Guest Post – Megan: {When A Casserole Is Enough}

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I can recall moving to the South, and immediately noticing that casseroles were a staple here.  But it was not until the birth of our first child that it became apparent how valuable a baked dish of something could be.  The casseroles we were brought following the birth of our first-born were not appreciated only for their dietary provision.  But to a weary first-time Mom, for their communication of love and support.

Megan Hill recently wrote an article on her blog about the value of food delivered in time of need.  Megan is a pastor’s wife, who has had many opportunities to carefully coordinate and prepare meals for others.  I asked Megan if I could borrow her article, as I believe she summarizes beautifully how a community of women can serve one another.

Even through casseroles.

megan

 

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I have made some casseroles for people. I’ve assembled dozens of lasagnas. I’ve made chicken spaghetti and chicken enchiladas and chicken with broccoli, baking them in countless disposable pans. I’ve simmered pots and pots of chili, too, and purchased enough salad-in-a-bag to feed several colonies of rabbits. Oh, I have made some casseroles.

And then I’ve driven them to the homes of church people in need, walked my dishes to their kitchen counters, chatted for a few minutes, and left. Sometimes I’ve cried all the way home.

The casseroles for new moms are great. Everyone is happy, lasagna is just what they need, and I get to hold a newborn for a minute or two. But it’s the other homes that afterwards leave me shaking over my steering wheel with grief and inadequacy.

Chicken Taco Casserole

A casserole, baked until bubbly, seems like such a small offering in a home where someone is lying in the bedroom, fighting that last enemy, death. Cheese and noodles in a foil pan—so flimsy in a place where a child is chronically ill, where a family has been deserted by a sin-craving father, or where cancer is every moment growing under a woman’s skin.

Waving chicken-and-rice in the face of death seems pointless.

But—as my husband so kindly reminds me—it’s not.

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For one thing, people need to eat. And, if some of them have no appetite, it’s a sure bet there are cousins or neighbors or friends—people a few steps removed from the struggle—who will wander into the kitchen wanting a meal at some point. My nine-by-thirteen may not meet all the needs in the home, but it meets one.

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Food is also fellowship. The breaking of bread together (both sacramental and ordinary) was one of the marks of the first century church, and it is still important for the Body today. Even if I have to leave my dish at the door, I have (as I tell my children) “baked the love in it.” My recipe, my time, my hands mixing and seasoning and assembling, are a bit of fellowship with me, delivered. And as I head home, often to eat the second batch with my own family, we share fellowship. Two families, tasting the same food at the same time: thinking of, praying for, and growing in love together as we eat.

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And, perhaps most importantly, the inadequacy of a casserole reminds me of the adequacy of my Lord. Even if I could do more than bring a casserole to seriously suffering people—if I could move in, do all the laundry, mop all the floors, play with children, and organize the medications, even if I could meet every human need in these homes—it wouldn’t even begin to solve the problem.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Only Christ, drawing near by His Spirit, can mend broken hearts and broken bodies. Only Christ can bring eternal hope to the downcast and eternal life to the dying.

It is perhaps God’s kindness to me that the most I can do is something that fits in a pan.

That way, I’m not tempted to think for one minute that my efforts are enough. Instead, the meager mouthfuls I create point to Him who is the Bread of Life. And the one who tastes of Him will never be hungry.  A casserole is not enough. He always is.

So, I set my oven—yet again—to 350.

And while it warms, I pray.

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All recipes in this post are courtesy of Six Sisters, a group of {yes, 6!} sisters who compile affordable and simple meals.  Please hover on any of the recipes and add them to your own Pin boards.  And visit Six Sisters at their site, here.  Or if you prefer, you can find them on Pinterest. 

By way of reminder, all images on this blog {minus those of our children} are now Pin-accessible.  By clicking on an image, you are able to Pin any article to your own Pin boards.

Finally, here is a link to 25 Easy Casserole Recipes – inspiration for the next time your kitchen is needed.

Enjoy serving others, in love!

 

 


Hospitality : Welcoming the Homeless for Dinner

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This morning wraps up Hospitality Week. And with Day 5, comes an introduction to my sister Susanna.  Susanna is my middle sister, and is in a word, open.  Susanna loves being with and around others, and greatly appreciates a well-used home.  I admire much about Susanna, but most of all, I appreciate her spirit of welcome.  It is this spirit of willingness to welcome that provided a unique opportunity for Susanna’s family a few years ago, as they found themselves drawn into friendship with a homeless man, Hector.  Her story is both beautiful and convicting.

