When It’s Not Your Gift



We call hospitality a gift. Some have it others don’t. A way of offering that some people are called to and others are not. Like teaching or preaching or healing.

Here’s the problem: We’ve equated hospitality with hosting.

The ability to have people in your home and serve them well is a gift. Some do this with ease, some do it because they have to, some because they feel called to. It’s an instinct for some, and for others it’s a learned way of living. And yet for others it’s awkward or exhausting or intrusive.

But here’s some real truth: You do not have to be gifted in hosting in order to be faithful in hospitality.

When we understand hospitality as having a heart that welcomes, a spirit that invites, and a life that is interruptible – it transforms this way of living and loving into a mission rather than a gift. And it separates this mission from the Betty Crocker, apron wearing, table setting, sheet folding, home organizing responsibilities that come with sharing your home with others.

Receiving people into your home is only one expression of hospitality. There are countless ways to receive life. Multiple opportunities to be available. And entering into the journeys of others doesn’t require them entering your home.

So for those who struggle in making a home receptive to others, breath these next words and find freedom:

You don’t have to know how to cook to be hospitable. You don’t have to entertain with ease. You don’t have to have a well cleaned and organized home. You don’t even have to have a home!

Consider the One who walks before us in these ways of welcoming, inviting and being available. He had no home. Nothing to his name but greatness. Holiness. Worthiness.

This Jesus who didn’t cooked for people, but offered his body as bread, his blood as wine. This Jesus who never invited people to his home, but entered the homes of others and blessed it with grace and healing and life. This Jesus who didn’t throw parties for his friends, but sat at the table of a tax collector, offered water to a prostitute, and broke bread with those he was teaching. This Jesus who welcomes all people to share in his life that he may point them to his Father.

This is hospitality. Not the well-dressed table. Not the linens that drape. Not the serving dishes that shine. Not the taste of the food. Not the well stocked kitchen. Not the comfortable bed.

It’s the love that is shown. The grace that is offered. The questions that are asked. The willingness to come. The availability to help. The posture of openness. The concern expressed in hurt. The truth spoken in trouble. The Word given for hope.

 

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Ugandan families showed us some of the sweetest hospitality we’ve received in humble homes such as this.

Hospitality is a posture of life that is open to others. Open to their journey intersecting with yours. Their story changing yours. Their problems becoming yours. Their pain paining you. It’s a willingness to embrace people where they are, pointing them to the bigger story they find themselves in.

This isn’t something we are gifted in. It’s a way of life we are called to because we claim to believe in Jesus and all that he is about. And this is what he is about. Life. Redeeming it, saving it, holding it, healing it, restoring it, valuing it – all for eternal purposes.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

My prayer for us all is that God reveals to us the ways he has gifted us in giving his grace. If the body of Christ are called to hospitality, may he affirm in us how our gifts manifest in this calling. How does your gift of preaching welcome people and point them to the Father? How does your gift of healing interrupt your life to be available to others? How does your gift of hosting give people an environment to see and experience the love of God? How does your gift of service provide God’s grace to those in need?

May we notice and affirm these gifts in each other and feel confident to acknowledge them in ourselves.

Even though I encourage you to understand hospitality separate from your home and separate from the idea of hosting, I also want to express how much I believe in the home. Despite the fact that so many are broken, I believe the home ought to be a place where people grow. I believe it should empower people, restore people, comfort people.

I use my home as part of my mission in hospitality. I am a mother of five who chooses to educate my children at home — home is where I am most of my time. It makes sense for this to be my environment where grace and hospitality happens. But everyone ought to interpret hospitality for the people and places they dwell — it will look different for everyone, and it may look different in your current phase of life than it did in the past. Be gracious to yourself {and others} as we all discern how to live into this calling.

Praying Mercy Today



You say you desire mercy, not sacrifice. What does that mean? Cause I thought sacrifice was the way to live Christian, the way to give of myself for another.

But your word is true. So I wrestle with it.

To sacrifice is to offer. The act of giving up something that is mine for someone else. These burnt offerings are not meaningless. They are ceremonial in nature. And their aroma is pleasing to you. You tell me this. But I can sacrifice my money for the cause of another, yet, it’s not really giving of myself. And I can sacrifice part of my day to help someone, without really entering into their need.

