Monday grace

We sat across from each other in the restaurant, cups steaming with our hot beverages. We talked as friends, sharing the details of life, catching up months of intricacies and essentials. It had been too long since we communed like this.

She told me about opening her home to neighbors, friends, people in general, and I listened, wondering how she did this so easily, so lovingly, so Christ-like. I’ve benefited from her gift of hospitality on many occasions, how she does it with ease, an open heart and an open home.

I pulled out of the parking lot with those thoughts lingering, asking myself if I could do that. Could I throw open the doors and invite the needy in?

It’s much easier to welcome friends, companions, those who share common ground. It’s not as threatening when I am familiar with the faces around my table and we chit chat. But what about the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphans, those less like me? What about those who are too troubled for me to offer an easy remedy?

Yet, aren’t they the ones God bids me to love? Isn’t that the way He loves me?

The call came late in the evening, from one with whom communication is mainly via text and cell phone. She asked if she could come spend the weekend, and the intonation of the words told me there was something more to the phrases she used.

In a vulnerability I don’t often have myself, she said she needed a place to stay for a couple of days, a safe place. After asking more questions and seeking Sweet William’s insight, knowing his perception is often better than mine, I said, “Yes. Come.”

She arrived with her baggage and burdens, her tears and her hurts. We opened the door when she knocked and said, “Welcome.”

That night as I lay in bed, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to fill this house and fill our hearts, the very Presence of peace who brings comfort in chaos and provides shelter in storms. The Host who embodies the glad welcome and complete acceptance, was abiding with us.

My own heart opened a little bit wider. And it was all grace.

Monday grace.

Opening the door

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}


Hospitality. What sort of images does the word conjure in your mind? Lavish tablescapes, beautifully arranged place settings, a house full of people we hope to impress with our home, our recipes, and our entertaining skills?

Or could it be this: a warm smile, a listening ear, an open heart, and a place of comfort and peace.

Jen Schmidt writes about her experiences in practicing hospitality in Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation.

I loved reading this book. It came to me on the heals of participating in a four-month series where we gathered at the table and learned how Jesus did life at the table in the Scriptures. Jen Schmidt’s book was like a festive dessert after a sumptuous meal.

Jen grew up where inviting people in was common, and she determined to do the same when she had her own home. She tells her varied experiences like the days when they lived small and had little. Money was a consideration when thinking about guests. In the chapter “Elephant in the Room,” she tackles this issue and urges us to open the door anyway, offering suggestions when the budget is tight.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “When we least expect it, comparison sneaks up like a thief and attempts to rob us of all joy, especially when it pertains to things as personal as our home.” (Ch. 2, Trickle Down)
  • “You are the one who can meet the need of another today if you just open the door.” (Ch. 7, The Power of One)
  • “An open home, like an open table, is the overflow of an open heart.” (Ch. 9, The Potluck: Risks and Rewards)
  • We’ve allowed the imperfections of our friendship to strengthen us. A sisterhood of the imperfect.” (Ch. 10, Come as You Are)

Each chapter ends with an appropriate question from a reader and Jen’s answer, plus suggested ideas pertaining to the chapter’s topic.

Just Open the Door is about planned events and spontaneity; big gatherings and intimate tea parties; long-term guests and taking hospitality beyond the walls of home; celebrating everyday moments and deciding who really is my neighbor. It offers optimistic incentive to the novice and those more practiced in opening their doors.

The Bible abounds with examples of hospitality and instructs believers to practice it regularly. Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, will helps us grow and feel more comfortable doing it in our own personal way.

Jen Schmidt is a lifstyle blogger at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. 

See the source image

NOTE:   I received a copy of Just Open the Door, How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review. The book was free. The words are my very own.





Living with open hands

I read a book years ago called Open Heart, Open Home which was aimed at hospitality.  I gleaned from it how to welcome people into the home even on the days when it was in less than pristine condition.  I struggled with that early in my marriage, wanting everything perfect before company came.  It was an impossible dream.  Learning to open my home without all the pressure of perfection was a great relief, and seeing it as a ministry was something I could embrace.  I could focus on my guests rather than trying to be the ultimate hostess.

The concept of open heart has evolved for me over the years as well. I am basically an introvert who is willing to be in the background, the listener of conversations, comfortable with my non-voice.  As a result I have been perceived as aloof, unfriendly, and stuck up. That is not the persona I wanted so I made the effort to become less shy, more open, and welcome people into my heart.  Again the focus was on others, and less about me.

It’s taking a lifetime of learning for God to bring me even close to the person I was meant to be.  I’m nearer than I was but a long way from being there.

Recently I have been making the effort to live with open hands, a concept that should not be new to me, but it has recently become a guiding light.  Perhaps it is because my own plans have run aground so many times in the last several years.  Perhaps because I’ve finally given in to not being in control at all. Perhaps because what I wanted most was not within my grasp and what’s a girl to do with that?

“Living with expectations kills relationships,” I read and am finding it profoundly true.  My unmet expectations produce frustration, anger, resentment, and discontent.  And that is not a happy place to live.

I’m figuring out that even the best laid plans of mice and men and me do so often go awry.  Can I be at peace with that or will I flail against the reality that what I think I want isn’t going to materialize?  Can I be joyful in whatever state I am in?  Can I learn to be content with less than hoped for by opening my hands and living without expectations of others fulfilling my wishes?

I am making the effort.  I find my hands clenched too often, holding onto, grasping for what I believe will make me happy.  But then happy is transient and when it flies away like the summer butterfly, what is left but a fist full of unmet expectations.

I can only pray for the grace and help to do what I know I need to do, live with open hands.  It goes against my selfish nature, but I want to live in servant-hood reality not in a serve-me fantasy.

So I pray,

“Lord and Maker of all, You knew me before anyone else.  You chose my personality.  You gave me gifts to be used to bless others.  You continue to work to form me into the image of Your beloved Son who made the role of Servant the highest and best job description.  He lived with open hands, always reaching out to give, to heal, to restore, hands that invited others to come but always gave them the choice.  Please make me more like Jesus.”

And open hands are ready and waiting to be filled with good things, unexpected blessings, just what I needed all along.