Once upon a few weeks ago, I hopped on a Zoom call with a childhood friend and interviewed her for an article I planned to write for another magazine. Well, said magazine ran out of space, or at least, that’s how they graciously turned down the article. However, I feel that what she and I discussed is worth sharing. So that will be the body of this blog post.
It’s a chilly day in February. Laundry thumps in my dryer, the smell of cream of broccoli soup lingers in the air, and dishes drip on the rack. I’m days away from moving into a new space, another chapter in this transient singlehood story of mine.
I rewarm some coffee and connect with a dear childhood friend Melissa over Zoom. She knows what it’s like to be a transient homemaker. She and her husband Kyle are pursuing ministry in Quebec, a journey that has given them three addresses in seven years of marriage.
I ask her what it takes to make a space feel homey and ready for service and the words “tidy spaces, baked goods, and coffee bar” emerge often in our conversation. In these ordinary phrases, I hear three principles for hospitality.
Tidy Spaces—Open Your Hands
One of the values that Kyle and Melissa embrace as a couple is the certainty that all they have is God’s. Viewing their home as “a gift from God,” they find it easier to share their space and stuff freely whether it’s a townhome in small-town Ontario or a student apartment in Quebec.
Melissa believes that because it is all God’s, we should give the best of what we have. She admits that sometimes when she’s serving a large group it can look expensive. “You don’t have to serve them steak” she quips but serve generously with the budget you’ve been given.
Melissa was very passionate that small spaces can serve hospitality just as well as large ones. Opening up the space for people to come is more important than making sure everyone has a place to sit. She added that tidy spaces are welcoming but that if a space is too clean it can actually be intimidating. Buy some neutral, practical furniture, add some beautiful throw pillows and plants, open your door; and people will come.
Baked Goods—Prepare to Serve
Melissa likes to be prepared to host last minute, and she gave some practical advice for this. She always “puts her kitchen to bed” every night, so that it’s tidy and welcoming for her the next morning, but also ready should a friend drop by last minute.
She also plans for guests in her grocery shopping and food preparation. She tries to make sure she has some baked goodies in her freezer to serve with tea or coffee at anytime. She adds, “I have a few recipes in my head that I can make quickly.” When I suggest she shares one, she laughs it off, claiming each homemaker has her own favourites. What you serve is not as important as being ready to serve.
Finally, we talk about how prepared we should be when planned-for guests arrive. There are two things we agree on from our shared experience. Helping the hostess prepare can be a way to feel more at home. However, if the hostess is busy doing too much preparation last minute, they can make us feel unwelcome as a guest since they don’t have the head space to engage us in conversation. Melissa tries to be mostly prepared, but she invites her guests to help her with the last-minute things if needed.
Coffee Bar—Use Your Gifts
At each address, Kyle and Melissa have assembled an attractive coffee bar. They value quality coffee, and Kyle has honed his skills as a barista to the point that he can rival coffee shops. Melissa shares how they were able to serve the students at language school with coffee and how they hope to reach the other people in their apartment building with a pop-up coffee bar in the community room. I love that what looks like an expensive hobby can be used as an invaluable tool for ministry.
Melissa’s standard of preparation may feel intimidating to you. She and I discussed this a little. Should we ever do less because what we do makes other people feel inadequate? Melissa loves to serve with the language of food. She creatively prepares beautiful tables. Should she stop because not everyone else can? After some discussion, we conclude, “No, we shouldn’t stop serving with our gifts, but maybe those gifts need to be adapted for the person and culture.”
In Ontario, she served family style Sunday meals, attractive platters passed around the table. In Quebec they plate the food, so rather than think about garnishes for the serving bowls, she tries to plan a menu that will look attractive on the plate.
Hospitality, then, is not about where you serve and what you serve. It’s about making people feel welcome and at home in your presence. In Melissa’s words,
“Hospitality is how you make someone feel and caring about the heart.”
Like Melissa, I long to be a person of generous hospitality. I want to prepare to serve the people God calls me to love. For me this means pulling out paints for my friend’s small daughters or bringing brownies to writers’ night. For you, it will look a little different.
I would that we all could with open arms and doors welcome the world with the love of God.
Melissa, her husband Kyle and daughter Brynlee are currently living in Quebec City. They are spending the year studying the culture of the Quebecois and praying for and preparing to start an outreach in Quebec with the rest of their team.
You can follow their journey by following Melissa on instagram @melissa_danae, and you’ll get plenty of coffee drink recipes and snapshots of beautiful Quebec along the way.
If you would like to support them financially, you can do so by visiting DestiNations International. Select the Worker Support tab and specify Kyle Brubacher. Or you can simply support DestiNations as a whole, which seeks to bring the Gospel to unreached people groups all over the globe.
As a final note, I loved chatting with Melissa and sharing her perspective. I’ve dreamed for years of how I could use my resources to share the stories of other women of faith in all walks of life.
I would love to share your story. If you’re a writer, contact me about doing a guest post and we can discuss how you and I can serve together. If you’d love to share your experience but would rather not write, I’d love to interview you and write about it.
No story is too small. I’m just a coffee-spilling, twenty-something, music student myself. But God is faithful, and when we trace the grace and truth that His Presence brings to our stories, we shed just a little bit of light onto someone else’s path.
I’m an email away email@example.com. All’s grace, Yolanda
Thank you, Yolanda and Melissa! I love how the two you put your strengths together to create this thoughtful article. I really enjoyed reading this. I love that pop-up coffee bar idea! What a fabulous way to get to know your neighbours.
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