This morning I read a comment by Hannah Whitall Smith from The Veil Uplifted.
My daughter invites a friend for a sleepover, and I take a moment to remind her what it means to be a great host. I remember that certain things aren’t intuitive; you have to teach young children how to welcome someone into their home.
First, I remind my daughter to immediately make a guest feel comfortable by helping them settle in. This means letting them know where to place shoes and coats and where the restroom is. Then you can offer a beverage or a snack. You can also ask a guest if they feel too hot or too cold in your home. The goal is his or her comfort.
Second, I teach my daughter that great hosts have a plan. Instead of friends staring at one another not knowing what to do, I encourage my daughter to make a plan of possible activities for them to enjoy together that the guest will particularly love. With a plan of lots of options, a guest can chose something she really enjoys to do.
Third, I tell my daughter that the needs of the guest come first, so it’s a great opportunity to defer to someone else, to take your turn last, and to put your needs aside for a time.
Fourth, I talk about the power of the Special Treat that the guest isn’t expecting. Whether it’s a chocolate cake, a rented movie, a recipe to create together, an outing, or a craft, you can offer little surprises to delight another person.
Finally, I send my daughter upstairs to tidy up. Cleaning the bathroom, organizing the playroom, and picking up clutter means that the guest can enjoy a lovely space that’s clean and fresh smelling.
Why do this? Well, teaching children to host well gives them a lifelong skill of how to bless people with the resources God gives us (our home, our possessions). It also builds empathy as you ask your children to imagine how another person might be feeling.
Hosting other people is something I do every week, if not every day. It’s part of having a home and blessing a community. It’s a great ministry. It’s something I had to learn from others, so today, I’m passing it on to my own children.
I’ve been sitting in my rocking chair by the Weeping Cherry and reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It’s a cool morning, and I have my old green sweater around my arms, a fat cat at my feet, and coffee by my side. I feel older than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m weighted down by more than age; I feel the heavy sadness and confusion of land wars, shot down planes, storms, suicides, and so much news of suffering that my heart cannot contain it. For a moment, I let God take it all from me, and I rest in my chair.
If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, it’s the account of how a Dutch Christian family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust. We follow Corrie ten Boom’s imprisonment in horrific conditions and how she found strength, hope, and forgiveness in Jesus. You can also watch the movie made in 1975 based on Corrie’s book.
This book is especially meaningful to me because I remember how one summer at Camp Greystone, I met the traveling companion to Corrie ten Boom, Ellen Stamps. Mrs. Stamps was a visiting speaker at camp who shared many stories of her time with Corrie ten Boom as they traveled the world together to share the message of Jesus Christ before Corrie died.
I scurry down to my basement and pile up all the old journals from that summer at Camp Greystone. I find the one that takes me back to this moment:
One day, Mrs. Stamps invited me to her little guest cabin, brewed me hot coffee (even in the middle of summer), and prayed with me about my own life and struggles. It was July 26, 1995, and I wrote in my journal everything I learned from this humble woman who had more wisdom stored in her than any person I had ever met. She talked to me privately–as the rain fell and the coffee brewed–to impart a few special lessons just for me.
I felt so loved by God that He would allow me to spend time with such a godly woman. I wrote in my journal, “I think my life began to change on July 26, 1995.” I was young in my faith. I was confused and full of shame and worry.
I learned this:
Mrs. Stamps began by telling me that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Hope. Anything else is wrong. Don’t listen to any other voice but Hope.
She also told me that the ups and downs of my heart are like the waves of the sea, but that the Holy Spirit is a calm place within me.
We sat in two chairs by a small wooden table with just a lamp and a Bible on it. It rained, and I could smell the mulch and the pine trees. Mrs. Stamps’ wrinkled hands held onto mine. This woman who had spent so many years traveling with and learning from Corrie ten Boom held my hands in hers, and I wrote in my journal about all the hands those hands had comforted over the years. What would my hands do in my life? Why was God letting me touch what I felt like were sacred hands?
