Passing On the Gift of Hospitality

meal at Nona's

I love to cook, plan events, and invite people into my home.  Though some might call this a “gift” of hospitality, it really is something I caught growing up. First of all, it was something my mom and grandmother modeled. They are Italian and immigrated to the United States when my mom was a young girl.  My grandmother never had the chance to go to school— and so to this day is illiterate and because of that never learned to speak English.  Yet, she is the best cook I’ve ever met and has hundreds of recipes committed to memory. Her greatest delight in life is to cook up a feast for family and friends and to gather them around her table. Often, as the holidays approach, she will begin cooking several days in advance—waking up before sunrise to begin her sauces, bake crusty bread, roast sweet bell peppers for salad, make meatballs, and bake ricotta wheat berry pies. She had 11 kids, and family get-togethers today can easily number over a hundred people, though my grandma, mom and aunts still do all of the cooking! They take such pride in each dish—using only the finest ingredients, sometimes even making trips to specialty markets that are an hour away. It is a labor of love. These dinners consist of several courses and go on for hours—and laughter and merrymaking abound. Around the table relationships are nurtured, stories are shared, the family bonds run deep.

Don’t underestimate the power of a shared meal!

When I was in college I was asked by a couple of friends to start hosting the church small group I was a part of, which they were leading. The group had been meeting for over a year yet the atmosphere was not intimate. People weren’t opening up; no one really knew one another. The group needed a new place to meet, so I agreed to host and at the time didn’t even own a couch or comfortable place for people to sit! The only thing I did differently as the host was to serve food every week, and always something simple because my budget was very tight. As people ate together, something beautiful happened. They relaxed and lingered in conversation. They started to open up about their lives, hurts, joys, and struggles.  It became an intimate community as the Lord worked in and through each of us and knit us together. This idea of “breaking bread” is God’s idea and design. Jesus chose the setting of a shared meal—the last supper—to give his most intimate exhortation and a farewell to his disciples. Throughout scripture there is a theme of God preparing a place and a table for his people.

As a young adult, my vision of hospitality continued to expand as I spent several years in missions. I saw how other cultures practiced hospitality and learned from a missionary organization that deeply valued hospitality. Again, it all was more caught than taught as I spent time in the homes of both foreign locals and missionaries, saw how others practiced hospitality, and then copied what I saw them doing. Some of the most generous people I met were those with the most limited resources.

Here are a few practical ways to involve your kids in hospitality:

-If you have overnight guests, it is fun to prepare a small basket of snacks and drinks (such as a bottled water or even some tea bags with mini electric tea kettle and mug) in their room. Hospitality involves a sensitivity to other’s needs (whether physical or otherwise). Many guests would not want to trouble their hosts for a snack so this way they have something if the mood arises. It is nice to include a little welcome note with an encouraging prayer or verse the Lord puts on your heart for them.  Kids can put the basket together and/or design the card.

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-Another fun option is to leave a small gift in the guest’s room. This gesture lets them know they are loved, thought of, and prepared for. Your kids can help you select something and can wrap it or put it in a gift bag. Older women and grandmas—I know of one empty-nester who, when hosting out-of-town guests with small children, leaves a basket of games, toys, books, or coloring supplies in the guest room for the little ones. This is especially thoughtful when there would otherwise be nothing for them to do around the house.

-We love to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers when we know we will have guests. We’ve also started a small flower garden so my girls can cut and create their own bouquets. They love to arrange flowers and display them on the dining room table. But hospitality doesn’t only occur when hosting company. It is an attitude of welcoming others into your life and extending friendship and generosity, perceiving others’ needs and making yourself available to love on, listen to, and care for others. We love to keep $1 Walmart bud vases on hand so that if a friend or neighbor is sick we can place even a single bloom in it to be delivered to brighten their day.

- As you prepare your home for any company, take a couple minutes to pray together for your guests and the time you will spend together. Pray that they would feel welcomed and loved—that it would be a picture to them of the Father’s love. Pray for relationships to be strengthened and for the conversation to be an encouragement to one another. Ask God to help you be sensitive and available to their needs. Pray too for the children that will be visiting!

-If you are hosting a meal, you could have your kids set the table and make place cards. As a new mom it would at times stress me out to let the kids help with anything because it wouldn’t be done “right”. With God’s grace and help I’ve learned to let that go so it is now about giving them those important experiences.

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-Include children in food preparations. My 6 year old loves to make salad. She chops veggies using a crinkle cutter, which is less sharp and easier to handle than a knife. Both of my girls (6 and 4) love to make cookies, scones, breads, or other treats to serve friends.

baking

 

-Chose an easy but delicious meal to make. A nice meal communicates honor to your guests— it says “you are worth it to me.” Throughout the Bible there are stories of people bringing out the best ingredients to honor and serve their guests. It’s how God treats us— he doesn’t skimp or hold back, his love is expressed lavishly. He prepared our environment in such a way for us to fully enjoy it using all of our senses.  But even when resources are limited, you can offer what you do have to bless those around you.

