Recently, my friend Rachel and I got the chance to sit down and have tea with a wise woman named Renee. Renee has poured out so much over the years into our local church and college ministry group. Her writing has also been published on our blog, Simple Everyday Style, and she is full of seasoned wisdom and life experience. The conversation with Renee was so intriguing that Rachel and I lost track of time, and so we wanted to share with our readers some of the highlights of the conversation as recorded in our interview.
If you have ever felt like social media was actually pulling you down, instead of simply being a fun, cool, and practical tool (as it was meant to be), then read on, my fellow social media addict! And if social media has never made you feel discontent, then you can probably skip reading this article.
Relationship Status? It’s Complicated
The first time I got on Facebook years go, I was enthralled from the get-go. It was an easy way to stay in touch with long distance friends and overseas contacts. It also gave me a sense of connection to others during the long work week. Finally, I got to travel vicariously (and for free) to other countries through the videos and photos of people I followed. Bottom line? Facebook had its definite perks, baby. Like double espresso perky.
Then, as time passed, I noticed something funny. Every time I logged on, I would see that so-and-so was on an exotic trip living the high life, that Suzy got an amazing job and her own apartment, and Johnny Smith had met the love of his life. Soon I realized I was feeling incredibly discontent. Why? I was seeing only one dimension of the reality of other people’s lives. I was comparing my ho-hum, everyday life with other people’s “amazing” online lives!
Part I of this series explored the heart and purpose of hospitality. This month we will break down four practical things to consider if you desire to cultivate hospitality in your life, no matter where you live. Yes, you too can be the hostess who is able to sit back and enjoy her company, no matter what else is going wrong!
This past week, I asked a bunch of my girlfriends in my singles ministry if they had a bucket list. Most had a version of such an ambition, even if it wasn’t titled ‘bucket list’. I was incredibly inspired in hearing their responses, as it reminded me that living fully does not require a) a huge budget b) plane tickets or c) a personal calendar filled with events.
What if one of your neighbors randomly put a bright, lime green picnic table in their front yard that stuck out like a sore thumb? Would you notice? Of course!
Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, did just that on her family’s front yard in North Carolina. You see, the green table is known as the local meeting point for prayer. Once every week, anyone is welcome to meet at the famous “green table” for a neighborhood prayer walk. The group goes through the neighborhood and prays for local needs, as well as for any requests that strangers, or “non-praying” people will share with the group as they walk.
Afterwards, they gather for a meal and people from the entire neighborhood mingle further. Rosaria says the size of the core group has fluctuated, but the simple act of prayer walking and sharing meals has enabled her family to use their home as a means for reaching out to her neighbors.
I use her story as an example because hospitality is something I’ve desired to cultivate in my own life, even though I’ve never had a place of my own.We’ll do a two-part series here that talks about how anyone can practice hospitality – even if you don’t have your own place!
I don’t know about you, but I know I tend to get absorbed in always looking to the “next thing” in life. When this happens, it’s easy to lose sight of all that I have to be joyful about right now. To guard against this, one of the easiest things to do is to notice all of the simple, little joys that are a part of everyday life today. So for fun, I put together a list of ways we can see the daily pleasures amidst the mundane tasks we all have to do each day.
As a little girl, I loved February 14th. It has always been one of my favorite holidays, even when I had no concept of romance. Why? Because we would get to see Mr. Valentine! My grandparents thought Christmas could be excessively focused on consumerism, so they chose to have our family exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day instead. Every year, our extended family would gather to eagerly await the arrival of Mr. Valentine, whose identity was a timeless secret. To this day, I distinctly remember pressing my face to the living room window with my cousins, as we would strive to be the first to spot the sign of a man with a white mask, top hat, red cane, and covered in red and pink hearts. The first kid to spot him would yell and point to the odd looking figure tripping nonchalantly up the road, twirling his cane, and bowing to random strangers on the street.
Last week’s post centered on the appeal of femininity in a culture that is so wrongly influenced by feminism. This week, we will connect how part of a woman’s influence can also be felt in everyday interactions with others, particularly in being gracious. For example, have you ever found yourself in the following situation?
You walk into Starbucks and see a strangely familiar face. The person sees you, and their face lights up with a smile of recognition. They start moving toward you, and all of a sudden, you completely blank on their name. You may have a vague idea that you met them at your friend’s place last week, but you cannot remember whether it’s Kristin or Kary or Kharis. What do you do?
Here’s one that happened to me: I am on my way home from the gym. I moved it with cardio on the elliptical machine; I did group exercises in a class for an hour. I sweated, my hair looks wild, and I’m not so sure I’m smelling pretty. However, I have to stop by Target on the way home because I need ___. While I am in the store, one of my students happens to appear as I’m reaching for the embarrassing object of your choice on aisle 3C of our local Target. “Oh, hi, Miss K___. You look . . . uh . . . nice. And you’re buying underwear or ___ or ___? Wow, Miss K___. You will have to talk about this in class”. So what do you do when your work contacts see you in a very unprofessional moment?
This is where etiquette comes into play. No – it’s not something people just do on Downtown Abbey or when they are meeting their boss or potential in-laws for the first time. Etiquette is not a word reserved for Jane Austen novels; at its root, it is a deep-seated respect for others, no matter their background, income, education, position, connections, talents, weaknesses, or assets. It is the ability to know what to do in any situation with anyone, and not make it more awkward then it already is. Etiquette thinks of others first, by putting them at ease – no matter how you are feeling. At its worst, it may appear politely stiff or excessively formal, but at its best it will be gracious and warm.
So how would a girl start practicing this indispensable skill? I will offer some titles at the end of this post for further reading, but here are a few ideas from the books for some of the most common situations.
~A Lady and Her Friends~
A lady never assumes that people know each other. She always makes introductions and is ready to give her own name first.
A lady never says or does things that makes others feel small or disrespected.
A lady doesn’t bombard her friends with useless e-mails.
A lady does not assume her friends are interested in having a lengthy telephone or text conversation just because she wants to talk.
A lady does not assume that others are interested in hearing her talk and talk and talk and talk.
A lady allows others to finish their thoughts and sentences.
A lady knows how to ask open-ended questions of other people; likewise, she knows how to carry a decent conversation.
A lady does not enter a conversation and then constantly look around instead of maintaining eye contact with the person in front of her, as if she were not really paying attention to the person she is conversing with.
A lady does not give up her friends when she enters a dating relationship. Nor does she lose sight of who she is apart from the relationship.
A lady never asks anyone to divulge his or her age.
A lady mutes her cell phone while she is having coffee or a meal with a friend.
A lady never begins a statement with, “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but . . .”
When a lady encounters someone and cannot, for the life of her, remember that person’s name, she does not say:
“Tell me again how to pronounce your name.”
“I’m having a forgetful moment, so could you spell your name for me?”
But she does say:
“It’s great seeing you, but you have the advantage on me here. I’d appreciate it if you’d remind me of your name again”.
These are just a few starting points to practice. In reality, etiquette is really just loving others as brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 22:39). And enjoy it – not just when you are watching Pride and Prejudice!
For Further Reading
The Art of Civilized Conversation, by Margaret Shepherd
As a Lady Would Say: Responses to Life’s Important (And Sometimes Awkward) Situations, by Sheryl Shade
Sunshine is a teacher living in the East Bay of California. She has traveled to Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ireland, England, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Darien Jungle in Panama. Sunshine enjoys discipleship at her church and makes a mean tortilla soup.
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