Monday, March 31, 2008

Hospitality for the Weary Hostess--Part 2

Prescriptions, originally uploaded by Karousme.

Taking care of your own soul takes practice—lifelong practice.

We need to realize that taking care of other people depletes our souls. That depletion is inherent to caregiving—our love for others is what fills and refreshes their souls. However, we cannot neglect replenishing our own reservoirs if we want to continue this life journey of hospitality.

My soul replenishment began two weeks ago when I took time to “prescribe” for myself the following regimen. It has helped before when I’ve experienced this soul weariness, and I hope it will encourage you.

Prescription for Soul Replenishment

  1. Get enough physical rest. When I’m stressed, I have learned to go to bed early or sleep in when I can. I don’t let myself feel guilty for choosing to ignore the “Energizer Bunny” expectations of this world and taking time to rest.
  2. Ask for help. This is one I really struggle with. My tendency is to stubbornly ignore my human weaknesses and limitations and keep going until “disaster” almost strikes—pulling “all nighters” in college, getting in over my head and trying to be the “responsible one” and shoulder too much, and so forth. It’s really a problem with pride. But I’m improving—I met with my supervisor last week and we’re putting together a “game plan” for dealing with the stress and demands of my new job.
  3. Get away. Whether it’s a day of browsing in your favorite store, having lunch with friends, or leaving town for the weekend, a change of pace and scenery can be a tremendous help. Visiting my husband’s family over Easter weekend proved to be just what I needed to recharge; the time spent relaxing, shopping, eating, and talking was refreshing to my spirit.
  4. Do something you enjoy. While you’re “getting away” from it all, make some fun memories at the same time. My mother-in-law and I make a point of finding time to go antiquing and shopping whenever we’re together—and last weekend was no exception.
  5. Reconnect with yourself and God. After you’ve rested your body, mind, and soul with the four previous tasks, it’s now time to make sure you become reacquainted with yourself as a person—not a caregiver, employee, mom, or wife, but rather as a woman who has needs and interests apart from these roles. That also includes reconnecting with God, something that the busyness and stress steals from me.

I’m under no illusions that I’m now exempt from this happening again. Life is has its seasons of hardship, but I’m hoping next time my soul will be stronger, wiser, and better prepared. bjh

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dreaming of Spring

Spring is on its way…we just need to dream about it until it has made its grand entrance.

Before I finish the story begun in my previous post, I wanted to give you hope for spring. Below are some photographs. The photos of daffodils, crocus, and the pink flowering shrub are my work; the others are from my father-in-law's collection. At the end of this post is an mp3 of a fitting song: "Dreaming of April" by Out of the Grey. I hope you enjoy the photos and music and take comfort in the promise of spring. bjh

"Dreaming of April" by Out of the Grey

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hospitality for the Weary Hostess--Part 1

Paradise Island, Bahamas, originally uploaded by mmelzer.

“I’m moving to the Bahamas to braid hair for a living.”

I’ve echoed my college drama teacher’s sentiments many times before to express my frustration with life. But last week I was tempted to make that very career change to cure my five-day stress-induced headache.

Although I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I usually am, I thought I was handling life, work, and the inherent stress pretty well. Looking back now, the stress began accumulating after the Christmas holidays, continued through February as an ice storm knocked out our electricity (and thus our heat and water) for two days and I dealt with a sinus infection, and came to a head in March as I dealt with round two of my sinus infection. The demands of work added to the load, and last Tuesday night found me ready to reserve a one-way ticket to the Caribbean.

I was emotionally spent and in need of some hospitality for myself. Hospitality to revive my own soul.

Now, I had posted two weeks ago about hostesses needing their souls revived before they can minister to others. And I knew that the post was merely the start of a conversation with you all about the core of hospitality. However, I had no idea I would be speaking to my own present-day need and considering how to put “feet” on this concept of experiencing hospitality within myself.

So…am I moving to the Caribbean? Umm…no. Not yet.

But I’m okay with that.

I’m discovering how to be a good hostess to my own soul. I’m uncertain if I will ever master the lessons because they’re more about the process than the finished product. But what I’ve learned so far has encouraged me to forego the escape to warmer places and, as the saying goes, bloom where I’m planted. bjh

To be continued…

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dinner Table Discussions

Dictionary, originally uploaded by sAeroZar.

In my family, we didn’t talk at the dinner table—we discussed and debated.

After grace was said and the food was passed around, the conversation would start innocently enough with, “How was your day at school?” However, after a few minutes of hearing the details of three children’s experiences at school, my father would earnestly begin his “lesson.”