Entertaining Hector

My husband and I have enjoyed extending hospitality over the course of our ten years together.  I would say that not only do we love opening up our house, but we thrive on the communal aspect entertaining affords.  We’ve entertained in tiny, one bedroom apartments, middle sized apartments, and now, our first house.   Usually, it has been middle class folk, just like us, entering our premises.  Well educated, well fed, well dressed just like us.  God has shown us that sometimes, He will surprise us by offering us an opportunity to share our home in a way that stretches our expectations.  We often hear the Christian life has to be messy in order to be real but even I was not ready for the messy we walked into four years ago.

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In 2007, my husband and I decided we wanted an adventure.  Packing up our scant belongings, we moved from Atlanta, along with our (then) one year old son, to Brooklyn, New York.  Though we quickly settled in a safe, family-friendly neighborhood there, we saw a lot of homeless men and women.  A few of these individuals became staples of our existence in Park Slope.  There was an elegant elderly woman in her 80s who had lost hear mind but not her beauty.  I’d regularly pass her as she pushed a cart with boxes and other random items in it, going nowhere in particular.  The sidewalk of 5th avenue was her home.  There was an emaciated man outside the corner grocer on 7th avenue, cup in hand, begging for change.  Like clockwork, he was always there.

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And there was Hector, a man we met outside Key Foods, the grocery store around the corner from our apartment.
Hector would sit on a white, plastic chair asking for money as people passed by.  He had a gregarious nature and readily flashed a warm, nearly toothless smile. “Hey sweetheart!” he’d say as I approached, often offering me a warm hug.  His breath wreaked of alcohol and one of his pockets was always occupied by a small flask of cheap whiskey.  He’d drink all day and then spend the evening hours in a stupor.  He loved our kids and they loved him.  I hesitated to give him money since I didn’t want to support his drinking habit but would offer to get him food instead.  Sometimes we would buy him some fried chicken from a place near the grocery store and sit with him as he ate it.

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On one such evening, as we were talking with Hector while he enjoyed his chicken, I sensed God pressing me to go a step further in our friendship with him.  Instead of only hanging with him on his territory, why not ask him to ours?  So, I asked him over for dinner.  He eagerly accepted the invitation.  The next evening, my husband, three young children and I accompanied Hector to our apartment.  We got many curious looks but that only made me all the more sure what we were doing was important.

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I can still see Hector sitting at our table, tears streaming down his face as he told us he wanted to die.  He had diabetes and serious liver damage.  He body was no longer able to empty itself on its own so he had a catheter.  He was alone.  He had lost touch with his only child, a daughter, many years before and had no idea where she was.  We asked him if he had a bible.  He said he did but he couldn’t read so it wasn’t much use to him.  We read him some verses, including one of my favorites, Mathew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We explained the gospel to him.  We told him Jesus came to give hope and a reason to live.  He listened intently and we prayed with him.

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Hector was in and out of our lives until we moved back to Atlanta two years ago, often stopping by our apartment unannounced.  I wanted to act with him as I would with any other friend of acquaintance, to welcome him into our life (within wise boundaries as a mom with young children), and treat him like he was a person worth knowing.  Worth loving.
Now I rejoice when I hear of Christians who welcome homeless people into their homes or churches.  I recently read about one such church in Australia.  Located near a large homeless population, they have made it the mission of their people to show hospitality to the homeless.  Many have become Christians as a result.  Truly, Jesus came to save the low of society just like Hector, the ones who know they do not have it altogether.  Who know they need someone bigger than themselves and their circumstances!

When we are surrendered to his plans, God does and will bring situations our way to deepen our understanding and commitment to hospitality.  Even if the person we have into our house is nothing like us, we will be blessed beyond all worldly understanding when we open the door and say, Welcome.

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I hope you have enjoyed Hospitality Week.  It has been such an encouragement to hear your thoughts, and to share varying angles of hospitality with you.  I know that I have been challenged through exploring this topic myself this week!

If you would like to read through our series, you can find Day 1, here.  Day 2, here.  Day 3, here.  And Day 4, here.

Happy Friday, all!  As always, thank you for reading and for being here.


Hospitality, Day 4: Mentored Through Hospitality

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This morning’s story of hospitality is written by my Mom, without a doubt the most hospitable woman I know. She and my Dad have never really known a stranger. Wherever they go, they make friends and they welcome these friends into their lives. I can remember groaning as I sat in the car after church on Sunday’s, because my parents were always the last to leave, always engaged in conversation with others. They have lived hospitality always before their family. Today, my Mom shares how she was shaped in her definition of hospitality, by the welcoming lives of others.

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I was not converted through a ministry of hospitality. I became a Christian pretty much ex-nihilo, very suddenly, in January,1972. But hospitality played a key role in my growing sanctification.

At twenty, I was a new person. But what were the requirements of this new life? What did God expect of me? I didn’t know.

