what hospitality is & isn't

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Hospitality used to be a one time deal for me. An event or a production. It meant a perfectly clean home and everything homemade. It meant waiting on people hand and foot, assuming that to care for them really well meant always being one step ahead. It meant refilling water glasses, serving up more food on half eaten plates, and asking interesting questions when conversation ran dry.

It looked like scanning the scene to make sure everyone was okay and fed and warm and cared for and seen.

These things aren’t necessarily bad on their own -- what’s bad is what I let them do to me. I let them take the fun out of gathering. And guys, when something used to bring you life & joy doesn't anymore, it's time to get low and listen (as my friend Amber would say) and make a change. I let these things wrap around me so tight I could barely breathe. I gave them authority over my worth, identity, and permission to take up space. These things became my reason for being enough, my reason for being liked, and having friends.

And without them I felt plain, ordinary, and unlovable.

I’m a two on the enneagram. So I’m hardwired for helping. It’s how I’m made. But I can often help out of a place of fear. I begin to believe I am only loved and necessary because I help. So I wrap my worth and identity up in these things. And  sometimes I still do. It’s taken many years to get here so it may take a few years to find freedom --- freedom in offering out of love rather than acceptance.

This way of living left me exhausted and worn out. I felt more like a mannequin on display rather than a real person. I left interactions not actually knowing how people were doing because I was so stuck inside my own head --- Do they like me? Did I talk too much? Was the food okay?

I’m hardwired for helping. It’s how I’m made. But I can often help out of a place of fear. I begin to believe I am only loved and necessary because I help.

I remember hearing Jennie Allen speak at an event and share something along the lines of this -- those times we criticize and nitpick our every move, wondering if we're too much of this or too little of that, stems less from a place of caring deeply for others and more for caring deeply about how we're perceived.

It’s my own pride. Not an act of selflessness.

I was maintaining an image that didn’t even exist. And I couldn’t point the finger at anyone because no one had asked me to live up to this other than myself. I had placed the burden there. And as a result, I was missing the beautiful narrative unfolding around me.

I really don’t want to miss it anymore.

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In efforts to make hospitality a lifestyle, something we don’t merely do but carry with us, I had to break some unhealthy habits. I had to find truth over some lies in my head. So that’s why I hold tight to these three things instead -- the things hospitality isn’t (to me).

Maybe it's time you make your own list too. But until you’re able, borrow mine if you'd like. I truly hope it helps free you a little bit. You ready? Here we go.

Hospitality is not always fancy and homemade.

If cooking things from scratch brings you life, you should do that. Do the things that bring you life. We need more of that in the world. But if cooking stresses you out then pivot. If it’s the very reason you don’t gather -- make adjustments. Typically, I make one part of a meal and buy the rest.

For me, that might mean homemade soup with store bought bread. Or baked fish with a premade salad. You could even buy pizza crusts and the toppings to go with it so friends could assemble their own. Better yet, make the meal a potluck. Throw some meat in the crock pot or a casserole in the oven and invite friends to bring a dish to pass and share. Or call in your favorite carry-out and serve it on paper plates for easy clean up.

The point isn't what's on the table, the point is whose around the table.

It's for this very reason I hesitate when posting really pretty, curated pictures. I want to celebrate all that is lovely and the incredible talent of others but I really wrestle with the false narrative it creates. My life doesn't look like a pinterest board. It's messy and full of clutter. It's dishes piled high in the sink and leftovers. Social media allows for snapshots, not the full story. We must remember this while scrolling.

The point isn’t what’s on the table. The point is whose around the table.

And I believe there's just as much magic hovering above a table covered in homemade food as there is sitting on the couch with my husband, eating from a carton in yesterdays yoga pants. Because in both scenarios we are choosing slowness over hustle, connection over distraction.

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Hospitality is not something we only practice in our homes.

It happens everywhere we dwell. In grocery stores and coffee shops. In libraries and playgrounds. To me, it’s showing up to your ordinary, everyday life with extraordinary intention. With a lot of our friends having babies, we’ve found it’s easier for them to gather in their own space. So sometimes that looks like bringing a meal to them and staying long enough to catch up and hold the new babe (so mama can pee!). Or it's picking up a pizza along the way. Hospitality happens on a walk, swinging in a hammock, or on the front porch. The table is sacred and grounding but because God cares about every square inch of our lives -- all places we gather are holy.

It’s showing up to your ordinary, everyday life with extraordinary intention.

If you aren't sweating, you aren't serving.

This one has been harder for me to let go of. For so long, I assumed hospitality always meant being one step ahead, having just what people needed before they asked. And while it’s kind to take note of what folks might be craving, turning the kettle on while passing out desserts, refilling water when it’s gets low, it can so often turn into striving over serving. For me, it looked like never actually sitting with guests but running around waiting them.

It looked like being in multiple conversations at once, glancing from person to person, making sure everyone was okay, instead of being fully present and engaged with the person right in front of me, deserving of my attention.

My grandma Jul had a way of doing this naturally. She always made the person she was talking to feel like the most necessary and important person in the room.

