Hospitality: Ideas For those Who are Hospi-phobic and Those Who are Fearless Too

It’s One Word Friday!

Like I wrote recently, part of “Choose Life” means choosing to exercise our gifts.

And you’ve got ’em!  You’re talented and capable and you’re gamers.

Hospitality seems to be one of mine, (although it’s easy to see how others are doing it so much better).  Some of you may have this gift too.  I hope you’ll add your ideas in the comments.

For others the thought of guests ringing your doorbell makes you want to hide under your bed.

Whether hospitality is one of your gifts or not, it’s a reflection of God’s welcoming heart that we’re all called to live out.  I hope this post will give you some resources and encouragement!

4 Suggestions if you’re new to opening your home:

1.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Potlucks take the pressure off and this is about community not performance.  Everyone has a recipe they’d like to try or time to pick up a bottle of wine.  Before or during the evening, people feel good when they’re asked to help.

2.  If you have an extra fridge/freezer, or a little extra room, keep some some basics there so you can pull them out in a pinch.  (Twice this year I’ve had people who said they’d bring a dessert forget, so out came the homemade brownies I had in the freezer) And pick up a bag of ice every time  you get gas.  You ALWAYS need ice.photo 2-4

3.  Do everything you can ahead of time.  I will set our dining room table even a day or two ahead (I know this may not work if you have tinies at home, but…).  This also gives me the freedom and space to be a little more creative with a theme if I want.

4.  Keep it in perspective.  I do this by making of point of stopping to pray for the people who will be coming to my home.  This is about THEM – making them feel welcome and valued.  I also matted and framed this great free printable I got from Myquillyn at the Nesting Placephoto-166

Hospi-phobics are you feeling a little better?  Deep breaths.  

Veterans, want some more ideas?

In the summer we do a lot more entertaining because our backyard becomes a huge additional “room”.  One of the best investments we made years ago, was to buy a “carport” tent on sale at Home Depot (I think) for about $90 and some 6 ft tables from Costco (also on sale).  We use them constantly in the summer.  Investing in some matching tablecloths also pays off over the years.

** Caveat!  If what you have is a 500 square foot apartment, USE IT! Fill it up with people and good conversation and laughter.  Reflecting the welcoming heart of God isn’t about size.  For us using our yard and investing in some reusable pieces has just been helpful.

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I often do a Tex-mex theme.  I bought some red bandanas super cheap (I think they come in packs at Walmart) to use as napkins.  If you want a cheaper alternative to tablecloths, get some of the stuff they wrap trees with to use as burlap table runners.  Mason jars are fun for glasses.  If you are smart, you can find pie tins at garage sales to use for plates (but I’m not that smart. Or committed)

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We went to dinner at some friends’ house abut a month ago and she gave me this great idea.  She got these marinated meats to grill from Trader Joes, and put out all the fixings for Tacos or whatever.  This is great for a potluck too cuz everyone can bring a different topping.

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And then there’s this new salad recipe I’ve been making over and over this summer.photo-135

  • 1 can black beans (14 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels (I USED FRESH CORN OFF THE COB)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (half a palmful)
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco (eyeball it) (I OMITTED)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil (eyeball it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • I HAD SOME CHERRY TOMATOES SO I HALVED THEM AND ADDED

The original recipe had this option (but I really like fresh corn): Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes for the corn to fully defrost and the flavors to combine, then toss and serve. The corn will also place a quick-chill on this easy side-salad as it defrosts – no need to refrigerate!  Serves 4

We have a great family recipe for homemade guacamole, but an easier alternative is to buy some at the store and “doctor it” with some fresh cilantro and avocados.

And lastly… an ice cream dessert.  Think about it… You don’t want to waste food!  There won’t be any left, but if there is, an ice cream dessert won’t spoil.  Just put it back in the freezer!
Oreo Sundae Dessert
Crust: 1 pkg (35) oreos, crushed.
1/2 stick butter melted.
Mix and pat in greased 9×13 pan  (can reserve 1 cup crumbs for topping if you want)
Filling: 1/2 gallon ice cream (i used java chip)
Topping: 
melt 3 squares unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c. butter
2 t. vanilla
4 well-beaten egg yolks
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
Beat 4 egg whites beaten stiff.  Fold into chocolate mixture and pour over ice cream. Freeze 🙂

Now it’s your turn!  If you’re a veteran at hospitality, what works for you?  If not, what overwhelms you?

 

Taking Out Drones, and 4 Thoughts about Meaningful Community

This is a picture of my small group from when we met the other night (with a few missing).

