Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Creative hospitality.

 One of the passages I studied in February was Romans 12:12-13. I have a habit of reading Matthew Henry's commentary and comparing different translations of passages to get a fuller picture. I happened to look up the MSG version of verse 13 and it said "Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality." That last phrase "be inventive in hospitality" stuck out to me.

  It's been a crazy few weeks for our family and it all came on quickly. (another story for Caleb to tell one day, not me) one of the best things that we've seen through all of these hard situations- community & hospitality. It has BLOWN US AWAY at how loved we are and how many people we really have supporting us. So many people have been really creative in the way they've loved us- the very way Paul talks about it in Romans 12! We all probably have a picture that comes to mind when we say 'hospitality', but I've learned it doesn't have to be so expected or traditional. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I've learned about hospitality over these past few weeks!

  Don't ask, just do. That is the biggest thing I have learned about hospitality, over the past few years actually. How many times have people offered or ask if they can help you out and you've responded with 'You're so kind! Thank you for the offer, but we're ok"? I've learned that when I offer, people often don't take me up on it and vice versa. I've also learned that if I make my favorite soup and bring it to Chicago when I visit a close friend who has just had a baby- she'll be surprised but also still eat it and be blessed by it. 100% of the ways we've been loved and people have supported our little family over the last few weeks has been that way- no one asked permission. My moms' girlfriends just gathered together a trunk full of food and delivered it to my mom for us without asking- and it was the best. My mom just cleaned my house while she was watching Tyler- she never asked (I would have told her not to worry about it!), but its been great to have clean floors and folded laundry. And so on and so on. So however you want to show hospitality, don't overthink it or ask permission. Just do it! (And if you're on the receiving in, don't be so quick to say no. If someone is offering something you could really benefit from, say yes!)

  Here are few more, specific ways to be creative with hospitality:

Meals. This is so obvious and the typical go-to way people reach out when big life things happen. And there's a reason why! When you are in the thick of big life things (a new baby, new job, moving, death of a loved one, medical crisis), preparing/eating/cleaning up a real meal is hard and the last on the list of things to be done. A well-rounded meal is the best. And having leftovers is great too!

  And it doesn't have to be as straightforward as baking and dropping off a meal at supper time. Our in-laws who live across the country ordered food through Door Dash and had it delivered to our doorstep. My mom's lifelong girlfriends made us a TRUNK FULL of freezer meals, soups, drinks and dry snacks to have on hand for appointments, etc. My sisters have dropped off lunch for the boys and myself in the middle of the day, and my mom has flat out grocery shopped for us! All things that really truly have made our lives easier these past 6 weeks.

Gift cards. Why do gift cards receive SUCH a bad rap? We received a handful of Panera cards, Chick fil a, and even Kroger. Those helped tremendously with giving Justin and I breakfast when we changed shifts at the hospital, for lunches I could actually convince Caleb to eat and can grab quickly between appointments, and money to grocery shop when we have crazy big medical bills rolling in. Add to that list a super sweet Starbucks e-gift card a college friend emailed me this week right before Caleb's surgery and a generous gift card for a massage sent from one of my best friends- and it feels like every need or convenience desire we've had has been met through unexpected gift cards. I'm sure they seemed small or insignificant to the sender, but they have been a sweet spot in our days!

Mailbox gifts. Does anyone else do this? My closest girlfriends and I have a habit of leaving random cards/treats/gifts in each others' mailboxes. Not always for any certain occasion, but always as a way to say 'you're loved.' I can think of 4 or 5 friends who have left fun gifts for Caleb, chocolate and cookies and wine for me on THE hardest days, and even a sweet t-shirt reminding me that I am thankful despite the hard stuff going on. I will never, ever tire of giving and receiving thoughtful mailbox gifts!

Care packages. Everyone loves a good package in the mail! We received a few really generous packages with toys for Caleb and Tyler, gift cards, sweet notes, sheet masks for me, and more things I'm sure I'm forgetting. But it has all been so welcomed! One friend sent some cute Paw Patrol sunglasses for Caleb and she couldn't have known how handy they have been as we've dealt with some serious eye challenges as a result of the infection he was fighting. The sheet masks sent by a friend were probably just a cute thing she added, but they have been the sweetest little treat I've been able to use when I have a little down time lately. The packages themselves have been a blast for the boys- a fun distraction and thing to look forward to, as well a practical supply of things for us to tote to appointments, waiting rooms, etc.

Prayers. I can't leave this off the list. "I'm praying for you" can be thrown around so loosely, but when someone means it- they are powerful. Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers. You may not be a great cook or have the ability to send a gift or spend money or lend time- but literally everyone who loves Jesus can offer up big, sincere prayers!

Cards/reaching out. When you don't know what to say, saying nothing is the worst. I don't know where, but I've heard that before. If a big life thing is happening, it is easy to feel isolated without realizing it. Reaching out to a friend just to say "Hi! This stinks and I love" is a great place to start (or "Hi! So excited for your growing family/new job/house! I know life is crazy and I'm thinking of you!"). Reminding people they are connected and seen and loved has a long-lasting value.

Babysitting. Oh. Man. One of the biggest challenges for us the past few weeks has been juggling Tyler and Caleb. We obviously couldn't have Tyler at the hospital or any of the four surgeries after the hospital stay ended. And so many appointments are just not ideal to bring him along to. Having my sister, mom, friends help out has been INVALUABLE. Really, truly invaluable. They usually have little/no notice and we drop Tyler on their doorstep and they love him well. We haven't felt like an inconvenience or that we have a big debt to pay back and we've been able to not worry about Tyler because he's been loved well.

Visiting/inviting. Life may be hectic, but there are probably pockets of 10-20 minutes when you can be present and visit. Ask if you can stop by the hospital, visit for breakfast, go on an early morning walk, come over during nap time, etc. If you're planning something that you would normally invite that person to- invite them and don't assume they wouldn't be able or want to come. Ie book club, girls night out, Noonday trunk show, birthday party. If it fits in their crazy schedule, having a normal thing to go to might be just the break they need!

  I'm obviously focusing on how to show hospitality during big life events today, but after I wrote it all out I realized every single thing could be applied to everyday life. Something big doesn't have to happen to warrant reaching out and creatively loving someone! Drop a meal off when you know a friend is having a hectic week at work, send a card on a Tuesday just because a friend is on your mind, buy a cute shirt when you see it and know a certain friend would love it, offer babysitting for a family member for no reason other than to give them a night out, and offer to pop-in for no reason other to have coffee while kids play. I think we make life harder than it has to be when we stick to rules and expectations and worry too much what others will think if we love boldly.

I am positive I've missed great ways to be creative with hospitality during hard times. Tell me! How have you been loved well or creatively reached out to other during a hard time (or just a big life change like having a baby)?

  Even more, let's try this today! Think of (or search out!!!) someone who could use some hospitality and find a way to be creative and love them today. Don't ask permission or apologize or overthink it. See a person and a need you could meet and do it!

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