For years my dad and I have dream-talked about opening a quaint little family restaurant. In Daddy's version of the fantasy, one portion of the establishment sells ice cream. He has spoken of unique details, such as having the children work with us, delivering lunches to local business people and home-bound senior citizens. In my version of our dream, the restaurant has a homeschool room in the back and I divide my time between hospitality and teaching the children. A little reading nook, complete with our very own favorite barista (Dave), would top it all off.
The primary hindrance to our extended-family dream of becoming restaurateurs has been the fact that we have lived away for so many years. Now that we've decided to move back to Pennsylvania (in five weeks) -- and now that Daddy's retired -- the next obstacle to this goal is my unwillingness to be involved in any enterprise that would bind me to one particular location. (Once a nomad, always a nomad -- at least at heart.) So, I don't know that we'll ever really go through with it.
In the meantime, we do love showing hospitality to others in our home, sharing recipes with friends, and just plain enjoying good food and fellowship among just the seven of us. I always say that you can't truly bond with someone unless you can share a good meal with them. By "good", I don't necessarily mean extravagant -- although I wouldn't refuse that. Eating is basic to our survival, and I believe that we remove a barrier and become almost vulnerable when we sit down together and "break bread".
Our Graham tends to be quiet, compared with the rest of us who almost compete to steer most conversations. However, he really opens up at the dinner table. In the relaxed environment of a family meal, he drops his guard and lets us in on the profound pondering of his heart. We are often amazed at the depth of his twelve-year-old insight. If we were all scattered in different directions at dinner time, we'd miss this blessing.
The Bible has a lot to say about showing hospitality, and in our "Martha" culture, we've redefined and misapplied this ancient call. (Don't get me wrong -- if I had the time, resources and skill to become the "black" Martha You-Know-Who, I would jump at the chance!) Still, I believe that many of us are plagued with fear that we will fall short of some unrealistic standard based on externals.
"Share with God's people in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13
"... and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." I Timothy 5:10
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." I Peter 4:9
"We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." 3 John 1:8
The heart of these admonitions is service. Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve", and we are to joyfully follow His example. He has promised us:
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
We may never own a restaurant or start a Food Network show (which has also been mentioned in our dreaming), but in the meantime we can humbly serve one another in love and extend a welcome for others to join our table.
I'll leave you with a recipe for the yummy baked, stuffed apples that the girls made for lunch yesterday. (Yes, lunch.) What a joy it is to have children who delight in being productive in the heart of the home! (Caelyn was kind enough to quickly write it down for me.)
"Whitlock Girls' Baked Apples"
8 Golden Delicious Apples
Assorted Dried Fruits
Brown sugar or Sucanat
* Use an apple core get-'er-out tool and pit each apple (bottoms out as well). Put them in a 9" diameter pie pan with ¼ C hot water in the bottom of the pan.
*For the filling, measure 2 C of oatmeal, 2 tsp cinnamon, chopped dried fruits, 3 T flour, 1 ½ - 2 C sucanat (or brown sugar), and ½ - ¾ C melted butter into a bowl. Mix with a fork.
* Pack filling into each cored apple and sprinkle remaining filling over and around the apples. Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes. The apples should not be soft like apple pie, but tender enough to penetrate with a fork or knife.