Practice Hospitality

I am far enough along in this world to acknowledge and appreciate that the Lord has given me certain gifts. Some of you -- okay, probably only Dad -- think I have a gift of words and writing. Other people may say that my intelligence is a gift. I will readily acknowledge that I do have above average intelligence, but lately I feel as if I only use my gift to be impatient and critical of those not quite so intellectually gifted.

I'm also far enough along in this world to acknowledge that there are certain gifts that I don't posses in any degree. Seriously, imagination is one. That's why (*gasp*) I don't get too much into Harry Potter OR Narnia. It's not in my world, I have no frame of reference with which to make it line up, and I can't picture it. Maybe that's why 'style' seems to be elusive, as well (is stylishness a spiritual gift? I think it could be!) If I haven't already seen it done, I can't/ won't come up with it. For my wardrobe OR my home.

While I am tempted to jaunt off down the long and winding road of all the ways I am NOT gifted, the point of this post is hospitality. I do not consider that to be one of my gifts.

Well, let me rephrase that: Is hospitality ONLY the act of welcoming people into your home? Because that is my question, I guess. It's hard for me to have people over for (at least) 18 different reasons. I do it on rare occasion and do enjoy it but you know people who have that GIFT, don't you? It is not mine.

So I ponder on these scriptures:

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

Do I have to have people in my home to share? Is that the only way?

What about this:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.1 Peter 4:8-10

If we are to "offer hospitality (AND without grumbling)" and also "use whatever gift I have received to serve others" -- is that a contradiction? What if hospitality isn't my gift?

And, again, I'm asking, by definition is hospitality having people come into your home? Don't get me wrong, I think there is immense value in welcoming fellow Christians into your home for times of fellowship and laughter. But I've mentioned here before that I'm classified as an introvert, which means that being around other people is fatiguing to me. My home is energizing to me. It is my refuge and time to recharge. In my pajamas.

So something that was mentioned in Sunday school a few weeks ago made me think maybe I'm not a complete loser/ failure in this regard. The teacher mentioned hospitality as a trait you carry with you. It wasn't his point at all, and he quickly skipped to another subject, but it made me think about this subject. I can't stand for anyone to feel left out in any manner. I can't stand for anyone to walk into a church building and have no one talk to them. I can't stand for anyone to feel as if everyone around them has been friends forever and they are missing all of the jokes. It is my burden (and by this I simply mean that it is something the Lord has put on my heart) to reach out to the invisibles -- especially in my classroom. Those kids who don't cause problems and do okay but aren't stellar in school. They are in danger of being invisible to a harried teacher of 22. Am I being hospitable when I seek out those folks? The left-out and invisible? Or am I simply trying to justify being a poor and infrequent hostess?

Is hospitality your thing? Where are you hospitable?

(P.S. -- if you were a recent dinner guest in my home, this is NOT a not-so-veiled attempt to garner accolades for my adequate hostessing skills. It's just what I've been thinking.)


What Do You Know...?

What do you know when:
  • you're scrounging dinner from what you can create from the 'fridge because it's the end of camp/vacation month and payday is still two days away?
  • your washing machine sits chock full of hot water and nasty whites that desperately need to be agitating, yet still it sits? (At least YOU are agitated by this point).
  • the "hit-the-tennis-ball-against-the-wall-between-the-windows" game finally results in a broken window?
  • you have a meeting to look forward to for the evening hours?

You know it must be a Monday. Good thing God is bigger than all those little annoyances.

A Pic for Monday

Returning from our get-away week, Troy and I stopped in a convenience store in Small Town, Texas. Small Town was a lovely town with a quaint little square full of shops surrounding the courthouse. And, as evidenced by this picture, a wonderful town full of people being community to each other. And, believe me, I know the spirit behind the people doing this is pure gold. They are doing what they know to do to help someone they love. But it made me laugh uncontrollably.

'Cause, and I'm just throwing this out here, to benefit someone's heart condition, you may want to go with something other than fried pies, cream puffs, cakes, and breads. But that's just me.


Riley Got His Groove Back

I doubt you missed it, but I didn't tell just a whole lot about baseball season here. Not much to tell, even though our little team went to the finals. This was Riley's first year in the 9-12 year old league, so he was one of the youngest and most inexperienced. This league is also his first experience with kid pitch. He saw plenty-o-the-bench and got up to bat only once each game. He pretty much got to where he would gamble on getting walked or struck out by just standing at home plate holding the bat.

