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On Feeding Others When It’s Not Easy

There are times when it is easy to show hospitality through a meal. The dishes are all done, the children have been cared for, laundry is put away, and the floor is clean.

And then there are times when it’s not so easy.

Discerning the difference between hard but doable and truly impossible without neglecting absolute necessities has always been hard for me. I will skip parts of our home school in order to make a tasty lunch for someone or I will leave days worth of dishes in order to make my husband’s favorite dish.

But I know that he doesn’t want that, and neither does anyone else we share a meal with from time to time. When I have made that choice I am the one who has neglected the necessary for the unnecessary. Looking back at a few too many of these occasions I see the folly in this.

Had I swapped that homemade pasta for a simple pot of stew I wouldn’t have left the laundry unfolded, covering our bed when it came time to sink in to rest for the night.

Had I made a pot of mashed potatoes instead of a few pans of fried potatoes, I could have spent more time teaching my son to read that day.

Had I worked within my circumstances, with an eye towards what was needful and important, then perhaps I would look back and see hospitality, not showmanship.

When we prepare a meal for others, whether it’s our own spouse and children or a neighbor who could use a break, they almost never care what you make. Especially in that second instance, when you are feeding those you do not normally feed, the simple act of preparing and sharing food with them is what they remember – not how fancied up the table was or whether or not you provided a three course meal.

Hospitality in sharing or simply preparing a meal for another family has come to mean something more than wowing them with this combination or that new trick you learned. To me it has come to mean doing what you can within the circumstances.

When the dishes are all done, the chores behind me, the laundry not shouting for attention from the clothesline; those are the times that we can give our friends and family something extra special – an extra side dish or even a dessert.

But when things aren’t perfect all we need to do is feed them, with whatever food we have and whatever time we can spare. And I’m guessing, like me, you’ve never been disappointed when someone else gives of their time and resources to feed you.

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  • How wonderfully encouraging your words are! Although I would like to have people over more often, I’m usually disheartened by the stress and time (and usually cost) involved in feeding people. I always think I need to prepare something so fancy and “worthy” of guests. Something simple and relatively inexpensive is all that is truly required. The opportunity to serve others and spend time with them is what is important – thanks again, awesome post :)

    Heather February 7, 2013 AT 10:56 pm
  • Oh those days of striving to be “Martha Stewart” perfect. :( They were exhausting and caused us to miss out on the joy of hospitality. Now I can make a yummy, hearty soup, bread and salad and feel relaxed and fellowship with my guests. I remember reading a book by Graham Kerr who hosted the television show “The Galloping Gourmet”. He had a huge change of life as he became a Christian. He shared an experience when the company and fellowship over a simple meal became a memorable event. The simple meal was hamburger browned with soy sauce, tossed with rice and cooked peas helped him celebrate friendship–it has become one of my family’s favorites comfort meals.

    gogardengirl February 1, 2013 AT 10:57 pm
  • Lovely, just lovely.

    Joy January 30, 2013 AT 5:24 pm
  • Beautifully said, and thank you kindly for the reminder.

    Carmen January 29, 2013 AT 5:58 pm
  • Shannon, brilliant as always. You have a knack for speaking right to my heart. This is something I’ve been struggling with over the past year. I remember recently agonizing over whether or not homemade soup and cornbread would be “appropriate” to serve to a dinner guest… wondering whether or not it’d be “enough.” I ended up serving it – after chastizing myself – and the guest totally loved it. I told my guest about my inhibitions and we ended up having a beautiful discussion around assumptions, friendships, etiquette, and “enough.” Real learning point for me. Thanks for bringing it home… literally. Blessings!

    Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt January 26, 2013 AT 3:24 am
  • This is an excellent post! Everything you said is spot on – and I need to remember this when I’m having company over and it’s been a CRAZY day. Sometimes, a pot of green beans and a meatloaf is enough. And pretty stinkin’ delicious. :-)

    Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents January 25, 2013 AT 6:21 am
  • I totally agree. This is what my husband taught me. We both have a heart for hospitality, but I was stressing and working way too hard making something unusual and special for our guests to appreciate and ooh and ahh over. My husband taught me that people are visiting for our company, not restaurant quality food, and being relaxed and welcoming is a much better plan. That means keeping food simple. We have thrown parties that have been widely touted as “amazing” when all we served was grilled meat, a pot of homemade sauerkraut, some green beans and maybe a salad, with beer aplenty. It’s been quite freeing!

    Sarah January 24, 2013 AT 9:47 pm


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