We Wash Feet

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Archive for the category “hospitality”

Serving Others at Breakfast

For weeks the women’s ministry team has been meeting and preparing to host our annual local church ladies for a special Christmas breakfast.  This year we decided to cater it instead of meeting together in a nearby restaurant.   Our women’s ministry director chose the theme, The Best Gift, and then began to work on our program.  I began to recruit the twenty ladies necessary to hostess the tables.

As ladies agreed to hostess a table, they received a complimentary ticket and a letter explaining the details.  This kept everyone on the same page. The letter simply said thank you and listed what their responsibilities and my responsibilities would be.

Round tables with traditional white tablecloths were placed around the room.  Each table hostess brought her dishes, glass and flatware, a centerpiece, and most often a small gift for ladies who sit around her table. Lots of details went into making this morning a successful respite from the busyness of the holidays.

Didn’t the hard work of our hostesses pay off?

DSC_0188For this centerpiece, beautiful prancing reindeer danced around a silver cylinder candle holder and red tulle netting gave it an extra punch of color. These lovely sisters used dishes passed down from their mother with red chargers under each plate to accent the centerpiece.  A Christmas bookmark and chocolates awaited each of their table guests.

DSC_0218This beautiful table decorated by my friend and beautician showed creativity worth noticing – scattered snowflakes, embellished blue ornaments surrounding a cobalt blue pitcher for the centerpiece, blue bandannas for napkins,  and silver makeup bags with beauty samples placed on each plate.

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This table’s snowman stood beside Christmas cones of bright red, green and candy stripes. The beautiful Christmas China was accented by chargers in red, green and gold. This hostess placed a candy filled plush snowman on each chair.

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This experienced hostess must throw amazing dinner parties as her table setting was elegant and sophisticated.  Beautiful fine china circled around a Santa tea pot and a Christmas home with a tiny train of sleighs that moved around the scene.  Napkin rings held paper napkins, a small notebook propped against the stemware and Andes mints sat in the saucer.  Elegance was an understatement.

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 

This Hostess and her daughter (kindergarten age) set this table together.  I stood back  watching mother instruct daughter on how and where to place each piece.  It was quite moving for this mother of all boys.  The centerpiece was unique and so very creative.  The antlers were adorned with battery operated Christmas lights.  I wish I had gotten a picture of it lit up but you will have to imagine that.

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One of Our Mother Daughter Duos

This table can only be described as cozy and warm.  I wanted to just pull up to it and start chatting.  Our hostess used two table runners and criss-crossed them. I will definitely use this idea in the future.  This centerpiece stayed tall and thin as to not block conversation between guests.  The top hat flanked one side of the tall vase and a snowman on the other.  The vase, topped with a huge white snowflake and red Christmas balls was wrapped in silver fabric making this tablescape spectacular.  Each guest felt welcomed as she sat before her plate and cup.  Did you notice the packaged cocoa stick snowman peeking over the rim? So adorable.  Every plate held red tipped flatware wrapped in a white napkin and tied with a pretty red and white checkered bow!

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Another one of our Mother Daughter Duos – We are blessed! 

This table used a green runner underneath red taper candles, a small decorated Christmas tree and an adorable snowman.  The snowman dishes held a Christmas jingle bell necklace for each guest.  We have some very creative ladies at our church!

This was just a sampling of the beautifully decorated tables from this morning. Every table was just as unique and special as the ladies who decorated them.  Some of these tables told stories of rich heritage, others were whimsical and festive but all were gifts of time and love for the ladies they would host.  This added such a personal touch to our morning and I am beyond grateful for their assistance.

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The buffet tables were clad with red cloth runners across the middle and laden with individual sized quiches, sausage cream cheese stuffed croissants, yogurt and fruit parfaits, and miniature pancakes with butter and syrup.  Talk about delicious.  I want the recipes!

Throughout the morning, everyone sang Christmas carols, ate their fill, listened to the guest speakers, and gave generously to the missionary family we chose to bless.   We were blessed.  I felt accomplished and ready to put my feet up and relax after a long morning of work.  My heart is full.  I love my sisters.  I love our church.

