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!

A Simple Gathering of Friends

If you know me, you know how much I love getting all cutsie when it comes to having a party. I loved pulling together this tennis party.

20140724-181719-65839893.jpgMy tennis team was celebrating being league champions in our area and looking forward to competing at the state level. I had so much fun pulling together the coordinating colors, Pom Pom mason jars, a team banner and tennis ball sersies. This is something I enjoy doing, but it isn’t always necessary for a “successful” gathering.

You’ve read about me feeling led to bring the women of my church together. In fact, the last time I wrote a post, I told you about two small spontaneous gatherings we had at Barnes & Noble. Well, a week or so ago, I invited the women of Hope Point to my house for an informal coffee and dessert. There was to be no agenda, just girls sipping coffee, eating some delicious dessert and chatting away.

Can I just say, that it took every fiber of my being to not do something cutsie and have the house all “perfect”? But I did it.

How many of us say we would love to host a get-together as soon as …we get a new couch or dining room table or rug? Or whatever? We have in our minds that we have to be Martha Stewart to welcome friends in our home.

I have been in people’s homes where everything is immaculate, decorations are adorable, food is amazing, but yet the welcoming comfort is not there. I almost felt afraid to sit down. And then I have friends, that I have never stepped foot in their home! Crazy! I’ve known them for years, but have never been invited in. Both of these examples are extreme, but they are real. I pray that I fall in the middle…cute, festive and warm and welcoming.

So, I sent the invitation out. (In fact, when the invitation was announced in church one Sunday morning, Superman and Thomas both looked at each other with unknowing glances, shrugged their shoulders and whispered “Mom’s having a party.”)

There was no RSVP, so I had no idea how many to expect. (A fact, which drives my type A-super organized-husband crazy.) Three women came to me to say they would like to bring a dessert, so I figured there would be at least four of us!

My flowering, potted plants had all died, so I just emptied the pots and didn’t fill them back up. (I really had to resist the urge to buy more flowers!) I used the paper plates left over from numerous previous parties, all mismatched and uncoordinated. (I was really, really stretching myself.)

I made a big urn of coffee and had a pitcher of ice cold water with lemons. No fancy drinks, just coffee and water. And guess what?

20140724-184740-67660581.jpgIt was fabulous!

20140724-184845-67725052.jpgOh my goodness! The desserts were out of this world! Susan brought two homemade chocolate pies, even though she wasn’t able to make it. Charlie made a deadly S’mores dessert with chocolate pudding cake on the bottom topped with marshmallows and Teddy Graham’s on top! Then to round us out, Joy brought a homemade Vanilla pound cake with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

20140724-185302-67982107.jpgYa’ll, I think I had died and gone to heaven! I had a little….ok, maybe a lot…of everything. It was sooo good!

20140724-185407-68047758.jpgBut not as good as the women who came!

20140724-185455-68095619.jpgFriends caught up with one another and new friendships were made.

20140724-185554-68154477.jpgYoung and the little less young came.

20140724-185711-68231509.jpgWhat impressed me the most was how there were no cliques. I know…”Mary, you are adults!” But let’s get honest. Even as adults we tend to cling to those we feel the most comfortable with or who we know. But not my girls! I saw people chit, then organically move to another group to chat. See, these gals drew together because of the “Spider-Man” mugs! (Paula, on the far right, has three boys. She’s all about Spider-Man.)

20140724-205319-75199483.jpgMy word for this year is Simple. When making decisions I’ve tried to incorporate this concept of simple. It has brought me peace, time and a new view of myself. This informal gathering of friends at my house, with mismatched plates and simple offerings, created an atmosphere, I think, that was comfortable, loving and special.

Friends, I pray that the idea of a simple gathering encourages you to open your home. Sparkles are nice, but your warm smile will light up your guests’ hearts for much longer.

Thanks for dropping by,