My father is not a professional educator. He's a technical school graduate who completed his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker after spending 4 years in the US Navy during the mid 1960’s. But he has loved history and valued learning for as long as I can remember.

Back to the “lesson.” Whether it was inspired by either something we children had recounted earlier, something on the news, or something he had been mulling over, my father always had a lesson. Something to teach. A method for stretching our minds.

Often it began with an open-ended question, which led to more questions from us, then answers (or more questions) from my father. Sometimes these questions led to heated debates between us children, many of which unsettled my mother, the family “peacemaker.”

The mental "calisthenics" might also include a little physical exercise. During a discussion, if we asked where a country was or what a word meant, we never got a direct answer. Instead, we were instructed to “go get the globe” or “go find the dictionary.” After we retrieved said item, my father would encourage us to find the answer ourselves, helping us only if we were stumped. Then back to the discussion at hand, with my father continuing the mental workouts.

And it still continues today. If there’s a meal being served, a discussion’s waiting to begin.

Now, I’m not planning to “hold class” like my father, but I ask that you post your comments to these two questions:

What is your definition of hospitality?

  1. What does hospitality look like?

Here’s the dictionary definition for starters:

hos·pi·tal·i·ty: noun

  1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers
  2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm friendly, generous way

Please, let’s start the dinner table discussion. What is hospitality?bjh

P.S. Please post your thoughts so I can compile your wisdom and experience for the benefit of ALL BJH visitors! bjh

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Shamrock, originally uploaded by Krasnyi Fotoapparat.

Do you know about the REAL St. Patrick? Here's a link to some information about the REAL St. Patrick:

And, to celebrate, below is one of my favorite songs by Iona.

But first, an Irish blessing for you:

May the God of the dawn awaken you
May the God of sunrise stir you up
May the God of morning bless your work
May the God of noon renew your strength
May the God of sunset bring you home
May the God of dusk soothe your soul
May the God of night bring you rest.

Adapted from a blessing by Andrew Greeley

Enjoy "Irish Day" by Iona. bjh

"Irish Day" by Iona

Friday, March 14, 2008

Birthday Memories

16th Birthday 2

Today's my birthday, so I decided to share one of my birthday memories—my 16th birthday celebration at the former Benihana restaurant in Farmington, CT. Our server snapped a Polaroid of my aunt and me after delivering the complimentary dessert pictured in the foreground. Currently, another Japanese restaurant is located there on Farmington Avenue, called Japanica. In 2004, I celebrated my 30th birthday at Japanica with my parents, in-laws, husband, grandmother, and aunt. Both birthday parties were spent around the hibachi table, watching the chef both prepare our food and exhibit his culinary prowess.

Tonight, my husband and I are going out to eat …somewhere. I still haven’t decided on a restaurant, which is unusual. Chalk it up to a busy week. bjh

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why Hospitality? Part 2--Hope for the Overwhelmed

Anyone here feeling unqualified? Overwhelmed?

If you fall into either category, you’re in good company.

After living as a nomad in the desert for 40 years, Moses encounters God in a "burning bush"—a bush that is on fire but never burns up—and God commands him return to Egypt and lead the enslaved Israelites out of the country to the Promised Land.

Moses’ initial response to God’s command is found in Exodus 3:11—“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (emphasis mine)

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I think Moses was saying, “Who am I to be given such a responsibility? I've been out of the loop for 40 years, the only leadership experience I have is tending sheep, and anyone who would vouch for me is probably dead. I’m not qualified.”

God’s response? I will be with you.”

God didn’t give up on Moses because of his doubt; and he didn’t leave Moses on his own to figure out how to get the job done. He promised to be with Moses, and he will be with you too. In Deuteronomy 31:6, God promises that he will "never leave you nor forsake you."

Even today, there’s hope for the unqualified and overwhelmed. God doesn’t ask for you to be an accomplished hostess before you start showing hospitality. He asks for you to start showing hospitality and he’ll be with you to develop you into the gracious hostess he created you to be.

Are you ready to start the journey? He is. bjh

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why Hospitality?--Part 1

good question, originally uploaded by e-magic.

I want to have a heart like God’s—to love like He does, to care for others like He cares for us. A few months ago, I started listening to archived Christian radio show broadcasts in hopes that I could find some guidance in how to personally grow into a woman after God’s own heart.

One show that has ministered to me consistently was “Revive our Hearts” hosted by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her series on “The Heart of Hospitality” really got my attention. I’ll never forget when she stated, "God commands us to be hospitable.” (emphasis mine)

I'm commanded by God to be hospitable? I’m disobedient if I don’t practice hospitality?