He did, at one point, get hit in the face (on the face plate of his helmet) by a pitch. In kid pitch, you're going to get hit by a ball. But it evidently scared Riley enough that he could hardly stay in the batter's box if a pitch got close. Since he had so few opportunities at bat during the season, we didn't really address it. As long as he was having fun... but we knew he would have a better time if he could show what he was capable of doing.

Advance to summer league -- summer league is an instructional league where you play two full weeks of games, but don't have any practices. You also aren't allowed to play the same position two innings in a row and Riley's coach was great about mixing things completely up and letting anyone pitch that wanted to, etc. Riley has had a great time, but didn't swing the bat one time. Oh, he got up TO bat, but stood with his bat on his shoulder. Sometimes he walked. Sometimes he struck out. He always leapt out of the batter's box if the ball got close.

After his 2nd or 3rd night in a row striking out without swinging his bat, I talked to his coach after the game. "Not swinging isn't his primary problem. He's moving his feet to jump out before the pitch is even thrown. If we can get him to stay in the batter's box, then we can worry about him swinging the bat." So we had a little family conference when we got home -- we didn't really intend to, but it worked out that we were all in there and, of course, Riley felt attacked. It was awful. His little quivery chin and watery eyes and "But I can't tell if it's going to be a strike or not." We told him we were just telling him what he couldn't see for himself and told him some other things coach had said that may help. With only two games left in summer league, we just wanted the guy to make contact with the ball.

The next night coach had him bunt just so he could track the ball and make contact with the ball (it worked like a charm, but I would think the last thing you would try to get a kid to do if they were afraid of getting hit is try to bunt -- that's why I'm not in charge, I guess). He fouled and ended up striking out, but he at least made contact. Awesome. We just raved when we got home about his turn at bat.

Last game was Friday night. We invited two families to come watch the game with us and then to eat dinner -- since that's kind of the only way you can have a social life during baseball season. Once we got to the ballpark, Riley got pulled from his regular team to fill in for another team (from our same little league) who was a player short. He knew some of the players, but not the coaches. Their little team was playing a tough team from across town who, in their first inning at bat, got all 6 runs (only 6 allowed per inning) before an out.

Our (new) little team got up to bat. Some hits, some walks, some outs, and (dum, dum, dum) Riley gets up to bat with bases loaded, two outs, and eight of our friends there to watch! My stomach was ROLLING -- "Please just let him make contact!" I recited over and over. The first pitch, he tried to keep his feet in the batter's box, but jumped the top of his body back. He completely lost balance and tumbled back about a mile. Bless him. Okay, he recovered. Second pitch, he smacked it so hard it sailed out to far left field. When it bounced up it hit one of the advertising signs on the fence. I don't remember much else except the screaming -- my own, of course. The little turkey made it a home run and since bases were loaded, that is known as a GRAND SLAM.

Riley's hit tied up the game to 6-6 and that was the last time all night his new little team was anywhere close to ahead. And, like those games tend to do, continued to drag on and on. The last time we had time to get up to bat the first kid struck out, second kid got out and first, and then it was Riley's turn at bat. Again, two outs, only this time there was no one on base and we were losing 18-7. I figured anything he did would be a downer from the first phenomenal hit. He swung once and missed. He didn't swing at a way-outside ball. Third pitch, he knocked it to almost the same exact spot as the first. Only this time, left-fielder was ready. It was a win-win: Riley got another fabulous hit, and it ended the eternal game! Riley's slump is definitely over -- maybe mine is, too!

I wrote this article two years ago after I was driving to pick up Riley from baseball practice with my windows down. I drove by another team practicing and heard the 'ping' of a successful hit (sorry if that offends your baseball sensibilities: bats don't thwack anymore, they ping). I knew there would come a time that Riley making that ping would give me a thrill. Indeed it has.


But Will She Do Windows?

Having an 11 year old girl is quite a learning experience. There is crying, eye-rolling, back talking, hormone surges, and door slamming on a good day. But there is also, "Mom, do we have the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies?" And she's off, knowing she DARE not leave my kitchen any worse for the wear. And soon there will be fresh chocolate chip cookies. I think I'll keep her.


Summer Blahs

Yes, I'm actually in town. And perusing my list of summer-things-to-do-still-undone. And it is LONG. I haven't touched my sewing machine. I've done 2 of about 10 things I was going to do for my classroom. I have moved back in from the month-long hotel stay, but I still seem to have plenty of overflowing drawers and cabinets.

Obviously, I'm not really blowing the doors off the bloggy world, either. Because I'm not doing anything. Well, nothing to report anyway. And I'm evidently not thinking anything. Well, nothing to report anyway. "If you can't say something nice...!"

