Hospitality Excuses

     A lot of women think they can’t have people over because they don’t have a nice enough house, or table, or space.  Here are some things we have done:
     To cover a wooden table which was in bad shape, but large (we had bought them cheap at thriftstores or received them as giveaways) I used tablecloths which I picked up at thrift stores, or I would put them on my Christmas and Birthday “wishlist”. But flat sheets also work very well. I have also used “afghans/blankets.”  I love the way texture in fabric warms up and gives visual excitement to a table.  When tables weren’t available, I have put a sheet on the floor and let the children feel like they were having an indoor picnic! And the adults sat on folding chairs.  I never waited to have “house beautiful” (it will never happen) and once hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 50 in our empty unfinished basement! Open rafters, cold cement floors, and pretty dark!  But the fellowship was so sweet, and everyone helped by bringing food, and we didn’t have to worry about spilling on the floor 🙂 because it was cement, and the warmth of the friendship and overflowing thankful hearts overcame our cold environment! We sang hymns of thanks, gave testimonies, and prayed together holding hands.  A wonderful memory!
     We, as well as a couple of other families we know, have over the years accumulated items helpful in serving very large groups, such as long plastic and wooden tables, extra folding chairs, large 5-gallon drink containers, large coolers, etc., and we share with one another. As our children have gotten older, we have also started picking up items at garage sales very cheaply, that we have used to decorate when hosting wedding and baby showers, and wedding receptions!  It has saved a lot of money, and we know we’ll be using them time and again in the future, so it has been a good investment.
     You might ask, “Where do you keep it all?”
     As I have been picking up things at garage sales and thrift stores, such as serving dishes, etc. I’ve had to become creative in storage, too.  (Only a few months ago did I get a china hutch, which I still don’t have any dishes in.)  I am constantly getting rid of things to make room for other things and reorganizing what I have to make storing and using my dishes easier.  If you are going to keep one thing, another has to go.  If you’re going to practice hospitality, it’s a choice.  With that choice, space has to be dedicated to the storage of “the tools” necessary in order to “practice” this art.
     Some ideas that have worked well for me are:  storing table linens in an old antique dresser (it sits nearby in the family room at present); a deep hall cupboard has all my extra dishes.  One of my cupboards goes way up into the ceiling, and I use that space for less frequently used dishes.  I use old boxes to house like items, and protect glasses, and cut cardboard to make dividers, so I can stack without breaking anything.  I now have more seasonal items, and I have a box with fall decorations and dishes stored away where I have the Christmas boxes, but in the front, and keep the hall cupboard for things I am using “right now.”  I do not believe in storing things that I don’t use.  I feel that if the Lord has allowed me to have a beautiful dish, I can bless others with it.  I don’t save all the beautiful things for “others” either, but try to make a pretty table for our family, as well.  Of course, small children are given “training dishes,” pretty glass things that I got for 50 cents at the thrift store, or “pretty,” but plastic, dishes.  I like to follow a color scheme.  Color makes things look more beautiful even when they are plain.
     But even when our children were small, we used the good dishes so our children would get experience once in awhile.  We used the china for company, and they used it, too, as soon as they were able, because I wanted them to learn how to have good manners and be able to know how to act at a nice dinner!  (We couldn’t afford nice dishes and I didn’t get them for wedding presents, but I had a set of china.  All that I did have was my china in the early days of our marriage! My husband had been in Vietnam, and was able to purchase whole sets of china in Asia for “dirt-cheap” prices, so he bought sets for his mom, sisters, and me, though he didn’t know me at the time.  At the age of 21, with no bride in mind, he looked forward one day to marriage, and bought a service for 12 of fine china–beautiful–all the serving pieces, a full service of stainless silverware in a case, and a matching tea service with luncheon plates.  Yes, I feel very blessed.  I used it very often in our early years of marriage, because it was all I had for “company,” until I had the money to buy enough more “ordinary” dishes to serve more than just us.  I found sets at thrift stores–they are wonderful sources for dishes.)
     Ordinary dishes can be made more special by using cloth napkins, which you can make yourself, or buy inexpensively at the thrift store.  Only in the U.S. do we think everything has to match.  I don’t have everything match everytime.  If I don’t have enough glasses or dishes, I will have four of this and three of that.  Be creative!  You can use canning jars for glasses, and also for holding flowers as a centerpiece.  A ribbon or piece of raffia adds a splash of color and interest.  A quilt makes a unique and pretty tablecloth.  I try to tie things together with accessories, or group things by color.  I might have a table in the living room with one kind of dishes, and another in the family room with another kind.  Paper plates are fine, too!  Be relaxed, have fun, and your guests will, too.
     The idea of hospitality is to show love to others.  Be interested in them.  Think of questions to ask.  Don’t be worried about yourself.  They will be blessed.