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Yep, these are my people.  Ready take out drones (which one of us is sure are pervasive and always spying on us).

photo 1-3 In addition to gun-popping, the evening included a potluck of appetizers, brainstorming about beer sleigh-rides, hysterical laughter, and prayer.photo 2-2John can’t get over how loud we are and how we are able to talk over each other in excitement, but still hear and respond.  These are the same yahoos who joined me in an “experimental mutiny against excess” ala Jen Hatmaker.  They are gamers for sure.

But what we were talking about the other night was relationships.  We’ve been using Donald Miller’s Creating Your Life Plan, which is a great set of ten modules looking back to evaluate different areas of your life, and looking forward to set intentional goals. So this week we were mapping out the most significant relationships in our lives and analyzing them.

“The people you hang out with the most over the next 10 years, will determine the kind of person you will become.” Donald Miller

Two of the questions we talked about were:

  • What relationships are positively affecting who I’m becoming?
  • What relationships are negatively affecting who I’m becoming?  What changes can I make or boundaries can I put in place?

I’d encourage you to go through the exercise yourself (or order the whole deal!), but actually it was the tangential conversations we had that have kept me thinking this week.  In addition to getting side-tracked onto talking about beer sleigh rides, we noticed these things:

1. We all experience loneliness to some degree, no matter how healthy or friendly or connected we are.  We long for meaningful relationships and can find them, but no other person will completely satisfy our desire for knowing and being known and completely accepted.  We were made for God and only are complete in Him.  But we are made for each other too, so doing the hard work of finding and investing in meaningful friendships is worthwhile.

2. Different seasons require different degrees of intentionality.  When we are young and/or single, or older and empty-nesters we have more freedom, more choice in our relationships, but we also have to do more initiating.  There aren’t as many relationships naturally built into the rhythm of our life.

For those in a season with kids, there are many years when community is comprised of “have to’s” – the people who are there at the soccer games, or on the PTA committee with you, or parents of your kids’ friends.  You have a lot of relationships built into the rhythm of your life, but not as much time to choose who you’re going to spend time with.  It’s important to identify what choices you do have.

3. There’s a wide variety of relationships where we need change. They may be family members.  They may be unhealthy people.  But they may also be great people who just bring out the worst in us – tempt us to compare or reinforce the negative voices in our head.  It’s important to ask both, “What might God desire to teach me through this relationship?” and “What boundaries might make this relationship healthier?”

4. No matter how extroverted we may be, we all have a limited capacity – a limited number of relationships we can maintain healthily.  And that may differ according to the emotional needs of family in different seasons.  It’s good for us to acknowledge our limits, adjust our expectations, and be gentle with ourselves.

That’s a little of what I’ve been learning about relationships.  That, and pop-guns make any gathering more fun.  What about you?  What are you learning or struggling with in this area?

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my Friend Who’s Gay

I don’t read many blogs regularly.  Maybe three.  One of them is written by a friend I haven’t met in real life yet.  He is raw and wounded, confused and self-absorbed, and a little narcissistic just like the rest of us.  He is an incredibly gifted writer.  And he’s gay.

I read his brave, anguished posts and I want to give him a hug and say “I’m so sorry.” and “I can’t possibly understand your pain, just like you can’t possibly understand mine, but I want to try.  I’m listening.  I want to be better at loving you and others well.”

I want to be friends, but there are a couple hurdles.  There’s a caution and a question I’d like to raise with him as gently as possible.  But I fear his wounds are too raw.  Still scraped and bloody and in danger of infection.  I fear even soft, well-meaning inquiries may be interpreted as attacks.  That’s not at all what I want.

Here’s what I’d like to say to this gay friend I’ve never met (Even as I write that I’m nervous that I should say “friend who is gay” instead of “gay friend”):

1.  A Caution.  I want to be friends, but I will always disappoint you. The church will always let you down.  So will secular gay friends.  So will your mom.  And your boss.

Sure, we’ll try.  We’re a well-meaning lot, most of us, but we’re not wired to be constantly attentive, perfectly sensitive, ever-loyal.  You may have us confused with God.  Nope, we’re definitely not.  We’re fearful and proud and self-centered just like you, so we’ll mess up.  And you’ll get hurt.  Again. So will we all.  Even as victims of friendly-fire perhaps.  I know.  I too have the scars.  There was a time, for a year I felt so rejected and discarded I couldn’t enter the church I once loved.IMG_0991

The church, and your gay friends, and even your mom, or your boss or I may have thought or said or done insensitive or unkind things that need to be repented of.  I don’t want to minimize that.

But just because we’re hypocritical let-you-down-ers don’t write God off.  Please.  He IS the One who will never leave or forsake you.  He IS the One who knows you inside and out and loves you fiercely.  You are His beloved riffraff.  And so are the rest of us, hot messes one and all.

