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.
One of my first creative endeavors was building forts. My sister and I would gather kitchen bar stools, couch cushions, our favorite striped blue blanket, Nana’s rainbow knit one too, and pretty soon, poof! …a fort of amazingness. I didn’t realize at the time there was an art to fort building. I was not interested in building the perfect fort, just putting pieces together to get the job done. Kitchen chairs were our staples – sometimes we added different blankets, pillows, or couch cushions. These were precious times long before the inner critic inside of me would determine how “good” something I created turned out. So what does a fort have to do with visual note taking? The same concepts that apply to fort building apply to note “building.” When taking visual notes you can ask yourself, what are my staples? Just like my kitchen chairs were often the starting place for my forts, I have staples – things I tend to lean into – when taking visual notes. Here are three tips to help you find your note taking staples and develop new ones along the way:
If you, like me, are a woman on the go, you try to fit multiple activities in your morning, and often have to do a quick Clark Kent transformation in the Starbucks bathroom, or even the back seat of your minivan. With my crazy schedule and varying activities, I have had to get creative in coming up with “transitional outfits”. Here are a few tips to help you always feel that you are dressed appropriately.
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!
Things at home have gotten a little hairy lately as I’ve taken blogging more seriously. Some of you know that in January I launched our sister site, Gamine & Stripes, a fashion blog about style, trends, capsule wardrobes, and inspiration for the everyday mom. As a result, these last weeks I’ve lived by a pretty strict schedule in order to accommodate more time for writing in addition to my daily responsibilities as a wife and mom. Wow, has it been eye-opening.
I’ve made some minor changes in my life, but have learned some great lessons I wanted to share with you.
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.
I wanted to wrap up the Book Club we began months ago on “Shopping for Time” by Carolyn Mahaney. I hope you enjoyed following along with me. The three greatest lessons I learned from these ladies were:
#3. Live intentionally in each season of life by knowing each season.
First, I need to be aware of what is going on in life instead of just letting life happen to me. I should be alert to the seasons of each family remember under my care-their joys and needs. Sometimes I feel as if I’m just trying to get through the day, or just trying to get to naptime or bedtime.
A few months back I started on a quest to discover what a princess could teach me about growing stronger in my walk with God. March brings me to Belle. Ahh, Belle! An old soul with graceful beauty. Independent. Smart. This girl is no pushover, a modern girl’s princess. She is a historical figure (most likely 18th century France) which provides her an air of sophistication, and to top it off Disney gave this Beauty an attractive feminist twist. The juxtaposition between classic and contemporary got me curious. Belle, what faults if any do you even have?
Even if she’s not your favorite princess, you might identify with some or a lot of what makes her tick. Let’s consider a few more of her traits – educated, avid reader, doesn’t flaunt her beauty, sacrificial love and respect for her father. And though she does have a slight tendency to view the people around her as ‘small town’, is it really a fault to want a little adventure with interesting and inspiring people? Other than Belle’s wistful longing to shake the dust off her feet and blow the pop stand of provincial living, she really is quite a lovely leading lady.
In our last princess post, The Ariel Effect, pitfalls were closer to the surface and easier to find. Today we have to dig a bit deeper. Belle’s lessons lie beneath a layer of respectable desires.
Longing for adventure.
Sometimes the journey God takes us is on is not the ‘adventure’ we longed for. There is a literal and figurative way to look at this. God can literally place us in a geographical location that appears to limit us. Whether it is isolating, away from friends and family, boring, or culturally shocking, life can look bleak from our perspective and we can get a good dose of “stuck” real fast. Another scenario is that feeling we get when we just don’t gel with people in our sphere. There are just not enough interesting opportunities at the time, and just not enough to look forward to. You start to feel trapped in your own skin. Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in the small town, with small town people, or how about a small town season?
Sometimes God literally locks us up in a trial to teach us something.
Remember when our heroine Belle sacrificed her freedom in exchange for her father’s and ended up imprisoned with only the Beast and some friendly house ware to keep her company? Are there people in your life that are beastly? …The boss at work, or the mean girls, or the friends that don’t need you as much as you need them on a Saturday night. God often takes His time to teach us, and His timing is perfect. God is gracious in times when I have no one else to turn to, and He alone comforts better than anyone. In these times His Spirit speaks softly of sufficiency I can learn to rely on.
Whenever we learn something from God, we can view it as a gift, even if in that time it feels a bit like prison. Or exactly like prison. Remember Joseph in Egypt? The apostle Paul? Jonah in the whale? I don’t anticipate you will ever experience being swallowed by a great fish, or perhaps even encounter a false accusation that lands you behind bars, but figuratively, a trial can feel imprisoning. At a recent retreat with our college group we learned that longing for escape, or for a trial to end can become an idol. Our sanctification is in fact a gift, it is the process that makes us more like Christ, and often God does this work through suffering and trials. Do you see your trials as gifts?
Seeing double and triple. “There’s something there.” This is a line from one of the songs Belle sings. She still needed to learn to see beyond the surface with people. That can take time. At first glance many of the people in her life seemed simpleminded, arrogant, and beastly, not nearly as exciting as the characters in her books. She was right. Real life proved irritating and lacking.
Can I be honest and say this is where the story line gets awfully familiar? Because here is where I am Belle. God has been teaching me sometimes in very humbling ways to see the people in my life with fresh eyes. Some are beastly. But I am beastly. And sometimes I see them as beastly not because of their beastliness, but because of mine.
When God reveals a selfish or impatient heart, I see the beast in the the mirror, and my knee jerk reaction is to rage against what I see, which is usually followed by despair. I can picture Beast in the movie cringing and lowering his beastly head. This is me – sometimes at work, with friends, or at home. Then I remember the Lord disciplines those He loves. Those He loves. It is the job of His Spirit to hold that mirror up to our lives and root out the ugly so we can slowly transform to reflect more of the Prince. (For more about our Prince, refer back the first post in this series.)
I have to see twofold to love – first to really look and see people, and second to see what role God has for me in their life. This requires a threefold intentionality:
1. Prayer for the heart desire to want to God to bring whoever He wants into my life.
2. Prayer to see the people God puts before me.
3. Ongoing commitment to prayer to see the everyday opportunities that push me out of myself and into service for them, not with ‘feel good’ motives, but in sacrifice to God, for His glory.
See the pattern? Prayer helps me recover when I’ve been battling my beast for awhile. Prayer is powerful. A friend recently sent me this quote from Max Lucado. I hope you find it a welcome refreshment like I did. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”
Please Share: What locations does God have you safely locked up in right now? What might He want to teach you there?
Renee is a single Christian woman who serves as mentor staff in the college ministry at her local church. She works as a literacy coach for a school district in San Ramon, California. Her hobbies include: boating, wake boarding, Zumba, riding roller coasters, and watching classic movies.