Tag Archives: friends

Hints of hospitality

Throughout the year we have houseguests and like to welcome them in small ways so that they feel special.

hydrangea blossoms– Cutting some flowers from the garden and plunking them into an empty garden pot on an outdoor table

– Jotting a welcome note onto the dry erase board propped on the kitchen counter.

– Stacking some magazines on the guest’s bed

-Setting out a try of cold drinks

– Baking some cookies..and perhaps adding some bonus chocolate chips 🙂bonus chocolate chips

– Leaving a stack of freshly laundered towels and new body wash in the guest bathroom

– Providing an empty basket for their family to use as a catch-all for their traveling items

– Writing out our network name and WiFi password so it’s easily accessible

welcome sign in garden


hospitality = the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers

hello door and rainbow wreath

Hospitality is easily nurtured by including everyone in your family. Encourage your children to greet guests at the door and invite kids into their activities.

Set out some fidget toys or old-fashioned games to help get them started.

A family pet can be a great distraction to push through any awkward getting-to-know-you jitters.doggy welcomeSometimes hospitality is welcoming your own people back home after summer camp…welcome home goodie bag

Or perhaps your spouse knows you’ve had a long day and provides you with a fruity drink in a fun souvenir glass…then joins you for a few quiet moments.

boat drink

All of these little touches communicate “you are known” and “you are welcome here.” We are ambassadors of our families and can minister Christ’s love to others through simple gestures. So, put out that welcome mat and open your hearts for whoever may cross your threshold today!

welcome mat



“…seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13


If you are new to our site, Welcome! If you’re a continuing reader, notice we’ve made some changes to freshen up virtually for you. We’re still tweaking some of the format, so it may be a little messy — just like our houses when we’re in the midst of a good visit.

Little hitchhikers

After a very fun-filled weekend road trip, I managed to get my weary self out the door for a walk. Within a few moments of dragging myself down the street, a little baby caterpillar landed on me. I considered taking him home to show my kiddos, but opted to set him free in the fresh spring grass so he could continue on his way. After all, didn’t our mothers tell us not to pick up hitchhikers?

I reflected on how this bright green caterpillar had clung so tightly to me until I released him. In much the same way, don’t we allow others’ words and comments stick to us? Maybe a taunt from an elementary school classmate still clings to us after all these years? (All of us “Four Eyes” unite!) Perhaps a harsh remark from a spouse or family member lingers even after apologies have been said? These verbal hitchhikers don’t have to come home with us. We can release them.

What if instead we carry compliments or words of encouragement as welcome travelers? Words have lasting power.
All you have to do is observe a woman be told she is strong, brave, kind, a warrior, a truth teller, capable, a shepherd, a gatherer, an encourager, poetic, worthy, loyal, precious, or genuine. Watch the emotion wash over her as her eyes sparkle or tear up. Let the moment sink in so she can absorb this new identity into her repertoire of names she’s collected during her lifetime. Transformation can occur in a few syllables spoken earnestly.

So, my friend, choose your traveling companion wisely. Be wary of little hitchhikers that may weigh you down or cause you harm. Release those names that you have been carrying for too long.

Share your words with othEncourageers with good intention and thoughtful purpose. We never know what word is going to cling to a neighbor, friend, or our own child. One remark can make a huge difference. It can tear down or build up. Choose to edify.

~~Speak with grace~~

Now I’ll be watching for beautiful butterflies that are flying freely because they weren’t hindered in their caterpillar youth.

 

Peace

 

Peace plateMy husband and I once scurried to an out-of-state hospital to be with friends in need. Their baby girl was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit due to some birth complications. Phone calls and fervent prayers just didn’t seem like enough in that particular situation. We felt like we needed to have boots-on-the-ground, to be physically present to give them support. Right before their infant daughter went into surgery, we gathered in a loose circle and offered up our prayers. We prayed  for the surgeons to be guided well, for the baby to be stable throughout the procedure, and for our dear friends to be surrounded in peace…that a wave of peace cover them during this tender time.

The surgery went exceedingly well. Their precious daughter was discharged shortly thereafter and our friends were able to return home with her snugly in their arms.

Several months later when our families got together, we rehashed those heart-wrenching moments and were able to laugh about our prayer being misheard as “swirled peas.” Our friend added that his wave of peace felt a lot like nausea.Swirled peas

Now, whenever we have a prayer request, we do take it seriously and commit it to the Lord. But we also can look at each other and pray for “swirled peas.” Sometimes a hint of humor can make the serious situations just a little more manageable. If it gives us a bit more strength to endure a difficult time, then that is healing, too.

