Hospitality for Busy Families – Karen Ehman


One of the most countercultural things you can do as a Christian is to invite someone over for dinner. In this one-day broadcast, Karen Ehman helps busy families find opportunities for hospitality in everyday life.



yeah, you hang with your peeps, you have your christian friends over, you have your neighbors over. But sometimes you feel God tapping you on the heart saying, you know that person over there, that person who’s not really expecting to be seen and to be reached out to buy you, invite him over. Welcome to the focus on the family broadcast helping families thrive, john I think one of the most countercultural things you can do as a christian is to invite someone over for dinner. Think of that. Um, it’s not glamorous, but the bible says, do not despise the day of small things. What does that mean? Like I have an interesting application to that verse, just do something small for someone in your orbit, jesus spent his time with a small band of disciples. He taught that the kingdom of God would expand out like a tiny mustard seed. Remember he talked about the power of the illustration of the mustard seed, God accomplishes his grand plan through those modest beginnings and taking a small risk to invite someone to coffee or over for dinner is a radical act in God’s kingdom. It could change your life. I have heard of so many testimonies of People that were invited to someone’s home for dinner and they became Christian was the beginning of what cracks the heart open. Our guest today will reorient all of us about the view of ordinary hospitality and she’ll help you and us notice everyday opportunities to reach others. And Karen Eamon is the speaker with proverbs 31 ministries and best selling author And she’s captured some thoughts on this topic in a terrific book. It’s called reach out, gather in 40 days to opening your heart and home. And of course, we have copies of that here at the ministry. Uh, contact us by calling 1 800 the letter A and the word family or check the program notes for the links. Karen, welcome back to focus on the family. Well, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be back. Yeah, hospitality. It’s a challenging opportunity for busy families. Let me put it that way. Why do you think hospitality is more difficult today, or is it? I think it is more difficult both because we are busier. That is a little part of it. But I think we have this notion in our minds based on what we see on television or what we view on social media, that it has to look a certain way. That makes it almost impossible. Then mentally, emotionally to try to do right. It has to be this big thing. If you can’t do it like the experts do, then just don’t do it at all. If you can’t make your centerpieces in your food and your home look like those people, you’re following on instagram. And I’m not against following those. I get some great ideas from them, but they’re they’re great to use as a resource, but not trying to replicate as a lifestyle. And we think we have to replicate all that beauty we see and all that fancy, we see, or boy, we just can’t have anybody over. Yeah, I think so many gene very much the same way. I think especially early on she saw it as such a tsunami event. That was overwhelming. You know, to really do it the way she would want to do it almost perfectly, you know, and therefore it was like paralyzing to her. Do you encounter that kind of attitude? I do. And I think what we wrongly think is that we have to pull out all the stops and get everything all perfect and then we can have people over and that, that’s hospitality. That’s entertaining. That’s trying to impress other people, not trying to just refresh them hospitality is just letting them pull up a chair in your ordinary life and focus on them, not on trying to impress them with all your decor and your food and all of that, but just focus on them and who they are and how can I get to know you? It doesn’t have to be all fancy. So in that regard, how does a person lower their standard? You know what I’m saying? They’ve got this high bar of what the event at their home should look like having someone over for dinner. And it’s, it’s nice for you to say, yeah, let’s just call it a refreshing event. But how do you actually embrace that and be good with it. You know, that it’s not going to be all perfect and it’s gonna be a meal that maybe they’re not going to rave about it will be good enough. How do you get there emotionally for me? I think back in my past I flipped the script, don’t think about in my past when I’ve hosted people, but when I’ve been a guest in someone’s house, when have I felt the most loved one and welcomed? I can think of some of them. I’m pulling up in my brain now and then I think what did they serve me? I can’t even tell you what, you know or what did their house look like? Was there dust bunny siding under their couch? I can’t tell you, but I know how they made me feel when I was over there. And so I think it’s helpful to think about what’s important to us when we’re a guest in someone’s home and then translate that to when we’re preparing to have someone over. Don’t stress about things that weren’t important to you when you were a guest? Is there? This may be a tough question, but is there a bit of pride in some of that or what is the source of that crippling? It’s got to be perfect and I can’t do perfect. So I won’t do it. What’s what’s that really coming from? Yeah, I think it could be a pride. I think it also has comparisons we’re seeing other people and what they do and how it looks like they pulled off some awesome dinner party for 16 and we just want to have that new couple over from church and boy, you know, we kind of feel less than by comparison and two, there is this weird kind of reciprocal thing to where you think, oh, well if they had me over and they serve something really fancy, then I have to do the same or you know, if I have them over, are they gonna have me over? And it’s kind of this tip for tapping