Category Archives: Hospitality

Boldness and Food for Company

Boldly Offering Food | A Simple Haven

This is day 9 in a series on Living Boldly. To check out the other posts in the series, go here. Welcome!

Since we’re talking hospitality, we should probably address the single most important aspect of opening your home to others: the snacks.

I’m only slightly exaggerating my view on the importance of snacks. I love food.

My hope in feeding guests is that they feel taken care of. When possible, I like to serve good food that I’ve prepared with love.

I’m pretty sure my love language to others is food and hugs–or other less-invasive forms of physical touch. Like arm pats. But I digress.

My fears?

That people won’t like my food. That I won’t have time/money/energy to make the kind of food I’d like. That people will stop over and my four year old will invite them to lunch when all I have in the fridge is leftovers.

Ok, that last one really happened. But it all turned out just fine.

So the way I see it, boldness in serving food can look one of two ways:

Option #1: Boldly Offering What You’ve Got

You can boldly offer people leftovers, crackers, a glass of water, whatever you have on hand. It’s what you’ve got and there’s no need to apologize for it.

Leftovers can feel like a feast to a college student missing the comforts of home. Sometimes a glass of water is just what a pregnant/nursing friend needs. A simple cup of tea can work wonders on a rough day.

Even though it’s simple fare, you are still considering the needs of others and serving them.

Option #2: Boldly Offering a Feast

On the other end of the spectrum, you can offer your best: that fun new recipe you’ve been wanting to try, a fondue dinner, a fancy dessert you only do on special occasions.

If you’ve got the time/energy/money, it can be so much fun to prepare a special meal to bless others with. And sometimes, you’ve got more of those three things than you think; it’s just a matter of prioritizing.

Obviously, fancy isn’t necessary. But done in love, it can be something really special.

Babette’s Feast

One of my favorite stories lately is Babette’s Feast (I’ve yet to read the book by Isak Dinesen, but you can watch the film here on Amazon Prime).

In summary, a poor refuge named Babette is taken in by two sisters. They live together very simply, but Babette gratefully accepts their hospitality.  Eventually, she comes into a large sum of money and spends the entire amount on an amazing meal (turns out she was formerly a famous chef in France) for the sisters and their friends.

There’s more to the story–there are powerful themes of grace, hospitality, and enjoying and sharing the gifts we’ve been given. But I love both pictures of hospitality: the sisters giving simple fare out of their poverty and Babette giving a feast out of her wealth.

Relatively speaking, we’ll all probably experience seasons of both poverty and wealth. Even if it’s just in terms of time and energy.

But I think we can boldly offer snacks in either.

Thoughts on cooking for company?

And if you’re in need of some good staples for company meals, check out my Cooking (Real Food on a Budget) for Company Series! 🙂

P.S., you might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).

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Boldly Saying Yes to Hospitality

Bold Hospitality | A Simple Haven

This is day 8 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. To check out the other posts, go here. Welcome!

It’s no secret that I love filling my house with guests. I’m never happier than when I have people to feed or someone in our guest room.

But even for me there are times when saying yes to hospitality feels extra bold:

Like when there’s a family of six who may need a place to stay for a few weeks.  Or when I’m in the middle of my first trimester of pregnancy.

Or when Hubs is in the middle of a crazy semester of school and our plate is extra full. When I just haven’t had the time or energy to tidy up the way I’d like.

Or when my cat is making poor choices (use your imagination…or don’t).

All of these have been the case at some point over the last year.

And while I’m a big fan of healthy boundaries, saying necessary no’s and purposeful yes’s (aside: it pains me to write those apostrophes but Lynne Truss assures me they are appropriate), I also want to make room on my calendar for genuine hospitality as much as I’m able.

This Year, I Said Yes

So I said bold yes’s to all of the above.

The results? Everything was just fine.

Better than fine, actually. Every time I say yes to bold hospitality, I gain courage and the blessing of a house full of friends–or friends-to-be.

Hospitality bonus: I find that nothing makes a house feel more like a home than company for dinner.  I’ve uprooted and replanted enough times to be sure of that.

Hope and Fear and Bold Hospitality

I’m hoping that my home is a cozy haven for friends and family, where they feel cared for.

I’ve feared cat messes, sharing space with long-term guests, and not having people’s approval or not meeting their expectations. I can still fear those things.

So for me, bold hospitality looks like saying yes to inviting people into imperfection–and making it about them, not me.

What does bold hospitality look like for you?