It finally is raining for less than an hour each day (I don't think it has rained at all today -- yet!) so we are soaking up our pool time. We're also in the middle of summer league baseball. It's two weeks of games and players change positions each innings. It's been a real learning experience for everyone. It is also the best summer ever to have picked to play summer league. It's the end of July and temperatures are in the 80's or even 70's by the evening. That does NOT happen around here -- ever. And, there's always Webkins, the biggest time-drainer, ever. But Goober's Lab was the game of the day yesterday, people! You CANNOT pass up a deal like that!

Yes, I know, I promised a report of our get-away, but I also promised a report on my Colorado trip 13 months ago. I've gotta pace myself. For the record, we went to Fredericksburg, Texas, and relaxed so well we slid around like the folks on the McDonald's breakfast commercials. You know, I THOUGHT that Troy and I were doing okay about protecting our time together -- we have fairly regular date nights and lunch dates -- but a vacation together is a whole other deal. Did you know that a vacation without children is actually restful and relaxing? Who knew? It was nice to find out we can still hold a conversation, laugh, and just sit together well.

So I shall go and do some more fun summer things -- like laundry and wiping the ice cream handprints off the doors -- and commit to try to think or do something exciting to report. So how's your summer going? Do you make a to-do list? If so, are you tackling it?


Because I'm a Mom...

... I read the directions to, and successfully loaded, the stink cartridge in a treasure of a garage sale buy: The Stink Blaster.
... I did approximately 15 loads of laundry in the two days prior to delivering two different children to two different camps and two parents to one get-away destination.

... I successfully planned and executed a baseball meeting and two camp drop-offs with a Sunday afternoon itinerary that resembled a NASA launch schedule.

... I swallowed a lump in my throat leaving everyone at his and her respective camps.
... I THOROUGHLY enjoyed my get-away destination while occasionally hoping with all my heart all was okay at all of the camps.
... I couldn't wait to squeeze little necks at the end of camp. I've only successfully completed half of this one -- still have to wait to re-claim one little neck tomorrow.
Can't wait to tell you about my trip! Glorious!


The Community at M.D. Anderson vs. The Beast

I just returned from a quick trip to Houston where my dad had surgery at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (quick side note – Dad is GREAT after having a benign tumor removed from inside his head. That’s a whole other crazy story unto itself) Across the street from M.D. Anderson is the Rotary House Hotel – a hotel run by Marriott, but part of the Texas Medical Center complex in Houston. You have to have a patient number to even check-in to the Rotary House. So, as soon as you walk in – to the hotel or hospital, either one – you are automatically ‘in’. Not ‘in’ as in ‘hip’, but ‘in’ as in ‘in the group’ or ‘on the team’ or ‘one of us’. The Beast* of Cancer has touched you in some manner.

Being ‘in’ at M.D. Anderson reminds me of when Christopher Reeve was voted president of the American Paralysis Association. He said, “I’m president of a club I wouldn't want to join.” As soon as you walk into M.D. Anderson you are in a wonderful community of people who never want to join that particular community. You are given a front-row seat as people you don’t know engage in the most intimate and basic struggles in life – the fight to stay alive.

If you are among the patients or family at M.D. Anderson, it’s because the Beast has clutched a life, shaken it hither and yon, and left it upside down, leaving the occupant to wonder if he/she will live long enough to right themselves.

You’re automatically on the team and granted unlimited kindness, for no one knows where your fight has taken you that day. Volunteers, patients, doctors, technicians, food-service workers, patient’s families, housekeepers, nurses and so many more all openly and warmly welcome you as one of their own – for you are fighting the fight, as well. There’s no elevator rage, line-position envy, or grudging the cafeteria prices. There’s plenty of, “No, you go ahead.” “You have a great day, Sugar” and piles and piles of laughter. It’s as if one of the unspoken rules is that we must not let the Beast sense any disunity among the survivors! We must present a united front. There are smiles and nods and searching eyes. As I looked into the eyes of survivors, I saw the same questions I was asking internally reflected back: “Why are you here?” “How are you holding up?” and, of course, “Are you going to make it? You’re going to make it, right? My own hope depends on you making it – you HAVE to make it!”

It seems that even my kids picked up on it. I took them with me, honestly, because it was easier than figuring out how else to juggle them, and because I knew they would be fine. They were more than fine. They seemed to sense being admitted into the community of survivors, as well. They walked and walked and hiked the maze that is M.D. Anderson. They waited and waited and waited some more. They did it all without griping or arguing -- with me OR each other! Truly, there is some magic dust in the halls of M.D. Anderson.

