The Hospitality Project

Everyday life extraordinary


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Tucked In

A dance hall.  A clutched purse.  A handsome young soldier.  Eyes meet across the hall and he saunters over to the lovely vision.  Asking her to dance, she protests with a “can’t put my purse down” excuse.  He alleviates that excuse and tucks in her purse under his uniform jacket and whisks her onto the dance floor and into his life for the next 68 years.  The war expedited love.  The brisk wind of death had fallen upon many and life was grabbed at every opportunity.  With the cold bony grip of death so close, love was forced to make quick decisions.  Love.   A “promise” of marriage wasn’t enough to carry this bride to another continent.  Once again, this dashing soldier tucks in the purse of commitment under his uniform and produced a ring and a covenant to his beloved to love, honor and cherish her all the days of his life.   Plot twist.  She would be moving to Canada.

Goodbyes.  Stepping onto the train.  Traveling across the world to meet up again.  The young thoroughly modern Millie embarks to embrace her new life with her dashing soldier in Canada.  Many stops were made along the way with war brides shyly meeting up with their husbands.  Uniforms now exchanged for farm work wear and dusty boots, the image was dauntingly unfamiliar.  Breaths caught up in throats and fear clutched at some.  Down to a few.  The train stops and Millie looks out to see her dashing man in a suit alongside a car.  Smiling to herself she thought, “I got myself a rich one!”  Johnny looks up to see his thoroughly modern Millie with a wave of white cascading through the front of her black tresses and a jaunty cigarette at her red lips.   Thrilled to see one another again, they jaunt off home to his mother’s home in his rental car to  meet Johnny’s two conservative and wonderful sisters.  Johnny had wanted to bless Millie and rented a car for the day from his wages.  Life was meager at times but their love was rich.  Memories of having to hitchhike a ride to the hospital and scraping money together to pay for their first property.  Building their home brick by brick by hand and not going into debt to get ahead was Johnny’s standard.  Millie was the spice that kept life sweet and flavorful.

Into their marriage a bit, Johnny came to know the Lord and wanted desperately for his new bride to know His Savior.  Night by night, they would get tucked into bed and he would read the Bible aloud to her until it became a reality in her life and she too surrendered her life to Jesus Christ.  Together they forged through life with joys of daily adventures and life itself and hardships of barrenness, financial loss and death of friends.  After many years of not being able to have children naturally, they began the process of adoption and had two lovely girls Diane and Joy.  Through this, they were able to pour their love for each other and for the Lord into these two little ones and now many more to follow in grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Through the years, the Lord has prospered this lovely couple who have daily forged through life with tenacity, with zeal, with hospitality, with joy, with PURPOSE.

We had the privilege of meeting this couple about 18 years ago and delighted to spend time with their wisdom, their humor and their complete surrender to the will of God.  Never have I failed to walk away from any conversation with either one of them but have been filled to the brim with thanksgiving that the Lord has gifted us with such treasure for friends.   Tomorrow is their 68th Wedding Anniversary and I am struck once again at the faithfulness of God unfolded in the marriage of these two.  Together, they have took hold of the very hand of God and walked through life leaning on His word.  Together, they have met adversity, lost friends to death, watched churches split and countless painful moments where their recourse was to pray, to trust God and move forward.  I learn so much from both of them.  I learn that life is short.  That moment in the dance hall is etched in their minds…..it echoes on their hearts still.  They are youthful in their hearts, wise in their speech and they feel the pains of their age creeping into their bodies.  We learn from it all and feel as though we are immersed in a pool of gold and wisdom in their midst.  At 90 and 91…..they are together, they serve the Lord, they fill each other with God’s word, they go about their day with thanksgiving and very occasionally I hear a complaint and when I do, it is likely turned around into something to laugh with.  They apologize for their shakiness or their age at times and I am astounded.  All I see is bedrock strength, stunning beauty, ageless wisdom and an outpouring of love. They make my heart sing.  My hero couple, my couple who prays diligently for our children, my couple who demonstrates to me daily what it is to love unconditionally, my couple who loves to laugh, my couple who still manages to bless all those in the wake of their kindness and generosity….I love them.

