Ten Strangers Came For Dinner

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2

On Friday I had this feeling of fear in my gut and thought “I’m having eight perfect strangers over to my house for dinner tomorrow night! What am I thinking?”

I love to entertain! I loved making the invitations, hanging the balloons and streamers and decorating the cakes for the kids birthday parties. I’ve hosted the big Rauscher Family Thanksgiving HooHa for the last 10 years. I’ve opened my doors to my tennis teams, bible study friends, neighborhood gatherings and large women’s groups. I’ve done surprise parties, office parties, baby and bridal showers and intimate dinners. It may not be magazine worthy, but I’ve always loved opening my home to guests. Have you ever been a part of a group where you just didn’t know the individuals in the group? Many of us go to church every Sunday to not only listen to rich biblical teaching and to worship God through singing and prayer, but also to have relationships with the person sitting next to us and even across the aisle.I have a group of friends that I always have to hug and say hello to each week after the service. But wouldn’t my life be even richer if I knew that person on the other side of the aisle? I have been a part of groups where I have attended meetings for many years and didn’t really know anyone or felt very alone. How do we get to know that person across the aisle, across the room or across the street? My friend, Zina, also staff member at our church, decided to try to do something about this problem. She came up with the idea of “Home Gatherings”. The plan was to have several homes as host sights on different nights. Then people would sign up for a night they would like to attend online. The participants signing up did not know who was hosting or who was attending. Zina then took all the names and placed them in homes. The goal was to have each gathering with a mix of ages, interests, and time been at the church that could fit around your table for a meal.As a host, I did not know who was coming to my table until a week before. It was my responsibility to contact each person to give them the important information like my address and menu, but not reveal who else would be there. It sounds like a crazy idea, right? Well the first Home Gathering I did was with women only. Easy Peasy. It was so fun for me to watch my guests as the doorbell rang each time. “Oouuu! I wonder who it is!” (As good Southern women do, there was lots of squealing and hugs.) As we ate our chicken dinner, we shared funny stories and were shocked at the many different connections we already had to one another. This past weekend, Superman and I hosted another Home Gathering. This time with couples! Again, I love coming up coming up with a menu, decorating, making flower arrangements, lighting candles and thinking of the little things that will make my guests comfortable. But interestingly enough, the day before the dinner I thought “What the heck am I doing?!? I am having eight strangers coming over for dinner tomorrow night!” I guess the “men” part was throwing me. Or maybe satan just wanted to mess this great thing up, which he is prone to do. But with loving and encouraging advice from my sweet daughter, I got my courage again and opened our home to eight wonderful people on Saturday night. With bowls of chili and cornbread, we went around the table sharing stories about ourselves. We made connections, laughed and had learned so much about one another. I tried to make sure that everyone was involved in the conversation by pulling out my Chat Box. Inside the box are cards with conversation starters, like “If you could have 50lbs of anything other than money, what would you want most of all?” It’s a great tool if you have guests that are shy or ones who want to dominate the conversation.

In the end, I know eight more people who are interesting, funny, and kind. I feel blessed by their company. My prayer is that they too felt welcomed and loved that evening.

When’s God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

I hope this gives you the courage to offer hospitality to a stranger.

My door is always open, so Come on over!

Forgiveness for Better Memories

My sister Annie lives with our 88 year old mother in Columbia. Annie asked if I would come and stay for a week with our mom while she took a vacation in her hometown of Mill Valley, CA. Absolutely! Because I only live an hour and a half away, it is easy for me to run down here for a day or two to see my family. This was going to be one of the longest visits in my childhood home since going off to college 34 years ago. During this week with my mom, I would take my sister’s dog, Kobe, for a walk a couple of times a day. I’d let him lead me left or right out of the driveway. It was interesting that during the first days of our walks I would be transported back to the sad memories of my years in middle and high school. I’m not sure how your years as a 13-18 year old were, but mine were filled with pimples, awkwardness, bad fashion, and feeling like an outsider wanting to be “in”. Don’t get me wrong…I had a loving home, friends I would pass notes with in class, read “Tiger Beat” to keep up with all the latest heart throbs and twirled a flag in the marching band.

But during those first walks around the block with Kobe, my heart would sink as I passed the houses where I went to my first girl-boy parties. I’m not quite sure how it always happened, or why I even went, or even why did my parents let me go?!?Innocently enough they happened. A dozen or so kids would show up at someone’s house for pizza, chips, soda and music. It always started out fun, then the lights would go dim. The couples would pair up and old Mar would literally sit in the corner alone. Every. Time. No pimple faced boy would ever pick me. Why would I keep torturing myself by continuing to show up? Because there was always that one friend who would just have to have me there.