As I continued to listen to the other nine reasons Nancy was giving for why we should practice hospitality, I began to pray. God, how can I do this? I’m overwhelmed with how this is going to change every part of my life.

Believe me, writing a blog about my journey towards becoming a woman of hospitality has nothing to do with publicizing my progress. I’m still overwhelmed with how much I still need to work on being hospitable.

But it has everything to do with obeying God’s command of hospitality and helping others do the same.

Does obeying God’s command to practice hospitality still seem overwhelming, maybe even impossible?

Don't worry--there's hope for the unqualified and overwhelmed. bjh

If you want to read or hear the radio series "The Heart of Hospitality" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, please click here to be directed to the an archived broadcasts page of “Revive our Hearts” and scroll down to the series, “The Heart of Hospitality.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hospitality Begins in Your Soul

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul…

You prepare a table before me…”

Psalm 23:1-3a, 5a, NIV

When was the last time your soul restored? When were you the recipient of true hospitality?

In this whirling, materialistic, self-driven culture we call the American lifestyle, it’s challenging to find time to even slow down, let alone rest. We are pulled by this dizzying merry-go-round of working to get, getting to impress, impressing to the point of excess, then working MORE to pay off the excess. Our access to a 24-hour world of information through the internet, cable television, magazines, and newspapers keeps us in a state of hyper-stimulation. We are indoctrinated to have more, manage more, do more, be more; and this doctrine if “more” is robbing us of what’s truly important—relationships.

It’s time this “lifestyle” became history. And you can be a part of making it history.

Get off the manic merry-go-round—body, mind, and soul—and take a walk in the quiet world you were meant to enjoy. Take time for yourself to escape from old world of unending chaos and to enjoy the beauty and peace of this new world—the world that Jesus, the Good Shepherd has created for you.

Allow him to prepare a table before you, be your host, and provide what you need to be rejuvenated. Then return the favor by paying it forward to someone who’s in need of the same remedy.

We must experience hospitality in our own souls if we hope to provide this soul restoration to others. bjh

Monday, March 10, 2008

Celebrating with the Birthday Girls

Burning Birthday Candles, originally uploaded by khoitoanvn.

I LOVE birthday parties! The cake, the decorations, the presents—even when it’s not for me. I just love to celebrate anything, actually. How can you go wrong with food and friends?

Growing up, most of my birthdays were celebrated with family—more economical that way for two blue-collar parents putting their three children through private school. But that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the celebrations. Currently, depending on the “birthday person’s” desires, we still make time for a small or large family celebration, and I enjoy the entire process--shopping, planning, celebrating.

But now, as an adult, I have more options on how to celebrate my birthday. While I’m still planning to celebrate with my family, I’ve decided to have a party for myself and two other women I know who have birthdays this month. I’m planning it for the end of this month, provided the birthday girls’ schedules are open. Here are my initial ideas:

  1. Since all three of us were born within a few days of St. Patrick’s Day, we could have an Irish or green theme to the party. I’m not sure if this will include Celtic music, corned beef, and so forth, but whatever we do will be fun!
  2. Each of us will be able to invite one friend to join us for the party. That way I’ll stay within my budget and we can get to know each other better.
  3. Presents are optional--fun is not. It's really about making memories, not accumulating stuff.

Who do you share a birthday month with? Maybe it's time to celebrate together! bjh

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spring is on its way

Spring is on its way!, originally uploaded by elinornicole.

In southern New England, spring is finally starting to awaken! With the sun melting the last of the snow and the air starting to warm up, my thoughts turn from hibernating to doing, from observing to participating. For those of us who experience long, cold winters, spring is a welcome promise of renewed life. We eagerly await the first blossoms in our gardens, the first frost-free mornings, the first days without a winter coat.

Spring can change our focus in another way--our isolating from others to connecting with others. The resolve to cocoon ourselves from the bitter cold winter, to stay warm and comfortable in our homes, is weakened. Spring's warmth and sunshine beckon us to venture outside, to walk through our neighborhood, to dine al fresco, to host a cook-out.

But for some of us, what I just described is uncomfortable. The idea of connecting with other people, of opening our hearts and home to others, is frightening, unthinkable.

"I can't invite my neighbors over--I've never said more than hello."

"I've tried to make friends in the past, but it has always backfired."

"My house isn't fit for company."

"I can't afford to entertain."

I confess I have thought those very things and had kept my home off-limits except for big occasions. But this spring, I plan to change. Like this tiny crocus leaf poking through the soil, I want to push out of my shell and bask in the warmth of community, of friendship, of true hospitality.

Join me in this journey as we learn how to revive the art of hospitality. bjh