When I think about hospitality, Melanie comes to mind.
She is the first to offer her house for a gathering and all the goodies that comes with it. She won't ask you to bring anything and won't ask for anything in return. Gluten-free baked goods are my love language and Melanie makes sure I have my share at every event. At Melanie's house, I've tasted things like devonshire cream (I don't even know what that is) and cranberry scones like I've never had them before. I first met Melanie when a group of women from our church started meeting regularly for a book study. Melanie spoiled us with her open home, secret tea recipes, and delectable desserts.
I recently went over to Melanie's house to bake with her. By the time I got there, she already had a handle on the homemade cookies, so I picked up the recipe for the gluten- free chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and got started. While cracking eggs into a bowl (and fishing out the egg shells), I asked her what she loves most about baking. I think it dawned on Melanie for the first time as she reflected on the question, "It's not baking in itself that I enjoy necessarily, it's who I am baking for."
It's true. Melanie wouldn't just hand you a plate of cookies by itself, her contagious smile and laughter are offered with it. Melanie reaps joy from hospitality--- that's when I see her most come to life.
Melanie also shares her heart and talents with a Christian women's shelter in Kansas City. The women living at the shelter there are recovering from substance abuse and other unfortunate circumstances while they rebuild their lives and their faith. For 3 years, Melanie has taken dinner twice a month to the shelter. She even schedules special events for our group of women to serve with her there. A few months ago, she planned a tea party for us to help with---full of tiny cookies, tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, and tea. We all sat at the table together with the residents, sipping on tea and feeling fancy. Her reasoning? "Every woman deserves to attend a tea party," Melanie replied. I felt like I was watching Melanie in her element: sharing homemade baked goods and the love of Jesus with other women. That combination sounds like a super power if you ask me.
While the muffins baked in the oven, Melanie and I sat at the table and took in the aroma. I asked her why she's so inviting and hospitable to our group of women, hosting and feeding us without expecting anything in return. She responded, "I remember what it was like to be newly married and with kids. It's a busy and overwhelming time of life. For those who don't have family in town, who else is going to spoil them?"
I asked Melanie how she would encourage women in my stage of life, she replied:
"I would remind you that you are enough....we spend so much of our lives being hard on ourselves, never feeling like what we do is enough. We always think someone else is doing better and we're not where we're supposed to be. You are enough."
Melanie's gift of hospitality reflects the generosity of Jesus. I see it in opening up her home, welcoming us to the table, and inviting us to serve beside her. It's not just her baking abilities that amaze me, but the joy I see in her face when she's using them to love and serve other people.
Thanks for flourishing, Melanie---from all of us.