Chapter 15 - Stewards of Time
Looking long and hard at time - this one unalterable, precious gift which we cannot change, but only learn to use well, I asked, "Am I being a good steward of my time?"
Sometimes I do quite well. Sometimes I fail. I fight being affected by the weather. I'm full of energy on sunny days and get so much done. When it is cloudy and rainy I feel like a slug, dragging myself to get my work done all day. When emotional stress hits, I tend to just give in to depressive thoughts and wallow. Wallowing, is decidedly, a poor use of time. I would be so much better off if I would use that time in prayer. It's a good thing that I have a lifetime, Lord willing, to work on myself!
So am I being a good steward with my time?
The best answer I can give right now is, "I try. Lord, I really, really try. And please help me to do better!"
The amount of time available to us determines the quantity and personality of our hospitality... On the other hand, there are people who can devote large amounts of time and energy to hospitality. The temptation which always accompanies this situation is to do more than is required. It is easy to spend days in elaborate preparations which have nothing to do with ministry but a great deal to do with demonstrating one's own abilities. One must look carefully at those hidden motives and ask, "Am I really seeking to serve, or am I trying to impress?"
We must be sure that "extra frills stem from a desire to give, to minister, rather than from a desire to impress."
A good thermometer as to whether pride was rising in me was to ask two questions: Am I nervous? Am I fussing? These were pretty good indicators of the true nature of my intentions... Again, the answer was pride rearing its subtle and manipulative head, forcing me to think self.
I am not one of those people that can devote lots of time and energy to hospitality. (I used to be, and perhaps that is a big part of my problem.) Elaborate preparations are simply not my style. So you would think pride would not be an issue for me. It is.
Oh pride. What a beast. I try and try to banish it far away, but oh how it loves to creep back in. Learning to be hospitable with Littles has been a good exercise for me in putting away my pride. I simply cannot do what I once could in terms of food preparation and house cleaning. I have to do much of the cleaning last minute for fear that it will all be undone by little hands. Decorations? HA! I'm doing well to light a candle in the bathroom!
I admit that I recently served a bakery dessert for guests and I really struggled with my injured pride when I simply ran out of time to make a homemade dessert. The truth is, I didn't really "run out of time", it's just that my time was needed more elsewhere and a homemade dessert was not the highest on the list of priorities. It happens. I don't regret the way I spent my time. I'm just learning to not let my pride keep me from serving.
Being a good manager of your time makes you a good manager of life.
Oh so true. And we've been talking about that a lot with the Large Family Logistics discussion haven't we?
Chapter 16 - Shortcuts
Most of us don't have all the time we want to carry on ministries of hospitality. We seek to discover shortcuts so that we can open our homes with a minimum of effort.
1. Never clean before company.
I learned this one after the first couple birthday parties we hosted where the entire house was scattered with cupcake crumbs after everyone left. I vacuum on Tuesdays and Saturdays and do spot cleaning if there is a need. If you visit on any other day, our floors may not be spotless. I'm ok with that. After having large groups of people in your home, the floors will need to be vacuumed again, whether you served food or not, so you may as well save your time and energy and do the cleaning after.
Now DO do the basics of cleaning before company - wipe down the bathroom, tidy and straighten, make the beds with fresh sheets for overnight guests, but if you keep up with your general house cleaning and everyday routines, there shouldn't be a need for much cleaning before having company.
2. Don't be afraid to do things with flair.
I am a rather understated individual and my tastes are very simple, so I'm not much of one for flair. I am learning though. To me, the loveliest addition is a beautiful flower arrangement. It seems like a bit of an extravagance to me, so I don't do it often unless it is my own cut flowers, but a pretty arrangement certainly adds flair!
3. Do as much ahead of time as possible.
This is key for keeping my stress level to a minimum. Use the freezer! Have dessert, breakfast muffins, and part of the meal made up and frozen ahead of time. Take it out to thaw the day before. Use the crockpot! Nothing is nicer than having a hot meal ready to go, and best of all, you don't have to be a slave to the stove as your guests arrive! Prepare the guest room the day before and close the door to all tiny invaders, and you have one less thing to worry about. As much as you can, get things done ahead of time!
4. Clean as you go.
Confession: I'm still working on this one. I'm notorious for leaving the kitchen in a wreck while I do meal prep and often, the dishwasher is full of CLEAN dishes, leaving no place for the dirty ones to go! Yes, I need to improve my skills here!
Wash dishes as you cook, put things away as they are finished, But DON'T unsettle your guests by fussing too much with cleaning. Believe me, it IS unsettling. Your primary concern should be the comfort of your guests, not keeping things as pristine looking as when they arrived.
5. Use all the help that comes your way.
Many hands make light work! If you receive an offer of help, accept it with grace. This would include help in meal preparation, setting the table, cleaning up, planning an event, or bringing food. Allowing guests to help makes them feel more at home... like family. And it takes a burden off of your shoulders. It's a win-win! I LOVE her idea for a "Bring a Pie Night" where each guest or family brings a pie of their choosing. The hostess provides drinks, plates, and silverware. Brilliance!
6. Keep files.
She recommends keeping files of magazine clippings of hospitality ideas. Pinterest anyone? (Sometimes I really love technology!)
Each of us must learn to determine what is important in our lives. We must come to an agreement with the time which we have been allotted. If the Lord is asking us to carry on extensive ministries of hospitality, we will then be able to know the human limitations within which we work. We will learn to adjust our attitudes and discover shortcuts.
Better to just DO IT and show hospitality with shortcuts than to utterly neglect it because you simply haven't the time. (This means you have not made the time.) There is no shame in taking shortcuts. Don't let pride get in the way!
(Just two chapters remain!)