Hospitality: My accidental Spiritual Practice

(Not really an accident of course)

chocolate covered strawberriesI just realized when cooking and baking first started to, very gradually, become a spiritual practice for me. It was nearly a decade ago after my daughter,  Emily Lin, died. Well, it wasn’t immediately afterwards, but rather after I realized how important the food others brought to me during my time of intense grief (seriously people, bring food and lots of it*).

As I forced myself to begin cooking for my family again it was hard, really hard. And then it started getting easier and became a way for me to focus and give rhythm to my day. And then one day I was cooking for someone else in a time of need, and the hours slipped by as mere seconds as I poured every ounce of love and prayer into those meals.  I still cannot describe how it felt to make that difference to another mom, and it became somewhat of a passion for me … however, having guests over for a meal was still something I was terrified of.

I continued to try to have guests over for both simple and elaborate meals (for example Thanksgiving … and once less than two weeks after having my appendix out while pregnant; my husband is a saint) with varying results. I started feeling like a glutton for punishment as I kept feeling called to host events and yet I would have to work through stress and anxiety as I did it.

And then my journey to celiac disease began (severe symptoms undiagnosed for more than “awhile”), and eventually I journeyed into not only the gluten-free world but other food sensitivities as well. Before and during the time of diagnosis, as well as while pregnant, food became the enemy and I retreated to my own defense.

And then I realized I would only eat great food if I made it, and ever so slowly I began to share those foods with others. Almost simultaneously I became part of multiple groups with wonderful hospitality mentors, and I felt the love of sharing meals – meals that *I* could eat too (talk about Christian love!).welcome mat

Shawn and I also realized that it was often much less stressful to host others for dinner than to go out to eat, and looking back now I can see all those dots connecting to prepare me/us. (Shawn is a wonderful host as well, and we’re even starting to work well together in the kitchen at times.)

When we moved to the Wartburg seminary community we knew we would continue to enjoy breaking bread with others in the community – even if it was gluten-free bread. So, we started inviting other families and groups of friends over for dinner, brunch, etc.  In addition to encouraging us to eat very healthy, I now clearly see that my eating restrictions are a part of my call to hospitality – a call that I was initially very reluctant to follow.

And now this Introvert thrives on feeding people and hosting events such as Friday Night Fellowship (otherwise known as Wine Tasting) … and yet I will still maintain I am very much a Mary type rather than a Martha type J

Where is God in all of this? Oh God is wrapped up in every bit of it – from guiding my cooking/baking skills and connecting all those “life dots” the past ten years to ushering the new and old friends through our doors. And oh I can feel the spirit at work when we gather together in community to support and simply love each other. And it is my honor and pure joy to do have a small part in that.

I am just beginning to explore the breadth of intentional (and accidental!) spiritual practices … this entry is really an open journal entry as I brainstorm  —

fresh fall produce

our abundance one week from our CSA while living in La Crosse

How have you practiced or received hospitality? What does it mean to you? Where is God in it? Is it important? Why? 

P.S. Now that we’re living as frugal seminary students, I further ponder how the gift of hospitality is at work. I can no longer buy whatever I want at the grocery store (or farmers’ market), but rather must be very deliberate about planning purchases and meals … hmmm…


*This is true after births as well as after deaths. Every set of new parents should have many many meals and snacks provided for them so they can focus on getting to know that brand new human being God created with them!



Thankful for at this moment

1. The wonderful conversations with my small group this afternoon for Religion, Anthropology and the Human World. (This is the first time the small groups have met instead of having lecture from 1:30 to 4:30 on Mondays … I was not looking forward to it … love having expectations turned on their head! Engaging discussions and totally energizing!)

2. Gorgeous weather!!!! Could early Oct. get any more beautiful and sunny? I need to go soak some more of it up as soon as I publish this!

3. Nessa is off to her first “Acting Class” this evening (what she calls it … 1st grade level class at the local Bell Tower Theatre … I hope her expectations are exceeded and not the other way around)

4. That our daughter is confident enough in her own choices that she thought it was the coolest thing in the world to where pajamas under a sun dress to school this morning — well, really the insists the pajamas are really “an outfit” and will likely never wear them as pajamas but still I love when she picks out her clothes simply because she likes them for whatever reason and I pray she does’t ever lose that! (and better yet both the pajamas and the sun dress are “new” from the Clothing Swap held here on campus last Friday.)

