Commanded to be Hospitable

the answer is still and again love

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Lord, when one of us hungers, make it our instinct to feed.

When one of us is displaced, make it our instinct to share our home.

– Common Prayer

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longer table

June Challenge: Five Favorite Foods

Day Five of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt:  Share your five favorite foods or recipes.

I grew up in the South where Sunday dinner was delicious and church potlucks were prodigious.

If you were blessed to go to a church that had Fifth Sunday spreads, then you know what I mean.

On cement tables back of the church, good cooks pulled out all the stops and brought forth their most prized recipes for public consumption.

If you wanted a taste of Aunt Wilma’s cake or Aunt Mattie Lou’s beans, you had better be in the front of the line, because the best dishes were emptied fast.

So in honor of those warm memories, I share my five favorite church potluck foods:

Dessert First!  {One of the privileges of potlucks}

Banana Pudding-a southern staple, this creamy concoction is both beautiful and delicious. It often arrived to the buffet with a corner scooped out because someone HAD to taste it-just to make sure it was good.  

banana pudding

 

pound cake

Pound Cake-crunchy crust, moist inside and a perfect foil for fresh fruit or ice cream.  If you lived in a rural community it was made all the better wtih farm fresh egss, real butter and NEVER imitation vanilla.

 

Fried Chicken-before it was possible to pick up a box of chicken on almost any corner-good, iron skillet fried chicken was both an art and a treat.  Only the best cooks could manage to get the meat done, yet still moist and produce a crispy crust.

fried chicken

mac and cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese-full of cheesy goodness and oh, so different, than the stuff in the box! I’m sad that some children don’t even know it can be “homemade”.

 

Creamed Corn-fresh corn, picked and silked, then scalded and scraped from the cob.  Grandmama would pull a few bags from the freezer and cook them down in a pot with a little butter and salt.  You could taste summer and love in every bite.

creamed corn

 

I have fond memories of sitting on cement steps, swatting flies and eating delicious food surrounded by people I love.

I felt safe, protected, full and included.

My heart was assured that there would always be enough love, enough food and enough of everything to go around.

 

 

A Good Day

 

jm captain

 

Last Friday, my oldest son received his USAF captain’s bars.  True to form, his path to this new achievement was unique and memorable. I’m so very proud of him and of his commitment to excellence.

And that meant that he was leaving San Antonio and headed to Maxwell AFB for Commissioned Officer Training. So he was able to swing by home on Sunday!

 

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Sunday afternoon, my kids presented me with this beautiful “Family of Love” necklace for Mother’s Day.  It has all their names and birthstones so I can wear them close to my heart.  I love it!

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James Michael brought me flowers-lots of purple, my favorite color.

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And then we were joined by Joe and Seve, two of Dominic’s good friends from Law School. Joe surprised me with this amazing handmade plate from his recent travels to Turkey. I appreciate the love and support of these fellows and their ongoing commitment to remember Dominic and honor our family.

 

We had Robbie and Jonica over for supper with their new daughter.  I got to cuddle this sweet baby and be reminded that love still lives and life goes on.

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And no DeSimone adventure would be complete without an “emergency”.  While getting food ready and on the table, we discovered a minor plumbing problem that flooded the downstairs bathroom, the laundry area and into the garage (all downhill-literally and figuratively).

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So while we girls ate supper, the men worked at repairs.

Just like old times-one boy went in one direction, another went the other way and Julian manned the homefront.  Thankfully, they were able to get things back in working order sooner rather than later.  But not before I exhausted our supply of 24 full-sized “clean-up” towels that were washed in bleach the next day!

 

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The evening ended with lots of laughter and plenty of carbs.

And a rare opportunity for a group photo that had me surrounded by all my children within reach. (Thank you, Alison, for snapping the picture!)

We miss you, Dominic.

And we can never stand close enough to squeeze out the giant hole you’ve left.

But we are living like you lived-making the most of the moments-and loving each other.

boys

 

Unbounded Love: A Generous Life

Every day I have a choice:  I can live with my hands closed tightly around what I think I can protect from others or I can live with my hands open both to give and to receive.

Losing a child makes it tempting to cling that much tighter to what and who I have in my life.

But losing a child also makes it plain that no matter how tightly I hold onto the people and possessions I think are mine, in the end, I’m just not strong enough to do it.

I don’t have power over sin and death.   I can’t anticipate or control the thousands of potential dangers that lurk around corners and spring from shadows.

Every thing and every person that I treasure is a gift from God.  They were given me to steward, not to own.

There is an interesting conundrum associated with success documented in many studies: those who have more tend to give less.  The actual dollar amount may be larger, but as a percentage of income or wealth, it is much smaller.

It seems that those who accumulate wealth and experience privilege begin to consider themselves more deserving than those who live in poverty.

I think there is a corollary in the church:  we who are members of the Body of Christ and walk in the joy of forgiveness can drift from remembering that we, too, were once far from God, walking in darkness and without hope.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Ephesians 2:1-6 MSG

God is a generous and loving God.  He makes his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous :

You have heard that it used to be said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’, and ‘hate your enemy’, but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.

~Matthew 5:44-47 MSG

He longs for all to come to a saving knowledge of Christ:

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9 HCSB

And He has called us as His ambassadors of reconciliation to proclaim His goodness, love and generosity throughout the world:

All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.

2 Corinthians 5:18 GNT

When we walk with closed hands, when we act as if we are “us” and the rest of the world is “them” we build walls instead of bridges.

And we push people away instead of drawing them in.

Have we forgotten that but for the grace of a loving and generous God, we too would be lost?

What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?

I Corinthians 4:7 TLB

 

 

 

 

hospitality

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 35:34-36 MSG

Our home has always been open.  My children knew they never had to worry about bringing a stray friend with them for a meal or a place to spend the night.

Even since losing Dominic we have continued to welcome others to our table and into our lives.

I’ve thought a great deal about how easy it would be to shut the door, climb into bed and hide from the world in my grief. And some days I have to do that to preserve my sanity.

But God has placed in me a desire to open wide the gates of my heart and to welcome friends and strangers as I walk this valley. Not only to listen to MY story, but to invite them to tell me THEIRS.  

As a follower of Christ I am commanded to extend hospitality. This can feel daunting if I imagine it looks like a clean house and serving beautiful food to large groups of people. But at its HEART hospitality is openness and simply providing a welcome and safe place for people to express themselves.

Displaying the pieces of my broken life for all to see, I can say, “Here–I am fragile and wounded and imperfect.  Your heart is safe with me.”

Grief has erased borders and unlocked doors.

It is teaching me we all need to be made welcome, we all need to be invited inside.  

 

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

~Henri  Nouwen