So I read the Bible and just hung around in the homes of older Christians! The lessons I learned were vivid and immediate. I remember the first time I went for Sunday dinner (“What is Sunday dinner?”) at a friend’s home. Mr. Richardson sat at the head of the table. Mrs. Richardson sat at the foot, with children to each side. And they spoke throughout the meal – of the sermon, of Christian life generally. Aha, I thought, Christian family life has a recognizable authority structure. And communication is essential to its well-being. That first meal with a Christian family taught me two principles I have held to unswervingly through forty-two years of marriage. And they have brought great blessing.
This same family allowed me to stay with them whenever I was fearful of life – and I was often fearful in those days. As their house was small I would climb right into their daughter’s double bed and she would pray with me until I could sleep.

What can you say about love like that?

This wonderful family helped anchor me in Christ during those first crucial months when so many newly professing Christians are ‘picked off’ by the enemies of the church – the world, the flesh and the devil. I have an eternal debt to them.

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The next family that influenced me deeply were the Macaulays at English L’Abri. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay was the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. She certainly exhibited the best of her mother’s deep commitment to hospitality. There were many of us filling their English manor house, to the brim, at any given time!

One day, I was in the midst of breaking a L’Abri rule. No clothing was to be hung in the warming closet. And I was doing just that – hanging my son’s diapers to dry – when Susan caught me in the act. Needless to say, I was mortified. But she just laughed, took me to the outside clothes line, and helped me hang them where they should have been in the first place. I had only been a Christian a couple of years. I was just feeling my way into what ‘grace’ really meant. And this was a living illustration of it. Undeserved favor! All of a sudden, I ‘got it’ at a much deeper level. It was truly a profound moment for me!
These were everyday incidents that God used to transform and deepen my understanding of life. Moments only possible because others let me into their homes.
John and I have tried to open our home through the years of our marriage. And God has, in turn, used the ordinariness of our own Christian lives to transform others. What a beautiful, beautiful trans-generational blessing hospitality is!

Where a generation ago there were two of us committed to serving the Lord, there are now probably forty from within and without our family.  How I love God’s ways!

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Application

Did you catch the end of my Mom’s story?  Two people (she and my Dad) have now become 40 who love and serve the Lord!

Who can you invite into your home and your life? 

Who might you be able to impact with the Gospel, simply by sharing your space?

 


Hospitality: FREE Printable Wednesday

I hope you are enjoying Hospitality Week so far!  Monday and Tuesday’s posts are here and here, if you would like to play catch- up.  Thursday and Friday are both guest posts, written by a couple of my favorite women.  I think you will enjoy their thoughts on both giving and receiving hospitality, so very much.

Today is a wordless Wednesday.  However, in keeping with the theme of hospitality I took a break from writing, and created 2 free printables which I thought you might enjoy.

In order to access the free printable, simply click on the image.  Select copy mode, and save to desktop.  Choose print mode and select and option for print size (whether 5×7 or 8×10).  Print off and enjoy!

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These might be good reminder to place on the fridge, beside a sink full of dirty dishes, or in the laundry room – anywhere you are faced with the clean-up after company!

Enjoy your day today.  I hope you are considering the issue of hospitality with an encouraged spirit.  The reason I am drawn to the topic is because it is one I both wrestle with, and want to become better at.  Our culture is fast moving away from treasuring time in one another’s lives, and replacing face-time with autonomy.  I see myself fighting this tendency. So a biblical consideration of hospitality is helpful for me, and I hope, to you as well.

We will see you back here tomorrow!


Hospitality: Overstaying the Welcome

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Yesterday, I kicked off the series on hospitality with the question: Does Your Life Say Welcome?  And I referenced Karen Ehman’s helpful definition of hospitality as being both in-home and out-home.  For that post, click here.

Today,  I want to discuss the concept of overstaying the welcome.  How do we relate to the friend, neighbor or guest who needs relationship beyond the bounds of time we have allotted for them?  What does it look like to love after the stop-watch has beeped?

Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10, are an excellent starting point.  In the story of Mary and Martha, we see the perfect illustration of provision in friendship, and joyful response.  Having invited Jesus over for a meal at their home, Martha was in a frenzy, seeking to make the ambience of Jesus’ visit, perfect.  She was highly stressed and anxious.  She was resentful, because while she was busily tending to the felt needs of her friend Jesus, Mary was sitting down!  Mary was plunked down at the feet of Jesus, listening to him, resting with him and enjoying him.  “Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”.

Mary knew how to open her home and to relax in the company of her guest.  She knew how to provide a slowed-down welcome, and to absorb time with a loved one.  I am confident that Jesus felt both rested in the company of Mary, and honored that she would ease her life-pace for him.  Remember that Jesus saw the agony of the cross always before him.  Mary’s hospitality was likely a great source of renewal and encouragement for him.