 

This Is Called Community 

IMG_0137We love Friday nights!  We anticipate Friday nights!  We often plan events as to not conflict with our Friday Night Meatballs! We are going on our fifth month announcing weekly open invitations to come have a meal around our table.  I cook up the sauce and noodles, and everyone else contributes sides, desserts, and beverages!

I promised pictures not necessarily my endless ramblings. Ummm  I still haven’t taken any past the simmering pot of meatballs bobbing in a pool of spaghetti sauce. In my defense, I’m not thinking about my camera, I’m sitting around a table with friends and family, laughing, connecting, building community.

Here’s a few thoughts intermingled with more of my random musings on our nights of open door hospitality.

Teenagers, kids, singles, marrieds, parents, grandparents, seniors ALL mesh beautifully. It can get loud! It can get chaotic! Be prepared!

This is called community. 

Everyone likes to eat.  Everyone likes to laugh. All carry burdens. All need each other. Be ready to listen.

This is called community. 

People are busy but even the busiest need down time and nourishment. Everyone needs friendship. Friendship deepens around the table.  It can only happen when you move to be intentional. Be intentional.

This is called community.

A majority of our guests are our church family, people we worship beside Sunday after Sunday and I’m ashamed to admit, most I didn’t really know. At least not in the way that the word family insinuates.

Meatballs is changing that.

Since we began opening our home, I’ve listened to vulnerable, transparent hearts speak of loneliness, grief, restoration, joy and so much more. I’ve got to love on children who have been rescued and adopted, children who pray alongside their mom and grandparents for their father’s safe return, and children and youth bearing unbelievably heavy burdens. I’ve hugged teenagers and spoke life over them, I’ve listened as a weary sister in a new town relaxed, enjoying a small respite from providing care for her Alzheimers stricken Husband. I’ve shared of homeschooling, raising boys, and God’s grace. I’ve invited friends  to join us for church and ensured them of their welcome there.  And when I’ve grown tired, I’ve been blessed and encouraged, listened to and hugged.

This is called community. 

Keep a guest book. On my entryway table, friends new and old sign its pages. It’s fun to record who was here which night. Some nights it’s in the twenties, other nights it’s my family plus one more. There is beauty in both.

I’m thinking of adding a prayer box of some sort on my entryway table. Bearing one another’s burdens is essential to life and well prayer, everybody can use more of that.

This is called community.

We serve buffet style at 6:30. Plates on the counter,  Noodles in pots warming on the stove, sauce and meatballs simmering in the crockpot beside the stove, often times followed by baskets of bread. Salads and bowls rest on the small kitchen table with toppings, dressings and croutons! Desserts on the buffet cart, drinks on the counter with the cabinet doors above swung open to reach our glasses. Simple is best, even if I must fight my inner event planning, tablescaping tendencies.

Oh and If you can’t come at 6:30, come late. Spaghetti warms up nicely in the microwave! We would love to see you there.

 This IS our community. 

A simple Meal with friends 

 We did it. We offered a meal of spaghetti and meatballs. My parents, niece and nephew, my son’s girlfriend, and a friend and her daughter joined our family of five.  My parents brought brownies, my friend brought salad and soda. We had a nice dinner with good conversation followed by a lively round of Apples to Apples. It was a great night.

It just wasn’t what I had anticipated. I expected to have a house full.  I expected the entire community to line up to get a seat around my dining room table, to fight over my company. How conceited is that? I felt disappointed. Emotions can be so weird, after all, there were 12 people present, all of which I adore and love to spend time with and yet I just confessed to feeling disappointed.  

Did I mention, I want to be real? I have to be real. I am real, not a picture perfect Christian with ‘Jesus, others, you’ priorities in a neat little row. You would see right through that anyways. 

I did the only thing I really knew to do. I prayed about Friday Night Meatballs.  Yes that may seem silly to some but I truly believe in a relationship with my savior, Jesus Christ. He cares about me and wants to hear about every area of my life. I take my questions, concerns, successes, and failures to Him. It’s part of who I am and who I want to be. 