P.S., you might also want to check out my blogging-friend Emily’s series, 31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us. It compliments a series on boldness well :).

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Boldness at Home from Around the Web

This is Day 4 in a 31 day series on Living Boldly. Check out the other posts here. Welcome!

I’ve told you that for me, bold homemaking means taking steps to bring beauty, life, and grace into my home, despite the fear of failure or other people’s opinions.

For you, taking steps toward hopes for your home in spite of fears may look totally different.

That’s part of the fun of living boldly–seeing how boldness plays out in each of our lives and being encouraged by the results.

On that note, here are some examples of bold homemaking from around the web. Whether these ladies felt bold doing what they did, I don’t know. But it looked bold to me and that was inspiring.

Sometimes you just need to see someone else pull up their carpet and paint the sub-floors to feel ok about doing something bold in your own space. Right? 🙂

Boldness at Home from Around the Web

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That Time I Pulled Up the Carpet and Painted the Floors White :: Jones Design Company

Nester.Imperfections

What Progress Really Looks Like :: The Nesting Place

The Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat in the ‘Hood :: Lori Harris for A Simple Haven

(One of my favorite guest posts here at ASH!)

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10 Steps to Courageous Hospitality :: Sandy Coughlin for The Art of Simple

**Bonus link: Check out my blogger friend Em Miller’s 31 Days series on Gentleness for the Rest of Us (gentleness being her One Word for 2014). It compliments a series on boldness well :).

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Simple, Fun, (and a Bit Quirky) Hospitality Ideas

Simple, Fun Gatherings with Friends | A Simple Haven

It’s no secret that I love a house full of guests. There are few things that make me happier than having people in my home to cook for and hang out with.

But because I have small children and we’re in a pretty full season of life , in order to sustain my hospitality habit I have to keep it simple.

I remind myself that hospitality is about more than fancy dinners and themed parties: It can be inviting my neighbor over for coffee, a friend and her kids over to play, or feeding my husband’s friend who happens to be in town.

It can be my daughter asking our college-aged friend to stay for lunch. It can even happen outside my home.

So, simple. But I also like to make it fun.

Simple, Fun Hospitality Ideas

The Baby Sprinkle

What I'd like to receive at a baby sprinkle for #3. :)

What I’d like to receive at a baby sprinkle for #3. 🙂

Apparently, these are little-known north of the Mason-Dixon line. Or at least no one (except me) is calling them “sprinkles.”

Here’s the deal: it’s the mom’s second or third+ kid. And while she’s pretty set by way of baby paraphernalia, she’s still growing a little life worth celebrating.

So you keep gifts to a minimum (unless she’s not had a baby of this gender before) and decor low-key.

Brew some hot drinks or make lemonade, have a few guests bring a dish, and spend a couple hours making mom + new baby feel loved.

(P.S. In case it wasn’t clear: it’s called a “sprinkle” because it’s like a shower, but smaller. Cutsey, but apropos, right? 😉 )

Game Night

Balderdash

Playing board games with friends, particularly Balderdash, brings me loads of joy. Unfortunately, having babies and friends with babies limits my game nights.

But occasionally, when the stars align (read: everyone can get sitters or we can figure out how to make all the kids take naps in the same house), I’ll have a few friends over to play Settlers of Catan--or if it’s my birthday, Balderdash.  Because no one can say no on your birthday, right?

And I try to make it worth everyone’s while with good snacks :).

The Talent Show

My love affair with talent shows dates back to college when I convinced myself that meowing in a burlap sack constituted a talent and signed up to perform in a campus ministry’s annual talent show. Three years in a row. Ahem.

But seriously. Think Dan in Real Life, where the whole family participates in a talent show. How great is that?

So round up some peeps.  Include the kids or get a couple of sitters for the group of them.

Some people may have legit talents, others may just sing entire MacDonald’s commercials from circa 1990 (true story).  Either way, it’s gonna be a fun time.

The Gender Reveal Party

gender reveals

I’ll admit: back in ’10, when there was no Pinterest to inform me otherwise, I thought I invented these. I thought to my pregnant self, “how can I make finding out what kind of baby we’re having more fun and dramatic?”

Answer: Finding out with friends. And eating cake together.

Thus was born our tradition of taking a card with baby’s gender to a bakery and then celebrating the surprise with friends. Clearly, I’m not alone in this (see: Pinterest).

But what I love about it is that I’m celebrating a life event in my home with people I care about. And I’ll use any excuse to do that.