She spoke of forgiveness–of forgiving oneself and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness.
She also spoke about a beautiful broken harp that no one in the village could repair. In this illustration, the only person who could repair the harp to make beautiful music was the one who built it himself. Mrs. Stamps reminded me that God made me and knows how to repair whatever is broken in me.
Those were powerful and important moments in my journey with the Lord as a twenty year old.
So I’m sitting in my rocking chair, now two decades later, and I go back to the lessons of Corrie ten Boom that she passed on to Ellen Stamps. I had forgotten my favorite lesson from Corrie’s father after her first broken heart. He tells her this:
“Corrie. . . do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for this love to travel.”
All morning, I think about when our love (our desires, our dreams, our hopes) is blocked and we experience pain. I’m filled with such overwhelming hope when I see the wisdom of asking God to open up another route for our love to travel.
If not this path, then that one. If not this, then something else. I pray for God to keep my love strong and to open up all the routes on which this love might travel best.
I look back on the wisdom of Corrie ten Boom, her father, and Ellen Stamps. On a single rainy afternoon twenty years ago, their stories intersected mine in a way that changed me forever.
When I walk far enough, I’m surrounded by the woods again. It’s cooler and darker here, and a deer darts by me.
Do you remember how in March, we spent $3.00 on our greenhouse and seeds for a wildflower garden?
Well, here’s the truth: you plants some seeds, and one day, one glorious day. . .
PS: We planted all the seedlings in Kate’s old Turtle Sandbox. We filled the sandbox from childhood with potting soil to repurpose it.
My friend in high school played cards nearly every day. His family played cards after dinner or at odd times when the chores were finished. His friends played cards on weekends, gathering in dusty, mysterious basements. I turned down every invitation to play cards with him except one, and that was because we were trapped together on a plane on our way to debate camp in Michigan.
I had no choice.
I hardly ever played cards, and when I did, it was War or Go Fish with my sister as a last resort on rainy days on the military base in Ft. Lewis.
Apparently, in an alternate universe, a whole world of Rummy, Spades, Gin, Anaconda, Blackjack, Poker, Egyptian War, Euchre, Hearts, Sequence, and Slapjack existed around joyous dinner tables everywhere. No matter how hard I tried to join in with the trend, I could only picture the low swinging light fixtures, dangling cigarettes, and hushed conversations. Card playing seemed creepy and underground, the behavior of misfits or else grandmothers in Bridge Clubs. It seemed profoundly boring, and like I said, a last resort for folks who had nothing better to do.
My friend actually kept a deck of cards on his personal being at all times. This is how important it was. This is how much card playing was part of his life.
This summer, card playing became part of my life–not as a last resort–but as a first choice with my daughters, their cousins, uncles, and grandparents. True, we were stuck together in a lake house, so it could have felt like a last resort on rainy days. I woke up and made a plan for our card playing after dinner. I had to schedule it because I loved it so much. We’d play for over an hour before we all went to sleep.
During the day, my nieces and nephews would coax me over to the table to play whatever card game they chose for the afternoon.
So I bought a deck of cards. I have it right here. I’ve played a version of Rummy (Shanghai Rummy, the best game ever. Rules here) twice with my children already today. I’ve invited others to play, too. I’m actually thinking of keeping a deck of cards in my purse.
I’ve become my friend, and I’m so glad.
My husband asks me if I remembered to back up my blog on my hard drive because I have 5 years worth of daily reflections on blogger.com. He tells me it would be so terrible to lose all that writing.
Have you had the experience of being so exhausted that you just can’t do what you’re supposed to do and you cry out to God and He hears and carries you through it? (Whew, that was a long sentence!)
My sister always provides Runnerly Wisdom for me. Today she reminds me not to dwell on the past or focus too much on the future. “Run the mile you’re in,” she says.