and it needs to not be that way. Yeah. In the opening, john and I were going back and forth about that entryway for someone spiritually by having someone over for dinner. That was your story. You came to christ through another believers hospitality. What happened? I was a latchkey child and early teens and into my teenage years and very lonely and didn’t have a home where I ever had anybody over. My mom was a single mom living on a budget so tight it squeaks and she was just trying to keep macaroni cheese on the table. But we lived across the street kind of kitty corner from a tiny little country church and they got a new pastor and pastor’s wife and that woman saw me out in my front yard throwing a softball up to myself because I was home all alone and she invited me to join the church softball team through that I started to hang out with her. She would have me over, I’m about 16 at this point and she would have me over to her house and feed me warmed up leftovers and apple cinnamon tea. Nothing fancy. She would often joke like I’m so sorry. All we have is leftovers. But it tasted like a gourmet feast when I was at her house because I felt like she took interest in my life. She wanted to know who I was, what I was going through and she just said pull up a chair sometimes I would fold laundry with her, I’d watch her toddlers and I just became part of her life and it was through her that I learned of a God who could be the father to the fatherless and I became a christian. You know what’s so interesting about that. I’m thinking my wife jean who grew up in garden Grove and she has a girlfriend still to this day that they met in kindergarten, linda’s mom was that kind of mom in the community and she said her friends just like to hang out there even if linda wasn’t at home. Like jean and her friend Mony would go over and hang out with linda’s mom because she was just so fun to be with isn’t that amazing And these were elementary school kids who hangs out with somebody’s mom. But she was just that loving I think and that’s what they were getting in that relationship was this loving adult who cared about them and that’s what you’re saying, what what child teenager doesn’t want that, right? What a great form of hospitality. How does scripture instruct us to prioritize the needs of our family? Because you know, busy nous is a killer to hospitality. So you got to start saying, okay, God first, you know, do the devotional time, which is good and then my marriage and then my parenting family and then what’s left over then I could dole out to other people around me, what’s a good way to look at all of this? I like, well I think there are two extremes and so I like to kind of take a middle of the road approach. I think the extreme is my family is my first and most important, my only ministry and I just really don’t do anything with hospitality and really invite other people into your life or the place I lived for a while said to say when I tried to start being hospitable, but wrongly started out thinking it was entertaining because I married into a family full of caterers and bed and breakfast owners and I didn’t even know how to boil water. So yeah, yeah, yeah, so I was trying to pull out all the stops and impress these people and God taught me just a huge lesson about, you know, the difference between entertaining and hospitality, but I kind of did more for people outside my family and my kids would sometimes you guys, they would walk in the kitchen and homemade blueberry pie who’s coming to dinner because I was pulling out all the stops for the people and I remember that day my son Mitchell said that and I thought oh there were times that not just with hospitality, but I would make a meal for someone that had a new baby or something. I would pull out all the stops and give my family lunch meat, but did he say it in a negative way or just an observation? He thought he was gonna hit his dummy and then he went, oh because he knew he wasn’t gonna get a piece. So I kind of adopted the rule that if I was gonna make something for someone else, I made it for my family and I took that middle of the road approach, not pulling out all the stops and trying to wow people with my hospitality and leaving my family behind, not just saying my family is my only gig and not having people over, but inviting my kids along for the journey, showing them what it means to open your heart and to open your home and let people just join you in life. You know, that is such a subtle but powerful insight. I mean I’m sure I’ve done things like that and I was too dense to catch it at least you caught it right? How to love your family and and remind them that they’re important to you as well and that other people are important. I always prayed that my kids would catch a vision for hospitality and I’m seeing it play out and that my daughter, she’s way out there beyond me. She just had an elderly couple over that got stranded at the airport and she’s like, you can stay at our house and she just had them like they could be ex murderers, you know me, I watched too many who done it shows, but she did, she saw this couple, they were distressed, the woman was crying, she had just landed in charlotte north Carolina back home and she said my room, she had a couple of roommates at times in my one roommate moved out, I have a guest room offering and she came, she ordered them whatever dinner they wanted. And she said, mom, I got the courage to do that because you, I saw you and dad let people in our house. That’s pretty amazing. I’m hearing an airport ministry blooming with all the delayed flights, That might be a good thing. I’m thinking of the passage in Matthew and jesus says if you love those who love you, don’t unbelievers do that. Like is that a big deal. Uh, explain that pastor in this context of hospitality. Uh, it’s really aiming at the outsider, the people you maybe don’t click with or don’t agree with and having them over for dinner, Karen, are you serious? That would ruin my meal. Right, Well, I would say