The next walk with Kobe I would remember never being asked to go to prom. I would think about the unkind things I did or said.

I passed by the house where I was a mother’s helper a couple of times a week. I would do the grocery shopping, light housework, change diapers, play with the four children and then get paid in CHANGE! Yes! I would come home with a bag full of coins!

These walks were emotionally killing me.There was no way I was going to be able to last a whole week doing this, so I decided to concentrate on the good things.

Here is the light post covered in gorgeous purple clematis that I backed right over the first time I was behind the wheel of a car. My daddy was going to teach me to drive. “Everyone needs to know how to drive a stick shift”, he said. So he stuck me in my sister’s car, which was parked on an angle to the driveway and he sat in the passenger seat. So not only was I learning to drive, I was learning to use the clutch AND I was backing up on a curve. Needless to say, we took off like a shot when the gas met that sweet spot in the clutch and we sailed right into this light post, pulling it right out of the ground and right through my mother’s brand new bushes. I was horrified! I ran inside, threw myself on my parents bed and sobbed. My father came up behind me laughing so hard he was crying, and said “the light post went right back in the hole. You somehow missed the bushes, so come on, we need to learn to drive a stick shift.” (I did and drove that little blue Honda hatchback until it died.)

I smiled as I passed this house where in the upstairs playroom/attic, Kathleen and I played school. She would always be the teacher and I would be the most dutiful student. Kathleen recently shared with me her memory of learning how to diagram sentences and COULDN’T WAIT to get me in that classroom and teach me! Down on Kinlock Road, my friend Pam introduced me to sweet iced tea. My family being Yankees never had that southern nectar in the house. Every day, it was Pam’s responsibility to get dinner started and make the tea. She had a “tea pot”, in which she would boil the water and three large tea bags, then pour it into the designated Tupperware “tea pitcher” with a cup of sugar. Sweet, glorious tea.Around the back corner of the block, where these houses are now, there used to be a ditch of white sand and an open area which led to our elementary school. Every morning I would walk to school with my friend Melanie. Wearing our school dresses, carrying our metal Partridge Family lunch boxes and our two dogs by our side, we would take off down the street. I remember being in 5th grade, our classes were in portable trailers, Melanie, Dipper and Taffy and I walked to school as always. Then about 10:00 that morning our principal asked if I would please walk the dogs home, for they were sleeping outside the the class. So I did. (I’m not sure if that would happen today.)Kobe and I passed this beautiful mess of honeysuckle. Oh the memories of pulling out the stamen and licking the touch of sweet nectar from the end. (Here is a Link that tells you how to collect this nectar….you’re welcome.😊) Which took me to the summer days of running barefoot all day long; going from house to house to jump on neighbors trampolines; packing up a bag lunch to take with us on our daylong bike riding adventures; and creating very detailed storylines with our Barbies. I had a wonderful, happy childhood.As this week went on, the house itself became more comfortable. It became more natural to move around in. The walks with Kobe gave me time to think, pray and listen to God. No, my teenage years were not filled with the happiest memories, but they are my memories. I can choose to dwell on them and make myself miserable or offer forgiveness, not only to those who tore me down or hurt my feelings, but most importantly to myself. I forgave myself for the bad decisions, awkwardness, and ugliness that I allowed. Then accepted the grace that I undeservedly am given. This grace allows me to make mistakes and know that I am loved. Grace is freely given to me because of God’s perfect love. Because of this undeserved love, I can make more beautiful memories.There is joy in sharing the discovery of a nest full of eggs in the geraniums with my mom.Treating my mom to a relaxing and beneficial pedicure.It’s never too late to make new memories. My sisters and brother have created this little garden oasis. This is a perfect spot in the late afternoon to have a sip of wine while watching the garden grow.Our past has a tremendous power over our lives. My mom has allowed events and people’s words said decades ago to continue to influence how she reacts to the world around her. The words and actions from friends and family send her reeling back to anger and self doubt. I, too, have let painful memories shape who I think I am.

When I took my mom to see her doctor this week, he asked her how she was doing. She responded, “You know what? I think this is the happiest I’ve ever felt in my entire life.” After 88 years, she feels happy….choose today to forgive. Choose today to offer grace and accept it too. Choose today to love. Choose today to just be nice, because being nice is always the better answer.

Thank you for dropping by!