The Viewing Party

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Gathering a group around a shared love of a show is always fun. Make some easy snacks and hot drinks and pop in Anne of Green Gables, Downton Abbey, P & P, or whatever suits your fancy.

I hosted an Anne night last winter; we probably talked as much as we watched, a friend taught me to knit, and we all enjoyed the hilarity of Anne’s signature drama.

What is your favorite type of gathering to host? And how do you keep it simple? (Really, tell us. I want more ideas! :))

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Dear Friend Who’s Nervous About Hospitality

Dear Friend Who's Nervous About Hospitality | A Simple Haven

I get it. It’s a little scary.

Inviting people into your home is inviting them into your life. And maybe that’s the part that feels most awkward–because you’ve only just met and you’re neighbors and is it weird to just invite them over for dinner?

Or maybe not. Maybe inviting people over doesn’t feel weird, but you have all these Pinterest-y images floating in your head of perfect table settings, fancy food, and elaborate themed parties.

And you’ve got four little kids to keep up with or your work full time outside the home or you’re pregnant or you just had a baby. In any case, you’re maxed out. So making anything worthy of pinning feels laughable.

Maybe it’s your home. It’s a total work in progress. And you’re not sure you’re comfortable letting people in in the midst of the progress.

Or maybe there’s no progress going on or it’s too small or too old or too…whatever.

Can I just tell you something?

It’s not weird to invite people in. Ok, it might be a little awkward. You may not connect with your guests on every front. You may not end up best friends.

But that’s ok. If your interest in the other person is genuine and you offer food or drinks and a comfortable place to sit, your company will be blessed.

Speaking of the food? Those cheese and crackers you offered me the other day were perfect. Really. I’d forgotten how lovely buttery rounds of crispy goodness are with cheddar.

So when your guests come this weekend, just make something easy. Some old standby. Shoot, pick a favorite meal and designate it the “company meal.” Make it whenever you have guests.

And your home? It’s just fine. More than fine.

It’s not perfect, but no home is.  There are things you’d like to change–but that’s a subject for another day.

For now, just light some candles (they cover a multitude of sins), pour some tea, and put on some nice tunes. Offer a smile and ask good questions.

That laundry in the corner? I didn’t even notice. Or, if I did, it just made me smile and feel more at home.

You may still be nervous about hospitality. That’s ok. Do it anyway. It gets easier, I promise.

Does opening your home freak you out a little? Or does your house feel incomplete without guests? 🙂

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat in the ‘Hood {Loving and Sharing the Home You Have}

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

To wrap up the Loving and Sharing the Home You Have series, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Lori Harris.

Lori is wife to Thad, a church planting/warehouse managing/sometimes guitar playing/always Jesus loving man.  She’s also a mama to a small tribe of 6.  She and her family live smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt on a street called Avent, in Nowhere, North Carolina.  They spend their days in a hundred year old house with drafty windows and patchy landscaping and a yard full of other people’s kids.

They’re 2 years into planting a church while simultaneously navigating the muddy waters of poverty and racism by living in a less than desirable neighborhood some would call the ‘hood.

She calls it home. You can find her writing about how she’s learning to love her place at loriharris.me

Lori Harris

I live on a street called Avent in a small town called Rocky Mount.

My neighborhood runs right alongside the railroad tracks and right through downtown and ribbons right through all the things that make the dirty south the dirty south.  Poverty runs deep and wide and racism spews from both sides of the tracks and we love Jesus when He looks and talks and acts like us.

We are a people long on church and short on the Gospel.

And this is the place where I was reared and the very place I escaped right after college.

Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

And it’s the very place God’s seen fit to plant me now, 15 years later.

I live in a hundred year old home with drafty windows and door knobs that come off in your hand and a yard that boasts of patchy landscaping.  My warehouse managing man and I are in the thick of planting a Fellowship Bible church, while our small tribe of 6 makes a ruckus all over our house and up and down our street.

We live what we call the ghetto fabulous life on Avent street.

Our kids speak ebonics with a Southern drawl.  Our yard is consistently littered with trash and beer bottles.  Poverty knocks on our door and frequently sleeps on our front porch swing.  Mamas push their babies down the street with friends who are pregnant, both babies the offspring of the same man.

Drug deals go down four doors down and pit bulls are chained to porches and boys practice gang initiations on unsuspecting neighbors.  Cars rattle under the weight of suped up sound systems and men throw punches on the sidewalk for the affection of one woman.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Most days I look at our kids and wonder what we’re doing to them, living out here on Avent, in a place that feels like it has forgotten to move forward in time.