So I prayed for contentment with whomever God sends, if anyone.  I questioned my motives. Did I seek Him first? Was this plan from him or was this my doing? Would my time be better spent elsewhere? What is my intention? What made me disappointed? 

What I discovered: My motives were much more selfish than my invitation had suggested. Friday Night Meatballs is more for me than you. I want to connect with other Christians in a deeper way, to fellowship, to build closer friendships.   I’ve ask him to bless this and make it what he wants it to be. 

And just like with God’s grace I get to try again.  Not to host a larger crowd but to participate. To enjoy a simple meal with a guest list of 2 or 22. To laugh, to share, to relish your company. Yes it is still an open invitation and I do hope you join us but if you never do…. I will not be disappointed. 

 

 

 A New Tradition – Friday Night Meatballs

During recent conversations, Mike and I have been talking about God’s desire for our lives, our ministry, and our home. We shared our desire to build deeper relationships with other Christians and to reach others with the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We talked about linking arms with like minded people to bring change as we serve our community. We talked about how busy our lives and the lives of everyone we know have become. We talked about slowing down and connecting our hearts to others.

These conversations really pulled on my heart strings. It threw me into a planning mode. Now, if you know me at all, you know what that means. I’m a list maker, a planner and easily get carried away. I love planning parties, events, and activities. I have storage shelves stacked with table decorations and serving dishes, not to mention boxes chocked full of reusable, leftover supplies from hosting various events. Give me a theme and I’ll make you a Pinterest worthy plan and throw you a one of a kind get-together. Of course, get-togethers, events and activities take time. I’ve planned my fair share of dinner parties, family cookouts, and small group luncheons. The amount of work they entail makes it impossible to host with any consistent frequency. Obviously, this was not the answer.  

Mike and I both remember our mothers frequently hosting Sunday night meals. I can tell so many stories, of after church sandwich smorgasbords, pizza or chili for whoever showed up. How did our mothers do it? First of all, our parents didn’t make a big deal about hosting family and friends for dinner, in fact, leftovers were often served along with whatever their guests contributed to the meal. This wasn’t the time for fancy centerpieces and cloth napkins. This was breaking bread together.   

Although this isn’t an original concept, it is definitely one neglected in today’s day and age. My family is too busy. Your family is too busy. We rush from activity to activity, shuttling our kids from place to place. We answer yes when we should shout NO! We never consider opening our homes, as we would actually have to BE home. Yet, I hunger for fellowship, friendships that are deeper than Facebook and the novelty of having guests over without a huge fuss. We must open our heart and home.

That’s when I stumbled across Friday Night Meatballs. Over in Philadelphia there is a freelance writer whose article on seriouseats.com went viral.  She started Friday Night Meatballs the movement!  
In another post on the blog, Intentional Grace, Leigh Ann Dutton states: 

 Sharing a meal with friends is an intimate and profound way of living out the Gospel in our homes. Sharing a meal is simple. There is a richness to breaking bread and sharing communion. Of remembering. Of confessing. Of sharing. Conversations are rich when faces are familiar. People are hungry. I want to offer them the Bread of Life. I want my home to be a place that makes it impossible to not think about God. I want my home to be a place of refreshment and community. A place where you can be you, the you God created you to be. 

I share her sentiments and plan to follow not only her more recent example but the example of countless other hostesses.  We are determined to slow down and enjoy communion and time with our friends and family. We are joining the dinner table movement, committing to once a week, regular fellowship with whomever the Lord brings our way.  We are instituting the Friday Night Meatballs tradition in our home!

This tradition isn’t about the food served or the night chosen. Friday night meatballs can be any night of the week and doesn’t have to be meatballs. Some families do Tuesday Night Tacos or a Sunday Dinner worthy of honored guests.  This is about breaking bread together, the being together, the sharing. Mike and I are sticking to the spaghetti and meatballs menu – keeping it simple is important. After a quick review of our calendar, Friday nights will be our night as well.  Of course, do be prepared for hopefully rare exceptions to this every Friday night rule.  Just keeping real people!

