. Top with YUMMY poppy seed dressing.
POPPY SEED DRESSING:
3 TBS mayo
3 TBS sugar
2 TBS milk
1 TBS vinegar (apple cider or some other white, fruity type)
1 TSP poppy seeds
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up, enjoy and impress!
So back to that table…. Wine has been poured around it, lemonade has been spilled on it, coffee has been sipped at it. Pool bags have been thrown around it, diapers have been changed on it. Prayers have been prayed, Scripture discussed, and couples have danced around it. Family picnics have been served on it. Pizza, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, steak, tenderloin, homemade chips and salsa, berry cobbler, endless popsicles, and obviously THE salad have been enjoyed. Outsiders have been welcomed and friends really have become family. Hospitality is not dead-it’s not complicated either though not always easy. It’s also a command. Magic can happen somewhere between Pizza Hut and Pinterest. Let’s not let a homeless generation happen on our watch!