What does hospitality look like to you? Is it the perfect home with everything in its place? The family that seems to always be living in peaceful harmony? A table lavishly set with something either cooking on the stove or baking in the oven just in case an unexpected visitor arrives?
When I looked up the word for hospitality, not one of those things were mentioned. The definition stated "the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality." Hospitality isn't a verb, but it is something that is being practiced, being lived out. It is the way someone is described when they open their doors and extend kindness. It is simply love in action. It has much more to do with the resources of a generous heart than with the food or even the home.
I've talked with more people than I can count that say they don't have the "gift" of hospitality. But when I look at this definition above it has nothing to do with giftedness per se. It is at its core looking to the needs of others in real and tangible ways. It does require some effort and purposeful thought on how we might serve one another. It is being intentional.
This idea of hospitality has been (and continues to be) an area that I need to cultivate with regularity. It doesn't always come easy, because honestly sometimes I'm tired, or I'm just not in the mood, or I'm being selfish with my time.
The thing that seems to bring me back on track regarding hospitality is when I remember that I can't look at it as an obligation but as a ministry opportunity. It's not something I have to do, it's something I get to do. The older I get I realize time is short and doing even small acts of kindness and generosity to those I love will bring forth much fruit. And there is great joy and satisfaction in knowing that I can in some small way help to bring rest, restoration, and refreshment to those who come through my door.
Hospitality in a sense is a deliberate cultivation and nurturing of relationships within your sphere of influence. This can start very simply, and small. When you welcome someone into your home open the door wide. Greet your guests with a smile and an authentic desire to meet their needs. Offer a simple drink and a place to sit. Look them in the eyes and find out how they are...how they really are doing. It can be that simple.
One thing I've found to be helpful in this area of hospitality is to anticipate. If I can have a little something on hand that I can pull out when an unexpected guest arrives it helps create that sense of welcoming. A handful of crackers with a little cheese, some purchased cookies (the gluten free Ginger Chunk cookies from Trader Joe's are a new favorite!) or a few slices of fruit can be enough to extend kindness. I try to have a few things in the freezer to pull out for just such an occasion. These Rose & Cardamom Shortbread are a new addition to my cookie repertoire. I make a double batch and keep some on hand for when someone drops by unexpected (or expected). With a glass of iced tea these will make anyone feel loved! -s
Rose & Cardamom Shortbread
½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 ½ cups white rice flour plus more for rolling
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp. rose water
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
Rose sugar, for sprinkling on top
Whisk cardamom and 1 ½ cups rice flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in a medium bowl until smooth. Add egg, rose water, and sesame seeds, beat to blend. Reduce mixer to low speed; gradually mix in dry ingredients (dough will be stiff). Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Scoop level tablespoons of dough and, using lightly floured hands roll into balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 ½ inch apart. Using two fingers press dough down to flatten slightly. Sprinkle cookies with rose sugar. Bake cookies until firm but still pale, 20-25 minutes, transfer to wire racks; let cool.
Do ahead: Cookies can be baked 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. Or freeze for up to 1 month.
1 cup granulated sugar
½ dried rose petals
Process in a food processor until combined. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month