Category: Hospitality WIN

Being “Company Ready”

I have really been struggling with my home not being “company ready” lately. I’ve realized it’s a function of my personality (INFJ) to compartmentalize, so when I get busy with work or a project, I can only focus on that, and I tend to tune out other things like housework. (And vice versa – when I get focused on cleaning, I can organize and clean all day to the exclusion of other things). I really want to learn how to balance all this better – keep up with work, volunteering, projects, enjoying motherhood (although that’s the easiest…it doesn’t take much for me to set aside everything else to play with the cutest child in the world), AND have a generally company-ready house.

With the Red Sox heading toward the World Series and now being in the World Series, and the fact that we have a projector-theater-room now set up, our home has been the hub of much baseball watching. Tired of being embarrassed by dirty dishes and baby toys everywhere when hordes of guys suddenly “drop by” to catch the game, I’ve been working on keeping things more straightened up. Matthew and I have been busy running here and there in the evenings, so it’s been a long time since we actually sat down together for dinner, and that was another thing I wanted to change.

Yesterday I texted him and cordially invited him to a sit-down dinner at home. I’m so glad I was getting prepared for a nice dinner when he called from his racquetball league and said, “A friend is in Rhode Island tonight…can I bring him to dinner?” While the bedroom is the messiest it’s probably been since college, the kitchen, living room, and dining room looked pretty good, and I was already cooking stroganoff.

“Sure, that would be great!” I said. I finished clearing off the table, set plates, and lit a candle. Our upstairs neighbor was able to join us as well, and later, two other guys came by to watch the game.

I feel like I’ve had a lot of hospitality failures lately, so it was wonderful to feel like a success last night. Matthew even made sure to tell me several times that I had been a great hostess. Last night reinforced my desire to keep our home company-ready…not to mention that those of us who live here deserve a peaceful, clean environment as well.

Now I have to run, because another long-distance friend is flying in this afternoon to spend the weekend with us, and I need to tackle our bedroom…

Feeding People

I was feeling a little stressed and overwhelmed yesterday, having taken on too much (as usual), and felt for a few minutes like I’m no good at anything I try to do. The house was a mess, K was fussy, it’s like slogging through mud to finish my work projects, I sent my birthday invites wicked late… Contrast that with this morning, when, as I loaded boxes of food into the car, I felt peaceful and calm and thought, “I am really good at feeding people!”

A couple years ago, Matthew and I led a Vision Seminar for the college and career group at our church, challenging them to find what it is God has planned for them to do with the gifts He’s given them and then do it. That process begins with considering your talents. We used the excellent series of questions in the book More Than You and Me by Kevin and Karen Miller (who might just happen to be related to us). The book is out of print, but you can get used copies on (It’s the best marriage book we’ve ever read, and I’m not just saying that because Matthew’s aunt and uncle wrote it. If you’re married or planning to be married, read it! It’ll change your marriage and your life.)The questions help you examine how God might have uniquely gifted you for serving other people. (Questions like: what can you do for long periods of time without getting tired? What can you fail at and then, instead of getting discouraged, try it again?)

I looked over my answers when I was done and realized that in some form or another, “cooking” was involved in every single one. I took the hint and joined the meal team at church.

I’ve also found other ways to serve people through food, starting with my own family. I love cooking for my husband and packing tasty lunches for him (and it works out really well – he enjoys EATING!), and I feel very blessed to be still almost-exclusively-breastfeeding my seven-month-old (which gives “feeding people” a whole new and much more personal meaning!).

Just this week, I’ve been able to contribute to our grocery bill by cooking for our upstairs neighbor, a young bachelor friend of Matthew. Boomer was spending exorbitant amounts of money eating out every day, so Matthew worked a deal where I pack a lunch and dinner for Boomer to take to work every day, and he pays … well, now that I think about it, pretty much half our weekly grocery bill. (He eats a LOT…he’s a big guy, and he does manual labor.) It saves him money and helps us out a ton.

This morning I was able to bring a meal to a couple in our Centering Group (couples in our midwifery practice who had babies in October – we get together once a month); the husband had a major accident at work and is recuperating. I also got to bring a meal to a couple in our newlyweds Sunday School class; the wife has mono. This weekend, we’re having a couple families over for pizza Friday night, our pastor is coming over on Saturday morning for brunch to talk about where we’re at in our preparation for joining Wycliffe and how our church can help, and on Saturday afternoon I’m hostessing a table at the annual Women’s Tea.