Here is one of my grandma’s recipes for an Italian style pot-roast. Very easy but so delicious— perfect to warm bellies on a cold day and one of my go-to meals for serving guests:

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Mamas, hospitality isn’t only for guests; the hospitality you show to your own kids will greatly impact them and give them a model to imitate. I was recently reading an out-of-print book— containing reflections on motherhood, and was struck by the introduction, a letter from the author to her mother:

“The emphasis on daily meals may have been nutrition (little appreciated by us), but then there was always Sunday noon dinner. No company was ever treated better than us! The appetizer was served on a silver tray in the living room—fruit juice with a blob of sherbet and wafers. In the dining room we ate our “company meal” from our finest china and silver and finished it off with a spectacular dessert tantalizingly displayed on a pedestal server. And you served tea from the lusterware tea set in a performance equaled only by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! I suspect now that you were creating an atmosphere for the leisurely sharing of ideas and good conversation.

How we anticipated the holidays and special days—each and every one. You took these occasions and turned them into events which instantly were declared Traditions… Then there was my birthday, that one special day set aside to celebrate my being alive! The pink heart cake for my “almost Valentine” birthday, the florist arriving with a nosegay of fresh violets, a dainty heart-shaped box or violet-related gift. To this day violets, hearts, and the color pink in some way remind me that I’m someone special.”

Mamas, may you be blessed with joy and relationships that run deep as you gather loved ones around your tables, and may you know what a gift your life is to those around you.

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Join me!

In light of some happenings in the news lately, I want to start quarterly encouragement for moms for short/free/conferences–and longer e-conferences. We will talk about: why motherhood is so hard, how to built a defense against discouragement, breathing in peace. And how to stay the course.

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Just Hold My Hand

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I sat beside the hospital bed of a friend I loved as nearly as I love my own soul.  I watched as doctors administered medication that would take him close to the brink of death in an effort to save his life.  Helplessly I asked what I could do.  “Just hold my hand” came the reply.  Hands clasped and eyes held as silence spoke what words could not utter.  Comfort.

From the wheelchair our daughter’s hand reaches out to clasp the hand of one who walks beside her.  Another pushes the chair and does for her what she cannot do for herself.  Yet from her seated position, she reaches out to any other human being walking close enough to be touched.  Connection.

Walking side by side my husband and I join hands enjoying the evening air.  Riding in the car, often in silence, his hand reaches over and takes mine.  Standing together in a congregation, I slip my hand in his.  Companionship.

Prayers before surgery when hearts are tense, the pastor reaches for the hand of those he leads.  Families gather and wait for news or sit together in funeral parlors and often just clasp hands, even for a brief second and then released.  Sharing news with a friend that will bring uncertainty, we reach to join hands.  Compassion. [Read more...]

20 Minutes to Dinnertime–Kabobs and Persian rice—Yummmm!

 

 

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Yummm! Even at the last minute, when you don’t think you are capable of making one more meal! We had this for dinner tonight! Thanks to my friend, Brandee, who shared the idea with me.

This is for all the women in the world who have rice in the cupboard and a little more in the fridge! In order to creatively get dinner on the table in 20 minutes, which may seem like an eternity at the end of your day, improvising is key! Whether it is a picky eater you are dealing with, or the challenge to get your family to the table all together may be daunting at 5:30 pm while you are driving home from another exhaustive day. Don’t even think about the drive thru because this is where I can help you!

Dinner can seem to be such a heavy burden when you are tired and just want to accomplish the task of getting a meal prepared, but think about what a great opportunity this could be to teach your kids, especially teens who need to know how to cook the basics; how to cook rice. They will really appreciate it if they don’t already know how versatile rice can be, and it will take you all of about 5 minutes to get it on the stove and then you just let the magic happen! You will still be eating dinner in 25 minutes tops, while building relationship with your awesome kid(s)!

Here are three recipes for a Persian style feast you will be sure to enjoy! You can take all three recipes and have a complete meal on the table. Again, getting the kids involved will be helpful and memorable.  If you have a hurried schedule, just take the pilaf and leftover chicken from the night before or on the way home pick up a nice rotisserie chicken to throw into your rice bowl. The kids absolutely love it! If you know that there is an ingredient your family will not enjoy, omit it or exchange it. That is what makes this your own version of the recipe. No need to reinvent the wheel – just make it your own style of wheel!

When your day seems never ending and time keeps ticking by, remember that rice is your friend in the kitchen!  This new twist on rice will stir some conversation around the table! Wow your family and familiarize yourself a little with the Persian culture. Then, share a quick fact or two and they will really be amazed at how smart you are, on top of being a good cook!

I prepared the chicken and the rice in big quantities, and froze them in freezer containers. Then I took one container out tonight and heated it in my pressure cooker with a little liquid for 5 minutes and dinner was ready!

 

Persian Rice 

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2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup basmati rice (or brown rice)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water or broth
3/4 teaspoon curry seasoning
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir onion until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in basmati rice, curry, and salt; cook and stir until rice is slightly opaque, about 3 minutes.
  2. Pour in water; stir to combine. Mix in apricots, and almonds; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pilaf to stand covered for 10 more minutes. Stir before serving.