5. That my CPE application was finally turned in complete (little printing glitch first thing this morning so I had the opportunity to enjoy the sun on a quick walk home after chapel to get the correct file and spend lunch printing and making a nice PDF of the 3 different files) … for some reason the extra little challenge did nothing but energize me as well today … reminds me of he nice adrenaline rush I would get writing on deadline in the past.

6. That all three of us get to go back to spend a couple of days at the farm (and a bit of time with Megan!) at the end of the week — Nessa is off of school Friday so we will all leave Thursday afternoon and likely be back in Dubuque Sat. evening. It will be nice to be all together as a family again, even if just briefly.

7. Reading days are getting closer!!! (Next week there are no classes on Monday and Tuesday as they are designated reading days — woo hoo a couple of days to come close to catching up!)

8. The blessings of community — wonderful classmates and wonderful neighbors!

9. That Shawn is the one that took Nessa to her class so I can have some alone time to process (and make dinner) … well that isn’t the reason he volunteered (I don’t think) but that is the result, and I am thankful!

10. And this just in — Megan just reported another personal best for running times in Cross Country (this time in a one mile time trial I believe) — so thankful Megan is discovering a sport she can enjoy and thankful that we can share this sport in a way even if when we next run together she will leave me in the dust!

What are you thankful for at this moment?

Wholeness Wheel: Life In Process

Last Thursday we had a convocation after Chapel here at Wartburg Seminary. Our focus included looking at the Wholeness Wheel, and discussing how we personally as well as the larger community can work on balancing all aspects of wellness.

The discussion was interesting, and I have been thinking about how to do this without becoming obsessed with “balance” which I have found to be a bit dangerous to my overall health in the past. The following Martin Luther quote shared at the event is something I have been meditating on. I invite you to read and ponder the quote as well, and let me know some of your thoughts.

Martin Luther said:
“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”

Today, I am using my free hour to ponder, walk, pray, and meditate while I move my body. I am also focussing this week on sleep as a spiritual practice, and will reflect on that here later in the week. I am evolving my thoughts from “what do I need to get done” to “what is the best use of my time” … this time stewardship within the practice of life is very much an evolving practice for me —

How do you steward your time?

What spiritual practices help connect the various parts of your life?

How can I pray for you?

How can I pray for you?

A simple question. A powerful question.

In fact, I think it’s the most powerful question I have found lately.

I first noticed how powerful this question was when I became involved in small fellowship groups at my church. Then my husband and I used this as part of our daily check-in with each other, and then I started asking my daughters this questions more often (it has been especially helpful with our 6-year-old). Currently it is one of two questions on the white board in our kitchen and our daughter will sometimes answer before we get a chance to personally ask her (I love that). And then I started using it in other relationships … and in my social media world.

I always feel honored to pray for each and every request I get. The request bonds us in a way that many other conversations cannot.

I plan to continue to write about this on a regular basis as I grow in my own faith journey and as I continue to accompany others.

And, I will continue to ask — here and elsewhere —

How can I pray for you?*

Love and belief,

*and, seriously, I read each comment I get, so let me know!

Thankful at this very moment

OK with no pondering ahead of time, here is my list of 10 at this moment:

1. Nessa gets to start taking hot lunch at school tomorrow!!!!
2. Federal Govt. (Yep, you read that right) for making it clear that Gluten Free lunches for Celiacs is important
3. Nessa’s school (Bryant) and the staff that cared enough to make this happen
4. Facebook so I can network, share and publicly give thanks!
5. Amazing classes here at Wartburg Seminary
6. That I get to see Megan tomorrow!!!!
7. That I get to see my Acupuncturist tomorrow!
8. Venison steaks from a friend in the crock post (along with lots of veggies)
9. For the amazing people that smile at me everywhere I go around here!
10. For Wartburg’s after-school room that opens in about one minute … Nessa LOVES being there and I love another 2 hours to focus on reading (because I have quite a bit to do before tomorrow … and a LOT to do in the next few weeks!)

If you are still reading, what are you giving thanks for today?

Thanks be to God!

Love and belief,

Wartburg Seminary Opening Worship

On Monday September 5, 2011, Wartburg Theological Seminary began their 158th year with opening worship.

You can access a podcast and listen to President Stan Olson’s sermon from the Wartburg website:

It was a very moving service, with all of the Wartburg community and families in attendance. Before entering the sanctuary we all met outside and gathered by class (and guests), and each class of students and group present was prayed for. All of the new students entering Wartburg this year also had their names read off individually. As we entered the chapel we were sprinkled with water as a reminder of our baptism.

It was very moving to be a part of this service, and now that several days have passed I am thankful that this busy stressful week started with prayer and worship. I am thankful to be a part of this community!