Friday, February 12, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Home Care




We can all agree that there is a minimum standard for home care in regards to inviting folks over and having them want to come back. One is probably no banana peels on seat cushions. There are others, but that's pretty universal. The minimum isn't so hard, it's the maximum that gets us in trouble.

First and foremost, people are coming to your home to see you. Even if they think it's to find out what's stashed in your medicine cabinet, it's really to see you. Keep that in mind when you start to freak out that you haven't washed the curtains or some other task that only you will truly notice. If keeping your home clean is a struggle for you, I highly recommend the book The House That Cleans Itself. We went from disaster zone don't step on that to comfy cozy very quickly. I have pictures I could show you of life before, but they're scary and we don't need scary today.

There is a benefit to keeping a minimally tidy home, people can stop by and you don't freak out. You can also invite people over more often because it's not a big deal to get the house ready.
It's similar to cooking pasta. If you're making spaghetti for dinner, one of the first things you do is fill up a pot with water and set it to boil. Now, the actual cooking of the pasta will not take very long in comparison to bringing a gallon of water to boil. It's better for the water to wait on you than for you to wait on it. Even if you bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer, you're much ahead of the game. Our homes can be like that. They can be ready to have people over at a moments notice or with just a little bit of work. That makes having folks over more fun. I've done it both ways, a ready house makes for more fun with friends.

If you think it just can't be done in your home, well, you should talk to my college roommate and my parents about the state of my affairs as a yang woman. It was bad. I thought I preferred it. Eventually, your junk starts to run your life and stop you from doing what you want.

But I have kids! Here's my best advice on kid messes: stop the inflow of toys and then start to pare down what's left. We created a toy library in our home, small manageable boxes that could be checked out one at a time. My daughter outfitted each box to have all she needed to play with the toys and was quite content. We had dinosaur boxes, transformers, doll dress up. The best part was that at the end of the play time it all fit back in one box and was not a big deal to tidy up.
From a very early age, like when they can walk well, kids can clear their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They can also help with chores like sweeping and dusting. Let them have their space, don't redo their work and see if there isn't a sense of pride when people come over.
Kids can be as much of a hinderance to hospitality as you let them. They can also be a great tool. They naturally provide a reason to have folks over. The play date can do wonders.

But I like my stuff everywhere! No you don't. You may like your stuff, but you'd like it even more if it wasn't absolutely everywhere in your house. Book people, there's a reason people love going to bookstores and libraries, they're tidy and easy to navigate. Clothes people, you go shopping and make amazing outfits because the clothes are laid out in a way that you can see and interact. Food people, you can't make more food if your countertops are covered and all the plates are dirty and lost in the living room. Movie people, get a Roku, go digital. We love order. We may crave chaos, but it should be fed in small doses, not housefuls. Keep an untidy corner in your bedroom or basement. Try tidy, if you find that it's unbearable, you can always go back to marathon cleaning sessions before guests arrive and profuse apology when they arrive because it never got finished.

In fact, my last bit of advice is not to apologize for your home ever, regardless of what state it's in. Instead, thank your guests for coming and being with you in your space.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Guest Room


Can we talk about your guest room? If you don't have one, that's okay, you offer a couch or floor, people know exactly what they're getting into. But you get offered a guest room, there's no telling what you will end up with.

First of all, would you sleep there? Maybe I should say can you sleep there? People often have junk rooms with beds in them with the grand idea that it could be a guest room. If you can't go in and put sheets on the bed with 24 hours notice, it's probably a junk room. I like junk rooms, they're great! But don't put the stress on yourself of saying it's a guest room. Because then you're not just adding the work of hosting someone over night in your house, an entire room of stuff is displaced in your home and there's more pre-work that has to be done. Just tell folks you have a bed in the junk room you can clear off, it's honest and they understand or stay at a hotel instead.

Okay, you can sleep in there. Do you use the room on a daily basis for some other purpose? Is it your home office? I seen that so often on home improvement shows, they take a home office and add a futon and call it a guest room. Would you take your guest to your regular office and let them sleep there? Probably not. And then there's the whole tidying. If your home office is like any of the ones I've had, it's a paper pile the size of Montana. Takes fifteen boxes just to hold it all. You don't need that kind of stress in your life. Either you're going to be throwing papers in random boxes and looking for them for months to come or you're going to go through Facebook and solitaire withdrawals, both are ugly. Tell folks you have a bed in your office they can use. Once again it's honest and sets up realistic expectations.

