Hospitality, No Room for Excuses

Whether serving few or many, love is the most important ingredient.

A Helping of Hospitality

I haven’t been blogging very much lately.  One thing I have been doing is having people over to our home.  Practicing hospitality.  That got me to thinking…

A lot of women think they can’t have people over because they don’t have a nice enough house, or table, or space.

In a recent conversation with a younger mom I realized that the Lord has allowed me to come a long ways in hospitality (not that I’ve arrived, by any means).  But I had to laugh as I recalled how for years we used a piece of scaffolding, which my husband had built when painting our house, for our kitchen table!  He cut it apart somehow to make it work.  It was a very sturdy and large table!  I covered it with a piece of cloth, and it worked great. After regaling her with several stories of our early days and how we showed hospitality anyway, she said, “So, I have no excuses, then.”  I think the Lord would have us show His love to others, and that’s the point of hospitality. So, here are some practical tips from my experience.

Some Ways We Made Do and Still Practiced Hospitality:

To cover wooden tables which were in bad shape, but large (we had bought them cheap at the thrift store or maybe someone was giving them away) I used tablecloths, again picked up at thrift stores, or given to me as Christmas gifts (I still ask for serving dishes and tablecloths for Christmas and birthday gifts). Be creative when coming up with tablecloths, too.  A quilt can make a unique and pretty tablecloth.  Flat sheets also work very well. Years ago I had a beloved plaid country blue “throw” which would lay flat enough to use as a tablecloth.  I loved it!!  I love the way texture in fabric warms up and gives visual excitement to a table.

When a table and sufficient seating aren’t available, I have been known to put a sheet on the floor and let the children feel like they are having an indoor picnic! And for seating for adults, we still use folding chairs.  Don’t wait to have “house beautiful” (it will never happen).

A Very Happy Hospitality Memory

One of my most beloved memories is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 50 people (our Homeschooling group) in our unfinished basement!  We set up tables with tablecloths and did a little decorating, but there were open rafters, cold cement floors, and it was pretty dark!  The fellowship, though, was so warm and sweet, and everyone helped by bringing delicious food, and we didn’t have to worry about spilling on the floor, :) because it was cement.  The warmth of the friendship and the overflowing of thankful hearts overcame our cold environment!

We sang hymns of thanks, gave testimonies, and stood and prayed together holding hands in a big circle after dinner.  What a wonderful memory!

Practicing Hospitality with Small Children

I feel that if the Lord has allowed me to have a beautiful dish, I should bless others by using it.  I don’t save the “good stuff” only for company, either, and I have always tried to set a pretty table for our family, as well, even if I am only using the everyday dishes.  When the nicer dishes are used, the smallest children are given what I call “training dishes,” such as pretty glass plates and glasses that I bought for 50 cents at the thrift store, and don’t care if they get broken, or pretty plastic dishes that won’t break.  But, my mother taught me that people are more important than things, and if a dish gets broken, it’s not the end of the world.

Even when our children were very small, when we had company we used the good china, so that our children would gain experience in how to behave at a nice dinner.  As soon as they were able, we gave them the real dishes.

I wanted my children to learn appropriate behavior at the table, and how to be well-mannered.  We couldn’t afford to buy fine china after we were married and I hadn’t been given it as a wedding gift, so how did I have china?!

My wonderful husband was able to purchase china in Asia, while in the Army and over in Vietnam, for “dirt-cheap” prices.  So, he bought a set for his mom, one for each of his sisters, and a set for me, though he didn’t even know who his wife would be at the time.  At the age of 21, with no specific girl in mind, he looked forward one day to marriage, and bought a service for 12 of fine china–beautiful dishes–with all the serving pieces, plus a full 72-piece set of stainless silverware and a case, AND a matching tea service with luncheon plates, china teapot (and silver teaspoons).

Yes, I feel very blessed.  I used my china very often in our early years of marriage, because it was all I had for “company,” until I had money to buy a set of more “ordinary” nice dishes.   When I did have the money, I found dishes at the thrift store (thrift stores are a wonderful source if you’re looking for dishes).

Your table set with your everyday dishes can be made to look more special by using cloth napkins, which you can make yourself, or which you can find sometimes inexpensively at the thrift store. I enjoy having a color scheme.  I think color makes a table look more beautiful even when the dishes are plain.  Candles are also a nice touch, and candle holders are something else you can find at thrift stores.

Only we in the USA, though, think everything has to match.  It doesn’t.  If I don’t have enough matching glasses or dishes, I sometimes set out four of this and three of that and so on.  Be creative!

We try to have everyone be able to see each other.

I try to tie things together with themed accessories, or group things by color.  I might have a table in the living room with one set of dishes, and another in the family room with another completely different kind of dishes.  Paper plates are fine, too!