if you’re just starting out, it is best to start out practicing on people, you know well and you already get along with, but don’t stop there. I like, yeah, I like to think of this with whom does my life naturally intersect? Who do I see as I go about my week, Who do I see as I go about my day? Who do my kids see and just ask the Lord, you know, is there somebody who we could reach out to, who we could open our homes to that maybe has never been inside the home of a christian who maybe has never felt like they were wanted and welcomed and loved and so yeah, you hang with your peeps, you have your christian friends over, you have your neighbors over, but sometimes you feel God tapping you on the heart, saying, you know that person over there, that person who’s not really expecting to be seen and to be reached out to buy you invite them over. Even if it’s something simple, like just say, would you like to come over and have coffee or you don’t even have to do it in your home, You can be hospitable anywhere, You can take someone out for coffee if you’re stressed about getting your house prepared, but but think of those people that are out of the box, not just those ones that it’s easy to have over, but those people maybe that you don’t agree with politically or whatever, it does, a lot of good for people to mix in that way. I mean, Gene and I have done that. Um I wish we did more of it, but we certainly have done it. And the fruit from it has been spectacular, you know, kind of your story when non believers have come over and over the course of time without the expectation, I’m not there to change you, but over the course of time, it’s amazing how their hearts do. Open up to the message of the gospel, just by the love that you’re showing them. It’s kind of what the Lord said, right. Exactly. And I have actually a really current real life example of a girl. She’s a young woman now in her late twenties, didn’t quite know if I wanted her hanging out with my daughter in high school, you know, I kind of stalked her on social media, but we said, nope, our house is gonna be the hangout place, welcomed her over right after high school, she was working in a strip club, she was doing drugs, she was doing all kinds of things that I just, my heart broke for her, I follow her on social media about a year ago I saw her start to post bible verses, long story short, she’s now a believer. She reached out to me the other day, came to my house and sat down and said, can I just tell you, thank you for always accepting me. Even though I knew you didn’t approve of what I was doing. I knew the demons are not gonna be happy with what I do in my life, but every time I came over here, you threw up in your arms, you hugged me and said, what do you want to eat? And she said, I even remember when I told you I was working at a strip club, you didn’t even flinch. You didn’t even flinch. And I said inside I was flinching, you know, but it’s just we can’t expect everybody to behave like us to believe like us. And you never know when God might use you welcoming and loving somebody to to be a little seed that changes years on the road. They can point back and it was just a little seed, There are a lot of other people that were part of the equation. God does the saving, but just being hospitable and loving regardless of what they believe can be huge. And the overarching statement, there’s relationship, which is why God created us in the first place for him right to have relationship with us. And I think that’s the key to spreading his word to the nonbelievers just have relationship, just be normal and have relationships with people. Well, this is focused on the family with Jim Daly and our guest today is Karen Seaman. We’re talking about opening your heart and your home. Her book is called Reach Out gather In. As you can tell, there is a real impact you can have when you bring somebody into your life. We’re inviting you to do that and please get a copy of Karen’s book when you contact us here. 800 the letter a in the word family 802 326459 or check the program notes for the link. We’ve hit some of those uh roadblocks, but I want to be a little more specific so people can see themselves frankly in what you’re talking about when you were newly married. I think seasons of life can play big into this. When you have little kids. It becomes very difficult because you’ve got so much going. But for you, when you’re newly married, you were excited to have people over and then you kind of lost steam, which I think is kind of the normal pattern. If you were to map it out on a graph, you know, you’re newly married, you got a bit more time, perhaps you don’t have little Children yet speak to that issue of of availability. Yeah, I think when the kids came along it got more difficult. I still wanted to do it, but I started to get a little um frustrated sometimes with other people’s Children who broke my stuff because I like my stuff, you know I registered for my wedding stuff and it’s nice and we used it for a long time when we were newly married and mostly hanging out with people that didn’t have kids. But then once we started to become parents and all our friends became parents and then their, you know, breaking my stuff, messing up my carpet. I started to just get a little frustrated especially too because we were living on a budget so tight it squeaks so I couldn’t buy a new whatever that just got ruined. Well one day I was kind of grousing about it and um a friend gently kind of rebuked me and said you know what Karen that stuff is not your stuff anyway. It all belongs to God. And if a chipped crockpot can help you to do someone to christ let the crock pot get chipped. And when she said that to me it really, really shifted my thinking, nothing I have belongs to me. I need to steward it. Well use it for the Lord. If it gets broke it it’s broke. It’s not the end of the world. Yeah. That’s such a good reminder for all of us. Actually don’t get upset over the stuff. People are more valuable. Although the real real