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!