So, could it be there is a better way to approach brokenness? A way of living that goes beyond sacrifice, and takes us into mangers in barns and crosses on hills?

Is this what you mean when you say you desire mercy? A loyalty that goes deeper than giving up something on behalf of another? A faithfulness that loves through embrace rather than doing without? An acknowledgment of who you are, rather than what we’re able to give?

Mercy is entering into the brokenness of another. Joining them in the darkness of their sin. In the pain of their heartache. In the loneliness of their divorce. In the confusion of their wandering. In the hopelessness of their grief.

In the pit of sin, in the depths of pain, in the hollow places of grief….. there is really very little to offer someone other than yourself. Burnt offerings of material possessions and resources are welcomed and received. But they will not bring healing and restoration. For they are not eternal.

When your people were lost to you, you sent manna. You sent rain. You sent leaders. You sent sacrifices of love to reveal who you were and to show you were trustworthy. But your truest act of love was when you sent yourself. It was when you came to us. When you entered our dirty world. When you walked into our sin. When you joined us in our suffering.

This is mercy, isn’t it? And you desire it because you know it’s the better way. Because you know the way to holiness is through entering the lives of others.

Teach us in your ways of mercy. How to love through embrace. How to welcome by entering. How to receive by joining. For our acts of mercy authenticate our sacrifices of love.

Be merciful to us, oh Lord, that we might be merciful to others. That our love might move beyond our giving and serving. To a life of grace and compassion for the brokenness all around us. To a commitment of seeking truth and understanding. To a willingness to get dirty in the mess of others. To a life focused on the eternal, rather than the things that burn away.

Teach me, oh Lord, for now I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

My Favorite Things This Spring {2014}



favoritethings1. Pixi redness reducing primer from Target. I put it under my tinted moisturizer to help even my skin tone. The closer I get to 40, the more I need little favorite like this. My skin has changed a lot in tone and texture these past few years and I’m committed to taking care of it, even if it means spending a little more money on good cleansers and creams. I currently use Dr. Loretta skin care online and I’m super happy with the results.

2. These sweet potato chips are so yummy. Only 3 ingredients: sweet potatoes, sunflower oil and salt. I love products like this. I bought these at Papa Joe’s for $1.50 AND buy one get one free! I stocked up…

3. The denim vest is a must have for summer! I bought this one at Marshall’s.

4. Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt it my very favorite. I buy them, hide them, and don’t share them.

5. Elf Healthy Glow Bronzer from Target. Bronzers are often too dark for me. This is more like a gold shimmer. It’s super pretty plus it only costs a few dollars. And because it’s light, I let my little girlies wear it sometimes which they think is super cool!

6. My Dandy Blend latte. This replaced my morning espresso latte, which I cut out in January for adrenal issues. I mix milk, Tazo Chai Tea concentrate and dandy blend and pour over ice. It’s really yummy! I still love espresso more, but this satisfies my need for a yummy morning drink.

7. My green plants. I really enjoy color, but I am loving the natural green look for my front porch and back veranda. It’s been very calming and inviting — a great back drop to all my colorful, wild children running around!

8. Speaking of calming…Young Living’s Peace & Calming oil is such a great one. We use it before bed, during cranky moods and even as a perfume!

9. Mark. He’s always my favorite. Not just in Spring. But always and forever. I’m crazy about him and the way he love me. And I just cannot believe how much he has accomplished this Spring on our property. He works hard to make things productive and beautiful. Come on out and see everything we’re doing!

Do You Miss Me??



Wait…don’t answer…unless, of course, you do! I’m not going to assume you’ve noticed, but I haven’t posted in such a long time. I’ve missed the writing. It’s my way of quieting my mind and processing life in a way that documents moments and struggles and growth so I’ll always remember. Life has truly sprung forth with Spring, and I just haven’t been able to slow down long enough to scribble it down. Farm chores are in full swing! Six pigs arrived this month and we are super excited to offer pastured raised pork to more people this year. We’ve doubled our clutch of chickens, and we even have two goats we rescued. In addition to all that farm fun, we are excited to be hosting a wedding here at our place for some sweet friends of ours. They marry in a week and we are using this special occasion to motivate us to complete several projects and beautification attempts! We will exhale soon and very soon….