 Here’s my version of our invitation:

Starting this Friday, we’re cooking up a pot of spaghetti and meatballs every Friday night and sitting down at the dining room table as a family—along with anyone else who’d like to join us. Friends, neighbors, relatives, clients, Facebook friends who’d like to hang out in real life, travelers passing through: You are welcome at our table. We’ll just ask that you let us know by Thursday night so we know how many meatballs to make.
You can bring something, but you don’t have to. The house will be messy. There might be card and/or board games. You might be asked to read picture books or play a video game. We will attempt to spend time together, old and new friends, our community. We are looking forward to time to break bread, share communion, and just breathe together.
You’re invited!
(Our pertinent When and Where information)
Kids are welcome and encouraged. This is meant to be a family affair. If you would, please add your name to the Google spreadsheet and let us know if you want to bring something, it will help us plan ahead (meatballs, chairs, etc.). We look forward to hanging out with you, and we pray you have a blessed week!
Mike and Monica 

Now that the invites are out I’m so excited. I’m hopeful this simple act of hospitality is well received, but whether we have our five or we have twenty-five we are moving forward.  I will be adding our house on the meatball map at http://www.fridaynightmeatballs.com and promise to update you on our fun with future pictures as well!

Kid Size Guests

As I tuck the covers up around my seven year old son, hugging him good night, I pray for the children that do not have a mother to tuck them in at night. There are too many, in fact according to World Hope Organization 1 in 13 kids in developing countries are orphans.

Last night the World Hope International Children’s Choir performed at church. It was energetic and such a blessing to hear and see these kids sing and dance as part of the Rescue Tour. They talked of the babies they were rescuing on the brink of death from starvation and contaminated water. Heart wrenching stories, but hope shown bright in the eyes of everyone of those energetic worshipers on stage.

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Bikash and Ramzel from Nepal and Philippines came home with us. They fit right in and made themselves at home. Although I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures, Tim had a blast playing with his new friends. We all ate pizza, played with toys, got ready for bed and said our prayers. Silently I prayed over each of my visitors and for their families back home.

So since last night our names have fondly been “Auntie and Uncle.” We have made the favorite American foods of these 8 and 9 year old boys: Chicken Fingers, french fries, bacon, boiled eggs, cinnamon rolls, and spaghetti. Not necessarily in that order but an interesting combination none the less.

There were some rules we had to follow. Rules that did our family good. The children were not allowed candy or gum. had strict bedtimes (9pm), were not suppose to play with any type of weapon and no electronics. A G-rated Movie was acceptable though. So on this Monday, we stayed home from school, we played outside and inside. We took breaks to eat. We played ball and rode bikes with helmets. We laughed and giggled. This mom learned that boys from America and boys from Nepal and boys from the Philippines are basically all the same. They play hard, act rough and tough, and still need to hugged.

This opportunity was rich in learning and was well worth missing a day of school. We will miss our new friends.

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A Family Thought 

Family is important.

Spending time with family is even more so.

So why do we mostly get together only on holidays?   I use to understand that miles held us apart, but now miles no longer separate the majority of us.  We live in the same valley, travel the same highways.

Busy days.

Separate lives.

I do not know my cousins or their kids.

I Facebook. That helps.  I try my best to be at their showers, celebrations, parties and events— when invited.

I Facebook. That hurts.  I wince at out of state wedding pictures and Local birthday parties for littles. I would have sent a gift. Possibly even delivered it.  I want to be included.

Our paths occasionally cross at restaurants ….. community events …….. and funerals. I want to get to know them.   Do they long to know me better, to reminisce of camps and sleepovers and to fashion new memories?

Soon a new year will begin, with new goals and resolutions. I want one of mine to be to get to know more of my family. After all we’ve lived in the same town for most of my married life.  My mother’s family and my father’s are mostly within an hours radius.  Some are further but most are close.

So how do I begin? How can I make this be more than just a wishful, fleeting thought while I’m reflecting on 2014?

Take that first step.  Invite a couple of them to lunch? Include them in my own activities? Ask them how they are doing? Care beyond Facebook or through Facebook.   Be intentional. Schedule appointments.   I think that’s a start, at least I’ve recognized that need, right?  Now let’s do something about it!

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