valuable stuff put up high enough that the kids can’t reach it. That that’s a good compromise. That’s definitely a good idea. You know one of the, one of the things I noticed with jean early on, she was a people pleaser, It was really hard for her to say no and that created some conflict for us describe the group of women you met in college I think who maximized their roles at church and in that regard, what I saw jean trying to do is especially even in church, you know, say yes to so much that it became a bit overwhelming for. Yeah, when I first became a christian through that woman Miss Pat who led me to the Lord, I continued to go to that church when I was in college and she just welcomed me into that women’s circle of friends that were there, they were all older than me, I was the youngest but they didn’t make me feel like I didn’t belong. But I I saw it was so interesting how they each kind of had their little niche, their thing that they were gifted at that they were good at their spiritual gifts. You know, one woman was great with making stories come alive to Children and she was serving in the Children’s ministry. One was really great with bible study and prayer. One elderly woman, she was like stunning with her her makeup and her clothes and she liked to help people like find their best colors and stuff and they all kind of were specific and strategic and what they were good at. But as a group, I feel like I got so many of my needs met because they, they weren’t all trying to do everything. They weren’t all signing up for everything and they were so welcoming and hospitable whether it was going over to their homes, we would rotate like what house, the bible study was that. But even just being around them, I felt wanted, I felt like they were just really welcoming to me and they cared about me and my future and my dreams and my hopes and my fears. And it was so interesting to me just how they all had their little niche and I knew who to go to. If I needed a question asked about something, it was a great place to land christian. It begs the question. I think in my mind, those women that really know their niche and then they, you know, they don’t go far beyond that. I’m sure occasionally they’re saying yes to things that are outside their capability and that’s all fine. But what I hear you saying is try to stay in the lane in the giftedness that God’s given you and you’re gonna thrive there. You’re gonna do well there when you overextend and have too many commitments or whatever it might be, it could take you right outside of the very core thing. God has you doing. Yeah. And when we see other people doing their thing and we think we’ve got to do their thing. No, we might be called to do something else. Don’t try to be, you know, envious of someone else’s gifts and want to serve and like they do ask the Lord, where am I gifted? What are my passions? What are my talents? What are my spiritual gifts? Whoo, where’s my little wheelhouse where you want me to serve you? Yeah. You mentioned something about heart drops and I want to ask very specifically you say you need to know what it means to truly listen and look for the heart drops. What is that? It’s a concept. I saw my mom do as I was growing up. She was great at listening for people’s heart drops. I didn’t know that this was the term for it to a someone in my small group that they turned at this and I think it’s really fitting what a heart drop is is when someone gives you a little peek into their heart without really saying anything. You’re just kind of listening between the lines. They may say that they have some medical tests coming up next thursday and they don’t say and I’m really Sad about it and I’m really nervous about it. You know, they just kind of given you by the tone of their voice, this peek into them. Well you can write down in your, you know, record down in your phone next Thursday to text him or call him and see how they’re doing or I remember one time my husband, he heard a little heart dropped when I turned 30 just a couple of years ago. Um I was youth pastor’s wife, my husband, the youth pastor and the girls in our youth group, we’re all talking about slumber party and this slumber party coming up and they said what were slumber parties like with you way back in the late eighties, you know? Yeah. And I just simply said oh you know I never had a slumber party and my husband heard that he knew the home I grew up in. My mom was a single mom, very sad that she was divorced, thought it was you know the worst thing in the world and wasn’t treated great by the and so she shut down, she didn’t let anybody in our house. And my husband just heard me go oh I don’t know, I never really had a slumber party and so he heard that heart drop I wasn’t saying and that really upset me, you know I’m still sad about it to this day. So you know what that man did. He pulled off a surprise slumber party for my 30th birthday. He did he did he got kidnapped by two friends and taken to my church and they had this whole slumber party overnight so it’s just listening between the lines, hearing what people are saying without really saying it or it’s also listening for random pieces of information about someone’s likes and and their their hobbies or whatever, that you don’t know how you’re going to use, but you’ll use it some day. For example, I love to listen when I’m in a coffee shop with my friends at their high maintenance coffee orders and I’ll write them down, I’ll go write them down, I’ll go write them down in my phone. And one time I remember specifically one of my friends, I recorded it in my phone in april I didn’t know when I’d ever use it, but that fall, her only child went off to college. I knew it was gonna be a hard day. And so I showed up on her front porch with a box of tissues and to coffee drinks. My simple one and her high maintenance one and said, I thought you might need a shoulder to cry on. And she said, oh, what’d you bring me a vanilla latte? And I said, and I said her high yeah, and she