You can sleep there, there's no other day to day purpose for it. Who has these rooms? Honestly, give me some of your extra cash, I have some junk I want to buy and put in my junk room office. We do have a junk room office, but it's contained to a junk closet and a power strip to charge devices at night, which find other plugs when guests arrive. We have a few things in our guest room that make them cozy for us, so I'm going to assume they're cozy for others. The room is small, barely holding a full size bed, but it's the comfiest bed we could afford for the space. We have two sets of sheets, cotton for summer and flannel for winter. There is a plethora of pillows, including a husband pillow (the ones from the 70's so you could sit on the floor and read AND has armerests). There is a chair, just one of our dining room chairs, but a place to sit. There is an old child size table, I would prefer a different piece of furniture, but it's excellent for holding towels and large pieces of luggage. We have a clothes hamper in there. It's a generic mesh hamper but does the job of holding clothes for people. It has its own television, hooked up to a Roku and HD antenna. People love the ion channel :-) It's where our library is housed so, tons of books. I keep a little collection of shampoos and soaps in the room. And last of all, a clock. It's loud, but it has an alarm function and can glow in the dark.

Those are creature comforts I like, so I supply them. At the end of the day, it's just a place to lay your head. But it has also become a space to heal, giggle, cry and find rest. Not just physical rest, but soul rest. If you provide the ability to do one, the other will occur naturally.

So, go take a look at your junk room office and decide what it's purpose could be. Really think about what would bring you the most joy. I found for us, rest was better than stuff.



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Me Time





Look at you, out there meeting people, making new friends, having guests over. You're seeing some changes, your family seems content and yet for some reason, you really want to snap someone's head off and punt it into the next county. I may have a less violent solution for you.

We hear a lot about "me time" from the media. Mom's are calling for it so they can down a couple of bottles of wine with friends in peace. Men are building man caves so they get away from their families to watch the game without interruption. It has officially run amuck.

I'm not promoting pity parties once you act the brink of sanity. I'm going to encourage you to do one small thing a day. Spend some time alone, well preferably, spend some time alone with Jesus every day. It doesn't need to be a lot and it definitely doesn't have to be formal, but it will make a difference. The other vital thing about me time is that it cuts into your time, not your families. It's not really me time if the only people sacrificing something are others. You need to be able to give up something in order to have it. I hear you, "but I don't have time!" Let me challenge that, and you decide.

Scenario 1 very small needy children who have not discovered the joys of either sleeping late or going to bed early.
I had one of those. She loved to get up at six, six thirty at latest. In fact, my morning me time started when she was in this stage and she proved a challenge. The first morning, I got up at six and snuck down stairs, only to hear her calling for me in her crib. The next morning, I decided to get up earlier, there she was. Finally, determination set in and I made a pact with myself that regardless of how early it needed to be, I was going to do it. The next morning at 5:30, I woke up and had some me time. I had to give up sleep, but that half hour made all the different in my days.

Scenario 2 older children that are gone all day and I only get to see them in the evening before they scatter to their rooms for the night.
Some options include getting up early like previously stated, creating some me time space in your car while you drive, at lunch for a few minutes before you chow down, at night after they have gone to bed. If you are in a busy house, I would recommend either having a me time chair that anyone can use and knows that's its purpose so folks aren't bothered while there or getting a special candle. With a candle, you can take it anywhere and people can see it as a sign that you're by yourself for the moment.

I feel sure there are other reasons to be busy but the truth is we all like to make excuses. We sometimes prefer to snap people's heads off. Me time is not going to change that. What it can do, if you pursue it, is to give you time to let yourself be real. You have to be hospitable towards yourself. You need to create times and places where you can be honesty and ugly cry if needed. Sometimes your me time will need some outside help such as therapy and retreats. Let that happen. You're important, take time from your life and let yourself be. Don't perform, don't study, don't worry, just be, even if it's just two minutes, it's worth it. Be kind to yourself. Be generous with your emotions, let yourself feel.

Feelings get a bad wrap in this day and age. I'm a firm believer that emotions aren't bad, but sometimes what we do with them is. Yelling threats at my family because dinner is served and they aren't at the table to enjoy it isn't the best use of emotions. And honestly, I get that way when I don't use my me time well.

That's part of the pitfall of me time. You can become so engrained into your routine that you don't take the time and space to really be real. It's not a checklist so much as a laziness. It's easier in the moment to not address what's there being unsaid. It's easier in the moment to pretend that the masks are the reality. But it always comes out and then you start over. I don't share this to discourage you, but to let you know that me time is not a magic elixir fix all. It is instead a useful tool to help you be real.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Extroverts, Check Yourself


I love extroverts! I live with one and she is amazing. It always astounds me how much she enjoys talking with new people. Her latest thing has been trying new foods. Extroverts crave stimulation and normally that means interaction with people.

