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  • Writer's pictureJen Stone-Sexton

The Gift of Hospitality

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Do you have the deep desire to connect? Are you waiting for the perfect time and the perfect set of circumstances? Perfect only exists in movies and magazines. Discover ways to move past expectations of "perfect" to create a genuine connection that just may last a lifetime in today's blog post.

Nine women and I gathered in my apartment around a long makeshift table covered in white linen, simply decorated with cut flowers, silver candlesticks, and the warm flicker of candlelight. My small apartment table designed for two, was at the center flanked on either side by a folding table and folding chairs. We met weekly for a Bible study titled, Feast, Finding Your Place at the Table of Tradition, to learn the significance of God’s feasts given to Israel (Leviticus 23) and to better understand God’s Word and the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.

Each week we prepared a meal together that applied to the particular feast we were studying. We prayed then discussed the lesson from the study guide as we ate our meal. What I discovered is that something special happens when we break bread around a table. These women were hungry for connection and a sense of community. They didn’t care that I was single - they were married - that I lived in an apartment - not a house - that I had a Husky, a galley kitchen, or that we all squeezed around a pieced together table that barely fit in the dining room.

It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing our home to glossy magazines and thinking it has to be perfectly clean, look a certain way, be in a certain neighborhood, or that we have to be a great cook or know how to entertain in order to have people over. Yet hospitality is about opening our heart and home to others. What these women cared about was being invited, belonging, learning more about God’s Word, and feeling accepted, heard, seen, valued, loved and connected.

Seven years earlier, and new to Nashville, I signed up at church to host a women’s small group. I had never hosted a small group before and shared an apartment with a roommate at the time but felt a tug in my heart to offer a space for women to connect. Alice, one of my dearest friends for over two decades, and I met in this small group. We learned that we both worked a few blocks from each other in downtown Nashville and Alice asked if I’d like to meet for lunch once a week. Our friendship began and grew over shared weekly brown bag lunches. It was Alice who later suggested the Feast study to me.

The experience of sharing a meal and a Bible study sparked an idea. After the Feast study ended, I offered to host another Bible study, this one with teaching videos. We would all share dinner together, discuss the questions from the previous week’s lesson then gather in the living room to watch the video. I created a sign-up sheet for meals with all the dates in a vertical column and across the top, the dishes for the meal such as, meat | side | side | salad | bread | dessert. Everyone signed up for what they would bring each week and we always had enough for every meal.

Twelve women committed to this study and another woman offered to host the gathering in her spacious home. We did this for a year and completed four in-depth Bible studies back-to-back. Some women joined us for every study, and others for one, so the groups were consistently different. There were times when an individual could not attend the meeting, but they would make sure the item they signed up to bring for the meal was there! It was through this experience that I realized, not only do we want to be invited, we also want to give. To be a part of something that we can contribute to.

In 2018-2019, I tried this approach again. Sixteen women signed up! I was married, living in a lovely house, and had a farmhouse table that could tightly seat twelve. Yet once again, my two-person apartment table was used as a makeshift to the larger table in order to seat the rest for this gathering.

Recently, I’ve invited five women to join me around a table once a month for lunch and conversation that goes beyond small talk. We have four conversation cards with questions to answer. We recently had our first meeting and what I discovered is that pre or post-pandemic, women are still hungry for authentic connection. For someone to create and offer a safe space where they can gather and be real. To feel valued, loved, seen, heard, and accepted and encouraged.

We need one another to grow and to share life with. What would it look like to simply offer to host a gathering around a table? Two resources: IF:TABLE and Concrete Conversations conversation cards. Some other suggestions: a Bible study, crafts with a purpose or theme, a book club, any other interests you might have that you can invite others to join you for, share a meal around a table, and watch what happens!

Editor's Note:

This Devotional blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.

Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022 Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credits: Cover Photo and Photo 1 by Debby Hudson on Unsplash | Photo 2 by Libby Penner on Unsplash | Photo 3 by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

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