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Hospitality involves presence. It involves being right there in the thick of it with people. So that means letting people grab a glass for water from your cabinet. It means letting a friend stay over to wash a few dishes. We can check in every now and again on how folks are doing but here's what I'm finding, over and over again -- we gather for so much more than food.

We gather for intimacy and connection. We gather to know we're not alone and that someone understands the road we're walking. And if they don't understand, they can at least be the light guiding us through the dark. We gather to make peace with where we are and find joy in the waiting. We gather to forgive, foster unity, and break any walls that divide us.

We gather to laugh and cry and dance and sing.

It's not a gift we either have or we don't. We all have the potential to make someone feel seen and known and loved. At least, that's what I believe.

We gather because it's Kingdom work. And that's work we've all been called to do. Kingdom work happens in the exciting and in the ordinary. Around a lavish table and a messy front porch.

I find it happens best when I quit worrying about being too much or too little and simply delight in the person right in front of me. When I remember they're a child of the Beloved, carrying dreams, pain, and joy. And the best way to hear their story of suffering and resiliency, is to take a seat and stay a while.

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PHOTOGRAPHY :: HILARY HYLAND

5 ways to kick "writers block"

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I  once heard that writers block is a myth. That it isn't really a thing. That if we are waiting for the moment to write - mug of coffee in hand, candle lit, no clutter or mess - we'll just be left waiting.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I didn't always believe this to be true. I've had what I thought to be "writers block" countless times, each more restless and frustrating than the next.

Though what I began to realize over time was that it wasn't a matter of having nothing to say. I actually had a lot to say. I just wasn't sure how to say it. And the deepest, hardest part to recognize was that my inability to write stemmed a lot from fear. I feared that my thoughts and feelings weren't enough.

Like maybe it had all been said and done before (way more eloquently of course). So why say anything at all?

I think a better, more practical name for this feeling is being stuck. We're stuck in our head, our mess, the weight of the day. And we need a way to unravel.

Because that's what writing is for me; a way to come undone.

It's like suddenly, all the chains and links and filing cabinets in my brain that make so much noise are able to be still. And the quiet thoughts, the ones I have to get down with my ear to the floor to hear are free to swim and spill out of me.

Suddenly the muck turns into something durable and creative and fruitful.

Something in the dark comes into the light.

Something that was once ignored or misunderstood is heard and accepted.

Writing might not be your thing, and that is okay. But I think we all need a way to come undone. We all deserve space to make sense of the joy and pain.

So what do we do when we're stuck?

I thought I'd share what's worked for me. This list is alive and active, it'll change and grow with each season. Dig deep and make your own list when you feel stuck.

Write down the things that help you unravel or loosen the reigns.

Time.

I have to give myself time. Like freshly baked bread, you can't rush a good thing. I believe in slowing down, abandoning your to do list and walking away from the screen or blank white page. If we're rushing to every little thing, if our days are marked by google calendar, we have no room left in the margin for creativity.

So much of my writing involves fully living in the world, observing interactions and finding patterns or connection. It makes sense of something that seems so complicated. We need time to observe and process, we need space to daydream and ponder.

“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days--listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)” - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

PC: Peter ᴳᴱᴼ Kent
PC: Peter ᴳᴱᴼ Kent

Get Away.

If the sun is out when it rains usually you'll find a rainbow. Sunflowers ache for light, they actually look up to the sun. A tree so mighty and tall can grow from one small, single seed. Creation is a beautiful, amazing thing. We're living inside a masterpiece, a miracle really, that can so often be overlooked. Breath in the air, take in the season, savor the colors and light and smells.

Find a friend.

Writing doesn't happen in isolation. It happens in community. And that can feel so strange because the actual act of writing feels so personal and private. But the truth is, I'd have nothing to say here if it wasn't for the people around me. My ideas and words flow after a really great coffee date with a dear friend. I am able to say out loud to her what I can't seem to write down. And the way she interprets the world offers inspiration and clarity.

Friends make sense of all the many thought bubbles in our brains and give us a gentle nudge or push to keep working through it, to come out on the other side.

Be your own friend. 

When I really have nowhere to start and I can't seem to make sense of the connections and patterns, I talk out loud. I have a date with myself. A blank white screen is terrifying sometimes, it stares us down and intimidates. It causes us to place more importance on filling space over feeling - over asking how we're doing and what we're carrying.

Sit down with a cup of coffee, hop in the car - when you think you have nothing to say just start talking. You always have something to say. It just might not be what you originally planned to sit down and write.

The Golden Rule.

I think this one hits closest to home because I have to tell myself it on repeat: your story isn't plain or ordinary. Your voice isn't too much or too little. No one experiences life the way you do. No one sips coffee, stirs soup, gathers people like you. You are different than the human next to you. And while so much of us is similar, our hopes, wishes and desires - the ways we interpret life, meaning and love is our own. And that's a beautiful thing. So you don't have to worry if it's been said or done before because until it's been done by you - it's never been made that way before. 

Friends, what do you do when you're stuck? What helps you come undone in the best way?

xoxo