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Chicken Kabobs

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 2 inch pieces
2 onions, cut into large chunks
1 large green or red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

*Optional veggies/fruit for Kabobs: pineapple, mushroom, cherry tomatoes/zucchini

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, vegetable oil, plain yogurt, garlic, tomato paste, salt, oregano, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl; add the chicken and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken mixture into a large plastic bag; refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Thread the chicken, onions, and pepper onto metal skewers giving 1/4 inch in between meat & veggies. Cook on preheated grill until the chicken is golden and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes each side. Sprinkle the parsley over the skewers.
  3. Optional oven method: preheat oven to 375 degrees. On lightly greased shallow pan, line Kabobs 1 inch apart and cook in oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Turning Kabobs after 10 minutes for even cooking.
  4. Serve immediately over rice pilaf or as is on the skewer.

 

Naan Bread Recipe    DSC_0031
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast  (2 1/4 tsp)

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted

*This is a great bread to use alongside hummus as an appetizer to meal.

 

 

Directions

    1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume. (If you live in a  cooler climate, preheat oven at 140 degrees. Then, turn off oven and place dough into oven to rise. Keep an eye on the dough, it may rise 10 – 15 minutes quicker!
    2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
    3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat. (You can use an indoor grill or panini press as well!)
    4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. If you make a double batch, this bread can be bagged in airtight container or ziplock/bread bags. To warm bread, wrap in foil and heat in oven at 350 for 10 – 15 minutes.

***Check out the giveaway below for your chance to WIN a copy of Chrystal and Tony’s book, “Kingdom Woman.”
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Dayspring’s July Special – 25% Off Your Entire Order

We, here at MomHeart, love Dayspring for their commitment to providing beautiful faith-based gifts.  Each month, Dayspring offers sales on selected items and we’re excited to share these with you!

During July, Dayspring is offering an incredible 25% off your entire order with coupon code SUMMER25 as well as FREE shipping on any order over $50!  What a great time to stock up for summer birthdays and hostess gifts.

The Urban Soul Collection will bring inspiration to your home, now 25% off with coupon SUMMER25.

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A Life that says, “Welcome!”

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“Welcome” greets each weary traveler as they drag heavy suitcases awkwardly up our little entry steps. Candles flicker, music softly wafts through the air and chocolate almonds, tiny wrapped gouda cheeses all say, “you are a valued person and we want you to find rest and peace as you enter our home.”

The past few weeks, giggles, tears, antics and life-stories amuse the walls of our home, as countless friends have filed into this Clarkson homestead.  Bible studies, dinners for students visiting at a local ministry, a leadership intensive, sweet friends coming for a “cuppa” and a few minutes shared rocking on the front porch, sweet children home for limited days, and a friendship talk. all mark the occasions of a visit.

Always there is endless eating; and hearts wanting to be loved and encouraged. Sanctuary has been on my mind the past few months as I have sought to understand the importance of having a home where all can expect to come for life, beauty and peace–and to feel the touch of Him in a tangible way through our words, hands, and embraces.

Godly women shape their homes into sanctuaries where the love of God, the comfort of Jesus, the celebration of joy sings through the very oxygen of the cracks and corners of her home and brings just what each one needs as they enter there.

“We view the ministry of hospitality in our home as God’s tool for us to train our children in graciousness. When someone comes to our home, our children know that we expect them to be gracious and quick to serve. That means welcoming adult guests properly, asking if there is something they can get for them, taking their coat, or whatever is appropriate to the visit. (Hospitality drills are a helpful way to train them in this area).

Our children know that being well-mannered and gracious is more than just a cultural formality…it is the way we show respect to another person, affirm their value as a person made in God’s image, and strengthen our testimony to them not only as a Christian family but also as a homeschooling family.

It is the practical expression of treating others the way you want to be treated, regarding others as more important than yourself, and looking out for the interests of others. Even when we go to someone else’s house, we will still practice hospitality. We rehearse with the kids before they leave the car how to be gracious guests who are polite, respectful, and helpful.”
-Educating the Wholehearted Child

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Even though my children are now young adults, they still help me every time we welcome anyone into our home. Joy will be bustling around, setting up for tea time, and before I know it, another child has already cleaned up the entire kitchen. The dishes will be washed, the counters tidied, and each guest is sure to have been welcomed and served.

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This desire to serve, help, and host does not appear out of thin air. In order for your family to be a team that works together as a unit when you have guests over, your children must have TMI (no-not “too much information.”)

-Training:
Train in grace behavior (manners). Value and pursue priority relationships. Train your children how to pray.

-Modeling:
Moms-set the example. Be gracious and kind to family members. Show grace and love to strangers.

-Instruction:
About our relationship with God. About the power of the Holy Spirit–lived out through real people to real people.

Proverbs 22:6 states:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

It is absolutely crucial that we train our children in the ways of graciousness. This also means that you must have patience and grace with your children as they learn how to serve others.

Start practicing by assigning your children different ways they can help the next time you have friends or family over for dinner. If you remember TMI, your little ones will flourish into adults who are loving, gracious, polite, and respectful.