“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

 

Beauty in Brokenness

fallen tree in woodsWe often shy away from others when we feel broken, less than our usual self. We hide away, tucking into those potent negative thoughts and allowing them to fester. What if this brokenness, though, is what allows us to draw closer to God? What if it’s part of God’s design to allow this reminder of our humanness and our lack of control over our earthly circumstances? That sounds deep, doesn’t it? Yet it has a genius simplicity to it — a simple message to return to God for His guidance in our daily walk…on our good days and our not-so-good days.

“Abide in Me, as I also will abide in you.” John 15:4

Throughout His Word, God sends us messages of assurance, encouraging us to turn to Him. He wants us to start fresh with Him each day, to give us “daily bread” — relying on Him for what the day holds for us, allowing Him to unfold His beauty and bounty in HIS way. To focus on today, not tomorrow — this surrender is so hard because we have to admit that we cannot do it alone.tree fallenSometimes we have to experience brokenness to become stronger. We have to acknowledge our weakness and examine our inner self to get through a rough patch. We have to hunker down and figure out how to cling to God’s mercy in difficult times. In the midst of burrowing into our brokenness, we can discover His truths for us and also the grace to accept help out of our mess.

There’s a poignant beauty in brokenness. A fallen tree provides a glimpse of what’s inside — the intricacy within, the striations in the bark, the growth patterns…just as a time of brokenness in our lives prompts us to slow down, to look at where we’ve been, and how we’ve grown or gone astray. Sometimes we have to pass through the grit of brokenness to find the hope of healing.fallen tree

A fallen tree provides us with a fresh perspective. It is no longer towering above where we can’t reach, but it’s now able to be climbed and investigated in minute detail. What was once unattainable is now conquerable…we are able to overcome it because of its brokenness. This hulking timber that was once so majestically tall is now accessible to all the critters on the ground below, providing shelter, refuge, and even entertainment. Squirrels scamper. Children delighfallen logt in walking down the strong trunk, balancing their little bodies and feeling empowered when they make it across. In its fallen state, the broken tree can provide a quiet interlude for families to stop and rest, for parents to lean in together while children explore.

We can sometimes overlook beauty in the Fallen because of our hurry to move on, to get ahead. A pile of fallen leaves is a collection of color and texture, a crunchy sound on a morning walk yet also softening of the ground after a harsh summer. In our own fallen state we come together as we hafallen leavesven’t ever before because we are all grounded. Like leaves that were so majestic and upright on branches waving in the breeze independently, we are now at rest together in a mixed jumble. Whatever heights had previously been achieved, now we are all on the same level. It’s in this groundedness that we can relate to one another, to see our similarities and admit our shared vulnerabilities.

As Fall surrounds us and scatters leaves all around, let’s consider how we can connect with one another in our brokenness. Let’s reach out to others who have fallen, offering a gracious hand because we know the depth of strength it takes to get up again. Let’s embrace the splendor of the foliage around us, resting in the assurance of God’s design for us in our highs and lows. Abide in Him. He never leaves us.

fall - golden tree

Stand In

Sometimes in friendship we are called to Stand In.

When we see a friend struggling, we pause what we’re doing and step into her situation with her. However messy it is, we Stand In beside her. We join her in her moment of distress, coming alongside and being present. Sometimes we Stand In quietly, providing gentle comfort in a time of loss. Other circumstances may call for us to step in with purpose, to take the reins for a while and let her get her bearings. She may need a hug; or she may need space. She may need alone time; or she may need a humorous distraction. When initially faced with a friend’s crisis, we may feel highly uncertain about how to help. This is when we dig deeply into our friendship history, courageously following our instincts and praying for Gprayod’s direction to offer what we can that can help her through this particular difficulty. We cannot take on her struggle or fix it for her, but we can Stand In to help hold her loose threads, supporting her as she gathers herself. Our mere presence states, “I am here with you. You are not alone.”

When we Stand In with a friend, this encourages her to slow down and process what challenge she is facing. She may be grieving a loss that’s expected after a loved one’s illness or she may be facing an unexpected loss that has shaken her foundation. She may be overwhelmed by her own health diagnosis she has just been given. She may be grieving the loss of frayed threads, such as the severing of a marital knot that she thought she would always have, but that came unraveled and can’t be tied back together. She may be grieving the connection that she had with a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; that bond now seems shaky and unpredictable. She may be struggling with a teenager’s rebellious and troublesome choices. Pain and grief have many faces and storylines. We can relate to some situations better than others because we have a common thread in our own personal stories. When friends are in distress, we don’t unload our stories onto them. We can empathize with the feelings they’ve shared. We Stand In; we do not take over.

flowers in the cracksA friend’s struggle is a reminder that we are all vulnerable to disappointment, grief, and despair. It can feel very close and intense, particularly if it mirrors some of our own struggles. Yet it is also an opportunity to love on that friend, to nurture her in ways that help her through her pain. God can use these tender moments to weave friendships even tighter and create beauty where so much anger and doubt has been. He can show us beauty in the cracks of life. It’s not easy to Stand In — to have a magnified view of someone else’s hurt. It’s uncomfortable and messy. It may feel like we “aren’t doing much to help,” but sometimes providing that steadfast presence of authentic support can make it possible for your friend to grasp those loose threads and regain her strength.


