Throughout our marriage, my husband and I have been pretty hospitable people. In our thirty-eight years, we have hosted three high school exchange students and two college students, each living with us for nine to ten months. These lovely individuals have been a rich addition to the color and depth of our lives and our awareness and appreciation of the bigger world has been expanded as a result. We care deeply for our past students (now adults) and continue to be in touch with them in a variety of ways.
I love to cook and bake. So having people over for a meal has been another part of our bent toward hospitality. We have often hosted our small group from church on Sunday afternoons. Every Christmas we have hosted a big meal that can stir up enough memories to fill the whole house. There have been showers and parties and meetings and end of the year school gatherings throughout the years and week-end guests for us to serve and enjoy.
The past several years, though, we feel like we have done less asking, less inviting. People are busy. With families growing and grandchildren coming along there just isn’t as much time or energy to put into having people over.
But I miss good conversation around the table. Not just any go-where-it-will chit chat. I mean rich connecting discussions that leave you with plenty to think about the next day. I absolutely love this kind of give and take. And yet, I find that not everyone wants to engage in this way. Or they don’t quite know how. Or perhaps it is becoming a lost art. There is definitely an intentional skill to being curious, asking good questions, listening and offering your own thoughts and ideas back.
Shauna Niequist writes it beautifully in Bread and Wine, “What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, takes place at the table.”
Shauna is more eloquent than I but I agree that time around the table is where God enables great relationships get their start and where they continue to grow, for those who are willing to give of themselves in such a way.
Shauna goes on to write, ”It’s not, actually, strictly, about food for me. It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories.”
I agree with her because as much as I love to cook food and feed it to people, the conversation is worth so much more. Food is just the way to get people to the table so this kind of exchange can take place.
This year my word is OPEN THE DOOR. I explained here in a past post what that means to me spiritually. Today I share what else it means to me. It means coming back to inviting and opening the door of our house to people we want to get to know better. To offer ways to deepen relationships through the telling of stories and laughing together. To not staying too busy to host a gathering in our living room just for fun. To taking some risks and seeing if there are others wanting such fellowship.
Last week we invited some folks over! It was a last minute invitation because I felt good after 2 weeks of not-so-good and I was eager to fill the house with people. I whipped up a couple of soups, baked fresh focaccia bread and some amazing brownies and we were good to go. A salad and fresh vegetables (added by our guests) brought everything to a beautiful completion.
After dinner we headed to the living room where we used a box of story starters to help us get to some of the stories of our lives that just might have never come up in “normal” conversation…like one guy’s stories of riding a bull in the rodeo, or of the first date of another who thought his date lived in a cemetery! (or at least that’s the address she gave him). Or the way one couple met when both were working at a Taco Bell. These were fun stories and their telling lead us all to know each other better. Isn’t that what we all want, really?
Do you invite people in? Do you wish for closer friendships? If so, I encourage you to go for it! Don't wait to be asked. Be the one to ask. Make something simple or order in a pizza. It's really about relationship and there's no need to get stressed. Let's not let the art of good conversation be lost in the crazy of busy lives.
And if you get a call from us, know that we're just opening our door to friendship with you and, if possible, we hope you will say yes!
Here's one of the delicious (and easy) recipes from our meal last week: Cream of Potato Soup
Melt 4 Tbsp butter in soup kettle; stir in 2 Tbsp flour and add 2 cups milk.
Add 4 cups potatoes peeled and diced, 1/2 cup minced scallions, 3 cups beef or chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, simmer 15-20 minutes.
Using a hand-held blender, puree the mixture in the pot. Stir in 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine; sprinkle with cheese; serve.