But then there are other days, when I see glimmers of wild hope through the stark white smiles on dark faces and I think this life is fabulous.

And I think it’s fabulous because I didn’t set out to make this life for myself.  God did.

I’d love to tell you that this ghetto fabulous life has come easy for me, but it hasn’t.  It’s come hard, bearing down on all the things I hold dear.  It’s jacked up all the things I thought I knew about hospitality and community and boundaries.

And it’s forced me to take a good long look at my nice little Jesus-loving heart and ask myself some hard questions, the chief one being:

Do I really love my neighbors?

In all honesty, I don’t think I do.

But I’m trying really hard to go through the motions of loving them in hopes that one day I actually will.

For by serving them, right where they are, I give God space to break my heart for them.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Here are some practical ways in which I move towards loving our people, right here in our community:

Instead of hosting sit down-get out the china- put on your best manners sort of meals, I host neighborhood movie nights on our lawn and pass out hundreds of cookies and gallons of hot chocolate.

Instead of hosting play dates for the moms across town, I provide a safe yard after school for kids to land while mamas are still at work.  I hand out Aldi popsicles and Little Debbies and serve Kool-Aid from the porch in a Come and Get It and Don’t Throw Your Trash In My Yard, Please fashion.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Instead of planning baby showers or decorating my house for new mamas in our neighborhood, I invite women to help me shower mamas in their own homes where they feel safe and secure and not on display.

Instead of hosting Bible studies solely for the women of my church, I open my home up to anyone who wants to come.  The invitation is simply being to meet Jesus because a relationship with Jesus is always the chief end, not membership at my church.

Instead of passing out a tract or laying out the Four Spiritual Laws on some poor man taking a nap, the Man does a lot of knocking on doors and he asks if there is a way he can ask God to bless that house.

He then takes a peek into the home and mentally files away needs that he may notice:  a hole in the ceiling, a naked baby crawling around in squalor, no furniture, no running electricity and then he does all that is humanly possible to see that those spoken needs get met, along with the unspoken needs.  Meeting these needs takes a small village and God is growing His village.

Instead of perfecting my homemaking abilities, I am choosing to simply let my house and my yard and my cooking be and perfect how I make Jesus known in my place.

The Welcome Mat | A Simple Haven

Today, right where you are, I want you to consider what hospitality looks like outside of your home

Who are your people?  What do they look like?  What do they do in their free time?  What are the cultural norms where you live?

And then I want you to consider how God may be moving you to serve your place by doing something you love to do.

What makes your heart race?  What brings you the greatest amount of joy?  What needs do you see when you meet your neighbors in the cul-de-sac?

How can YOU roll out the welcome mat by simply stepping outside on your front porch and being fully you?

Because hospitality is not about your pretty house or your matching dishes or how clean your floors appear to be…

It’s how you use what you’ve been given to show the love of Jesus with the people who cross your threshold and those who live across the street.

 

Embracing Your ‘Hood {Loving and Sharing the Home You Have}

Embracing Your 'Hood | A Simple Haven

To celebrate the release of my (free!) eBook, some pretty great people have shared about choosing to love your home, inviting people into the mess, and opening your home to long-term guests.

Now, I’m wrapping up the Loving and Sharing the Home You Have series with a look at one last aspect of loving your home: your neighborhood & community.

Later this week, we’ll hear from a dear friend of mine who feathers her nest in beautiful Nova Scotia and another who’s joyfully planting roots in this midst of poverty. For now, some thoughts on embracing your ‘hood from one who’s uprooted and replanted more than I ever would have chosen.

Unlike other aspects of your home, your surrounding ‘hood is on the “you can’t change it so you might as well embrace it” list.

Hopefully, you like where you live.

If not? Here are two simple steps toward getting there.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

Like your street and ‘hood, you are stuck with your neighbors—for better or worse.

So you might as well get to know them.

At the very least, you’ll want to know them well enough to be able to ask to borrow an egg/pinch of chili powder/diaper, right? (All real-life examples).

At the most, you could start a life-changing relationship just by saying hello. So, reach out to them! Stop by with a treat to share and a friendly smile.

Depending on how folks roll in your neck of the woods, you might be swimming upstream against culture.  But who cares?

You are where you are for a purpose–but only for a season. Your neighbors could very well be a large part of that purpose.

Explore Your Surrounding Community

Get to know your local assets: reminiscent of spy lingo, but useful in homemaking.

Your home extends beyond the walls of your house (apartment, duplex, etc). It also includes your surrounding community. And if you’re going to fully embrace life wherever you are, it’s helpful to discover all your town has to offer.