As North Americans, we are fiercely autonomous, aren’t we?  Deeply desirous of privacy.  Jealous of our boundaries.  But as Christians, the Gospel should make us different.  We should resemble those who prize people above things, who value time with others more than we value task-accomplishment.  We should be more like Mary.

Last week, my sister and I were discussing hospitality, and she referred me to a song by Sara Groves.  In this song, entitled “Every Minute”, Groves references a friend who loved and tended to her by allowing her to overstay the welcome in her home.  Her words are both touching and poignant, as they relay a deep truth about the enabling power of committed friendship.

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Groves references the void filled by her friend, as she stays long and stays over-time.  But she weaves together an account that can be easily identified in my life, or yours.  So great is her love and need for her friend, that I’ll take every minute that you give me.

Mary gave Jesus her minutes.

When our friends and neighbors and guests linger, it can become tempting to wish our stop-watches to beep so we can move down our lists to the next thing to do.  We always have a next thing to do, don’t we?  But hospitality is loving beyond our boundaries- of space and of time.  When we linger just a few moments longer than we had planned to, we communicate with more than mere words

a life that says welcome.

Application

Is there one person this week that you can slow down for?

Can you answer their phone-call, or meet up in person, or invite them over for coffee and allow them to overstay their welcome?

If you would like to listen to Sara Grove’s beautiful song, Every Minute, here is a link.

 


Hospitality: A Life that Says Welcome

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Welcome to Hospitality Week, here on the blog!  I hope over the next few days to discuss varying styles of hospitality, with the goal of illustrating that we are all called to hospitality, and that we can all be good at some form of it.

Karen Ehman has writtten an excellent book, called Life That Says Welcome.  In it, she discusses the Biblical call to hospitality.  The why, the how, the precedent behind God’s design that we open our homes for one another, and share our tables.  Scripture is clear on the important call to hospitality.  Acts 2 describes the response to the Gospel, as one which should prompt our hearts to open toward others.  In Acts, we see the formation of a brand-New Testament church, with believers seeking to honor God in their relationships with one another.  And interestingly, one of the first fruits to be borne, is that of hospitality:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Do you find this kind of Acts 2 hospitality strenuous?

Admittedly, I do.  I am challenged with a definition of hospitality that has long haunted me.  One that demands formal invitations and prepared meals and a plan.  I have never been good at long-range planning, so formalities are not my strength.  I am easily stressed by the chaos of crowds, so how do I exert a welcoming spirit despite my less-than-perfect wiring?

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In reading Acts 2 however, and seeing it fleshed out in Ehman’s book, it struck me that I may not have assessed the call to hospitality with enough breadth, with enough grace, and have been wrestling with feelings of failure, due to a too-narrow definition of what hospitality looks like fleshed out in my life.

Ehman expounds on the very concerns I have, giving space for the definition of hospitality to grow and to evolve.  Hospitality she states, can be of two kinds: in-home and out-of-home.  And both functioning together with intention, are what provide communities with an optimal sense of welcome.

In-Home: In-home hospitality involves opening our doors, setting out extra dishes,and preparing for additional mouths to feed.   It is the invitation to life in the home, lending itself to an intimacy that is easiest found by breaking down barriers of space and physical boundaries.  It is the cup of cold water (or coffee or tea) prepared to provide rest for the soul of another.

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Out-of-Home: Out-of-Home hospitality Ehman maintains, is every bit as necessary and personal as in-home hospitality, but involves work beyond the front door.  Out-of-home hospitality looks like welcoming new neighbors, visiting those who are lonely, preparing meals for friends, and looking out for the physical and emotional needs of others and seeking to meet those “felt” needs.

All of us Ehman, maintains, are called to hospitality, but this definition can be as broad as our individuality allows it to be.  And it can change with the seasons of our experience.

For example, for nearly 9 years we have lived in our neighborhood.  And in the course of that time, we have had a revolving door of small children in and out of our home, nearly daily.  Perhaps because of this, we have not exerted as much formal hospitality as those might who live in a more isolated setting.   Keeping our home occupied has never been difficult.  However, the last few months have seen several of our closest neighbors move out of state, and so we have been filling the void with more formal invitations to our home.  Our season has changed and with it, our expression of hospitality.

But isn’t this life?  God’s commands are firm and resolute.  But with His desire for our obedience to His will, also comes His hand of sovereignty.   And as His plans shift our circumstances, grace is there to meet the interpretation.  So while His call to hospitality does not shift, the expression might vary, depending on our season.

Application

Do you find Ehman’s in-home/out-home definition of hospitality encouraging?

Can you define your area of strength in hospitality? 

Can you think of one thing you can do this week to demonstrate a hospitable spirit to others?