Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Cultivating Graciousness

Happy Easter Monday!  Did you have a good Easter?  We found out on Saturday night that our grandparent-aged neighbors had no plans, so we had them join us for our Easter meal.  My kids loved having the company, and just the two extra people made it seem such much more worth it to me to pull out the china and silver.  And speaking of china and silver, I’m going to spend a few weeks talking more about hospitality.  For my previous thoughts on creating a culture of hospitality, see here.  If you have questions you’d like me to address, please leave a comment or send me an email!

cultivating graciousness

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as I’m practiced and enjoyed hospitality over the years is learning graciousness. Hospitality is a gift, and sometimes we give gifts that are wasted or unappreciated, while sometimes we receive gifts that aren’t exactly what we wanted. I think we need to learn, both when we practice hospitality, and when we’re on the receiving end, to be gracious about the situation.

What might it look like to be a gracious host? I believe I need to do my best to bless my guests…and not take offense with their response. Over the years, I’ve prepared for parties which no one attended, planned dinners that the guests forgot, and fixed food that my company rudely refused to eat. Where I live now, the cultural norm is to bring one’s own food over to another person’s house, so I have a hard time getting people to eat my food—I even had a guest who brought her own plates! I’ll admit that my sinful response is usually immediate resentment and eye rolling about how weird people are out here. But that’s because I’ve made those incidents about ME. I can’t control how my guests treat my gift of home cooking, but I do believe that God has called me to continue to offer home cooked meals to people. I can’t force people to come over to my house, but I should keep asking, because one out of ten times, I’ll manage to ask someone who needs the blessing of a real friend who wants to share a meal together.

It’s good to keep some perspective when our feelings are hurt. Am I the only person who has ever felt rejected? No! How many times have we ignored or rejected the amazing gifts our Heavenly Father offers us? The right response when someone’s child tells you out loud that your food is gross is to smile, forgive, and forget. Perhaps you don’t need to keep preparing elaborate meals for a group that habitually flakes out on you, but that doesn’t mean you stop preparing elaborate meals altogether. Our first Christmas out here, we invited all my husband’s students over for coffee and cookies before finals week. After an hour, we realized no one was going to come. So we called another family last minute and asked if they wanted to come over to help us eat! We ended up having a delightful time with our company, even though they weren’t the guests we’d originally expected. We’ve turned cookie decorating with them into its own Christmas tradition.

While I’m all for pulling out the fine china for company who would appreciate it, and for generally trying to have a selfless attitude about hospitality, I do think we need to be wise in how we use our energy. I’ve learned that certain people just don’t mean it when they tell me they want to get our kids together, but instead of fruitlessly trying to plan play dates with them, I’m forcing myself to continue looking for friends—especially fellow outsiders—who have the time and inclination to come into my home. I’ll admit that the accountability of blogging about hospitality has kept me from throwing in the towel more than once this year!

So I’m preaching to myself as much as you, dear readers: a gracious hostess does not give up! If we are going to create a culture of hospitality in our little piece of the world, we need to choose to be gracious, no matter how countercultural that is.

Next week, I’ll talk about being a gracious guest…

Posted in Emily, Hospitality | 2 Comments

Hidden Art Friday

Happy Good Friday! Today my children are asking me the eternal question, “If Jesus died today, why is it good?” So we discuss how it’s good in a sad sort of way. Jesus paid the price for our sins today, but the cost was His life. We realize that it’s Good, but we celebrate with solemnity. The real rejoicing comes Sunday.

Happy Birthday!My little girl turned three this week. We spread her present opening all throughout the day, which made for a fun and exciting day. Instead of birthday cake, we had birthday beignets, which left us so much extra batter that we are finishing them off this morning.

 

This video on moms has been making the rounds in my facebook feed this week.

Best line? “Oh, no, no time to sleep.”

Happy Friday, everybody. May your Easter weekend be full of reflection and rejoicing.

Posted in Anna, Hidden Art Fridays | Leave a comment

Bored?

One of the arguments that you commonly hear against long-term stay-at-home-moms is that they will get bored. The argument goes something like this: “If I don’t have a career, what will I do when my children start school? What will I do when they leave home?” This idea goes hand in hand with the idea that stay-at-home moms aren’t doing anything, which Emily talked about on Monday.

I find this argument ironic when you combine it with the other notions our culture has about stay-at-home-momhood. Frequently, I hear that women cannot stay home because it is too hard. They would go crazy being around their children all day. Or that the drudgery of the housework that needs to be done would make them insane. On the one hand, we claim that there is nothing to do as a stay at home mom, on the other we loudly proclaim that we would go crazy doing it. Funny, right?