In the meantime, I invite you to come peek at some glimpses of our life over on Instagram (@environmentsofgrace). I’m not so quiet over there because it’s quick and easy to post a picture and share what we’re up to or express one of my many deep thoughts! Plus I’m meeting some super cool people in that web of a place. There is inspiration and encouragement and truth and beauty and real life shining through pictures of people I’ve never even met. I’m humbled at the way God can use all things — even distracting social media — to bless his people and bring Him glory.

Here’s a few pictures from the past month. I hope you’re enjoying the sun and green and warmth! We’re loving it so much we don’t even want to be inside. Which is great….until you actually do go inside and realize you haven’t cleaned or dusted or vacuumed or mopped in a reeeaaally long time!

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What needs resurrecting in your life?



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How good of Easter to come right after winter. For those cold barren months burrow in us an awareness of death, a humility to that which we cannot control. Instead of the obvious of vibrant colors and the fullness of foliage and the singing of the animal world, when we surrender to a season of dying we must look harder to see life in forms less visible. Like the whispers of wind that foretell change. And the provision of a thick coat that miraculously appear on the deer that winter in our woods. Like the glistening of snow that makes the bare branches sparkle. And the winter fellowship that happens when a family hibernates in their den of togetherness.

There are glimpses of life in every season of death. You just have to let grace be your vision.

But the hardest for me is right now. These days stuck in the in-between. None of the beauty of Winter, with few signs yet of Spring. It’s a holding place that makes me restless.  I yearn for the resurrection of colorful days, of the songs of the birds, of the warmth of the sun. I ache for the way it all breathes life into our bones and we begin to dance instead of huddle.

And this rebirth, this resurrection, is only possible because we endured the season before it. The one that taught us how to be still. The one that tested our patience. The one that made us tuck under covers. The one that brought the dark. The one that stirred in us a fervent longing for what’s to come.

And it has me wondering what needs dying in my life and what needs resurrecting. For when death is happening all around, you can’t help but also notice the winter in your heart. The starvation of control. The dullness of cultural conformity. The infertile nature of judgment. The suffocation of perfectionism. And how God is taking these territories of my heart and making them barren in order to resurrect the abundant life he intends for me. One of surrender. One of intentionality and mission. One of grace.

After death, God always resurrects. This we can be certain of. For it’s His story, and ours. But resurrection happens only after surrender, only after “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This artist God of ours is always re-creating in and around us, springing forth new life, raising from our graves of flesh a life and spirit that embraces more fully our purpose on this earth.

What needs resurrecting in you? And what must die in order for God to raise up new life?

 

 

Praying For Some {global} Vision Today



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It’s always so confusing to me when the anger of people is directed toward the behavior and choices of others. More than their own brokenness. More than the blaring ethical and social injustices. More than the existence of poverty stricken communities. More than the outrageous amount of children still not in families. More than the sexual battle that preys on young women. More than the widespread addiction to the virtual stimulations that prevent intimacy in reality.

My own anger swells up in these moments when the people who wear your Name use it to build walls, instead of erase boundaries. To judge, instead of embrace. It’s as if we’ve missed the whole point of why You called us to be a Holy People.

This isn’t a new problem. Your people haven’t always had your vision.

I really love Your words in Isaiah 42, the ones that speak a calling over Your servants, the ones where You grieve over their adulterous worship. And today I read them with new clarity.

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen, he is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.”

But it wasn’t only the nations who were in the dark.

“Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the Lord? You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”

And so I can’t help but ask: Church, why don’t we ever consider whether we’re the ones who are blind?

We’ve taken our political alliances, scripture interpretations, and long-standing morals and have built them of gold, wood and stone, and stood them tall for everyone to see. They overshadow our love and steal zeal from our spirit, which longs to inhabit grace. And even more crippling is how these idols have blinded us from recognizing all of humanity as created in Your image. How long will our complacent hearts and idle hands do little or nothing to redemptively engage the global social crises, while we sit in our comfortable homes, behind our expensive screens, passionately making moral and righteous stands?

