what is hospitality?

Copyright Sarah Joelle Photography http://www.sarahjoellephotography.com/

Copyright Sarah Joelle Photography http://www.sarahjoellephotography.com/

People have told me that I have the gift of hospitality, but after what I read today, I am not so sure.

The word hospitality comes from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, “guest”, or “stranger”. In some foreign or ancient cultures, the act of hospitality – welcoming strangers into the home – was necessary for survival, Today, it is often defined in Western culture simply as a warm, friendly reception for guests, involving etiquette and entertainment.

I like to have people in my home. Over the years, I have had plenty of room, extra beds or at least sleeping bags and carpet, and abundant blankets and pillows. I have had the means to buy or cook extra food. I usually knew the people who stayed with me, or at least they came recommended by others. My guests were usually clean, educated, polite, and with mostly similar values. I could easily go about my day-to-day activities, even with guests in my home.

I gave only out of my abundance.

Here are a few of the challenging quotes I read today:

“…we must continue to beg the stranger to come into our lives because in the stranger may come the only honesty and insight we can get in our plastic worlds.” (p 125)

“It is easy to give clothes to the poor but refuse to honor the ones to whom we have given the goods.” (p. 127)

Hospitality is when: “Everyone receives a warm answer – on the phone, at the door, in the office. Sarcasm has no room here. Put-downs have no room here. One-upmanship has no room here. Classism has no room here.” (p, 127-128)

“…hospitality demands the extra effort, the extra time, the extra care that stretches beyond and above the order of the day.” (p. 128)

“We have to wonder how we can help the poor at the doorstep who live thousands of miles away. Hospitality says that the problem is mine, not someone else’s. It is my door and my heart upon which these people are knocking for attention.” (p. 129)

“Real hospitality lies in bending some efforts to change things, to make a haven for the helpless, to be voice for the voiceless. We have to learn to take our own sense of home to others.” (p. 130)

“I cannot fool myself into thinking that being nice to those who are my kind and my class suffices for the moral dimensions of hospitality.” (p. 130)

“Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.” (p. 130)

“…hospitality is the willingness to be interrupted and inconvenienced…” (p. 131)

“Hospitality doesn’t exist unless we go out of ourselves for someone else at least once a day.” (p. 132)

“Hospitality is one of those things that has to be constantly practiced or it won’t be there for the rare occasion.” (p. 132)

Hospitality “is an act of the recklessly generous heart.” (p. 132)

I think you can see why I am re-evaluating my “gift” of hospitality. I have a long way to go before it could be said that I give from a “recklessly generous heart”. I have a lot to think about… and apply!

How hospitable are you? Which of these aspects of hospitality do you do well? Which ones challenge you to do better?


These challenging quotes come from the book Wisdom Distilled from the Dally, by Joan D. Chittister.

My daughter took the incredibly beautiful photograph of the table setting. Check out her amazing photography at Sarah Joelle Photography.

amazing birthday cake

blowing candleThis is not a food blog, but this was too fun not to document somewhere! My sister and I made this cake years ago. It requires many not-in-my-fridge ingredients, takes a lot of work and many hours of time, but tastes amazing in the end.

Last time we made it, after we let the cake chill for three hours, we unveiled our creation… and it had cracked right down the middle. I swore I would never do it again!

… but I should know to never say never… and today we made the cake again in honor of my birthday. Nothing like spending all day making your own birthday cake!

It was actually a very fun way to spend the day with my sister… and even my husband, Steve, helped some! So while we are waiting for the cake to chill so we can eat it, I am going to post some pictures of the process for you. I wish I could share some of the cake with you!

The recipe is called Esther’s Orange Marmalade Layer Cake, and it is found in Jan Karon’s Christmas story, Esther’s Gift.


Esther’s Gift is a short story of grace and generosity… and very fitting that I made the cake together with my sister, who has shown both grace and generosity in sharing her house with my husband and me while we are in transition.


The cake tasted better than we remembered! Second chances are a good thing! Today I am especially grateful for the gifts of life, family and love… and second chances.


Have you received an important second chance in your life?

Do you celebrate any special birthday traditions in your home?