Why the "check yourself" then? Well, I know that it can be tough for you to live with us introverts. You get home from a long day of boring meetings and extended commutes and you just want to play. Your introverted partner has spent the day navigating toxic people and overly chatty neighbors and want to curl up with some ice cream and disappear for a few hours. For both to win in this situation each has to give, but the largest sacrifice will be on the extrovert.

Give your introvert some time. Help create their needed space. Take the kids and interact with them in some place that allows quiet for the introvert. Send the cat in to get pets, if they can also deliver tasty beverages, even better. I promise you, unless it's been a terrible, rotten, no good day from hell your partner will bounce back quickly and want to be with you and listen to you talk and watch your funny reenactments. But it requires discipline and forethought on your part. You'll get what you need most from the introvert, but they have to recharge to do it well.

Alright, what about parties? Can we have a party? Yes! Introverts love parties, well, sometimes. We like you and you like parties so that's kind of the same thing, right? Here are my tips, pre plan your parties. At the beginning of the year, pick out a few dates and put them on the calendar. Make sure they work with your introverted other. And then you go nuts with planning and all that pre party details. When it comes to the guest list, start with the introvert's friends. And then guarantee that at least one of them will be there.

Day of the party, send your introvert into their room, that you have stocked with snacks, books, drinks, and various things they love. Let them stay there until they're ready to come down for the party. You do your extrovert thing, greet people, be funny, hand out hugs, light things on fire, whatever it is that extroverts do to get ready. Don't go looking for your introvert, they have probably wandered in at some point and found their friend and they are making more punch in the kitchen while having a great time together. Enjoy your guest.

At some point, your introvert may get a glazed look in their eye. It will happen before midnight, about the time they start their bedtime routine. Send them to bed and kick out the extremely raucous members of your party. Continue to interact with your quieter party friends or move it outside. Your introvert may come back down and then again, they may pass out for the night. Be okay with it, this is your party, you're doing a great job hosting it.

The next morning, your introvert will probably be up early and if they're tidiers, they'll start to clean. You should have plans for lunch and maybe dinner that do not include washing more plates or any of that nonsense. Take out or even delivery will be in order. Once the couch is cleaned off and the majority of things are cared for, let your introvert reestablish their domain over the house by marathoning Netflix all day.

That's the best I can offer you. Give your introvert the space they need and they'll be able to give you what you need.




Monday, February 8, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Introverts Unite




Hi, my name is Tina and I'm an introvert.

I know that some of you may be surprised by that fact, because you see me talking with people and occasionally taking chances. I'm a little outspoken at times and don't mind organizing gatherings. Here's a little information for you, introvert does not mean shy or even socially awkward. Introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet, are typically people who prefer quieter, more minimally stimulating environments. Which means given the choice between a raucous night club and an evening at home with a few friends, introverts will tend to choose the latter. Not that they won't go out, but that it will cost them in recovery time beyond the lack of sleep.

Now that we have that out of the way and the majority of the extroverts have bailed, let's get real, fellow introverts. Because of your desire for quieter places with less stimulation, you're perfectly suited for hospitality. Your awareness of what's going on around you and your keen observation skills of people makes you the perfect choice for allowing others to be real. You are the people that get caught up in deep conversations in the middle of the night. You're also the folks that quietly send notes to those that are hurting. You're the ones that are giving others perfect gifts for their birthdays. You're paying attention, it makes you ideal for hospitality.

Granted, it might also mean that you are not going to have the open door party house in your neighborhood. It also means that you're likely to head out early from the office party. But those are minor in comparison to what you have to offer. Preferring quiet spaces means that you will naturally create them in the midst of your life. You are not likely to have that one special quiet spot so many devotionals talk about, you will have a whole houseful of them. And if you're out in the public sector, you'll have them there, too. People will experience them and some will enjoy it enough to want to come back for more.

Introverts, we're the type of people to place wrapped candies on our desk, because you subconsciously know that you have to pause to eat it. You'll have the comfy couches at home because you like resting even if for just a moment. You will institute quiet time with your kids after lunch because you just know you won't make it through the day with all the chaos that is growth. You do these things instinctively. No one will tell you, you'll just create a space for moments of quiet in your life and invite people into them.

What you do once others are there? Take the time to be with them. You don't have to talk, but acknowledging others' presence is a key building block. Try not to complicate things so much that you miss out on partaking in the quiet with them. All great conversations start with a pause. And you know that you love great conversations. Yes small talk is painful, but deep real heart to hearts are life giving for you. You genuinely care about others and you love to discover that the local jerk is actually something much more. You're on the look out for the rest of the story.