Instead of unveiling Truth to an unseeing world, we ourselves are the ones who are blind, we are the ones not listening to God’s activity in this time and place.

Forgive us, Father, for shouting our judgment in this public place. For humiliating the weak with our hateful, fear induced words. Forgive us for putting out dim lights that seem genuine in their interest to love. Forgive us for spending more time judging those we think have done wrong, instead of bringing justice to those who have been wronged.

I want a global vision. One that expands past my own insecurities and fears. One that leaps over my judgmental spirit. One that doesn’t compartmentalize people. One that recognizes grace when it’s being given. One that sees the pain of others. One that identifies how to participate in Your ministry on the earth. One that stretches across boundaries and borders to embrace everyone You’ve created.

And I’m thankful for the people and ministries who lead in this.

Amen.

This Will Always Be My Favorite Lent Story



Lent looks different every year for our family. For one, it wasn’t even something we acknowledged growing up in our particular community of faith. But I really love the discipline of fasting and I especially appreciate when communities come together to fast collectively. This year, however, I’m not fasting from anything food related. I’m really not fasting from anything at all. Rather, I’ve made a commitment to prayerfully approach the Father on behalf of several people I know who need the support of prayer right now. I set these little alarms on my phone and all throughout the day I hear rings that remind me to pray for the new mother who is being knit together with her two adopted daughters, the friend who is choosing resurrection over abandonment, the son who is making a decision about school, the bride who waited for the Lord’s timing, the loved one across the seas who is beginning a new season of life….I can’t always kneel, and sometimes I’m in a place or with people where I can’t pray with full attention — but my heart is ever being pricked for these dear people, my thoughts are daily turned toward their struggles and victories.

Several years ago, we decided to embrace silence each day of Lent. To listen for God, to hear things we don’t normally hear. And in order to make time for silence, we had to stop, and give up what we were doing in those moments. My very favorite story of Lent is from that year. And it goes like this:

In the quiet we’ve been sitting. Together in the same room, no talking, simply being. Some close their eyes, some keep them open, and at different times we look at the wooden cross hung on our mantel.

Even Tessa participates, though her three-year old energy is bursting through the silence wanting so badly to speak or move. Fifteen minutes must be longer in silence than in activity, for it feels like an eternal moment in our day.

Day one, the children noticed what they must leave in order to join the quiet – a snack, a game, a book, the computer. When you say yes to something, you’re always saying no to something else.

Day two, we got distracted by loved ones laboring in love, blessing our home with the smells of Ugandan cooking and clean floors and windows. We forgot to be quiet. So before bed, we turned the lights out and together we approached Jesus in silence. Five minutes into this new way of being, Luke finds me in the dark and lays his head on my chest to rest. I draw him near and soak him up because he’s not my cuddle one.

Five more minutes passed and Connor – the one who wrestles in his mind — whispers that his “bad thoughts” are haunting him again. It doesn’t surprise me. These thoughts often lurk in the dark. So I draw him close too, which feels natural because he is the cuddle one.

When the fifteen minutes ended, Luke breaks the silence.

Your heartbeat makes me feel loved and safe, he says.

I don’t move. The one who is 10, the one who does not emote is sharing his feelings with me, with all of us.

I remind him that my heartbeat was the only sound he heard for nine months when God formed him inside me. He smiles. Then he turned to his younger brother who adores him.

Connor, you know how mom’s heartbeat makes you feel loved and safe? {As if it’s a well known truth they share} Well, when you listen to it try to remember a good memory from a long time ago. And lock it in your mind so when your bad thoughts come you can think of that memory instead.

I hardly know what to say. It’s only day two and Jesus had entered into our silence.

As if nothing just happened, Luke exits the room. Connor and I sit quietly. He knows. We both know. We have just received a gift. I whisper in his ear: This is him saying I love you. This is him saying that he cares that you have bad thoughts.

Connor smiles. This little brother has waited a long time for this.

I go to bed that night with a deeper appreciating for the quiet. So this is what it does! It causes us to search for safety. To find the one that makes us feel loved. It allows us to hear heartbeats. It connects us with our emotions. It causes us to see others. To help them in their hurting.

It has me wanting more. More quiet, more rest, more Jesus.

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