Maybe it’s the visible reminders of the survivors. We saw an elderly woman with no nose. We saw a 20-something young lady with no right shoulder or arm. We saw three bald women and one precious bald little girl – two of the ladies had beautiful sequined hats, all had beautiful, beaming smiles. We saw IV pole after IV pole being waltzed through the halls by its accompanying survivor. We sat in the waiting room with the family of a gentleman who was having his esophagus removed and his stomach stretched up to do the job of the esophagus. We saw one anguished man pace the waiting room for no less than 6 hours – he was still pacing when we left.

Today as I drove back and returned to civilization and real life – maybe more accurately: real shallow life, I wondered what life would look like if we gave everyone the same kindnesses out here. What if the person who almost walked into you without seeing you had spent all morning in a waiting room waiting on news of a loved one? What if the gentleman who was impatient had been unable to eat while waiting on a test that has been delayed by hours? What if the “idiot driver” had vision overtaken by tears as the enormity of the Beast overwhelmed her? My precious preacher keeps talking about what makes us be community to each other. I'm pretty sure the folks at M.D. Anderson have a handle on it. Heaven forbid we must be touched by the Beast to figure it out.

Like everyone else, I never wanted to be introduced to anything about The Beast – the hospital that treats it, the community that fights it, or the medical personnel that would devote their lives to fighting it. Now that I have been, though, I feel so blessed to be a part of that world – just a tiny, little way-out fringe part, quietly looking on, finding ENORMOUS blessings in my family’s situation, while pleading-praying for those around me. Leave it to The Beast to put all of life into perspective.

(*I stole the reference to cancer as The Beast from a fabulous article at the back of the current ACU Today that I cannot currently locate and isn't posted online yet-- when I find the originator of the phrase, I will give him due credit as the accurate genius he is)


Complaint Department, 300 Miles That Way -->

Do you have someone that you call when you just need to vent? If not, please do not make it me. I am evidently several folks' go-to steam release, and I've about had my fill of the griping. Don't get me wrong, I have done my share of griping, and once I get started... oh, man. And, better yet, I love to use BIG words when I gripe, so it becomes hysterically funny. I think that's why I'm having such a hard time listening to the complaints of others -- I want so much to join in. Like a dieter who has a hard time hanging out with her friend who is trying to put on weight, it's hard for me to listen to some griping and not join in.

About a year ago, I REALLY read Philippians 2:14-16a: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." Sure, I knew the verse "Do everything without complaining or arguing," and I'm pretty sure I had my children memorize it as well. Not only is it a directive (order/command), it has a reason with it -- and a darn good one: "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." Basically, how in heaven's name is the world going to know you belong to Christ if you're just as gripy as the next person? And, truly, when I look around at my life -- what in the world do I have to gripe about anyway? I mean, honestly...!

I really do TRY to limit my griping to God and my husband. Sometimes I will call Troy and say, "I don't need you to do anything, but I just need to VENT." If I ever need to vent ABOUT Troy -- oh, yeah, it happens -- I really try to keep that between me and God. 15 years ago we became one -- I signed up to be a part of him as well as being his biggest fan and cheerleader. I don't need to "spread the (kill)joy" by griping about half of me to other folks. That is where it is really hard to not join in when griping is around me, 'cause, turns out, some other husbands can annoy their spouses, too. But then you have to remember that marriage is for our holiness, not happiness, right? It's all a cycle.

So, when you get all good and worked up about whatever it is, please do not call/email/stop-by-my-house/whatever. Blog about it. Pray about it. Find what the Lord has to say about it in scripture. Google it -- I'm sure at least 15,000 other people have your same exact gripe.

I'm over here trying REAL hard to shine like a star in the universe!


For Terral

Everyone check out Terral's comment to this post. Hilarious. Which made me laugh out loud, and start to sing the song. So, for a little nostalgia (and don't forget to gather your kids 'round -- they've never seen it, and they need to!)

Why Is It?

Why is it that you can take not-so-smallish kids to the dentist's office and they climb up the walls, stand on the chairs, swing on the doors, then on to get a haircut where they roll on the floor collecting hair from the last decade, re-arrange the furniture and engage in hand-to-hand combat in such a manner that granny gets knocked off of her walker, then when you return home they collapse on the couch and lie inert for the remainder of the day?


Heavy Thoughts for the 4th

I haven't been able to get this post out of my mind. If you're too busy/ lazy to click over, the part that I think about the most is the question: "What if all of life was worship--the way we approached every day...expecting God to show up?" I admit that I initially, very smugly, thought, "Yes, indeed, it is the way I live life and it is a glorious life."

