Many of us live in privilege—that is, we have a roof over our heads, enough food to stay alive and live in a relatively free state. Yet, there are in our cities, lonely women, single mamas, refugees, women and children at homeless shelters, neighbors who are ill, and so much more.
What if everyone who read this post determined on thing they could do this summer to extend the hospitality, the welcome, the love of Christ with even just one person? Just think of the light that could go out and the life that might be changed. God changed our family and refreshed our lives when we began to practice extending hospitality to those we barely knew, but who ended up having real needs. Consider how you might apply this story to your own life!
It was Christmas, and we didn’t have any friends.
Sarah, my oldest, was nine years old. The walls of our new home in Texas were still partially bare, and random corners still held cardboard boxes filled with the remnants of our old life in Tennessee.
As a veteran globetrotter, I well knew the period of adjustment that comes with moving to a new place. But there is nothing quite so “achy” as the lonesomeness of a solitary Christmas. Somehow, when my three children were younger, they had felt the loneliness of a new town less keenly. But Sarah had now reached an age where she was acutely aware of our isolation and longed for friends. My mama heart yearned alongside her. I knew that building friendships in a new place takes time, but I shared her deep sense of disconnection.
This longing was deeper than a desire simply for people to pass the time with. I also longed for true kindred spirits and godly community. Perhaps worse than the loneliness of a new town was the ache of experiencing broken or shallow friendships. I worried that my longing for spiritual friendship would always be frustrated by our constant moves and by the general difficulty of being a sinful person trying to relate to other sinful people.
One rainy afternoon I sat in my new Texas home with its barren walls, a cup of tea in my lap, and felt the tears seep out from beneath my weary lids.
Lord, I am lonely, and my children need godly friends. I know You love me, and that knowledge is what I need most, but if I am going to move forward faithfully in life and in love of You, I really wish I could do it with kindred spirits by my side. I wiped an indecorous tear from my nose and tried to gather myself. In a few minutes the sound of patting feet would alert me that it was time for breakfast and the whirlwind that is a day with three children under the age of nine. As I sat silently, watching streams of water wash down my window from the gloomy Texas clouds, an answer came to me.
If you are lonely, so are others. Create a space for friendship in your home. You be the facilitator.
With this burst of inspiration and the urgency created from knowing all my children were about to wake up, I set to dreaming, and by break- fast time I had an idea that would become a cherished tradition in our home: a mother-daughter Christmas tea. We would not be alone that Christmas season.
I realized that if I longed for community, probably others did too. Wallowing in my loneliness would not cure it; I needed to become a creator of community. So I made a list of mothers and daughters I had met and wished I knew better. I also listed some interesting women who weren’t part of a mother-daughter pair but who had friendship potential. And I invited them all to a Christmas tea where we could celebrate the meaning of Christmas while (I hoped) creating some new friendships. I set our simple table with candles and festive napkins, tried a few new recipes (including our now traditional raspberry soup!), and opened my home.
The event was such a success that we decided to do it again the next year. And the next. Every year brought a different array of guests. Not everyone invited came; not everyone who came knew each other. In fact, our teas have often included a motley crew of people with diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have met each other—mothers and daughters from church, a barista from our favorite coffee shop, a wise but lonely recent widow, a cousin living in town that year, an attendant at our favorite natural food store, and more.
Each tea was different in attendance and unified in spirit. As we sipped and munched together, we created fellowship during a season that for many people is filled with loneliness. Several years even saw some of our friends who weren’t Christians encountering believers and Jesus for the first time.
Flash forward twenty-three years to my blue-walled kitchen in Colorado. Sarah is home on a rare and cherished visit from her life in England. Our family “girls’ club” (Sarah, Joy, and I) gather in the kitchen and settle into a productive bustle—after twenty-three years we have our Christmas tea prep down to a well-ordered dance. Joy runs the cold raspberry soup through a strainer, catching all the seeds to ensure Clarkson-brand creaminess. Sarah taps the tops of the scones to see if they are appropriately crispy yet. I place a Christmas ornament at each place setting as a party favor. We pass around a tube of lipstick, and we are ready.
As I walk to the door to welcome our first guest, I breathe a prayer of thanks. God answered my prayer that rainy Texas morning, and He has answered it a thousand times since. How could I have known all those years ago what sweet friendships would blossom because of that one moment when I chose to respond to His prompting?
For more stories of finding community around the table, find your copy of The Lifegiving Table, here!