said, how did you know? And I said, because I recorded it and it meant so much to her that I paid attention, you know, that is really good. Let me ask you about hospitality outside of the home. And I’m not even sure that I’ve ever thought of that because I always connect hospitality in the home, what does that look like outside the home hospitality? I can no longer get mad at the guy that cuts me off. Is that out of the house hospitality? I’m doing much better. Everybody, God worked a miracle in my life, you know, I think you just need to think about where does my week take me? Where are my layovers in life? Where am I going to be sitting waiting for the kids at baseball practice? You know? Or where am I when I’m with my my job or my volunteer responsibilities or what I’m doing in my church and just look for ways to make people feel welcome there. For example, if it’s the baseball sidelines and there’s a new family, you know, maybe you could reach out to them and invite them over. Maybe you could show up with hot cider and donuts for all the soccer moms in the fall. Maybe you could have a little tray of something on your desk of little treats that people can swing by and pick a treat and then say also if you want to leave a prayer request. I mean there’s just ways when you are out and about doing life that you can seek to make other people feel welcome. Just always be on the lookout. My, my mom had this philosophy that whenever you feel like your life is is not going the way you planned it, circumstances have gotten you down, remember there’s always someone out there who has life off worse off than you. So go find that person and do something to make their day and in a strange way, it makes sure that as well. She always used to say get your eyes off yourself honey and get your eyes off those popular girls. You know those popular girls, you think your life isn’t as good as them. Guess what? There’s some girls out there who really are sad, go look for them and make them feel welcomed and wanted and it works. It makes life an adventure if you’re seeking to serve others. And I think spiritually it’s really good for your kids to learn that. You know, you’re not as bad off as you think you are and sometimes sometimes they need that little wake up call, you know, because they’re wallowing in their own situation. They didn’t get invited to the big thing and whatever. But that’s those are lessons I learned as a kid that were really good. There’s got to be somebody in a far worse spot than I’m in. And that helped me emotionally actually, you had a chance to practice what you call in the moment ministry with your son’s friend Grant. So tell us about Grant. Yes Grant, I call him second Grant, that group of friends. There was 1st and 2nd blake, first, 2nd and 3rd jake and 1st and 2nd Grant and a second Grant had moved to our town and came over to our house off and he was a member of my son’s football team state championship football team, I might add, but he was an early riser and he would get up in the mornings on saturday morning after all the gang had spent the night friday nights and I was working on a book trying to get it done and he would get up and he plopped himself on the couch and he’d say, what you doing mama Karen and I’d say I’m trying to write a book on noticing people. If you could leave me alone please. It was like God said, oh I get it, Karen, you want to give the message, you just don’t want to live the message. Yeah, so I knew what I needed to do. I needed to shut my laptop and I needed to listen to second Grant. He actually also loved to drink coffee. So he and I would drink coconut mocha coffee and I just let him share about his life. He had moved there recently and he had a lot of stuff going on in his life and I just got to know him. And a few months later he asked one random saturday morning when we were drinking our coffee, what I was going to be doing the third sunday in March, he wanted my husband and I were available and I thought oh what is there like some big game on and they want to have the party here and watch the game and they want me to make my food for them. And he said no, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve responded to the gospel and become a christian and I’m getting baptized and I would really love it if you and mr Eamon were there in the front. That’s awesome. And I thought I almost missed it. Like I almost missed it being so busy doing my thing, doing my big things and not noticing that person sitting right in front of me. That is so, so good. Karen, what a wonderful reminder. This has been about what hospitality is and the way God uses it to infiltrate someone’s heart, right? You’ve had many examples of that. So good. And let me remind our listeners or viewers focus on the family is here for you and we’d like to encourage you in your faith in the weeks and months to come. And we have many great resources like Karen’s book, reach out, gather in 40 days to opening your heart and home and I would appreciate it if you get that directly from us rather than some big retailer or big mail order place because all the money goes right back into ministry. And if you can make a donation for any amount either monthly or one time, we’ll send it as a way to say thank you for being part of the ministry and you’ll get to benefit from Karen’s wonderful insights, contact us today and make a donation as you can, either monthly pledge or one time gift will send the book, reach out, gather into you. Our number is 800 the letter A and the word family. 802 326459 or the link is in the program notes, Karen again. Thank you so much for being with us. Really good stuff. Thank you so much for having me. You’ve been very hospitable what I just did right there. We’ve got lunch for you. Well, on behalf of Jim Daley and the entire team here. Thanks for joining us today. For focus on the family. I’m john fuller inviting you back next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in christ

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