That's what makes introverts so great at hospitality. They really want to get beyond the superficial part of life and discover the deep fascinating bits. We want to get pass the what clothes they're wearing and find out what makes them tick. And once you know, you love to use that relationship to make things even richer. It's part of the reason why introverts give such great gifts. They are looking for your heart and want to talk with it.

Yes, you may not be the typical party beast and the parties you throw potentially won't go down in fireside lore, but they have the potential to change things. Not just things, people. Introverts don't just hear people, they question them. People don't always like that. Some folks are completely happy with their reality and don't like others poking holes in it. And that's not the ultimate goal of an introvert, our desire is understanding, not challenging. It sometimes takes us decades to figure out when and how to ponder with others. We have so many internal dialogues about life, we don't realize that isn't typical for others.

At the end of the night, introverts are excellent hosts, especially if you're looking for a place to be yourself. They will gladly welcome you into their home but don't take it personally if after an hour of small talk they get a glazed look in their eye and start to mentally wander. But if you're able to get beyond that and into a conversation of substance, well it will be a great time for both of you.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Out and About




Okay, this one is especially for the introverts. I know that you're not going to be knocking down people's doors or leaving your own open for extended periods of time. What I'm going to share with you today is a technique that we've been using for awhile to practice hospitality with strangers. Well, they aren't strangers for long.

You're already going out into the world and doing stuff, take the time to do stuff n the same place at the same time. For instance, you're already buying groceries, pick a smaller store and go on a regular day at a regular time, get your meat over the counter instead of off the shelf, use the same clerk when you check out. Over time, you'll feel comfortable talking to them and share part of your life. You'll notice when they're missing and when they're excited. You'll naturally become a part of one another's life. And once you do that, you'll potentially share more of your life with one another and can begin to pray for them in very specific ways. We did this at our last home and really began to feel like the grocery store was extended family. We knew people by name and vice versa. One clerk in particular called us kid and mom. I do have a secret weapon in this particular method, it's my extroverted daughter who loves meeting new people.

Another location this can happen is a restaurant. Pick a morning, any morning and have breakfast at a local restaurant. You'll learn the waitstaff and other patrons pretty quickly. You can also do this with dinner or lunch. Not only do they learn your order, but you could be invited into their life outside of work. I don't mean physical interaction, though that could happen. I mainly mean they'll share about themselves.

This is not a fast process. We've been in our home for a year and a half and we're just starting to touch the surface of these relationships in our new location. The nice thing about them as an introvert is that tasks that can be uncomfortable can switch to enjoyable. Instead of in and out, you look forward to chatting with friends.

This idea of having regularity in your life so that you can take note and invest in others is not unique. People have been doing it for ages. The nice thing is that it doesn't take extra time, though it may take some extra effort. But far less effort than throwing a party every week.

I encourage you to find a place in your life where you can be a regular. Invest in the people that are surrounding your life and in the service industries. See them for who they are. You may find that just being open and looking people in the eyes and asking about their day is enough space for someone to share about themselves. Be genuinely interested in people and you may discover that they are very real in return.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Co-Workers



I'm not really sure why I picked co-workers as a topic. I know some of you have them. I personally haven't had any in well over a decade. Unless we count volunteer positions. I figured I could get some advice from friends and family.

The first bit of advice I got was "Good luck." The next bits I got were a little more useful.

Be nice. Just like your mother used to encourage you to play nice with the kids on the playground, play nice at work. It will serve you well.

Don't forget, everybody is their own person. Some folks like to get in and get out, others are chatters. Try not to chat up the ones that prefer to do their work during work hours. And here's a suggestion for you to implement regardless of which side you're on, suggest meeting after or before work to hang out and talk.

You don't have to be Facebook friends. This is especially true of people you supervise and that supervise you. If you want to interact with them in a professional aspect online, then create a secondary Facebook account or a page or group, depending on the type of business you're in.

Pay attention and figure out when the big days are for people, birthdays, anniversaries, opening day of baseball and just do something as simple as stop by their office and wish them a happy birthday or a congrats while you're working the sales floor.

When you have a disagreement with a co-worker, don't insist that you be right. Obviously, when safety is involved or sops, then insist, but for minor things, don't take the bait.

Gossip is a big no-no. I've always followed the principle that how people talk about others to you is how they will talk about you to others. Just don't. Gossip is bad. If you hear something about someone and you're curious, go to the source. It's easier in the long run.

You may not discover your best friend at work, but then again you just might. Sometimes the people who have a bad reputation end up being the cream of the crop. Be genuine with others, pray for them, take an interest in who they are. It may lead to unexpected results.