2. A Question. (This one is hard, so you might want to sit down and breathe).  Do I have to agree with you to love you?  Do I have to believe what you believe for you to feel accepted by me?  I have to be honest.  Although sometimes you say it’s ok to differ, it doesn’t seem like you feel it’s ok.

I know it’s hard.  We all want others to agree with us, support every decision, cheer our choices.  That sure describes me.  I want to feel included, invited, inside, and indisputably right.

I also want to be inclusive, and inviting with others.  I want to have conversations not diatribes.  I want to love God and you, my neighbor, well – with both grace and truth.

So I start by saying I think you are gifted, broken, and beloved just like me.  Just like all children of God everywhere.

Gay describes only your orientation, and I accept that with all its challenges, just like you accept the fact that I’m blonde and blue-eyed.

Beloved, chosen, redeemed describes your identity and I celebrate that.  I celebrate the God in you.

I also affirm that you have the right to choose your own path.  Everyone, everywhere, has civil rights we must defend vigorously.  But that doesn’t mean I believe those rights are what God desires most for you.  We may disagree there, and if that pains you, I’m sorry.

3.  A wish.  I wish I could see something different in Scripture that would enable me to endorse the lifestyle decisions that most gay Christians long for.  But I can’t avoid what seems to be God’s design for us to thrive, either as single celibate people or in the marriage of a man and woman.  This is not a position I’ve come to lightly or without a ton of reading and conversations and humbly listening to brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  I want to keep listening.

Does this mean we can’t be friends?  I hope not.

Jesus was friends with a heck of a lot of people he didn’t agree with.  The “lifestyle choices” He condemned even while loving others, ranged from greed to hypocrisy to adultery, idolatry, and self-righteousness.  You may disagree with my politics or think I’m addicted to comfort, or that I don’t sacrifice enough for others.  I still wish we could be friends.

We’re all of us “plank in the eye” people.  We’re all stumbling along, many of us trying to do so by grasping the Hand much larger than ours.  My prayer is that we can go together, and receive God’s great love for both of us.

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“First Step” #1001
C 1992 Jonathan Rogers

One Thing I Want to Know When Life is Hard

It’s summertime, and if you’re anything like me you’re drinking deeply from the cup o’ awesome.  The smoky smell of barbecue and friends gathered on the patio, an icy drink after a sweaty bike ride, boating on the lake as the sun sets (EVERY lake in Minnesota is THE lake), the smell of fresh cut grass, and kids running through the sprinkler… This is my neighborhood.  This is my summer.IMG_2316IMG_4309

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But this Norman Rockwell and Mayberry picture exists in stark contrast to the conversations I’ve been part of the past few weeks.  Conversations permeated by the aroma of despair and disappointment, a thirst for redemption and healing in hard situations where spouses aren’t showing up, and parents grieve over the choices their kids are making and people can be just plain mean.  And we want to fix it all, using our plans, our timeline with a little bit of God sprinkled on top.

Isn’t that THE story of all of us, starting way back with Adam and Eve?  We want to be God.  Period.  We want control, but we’re not capable. And so God brings us to the end of ourselves time after time  And we once again bow down, draw close, seek Him…and submit to a plan better than ours – a plan that we may not see clearly this side of heaven.

In all of these conversations, hearing so much heaviness, I’ve been asking myself, if not to fix, what IS our role in community?

One small inkling from the Holy spirit came from an unlikely place.  We decided to host a backyard bbq for our neighborhood.  DSC00423Now, as someone who hosts a lot of gatherings in her home, let me tell you, these things are always messy and never turn out the way you plan (much like life).

It rains, or people don’t rsvp and then show up, or come at the wrong time, or you remember about their peanut-gluten-dairy-banana allergy as they walk in the door.  You can’t “fix” it, you just have to show up and welcome whatever comes. Continue reading

5 Questions About…

Do you have a nickname?  It’s not a nickname exactly, but in our family, and with my close friends, I’m known as “Idea Woman”.

I’ve shared before that husband John says the first line of the 4 Spiritual Laws should really read: God loves you and LAURA has a wonderful plan for your life!

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So, I’ll admit that there are people who see me coming with that “IDEA gleam” in my eye and are tempted to run away.

The other thing I’m accused of is grilling asking a lot of questions of people I meet.  Frankly, besides wanting to be a spy, I also want to be Katie Couric (and yes, look like her too).

All that to say, I’m really excited about an idea I had for a new blog series called “5 Questions About….”  I have so many incredibly talented friends that I thought, what if I send some of them 5 questions about different topics that they have great insights on?