 “Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


double acorns on red leaf

How you Stand In will look different from how I do it or how someone else might. Be real. Be yourself. Being authentic will ring true to your friend when you make your gesture of support. Many of us have difficulty accepting help during stressful times, but the genuine specific gestures are somehow easier to accept.

How we Stand In may also look very different from friend to friend. You may be led to send a card or care package to one, but feel compelled to visit another one face to face. Some friends may benefit from long phone calls, thoughtful emails, or encouraging texts. Sometimes you show up and do laundry, bring a meal, or provide rides for her kids to their activities. Other times you lend support by providing a buffer, perhaps being the contact person for a meal train or coordinating outreach from different sources (church, neighbors, work) so that your friend doesn’t have to manage these. Sometimes you sit beside her as she cries and sobs, providing silent solace. You remind her that she is loved; that she is a child of God. You offer tissues…and chocolate (or whatever her go-to comfort is). Essentially, Stand In when she needs you the most — when she’s not even sure herself what she needs. Embrace the relationship. Relinquish your to-do list and act on those intentions of caring for your friend. Those “good intentions” may just be a whisper from the Holy Spirit sharing insight into what she needs.

 

The Second Mile

Reflections from a Reluctant Runner

What challenge are you facing today and who’s joining you?

I am not a runner out of strong desire or natural talent. It’s work. I like to eat, so it’s an effective calorie burner. I’ve succeeded with jogging fairly well in the past…mainly because I had a posse of friends also in the novice stages of running. We leaned on each other hard, taking turns whining and combatting each others’ excuses (“too hot,” “too cold,” “too windy,” “too early,” “too tired”…you get the gist).

running shoes-getting started

Let’s face it. Getting out of the door in the morning, preparing to go for a run, can be a monumental struggle. Drama before breakfast can undo even the most committed. Once the kiddos have left for school, the lure of a quiet house is strong. The distractions of the to-do lists are daunting, the need “to get started” pulls hard. Unexpected delays crash in…phone calls, sick kids, the beloved family dog takes off running after a squirrel…sometimes these are, ahem, welcome distractions because the gumption just doesn’t feel like it’s there.

running shoesThen, if you’ve conquered the getting-out-of-the-house juggernaut, you face the first mile. Sometimes the morning air is crisp and welcomes you, but often the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’re still functioning too much on autopilot to take notice. That first mile is tough. You’re working out the kinks, trying to manage some gulping breaths, feeling ALL the aches of the day before. Thoughts such as “WHY am I doing this to myself?” or “I am NOT a runner. I can’t do this” rage freely. Where’s the traffic cop for negative self-talk when you need her most?

Its the second mile, though, that I begin to settle in. My body is looser, my breathing is leveling out, and I exhale heavily, letting the stress out. The second mile is when I tune in to the nature around me, tapping into my surroundings and noticing the activity around me. This is when my thoughts begin to take shape, to follow a thread…often it’s replaying something from the day before; more frequently it’s focusing on what’s on the horizon, the perpetual “nexts” that are always hovering. Some days I’m more capable of directing my thoughts in a productive way, but generally I let them float. God surprises me in the simple solutions He provides when I allow my mind to wander, to connect with the still, small voice often muffled by the jumble of noise in my head. He answers unspoken prayers and reveals insights in these moments of the second mile. I wouldn’t have received them or responded to them if I hadn’t persevered through that first mile.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… ” Hebrews 12:1-2

red leaf and running shoeIronically, we always have to plod our way through that first mile to get to the second. We have to put in the effort to get the result. When we do, there awaits a stillness in our spirit, an attunement of mind and body working together. We are His workmanship. God knows we face this struggle and perhaps the Second Mile is His gift to us for striving and persevering. For hurdling through the first mile of homework with our children to reach that “ah-ha” moment in their second round. For calming the tantruming toddler to be able to enjoy the sweetness of an impromptu snuggle later. So let’s bask in the “glow” of the Second Mile for a bit…because I don’t really want to rush to Mile Three just yet.