So, ask around. Go explore local parks, shops, zoos, restaurants, farmer’s markets, and festivals. What fun spots might be within a day’s drive?

Find new favorite places to take the kids, your husband, a friend, or to get away for some much-needed alone time.

And if you’re simply not a fan of your current city, I submit that there’s zero chance of you enjoying it more if you simply sit at home and wish for someplace better.

If you explore a bit, you may just find unexpected beauty.  It’s generally there.

How do you feel about your ‘hood?

This post was adapted from my (free) eBook, The Homemaker’s Manifesto: Loving the Home You Have.

Hospitality in the City {Loving and Sharing the Home You Have}

Hospitality in the City | A Simple Haven

To celebrate the release of my (free!) eBook, I’m so happy to continue the Loving and Sharing the Home You Have series with a post by Emily McFarlan Miller.

Emily is a fellow fan of the city of Chicago. She’s also an awards-winning education reporter and adventurer, a social media-er, and a Christian. You can find her writing for Relevant Magazine or at EmilyMillerWrites.

What else? She practices hospitality. In her tiny Chicago apartment.

emilymmiller

Not long after we were married, my husband Joel and I were part three of a past-present-future-themed progressive dinner in our Chicago neighborhood.

Part one was appetizers at one friend’s apartment where the food and decorations had a “past” theme, retro luau decorations on granite countertops. Part two was dinner at another’s, served against a backdrop of YouTube videos streaming from multiple devices to a big-screen TV.

We were the last stop, serving futuristic desserts at our first apartment, built in the 1880’s and furnished almost entirely with pieces we’ve found in thrift stores, on Craiglist and in our parents’ basements.

We dropped dry ice into drinks and covered the small, antenna TV my parents had gotten me in college with tin foil to make it look a little more Space Age.

But after the past and present parties, I was starting to feel a little insecure about the peeling linoleum in the bathroom, the creaks in the furniture and the thick, clumsy layers of paint over the century-old walls and woodwork.

Then our guests arrived. And when one of them settled into the rocking chair in our living room, a third-generation hand-me-down from a friend, he said, “It just feels really good in here.”

That’s the point of hospitality. And that’s where it differs from entertaining, as Karen Ehman explained in her book A Life That Says Welcome.

“Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others. Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home,” Ehman said.

Living in tiny city apartments in both Chicago and New York City over the past decade has challenged me to keep hospitality simple and realto keep it focused on refreshing, not impressing others.

And nowhere does this feel more needed than in the city; Mark Twain once described New York as “a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.”

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Make yourself at home.

After I graduated college, I relocated cross-country, moving apartment to apartment every six months or so like an urban nomad as I accepted different internships and, finally, a full-time job.

There were boxes that never were unpacked, pictures that never were hung. There were friends I never invited into my home, mostly because I never felt at home there.

A little decorating can go a long way toward making a space feel like your own.

It’s also a creative exercise. It’s sharing something about you with whomever you invite into that space, as much a part of hospitality as sharing your home.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money or stress over Pinterest fails:

“To have familiar things around us is to feel ‘at home,’” Edith Schaeffer said in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life.

Make others feel welcome.

Our apartment has become the de facto “crash pad” for friends who’ve moved away from the city. We don’t have much more to offer than a couch and a twin-size air mattress when they come to visit, but I try to think of ways to show we’re happy to host: A stack of clean towels on the edge of the sink, a bunch of $3 flowers from the grocery store in a vase on the coffee table, a pan of cinnamon rolls in the oven.

You also can fill your home with things that create a welcoming atmosphere long before guests arrive: light candles, play music that lifts your spirits, speak encouraging words, pray blessings over your home and those who enter it.

Make it easy on yourself.

What keeps you from offering hospitality? If you’re stressed about entertaining, invite people over to watch a TV show or movie, pop some bacon-sage popcorn and take the pressure off.

If you’re stressed about cooking, throw some toppings on ready-made pizza crusts together with your guests, host a potluck brunch or invite people simply for coffee. If you’re stressed about whom to invite, start by pulling out the stops for your roommates or family–they need an urban sanctuary, too.

If you really are stressed about opening your apartment, you can pick up some lemonade and a bucket of fried chicken to share during a summertime movie or concert in a park (you even can kick things up a notch with cloth napkins and real silverware).

Have you ever hosted in a tiny space? Besides space issues, what is your biggest hindrance to practicing hospitality?

Photo credit // Photo credit

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting ASH!