So, one day weekly til l run out of friends or topics, we’ll be doing 5 Questions About… Leadership, Hospitality, Singleness, God’s plans, Mentoring, Risk, etc.  (I’ll alternate these with One Word posts.)

“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.” Werner Heisenberg

Everyone is an expert at something.  Who is someone with a gift or a skill you’d like to learn from?  Give them a call today and set up a time for coffee.  You might say, “I really admire your understanding of ________ and I’d love to learn from you.  Could we spend an hour together?”  Everyone likes to share their knowledge and experience!

There’s so much we can learn from each other!

Proverbs 23:12 says, Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge.

What’s a topic you’d like to ask 5 questions about?  

 

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading

The Fool’s Bench at Easter

It’s early Easter morning as I write this at Starbucks.  Husband John has already come and gone to church to proclaim, “He is risen!” at the second of six services (The first was last night.  Weird, but I guess it was already Easter somewhere in the world)

 

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As I sit here, some come in dressed in their Easter best – pastel and fancy.  All patent leathery.  Others wander in their scruffy Sunday morning grunge – either clueless or apathetic or defiant.  I wonder which as I watch them.

Last night John got an email from some friends who have had no use for church.  It started, “You probably hate those ‘dicks’ who just show up at Christmas and Easter, but ___________(his wife) has had a rough month.  Her dad died and she may show up at your church tomorrow.” Continue reading

What I’m Not Reading

I’m home.  Home to my little house in my “Mayberry” neighborhood and my community filled with people who cheer and frustrate, and are broken and in the process of being put back together just like me.

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The past two months have been rich and stimulating and very, very full.  Full of new relationships and places and ideas, and stories and prayers and intense conversations.  It’s been wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  And not the norm.

I love variety and travel and learning new things.  It’s a blessing.  But I need to get back to living my real life.

So…this is the pile of books I’m not reading.

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Don’t get me wrong.  They look really good and I’m excited about digging into them, but here’s where I’ve felt a pinch in the butt by the Holy Spirit.

I’m getting fat.

It’s crazy wonderful to be exposed to stimulating relationships and new information and great books, but the danger is we become obese – filled up with all of the deliciousness and getting no exercise.  Processing and applying nothing.  A holy hoarder if you will.

I think…”Oh that’s such a great IDEA!!  I should tell someone and they should DO it!”

“I will think more about _______________(insert anything I hear that I’m convicted or excited about) and how real that can be real in my life…someday.”

“I’m gonna Tweet that quote!”

We consume more, tweet more, Instagram more than we live into.

These days I need to do more living into.

I have a friend who used to say, “Start reading Jesus’ words in the New Testament and when you get to a command, stop, and don’t read further until you do it.”

And then there’s Jen Hatmaker who writes, “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.”

I’ll get around to reading these books and be glad I did, but not today.

Today I need to write a note of encouragement, take a walk and pray present, do laundry, and forgive that person who dinged me.  I need to create stuff and breathe deep and serve others in my real-life community.

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For you the challenge may be the opposite.  Maybe you need to stop doing and be still.  Or maybe you’re starving for more sustenance and need to fill up with inspiration from God’s Word and information about the needs in His world.

What are you living into today?

6 Sentences Jesus Followers Need to Learn to Say in the Midst of Controversy

It’s an unusually cool morning in Florida and the wind is blowing.  As I rode my bike to Starbucks I thought of one day when Katy was little and came in from outside.  She said, “Mommy, the wind struggles me!”

Yep, Katester, the wind has been struggling us this week.  Winds of uncertainty and criticism and emotion and drama all stirred up out of a desire to serve God well and make wise choices that honor Him in a complex world.

Wind-struggling weeks (that we all have) are made more difficult when the decisions we’re making are public and impact thousands of people, like the one the World Vision Board announced this week. The stakes go up and it seems that no one wants to let any critical thought go un-tweeted or un-commented or un-updated.  Even the headline of a balanced article is mis-leading and inflammatory.

We, as Jesus followers, love (I love!) black and white.  We love clear-cut, “thus sayeth the Lord”, and “Bam! Take that you spawn of Satan!”  Ok, maybe not the last, but some responses feel that way – gleeful in their self-righteous put-downs.  And is this what Jesus desires of someone following Him?

This morning Michael Hyatt had an excellent post on 5 difficult sentences leaders need to learn to say.  It made me think that there are several sentences we Jesus-followers need to learn to say in the midst of controversial conversations (what the Bible calls “disputable matters”). Continue reading

Putting us Back Together

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend who is fighting a hard battle.  She looks fragile, but she is scrappy.

Prayerful.

And resolved.

She is grieving loss and pain and trauma, but also celebrating the simple fact that she is alive.  And alive is good.

Alive is something. Continue reading