Daily routine.  Daily pain.  Daily prayer.  Johnny daily “tucks Millie’s purse” in his uniform by caring for her needs, being a provider, loving her dearly every day. Every day is a gift and it had been from the time they were young.  Now they know it more than then…every day is a gift.  Now instead of jauntily tucking a purse into his uniform to whisk his lovely off for a spin, Johnny tucks Millie into bed and he kisses her goodnight every night and says, “see you in the morning”.  Millie responds with, “I hope so.”   The light is turned down and evening sweeps in with quiet and the peace shatters the air.  Life well lived.

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Keeper of the Home (and Plants)

Coming into motherhood, I was sure I was going to have the same kind of “brown thumb” I had with plants.  We would walk through Art Knapp’s Plantland in PG and there was a shrill howl among the terrified ones.  These timid plants would shiver and push themselves up against the wall and close their eyes, pretending to be invisible in the hopes they would not go home with us.  The braver ones stood staunchly at the front, ready to meet their grisly fate of slow death by alternating drowning and starving until the last bit of green was drained out of their very veins.  Brown and withered, the valiant plant would be thrown into the garden and a new victim would be sought out.  I clearly did not have a green thumb in the arena of gardening.  Would mothering be the same?  It takes a nurturing soul to raise up these human young plants.  They would need soil and roots and tender pinching off of deadheads, watering and misting and sunlight and so much more.  I was not up to the task.  It frankly terrified me.  I did the only thing I knew to do.  Pray.  Read and read and read about parenting…and pray some more.

My own childhood is a blank spot in my life.  I don’t recall much and the memories I do have are wispy and gray and usually recalled through some of the photographs in the family album. What propelled me into motherhood was necessity.  I was pregnant.  Baby was coming.  Period.  No longer did we have the five planned years to pay off our house and get debt free.  We now had just under two years as two and only one income before our firstborn entered the world.

Change.

Our sleep or lack thereof lasted only minutes after she came into the world.  A bright spot of sunshine, she craved someone standing over her smiling and cooing every waking moment.  Sleep became a luxury and we were deprived of it often.

Change.

Knowing we were very ill equipped at this parenting thing, we wrestled with the idea of having another when we could barely manage with one.  The decision was made for us.  Another was on the way.  This sweet little bundle arrived and was doted upon immediately by all three of us.  Our hearts grew and we made room for this little rosebud in our lives.

Change.

A move many hours away from the only place I truly knew as home came and we left.  My heart was shredded and overwhelmed with finding schools, doctors, dentists and friends.

Change.

One by one we added to our family until we reached the capacity of our quiver.  No longer brown thumbs at this parenting, we were developing a rhythm where the Lord was growing us in our capabilities and flexibility.  We were in a parenting greenhouse.

Change.

We operated with the seven of us at dinners and learning at home and running errands and experiencing new things as a family for many many years…a season of constant.  Kevin would ask the kids at the dinner table, “What is our family mission?”  The kids would echo, “to be a blessing.”  My heart was embedded in this constant.  There is just something about familiarity that makes my heart nestle in and sigh with contentment.

Then it happened.  Someone came walking through our nursery and spotted a plant that he set his eyes on.  He knew that was the one he wanted and he prayed and waited and visited us often to know his little treasure.  One day in May, we gave a precious part of our heart’s garden to a wonderful man who had promised to love, honor and cherish her all the days of his life.  He has purposed to do just that.  We gained a son and an empty room and a shifting of the family and a nightly ritual of tears and memories.

Change.

Emails and Facebook messages from an uprooted plant that was sent out to the East Coast speak of amazing opportunities, new family and friends, bubbling over with excitement of what is to come.  Anticipatory of the upcoming travels with her team, the sunshine traveled through the telephone wires and lit up the continent from coast to coast.  Things would not be the same again.

Change.

The only thing that was sure was there was sure to be change.

This has always been a hurdle for me.  After a perfect family holiday, I would be hesitant to plan for the next one because I wanted to savor the last and hold onto the memories and I feared the future one would not hold so many beautiful treasures.  In the same way, after a particularly lovely family season, it is hard for me to embark on a new journey feeling like I am leaving behind the old memories.  What I have come to realize is the NEW adventures and memories do not make the old ones fade away.  Change does not erase the loveliness of yesteryear…it fertilizes it.  It propels us forward into new adventures and fresh waters.  Every season of our lives is like a flower that has been brought to its fullness.  There will be no more growth in that particular season and the winds shift to a new season, a new purpose. The garden is always being grown…expanding and filling the earth with its fragrance. God, in His kindness gives us change to grow us. We can always trust His hand to be firmly in our through all changes in our lives.