So I challenged myself, for one day, to "expect God to show up." It starts out easy enough, because my summer habit has become to start my day with my Bible and prayer, then go on my walk, where I generally continue much of my prayer. Which is why I felt like it is how I spend my day. And, no doubt, I do spend much of my day in constant dialogue with God and enjoy the constant conversation.

However, as I spent a day "expecting God to show up" I realized there is virtually nothing I want to be caught watching on TV when God does show up -- I'm either feeding my desire for materialism, or enjoying watching someone else's immoral life. If God is going to be present in my driving, I may want to take it a little easier on my fellow travelers and obey all traffic laws, not merely regard them as "suggestions". I also need to live a little less by my 'to-do' list, and a little more, well, expecting Him to need me to get off my franny when He shows up. Not that I'm on my franny all the time, but I do LOVE my to-do list, and to veer from it is difficult. But I'm willing to bet God just might show up with something for me to do that is NOT on my to-do list. That's a challenge. Of course, there's always the constant arguing of the children -- is God in that? Maybe not, but I bet God wants me to guide them in problem solving rather than yell at them to cut it out.

I know this is another variation on the 'WWJD' theme/ idea, but we don't have bracelets made just yet, so people may actually think about it. What does your day look like when you expect God to show up? Give it a try -- you may be surprised to find that He's already there, just waiting for you to notice.


Random Thoughts on a Soggy Tuesday

This weekend was the way weekends were intended. Troy and I worked around the house on Saturday and wore ourselves OUT. My current ministry at church takes everything I have out of me by the time church is over, so it's all I can do to even say "good morning" to people on my way out the door to get some lunch and get in bed. So we napped on Sunday afternoon and then did... nothing. The kids played some games, Troy spent some of his birthday money at Lowe's, and I cleaned out my armoire'. Yes, that is NOTHING at this house. We all hung out together and and had a great time.

Then, I guess due to the nap, Troy and I both had insomnia Sunday night. It was like a slumber party, only the one of us that had to get up to go to work on Monday was a little bit grouchy for the party.

It's STILL raining around here. Pretty strange for the desert. Since none of it is finding its way into my home, I'm not sick of it yet. I'm just cleaning out cabinets and getting things done and refereeing the madhouse. Yesterday I took the dog for a walk when it had gotten cloudy, so I thought it would be nice and cool. 15 minutes into my walk, I could tell it was going to be cool and wet. So I turned for home. But it was just a few drops here and a few drops there so I kept going, enjoying the cool and sprinkles. I was about 100 yards from home when the bottom fell out. So, I got in a little bit of a soggy jog, as well. The kids were worried SICK.


Run the Race

by Sarah Stirman
on heartlight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

This passage from the book of Hebrews has always been one of my favorite verses. In the few-and-far-between seasons of my life when I am a runner, I love to meditate on this verse as I run. Life is a race — A marathon! — and I am so encouraged to think of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me.

The phrase in the version with which I am familiar reads "the sin that so easily entangles." This phrase kind of tripped me up. To me it sounded as if sin is a creeping vine that seems friendly, enticing, and harmless until you realize that you’re in too deep and helplessly stuck.

While I know that’s true of sin in so many ways, it didn’t fit with the running analogy to me. Most runners I know avoid running through foliage. Also sin, in my own personal experience, is much more like a wrecking ball in the cartoons than it is like a vine — creeping or otherwise. By the time I have identified the sin (wrecking ball), I am lying flat on my back, complete with stars and birdies circling my head, wondering how I got there.

However, more recently I have come to think of this phrase in a new way. I am struggling with forgiveness — even somewhat struggling with laying down the badge that identifies me as "someone wronged." I know this is not the life Christ has called me to embrace, yet I battle with finally laying down this burden of another’s sin. I have prayed and thought and meditated about why this is so difficult to let go.

I recently prayed asking God to let me run this race victoriously. That’s when this verse came to mind: I must throw off the sin that so easily entangles! Sometimes I cling to my past sins and let them weigh me down. Sometimes I cling to another’s sin against me and let that weigh me down. It’s impossible to run with perseverance the race marked out before me if I am clinging to all of the burdens of the past — my own or anyone else’s. Christ calls me to run victoriously and I can’t do that with my hands full of old junk. It hinders me and I must lay it down if I want to run the race ... victoriously.

The apostle Paul gives us this victory thanksgiving: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14) I love to think of the "triumphal procession" as the time we are being led in as a victory parade after we have finished our race victoriously. We already know who wins this race.

Now, let’s run it victoriously!

Originally published April 26, 2006.
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