Canning jars can be used for drinking glasses, and one can also be used for holding a flower arrangement to act as a centerpiece.  A ribbon or piece of raffia tied in a bow at the top adds a splash of color and interest.  Be relaxed and have fun, and your guests will, too.

The idea behind hospitality is showing love to others.  Be interested in your guests.  Don’t be worried about yourself or whether you have nice-enough “things.”  Just use what you have and reach out in love to someone else–and practice hospitality–your guests will be blessed.

I’m tentatively planning Part 2 to appear next Wednesday.

(I’d love to hear your ways of setting a nice table, or showing hospitality, on a shoestring!)

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8 Replies to “Hospitality, No Room for Excuses”

  1. Hospitality is a big part of our lives. We are in a church in a college town, so we regularly have college age students into our home for Sunday lunch. In fact last month we had over 30. So last week we did the meal at church, we expect 50, but only 30 showed. It is a fun outlet for me to be creative.
    The college is very secular, so any real christian fellowship we can show them is appreciated. It is a great way to make sure these young christians are not getting lost or losing faith on the campus.
    I encourage others in the church to help. Sometimes the singles or elderly would love to do something, but live in such cramped or not appropriate areas for the students to come over. I ask these people to assist and come to my home and help serve or help me make the food. This way I get a little help and they get to serve as well.
    It is such a great thing to see 30 college students wanting to learn about God every Sunday. And my children are learning what hospitality is really all about. Finding new things to serve such a crowd is a problem. Any suggestions. We have done soap, spag, tacos. But any creative idea that I can have mostly made ahead of time would be great.

    1. Teresa,
      What a great idea and blessing to these college students! My husband enjoyed this kind of warm hospitality when he was in college out of state, and it meant so much to him! I applaud you for giving others an opportunity to serve, and especially noticing that the older and the younger might find this a great spot to step into. The college students, I know, will appreciate the older faces and relationships with them, missing that from home. And…you can’t do it alone! So true.

      As to ideas for meals that you can have made ahead…hmmm…here are some off of the top of my head, but I will also give it some thought, and add ideas later, ok?
      Besides soup, you can serve chili, with or without toppings, along with bread. Lasagna, with raw veggies, and bread.
      I have a Turkey casserole recipe that serves a crowd (I’d be happy to share that recipe if you’d like.)
      (Do you pay for everything, or does your church help with that, because that makes a huge difference in what you can afford to serve!)
      Brunch ideas (which might be cheaper): Ham and cheese stromboli, or an eggbake, or pancakes (but this wouldn’t be made ahead).
      If you have the money for “extras”:
      Dessert ideas: brownies or cookies (I have a few recipes that are really good that make 6 dozen cookies), and I think college students always like homemade cookies (I think it reminds them of Mom:). Sheet cakes make about 35 servings (I have a few recipes on my blog if you click on Recipes and search for Lemon Sheet Cake, etc.).
      You might get local businesses to donate food items (like ice cream cups, milk, pop, bread, etc.) if you are willing to give them a plug by putting up a little sign saying their name and that they donated.
      My brain starts to dream up all kinds of ideas as I get into this, but I’ll stop here. Maybe I’ll do a post on this! May I mention your comment? It might inspire others to do what you’re doing! Maybe for a Seniors Group, if they don’t live in a college town. I would love to hear more about your ministry, Teresa. It sounds wonderful.
      Thanks so much for sharing!!

  2. Lisa,
    Having the same meal is a wonderful idea for encouraging yourself to practice hospitality! We’ve enjoyed your pasta and sauce, which was delicious, but what I remember is the warmth of the conversation and caring in your home. I think that’s the most important part to people.

  3. Hi Wendy!
    Maybe you have mentioned something like this before….we usually have the same meal when people come over (often it’s large families — we make a big pot of pasta and a crock pot of sauce). Just not having to stew over “what to serve” seems to help me just be a little more joyfully willing to practice hospitality 🙂

  4. Its good to hear from you, Wendy!
    Growing up as a pastors daughter, I experienced a lot of hospitality. We were always having dinner at someones house and meeting new people. I remember the fun and the fellowship, but not who had the nicest table or the best dishes. Its the people that are memorable, and that’s what is important.

    1. “It’s the people that are memorable, and that’s what is important.” Jessica, you are so right! It’s the people who share what the Lord is doing in their lives, the people who demonstrate the love of Christ, (perhaps soothing your hurting heart without even knowing it!), the people who show you by their service and love for one another how to live out the Christian life–you see Christianity and the Word of God fleshed out–and you are encouraged! You were blessed to grow up with that legacy, Jessica. What a blessing it is to show and receive hospitality!

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