My mind wanders back to Mikayla in Kindergarten belting out a song that spoke of being a flower being planted in God’s Word. Her little chubby fingers framing her face and searching the crowd to catch a glimpse of us.  The memory is embedded on my heart while the words are vague and I cannot recall them.  My heart sees the moment and begins to grasp the wisp of our moments.

Moms, let’s remember to hold onto the moments and not hold THEM in the moments.  We can hold those precious moments in our hearts as we embrace the change and thank the Lord for the opportunity He has given us to be stewards of such precious gifts. As a mom, that is our gift to the world while it may bring temporary pain and longing to our hearts.  We send our children forward to be a fragrant offering to the gardens they visit.  May they each be a scent of kindness and a covering of refuge, a vibrant array of green life as they venture forward.

Change.

We can fight it or we can embrace it and continue to water the soil of our lives and continue to produce fruit of the Holy Spirit.   LOVE.  JOY.  PEACE. LONG SUFFERING.  KINDNESS. GOODNESS. FAITHFULNESS.  GENTLENESS.  SELF CONTROL.  It is through this that we are being pruned into the express image of our Lord Jesus Christ who longs to transform us.  In this transforming, may we be filled with the desire to continue to pour our hearts into the task at hand, knowing the path is steep and sometimes filled with bramble bushes and will result in some pain and separation. Alongside there is a deep residing joy with the amazing reward of knowing that our children are making an impact for His Kingdom and in this hurting world as a balm of His grace, a fresh breeze and sunshine to the soul.


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I’ve Created A Monster

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It is early early morning and only scant hours left with our daughter tucked safely into our nest-home.  My prayers lift to the Heavens and I smile and then I cry.  My mind wanders back to the days when I had a timid little Kindergartner who was reluctant to go into class. Racking my heart, I wondered if I was making the right decision.  Should I take her home with me?  She was SHY! After some wrestle and some tears (my own!) I warned the teacher that she was shy and turned and left the building.  Coming back a bit early so I am not late to pick her up, I find the teacher walking her out to my side.   Beaming, Mikayla tells me that she taught the class a new song about loving Jesus.  I smile. 

“I want to play soccer, Mom.”  Are you sure? I ask.  Signing her up in a soccer league we suit her up with all the right equipment and drive to the field.  Looking across the field at the looming stretch of grass and the rambunctious players she turns with fright in her eyes.  “I can’t do it.  I don’t want to play anymore.”  I wrestle and wonder if we should turn back to the car.  She won’t budge.  Adamant that soccer is not going to happen, she digs her heels in and refuses to walk.  Digging my finger into her back, we march across that soccer field to the new coach.  Telling her when would pick her up, I leave the field.  Praying and wondering if I had made the right decision, I return to find a beaming face running up to me with her new friend,  “I LOVE SOCCER and this is Robyn.”  I smile. 

Time and time again, there will be proverbial “fingers in the back” until she no longer needs me to push and to prod her to the mountaintop. 

 

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Now her own fingers jabs into her own back and forces herself out to the unknown and into the uncomfortable and the great reward.  A girl who has learned the joys of new experiences and who longs to uncover the beauty of this world her Creator has created launches out on her own now.  First a degree….then travel…then another degree….new friends…new experiences….some tears along the way and now I have created a monster.  She leaves in less than an hour to a new experience that will take her far away from us for a while.  Now my tears are falling and I think of how I could have easily clipped those wings by planting fear in her heart and holding her back.  I would have her safely rooted at home but as I was recently reminded….it is the roots and wings that make someone truly beautiful and experiencing life to the fullest.  So FLY Mikayla and enjoy all that is to be enjoyed and live that abundant life you were created for and long for daily.  You are an inspiration to me every day in the way that you grab hold of life, casting out your own fears by the grace of God and plunge forward to grab hold and LIVE OUT LOUD.  Your roots are firm in Him and securely stretched into the soil of your friends and family.  Go plant more roots in your new team and your new surroundings.  He is watching over you and we place you firmly in His ever capable hands and wish you Godspeed as you travel.  You are loved.  You are treasured.  You are prayed for by many. You are His.