There are many things I struggle with doing, feel overwhelmed by, or fail at. Feeding people is not usually one of them. I like having something I can do that’s a tangible way to bless people, to connect with people, to facilitate relationships and communication.I don’t say all this to toot my own horn. I mention these anecdotes to spark your thinking…what are YOU really good at, and how could you use it to serve people in a way that comes naturally to you, rather than struggling to do things you’re not gifted to do?

Friday Night Chocolate

Friday night Matthew got together with some dudes to drink fine wines and play cribbage…so I had the dudes’ female halves over for a ladies night, and some other ladies as well. Most of the women I know are constantly busy with projects and such, so I made it a “movie and project night.” We watched A&E’s Pride and Prejudice and brought projects to work on. Most of us helped Karin with her wedding bouquets, as she is getting ready for her wedding in two weeks. She is making bouquets of crystal beads and wire – they look like ice bouquets. They’re breathtaking.

It was a hospitality coup for me…I was totally ready by the time people arrived, even the one who came early! I was dressed and ready, Katherine was happy, I had even lit the candles. The only thing not done was the cake, because I wanted to serve it hot. I attempted Chocolate Volcano Cake, which turned out pretty well. Here’s the recipe. I don’t have ramekins, so I found a recipe that uses a muffin pan.

We had a great mix of ladies…two engaged women, three new moms, and one married woman who doesn’t have children yet. Everyone seemed to have a great time together. (It was especially funny when the married women ganged up to offer the engaged ladies sex advice. : )

As they left, they all said we should do this more often.

Hospitality Successes

Because I’m such a perfectionist, I’ve never been comfortable with last-minute entertaining. If people stop by unexpectedly, I’m usually paranoid about stuff like, “Did I remember to clean the toilet?” or “Did I leave panties lying on the bedroom floor?” And since I’m used to cooking for two, and since I plan my menus ahead of time and shop accordingly, my husband’s look that asks, “Could we have them stay for dinner?” is usually met with a hissed, “No, there’s not enough food!”

In my quest to remember that hospitable means “given to generous and cordial reception of guests,” I am trying to get better at spur-of-the-moment events.

I feel pretty good about two recent experiences on this front.

We know a couple named Eric and Jennifer. They were friends of ours when we lived in Oklahoma a couple years ago, and I remember the first time we invited them over. It was a casual Sunday lunch – I should have made something like burgers and fries. But no, I spent HOURS making these elaborate chicken breasts stuffed with some sort of lemon-olive mixture and several obscure vegetable dishes on the side. When I served the plates, they weren’t so much impressed as…puzzled. At how to actually eat this stuff. Or maybe even what it WAS, exactly. When they said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble!” I knew not to take it as a compliment.

Anyway, jump forward to a few weeks ago. They recently moved to Rhode Island, so we’ve reconnected with them. Late one Sunday afternoon, they stopped by our apartment for a few minutes. Everything was a mess, and I didn’t have much food around, but when Matthew signaled, “Can I invite them for dinner?” I said, “Sure.” I made spaghetti, hoping it would stretch four ways, and Jennifer buttered and garlicked a loaf of bread while I made a salad with whatever was in the crisper drawer. We shoved all the junk off the table and sat down to a fun, relaxing meal.

Then there’s Bobby and Jacqui, a couple we recently met. I’d been wanting to invite them over for dinner, so I finally emailed Jacqui on a Friday. I asked if Monday would be good for them, knowing it was the only night we had open for a long time. I didn’t know that she only checks her email once a week, so when I didn’t hear from her over the weekend, I figured it wouldn’t work out, so I didn’t prepare anything. Then on Monday, I had an email reply from her saying, “Yeah, today would be great!” Surprise! Oh, and then there was the postscript: “Bobby is on a strict no-carb diet…I hate to inconvenience you, but would it be possible for you to make something with no carbs?”

Matthew and I have never met a carb we didn’t like…so I quickly emailed a friend who had just started South Beach and begged her for a recipe. I ran to the grocery store on the way home from work then straightened up the house and threw dinner together (thank GOODNESS they were late!). They loved the Southwest stir-fry and fresh salsa, and we really enjoyed getting to know each other. They didn’t leave until after midnight! I’d say that means they felt “generously and cordially welcomed.”

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