We have come a long way from the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where Ma Ingalls had chores for every day of the week that consumed the entire day. Ma would spend entire days doing things that we barely give a second thought to: butter making, washing, ironing, bread making. We now rely on machines for a lot of these tasks. When Ma Ingalls wanted to iron, she had to heat her iron in the fire, then iron one sleeve of the shirt she was working on before it got cool. Then she would repeat. We plug our irons in, put some water in, and then iron the shirt in about 2 minutes. Or better yet, we just buy no-iron in the first place. So the argument that moms today have more time than they used to makes a lot of sense to me. With the fewer number of children we’re having, once your children are in grade school, there are many hours of the day to fill. I agree–we have more time than women have ever had in history.

But I want to cast a vision for young women of a different way to fill those hours. Sure, we could pursue our dream career, have fixed hours at the office or at home, answer to a boss, and bring home a paycheck. Or we could follow the model of the Proverbs 31 and 1 Timothy 5 women: we could fill our days with works of charity.

There is so much work to be done. As a woman with hours to fill, imagine the ways you could help in your church: nursery for the weekly moms group, picking a young mom with small children and giving her a coffee break, doing secretarial work for free, vising the hospitalized of the church, taking food to shut-ins, visiting and comforting those who are suffering. What about work in the community? Making friends at the nursing home, volunteering for a library story hour, giving time to the crisis pregnancy center. What about the even more daunting task of fostering orphans who need parents? There is never a lack of broken children to care for; only a lack of those who will love them.

All these jobs are similar to stay-at-home-momhood in one important way: they are tasks that few people will ever see or appreciate. But just because something isn’t appreciated doesn’t make it worthless. We seem to think that the ‘mere’ task of caring for small children as a mom is below our skills and intelligence. But when we think that way, we fail to take into account that we are serving other people, which is the work that the Bible values most highly. The same goes for all these works of necessity and mercy. We are caring for the bodily needs of eternal souls, and we are told that when we do that, we serve Jesus Himself. To those whom much has been given, much will be expected. We do not toil over washing the laundry in a river anymore. Instead, we can give generously from our excess of time.

Will you join me in rejecting the idea of fulfilled womanhood as our culture (and many in the church) see it? Give of your precious time to care for those in need, starting with our children and ending with our community. You will reap rewards far greater than a paycheck, and you will never regret it for a single minute.

Posted in Anna, Biblical Defense, Importance of Mothers | Leave a comment

Is Being a Mom Enough?

Seems like every time I talk to a new mom, she tells me that she’s wondering if she’s “doing enough” with herself by staying home.  And if she’s not wondering, her working friends/old colleagues/family members are asking her why she doesn’t want to challenge herself more or use her education or reach her full potential.  I find it hard to stomach the notion that it’s not challenging or important to spend ones days caring for little people, shaping their souls, training them, watching over their health and development.

Is Being a Mom EnoughI think that we moms sometimes struggle to justify our vocation because there is so little to show for it right now, today.  My kids don’t give out glowing performance reviews, thanking me for disciplining them and teaching them to clean up after themselves.  My days are spent largely on intangible things like building relationships and addressing character issues.  There isn’t a hidden camera measuring how much I smile.  When my husband comes home to a messy house and a dirty kitchen, he doesn’t see physical evidence of the two hours I spent reading to our children, the 45 minutes it took me to calm down a screaming toddler in the midst of a horrible temper tantrum, the hour or two combined that I was nursing the baby, the half hour we spent in the middle of the day cleaning up the duplos (only to pull them back out before dinner again), the time we spent homeschooling, or the three loads of laundry I washed, dried, folded, and put away.  My husband is great about identifying and praising me for those invisible tasks, by the way, so it’s more my own struggle with having something to show for my day’s work.  Four live children?  Check.  The house is still standing?  Check.

We’re in this thing for the long haul, girls.  Unlike a lot of our husbands’ and friends’ jobs, our vocation doesn’t always bear fruit right away.  Kids misbehave, houses get messy, and laundry is never done.  But the faithful repetition of caring for children–feeding, clothing, cleaning, rebuking, training, encouraging, exhorting–is an investment in the future.  We will not regret the kissing of boo-boos or answering the thousands of questions, the refrains of “Jesus Loves Me” while sitting by the potty chair or the cookie baking while surrounded by little helpers.  We are creating a treasury of memories, relationships, and love that our children will carry with them through the rest of their lives.  Being everything to four little someones is as challenging and rewarding a job as I could ever hope for–it’s more than enough for me.

Posted in Emily, For New Moms, Having It All, Philosophy of Motherhood | 1 Comment
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