The Heart of Hospitality

This post was originally written on my blog, The Artisan Home, on February 15, 2011. I have adapted and edited it for my new blog.

We started out our marriage by traveling Europe for 3 months. Not only did we travel to 6 different countries, we also got to experience living in community with complete strangers everywhere we went. We witnessed firsthand the hospitality of people from other languages & cultures, coming together around simple meals with hearts open to receive the stranger in our midst as they received us. Perhaps this is what true hospitality really is. At the heart of hospitality is a desire to know and be known.

(A friend’s house, Malaga, Spain, 2007)

While in Europe, we drank freshly made tangerine juice from a friend’s orchard in Spain, ate freshly made honey bread and homemade soups & stews in Switzerland, experienced the mild and unique flavor of roasted lamb at a table of strangers on the island of Iona in Scotland and drank tea everywhere! Our adventure in Europe inspired us for a lifetime of hospitality and homemaking. It is something that both Craig and I are passionate about and both creatively pursue. Sometimes I see my husband on the computer and think he’s checking up on sports scores, but really he is searching for a new gourmet recipe for scalloped potatoes or chickpea soup.

I am finding my feet again in this new transition to busy seminary life! I’m finding the joy of cooking and baking returning to me. For the past couple years, I’ve kept cooking and baking pretty simple. Not many new recipes and pretty much the same thing on the meal schedule every week. I’m feeling inspired again in my cooking. Perhaps because my youngest is now two. Perhaps because my oldest two are now in school and I have a little more mental energy to devote to cooking and baking again. Perhaps because over this past Easter, I made my Grandma’s homemade Paska bread which took hours of preparation time, hours filled with joy as I carefully measured out ingredients and watched and nurtured that ball of dough, as I remembered eating her paska bread in her kitchen as a child, and remembering the cultural heritage of food. My roots are 100% from a unique people group of German-speaking Russian Mennonites. The Mennonites have a certain type of heritage that is rich in culture, in food, and in Christianity. I want to pay attention to the recipes of my people group and pass those down to my children.

My husband and I threw together a delectible assortment of roasted vegetables for a recent gathering of friends. We were once again creating a dish together and it was a partnership. We also have been enjoying a television show called “Cooked”. All of these factors together are inspiring me to dive back into the world of creative cooking and add a little more flare to our meals.

I will be writing more about our experience in Europe and our other travels individually to countries around the world where we have experienced hospitality in different ways and in different cultures. Hospitality is not just something I learned while in Europe. I grew up learning hospitality from my mom! My mom wore many hats including that of pastor’s wife meaning we had a LOT of guests coming over to our home! Usually every Sunday we had new people from the church over for “noon meal” as we called it. Sometimes there would be 2 or 3 families, singles, newly married couples, people from all walks of life.

(L’Abri, Switzerland, 2007)

My mom would prepare the meal the night before, have it cooking in the oven during church and then take care of the finishing touches when we got home. My sisters and I would help to set the table with the fine china, setting the forks and spoons in their proper order, lighting the candles, and making sure there were enough tea cups and saucers for dessert. It was beautiful!

My mother has hosted hundreds of people over the years. Her willingness to work hard, create beauty and nourishing meals for strangers, and welcome them into our home… shows that she was really welcoming Christ and serving Him. Each soft spoken word of encouragement, each tissue given for tears that were cried, each warm burst of laughter and each hug goodbye displayed the welcoming embrace of Christ. This was the pattern I was given for hospitality.

Hospitality does not have to look just one way. It does not even have to include a cup or a spoon. When we visited the community of Taize in France, we were given a bowl. That served as our plate, bowl, and cup. The food was simple. We sat on wooden benches in a cold room. The hospitality that shone forth was the experience of fellowshipping with all the guests around a simple meal. It centered around conversation with people from around the world without the distractions of each culture’s way of preparing or serving a meal. We each signed up to serve food and clean up. The focus was on serving and entering into conversation with one another, becoming known. I believe that is the heart of hospitality.

I am bursting with stories, ideas, and inspiration for practicing the art of hospitality and what that truly means in our world. As I research and write on this topic, please know that I am also learning and growing in this gift and do not claim to have it all together! I write to share my journey. I write because it is life-giving to me. I write because I want to inspire others to find beauty, and ultimately Jesus, in the ordinary and mundane aspects of life. I have a passion and vision for my home that God has given me and it is a joy to share that with others.

(Taize, France, 2007)