Archive for the ‘hospitality’ Category

Last Sunday we had a Ukrainian single guy missionary give his testimony in church about his mission trips to various places. We gave him an offering, and I gave him some money personally. But as we drove home, I felt kind of bad that no one had offered to have lunch with him. I remembered times in village life in Ukraine– they pretty much always had lunch for visitors.

So … I’m studying Homemaking and Hospitality this year.

This Sunday, we’re having a pretty well-known Ukrainian man singer come and sing. It’s good for inviting unsaved friends, as he sings great and shares his rather interesting testimony of how he came to the Lord.

And lunch?  What can I do? …. So Monday, I called our elder pastor’s wife, and I asked her if I could do lunch for the visitors and her and her husband. She asked if it’s something at our home, or just there in the building after the service? So I asked her what would be better? She said she’d talk to her husband and get back with me. … She calls me back Wednesday, says her husband recommends doing it at the church building after the service. I said, OK, I can bring plov (a rice dish with meat chunks, sweet peppers, fried carrot/onion– it’s good for a group). And all the disposable cups and plates, etc. She wanted to bring the drink (kompot) and desert.

I need to get my ducks in a row today, Thursday, because all day tomorrow and Saturday, Vitaliy and I are attending a missions conference in Belaya Tserkov (a town 30-45 minutes away).

The hospitality book I’m reading suggests writing out a prayer for the event. So I will do that. And just pray as I work now thinking and planning.

So, approximately 10 people, and my list of needs:

Rice, meat, plov spice packet, peppers. (I already have plenty of carrots and onions)

Paper big plates, small plates, napkins, forks, cups, small spoons for sugar stirring in tea/coffee.

Just in case: tea bags and instant coffee packets and sugar. (Our church has tea after every service, so they might have these things already. There’s also a small tea/coffee machine in the entry of the building we rent, so we could just use that if needed.)

My plan is to make the plov in the pressure cooker– put it in Sat before bed, and just take it to church and plug it in on the warming function. Or, it just occurred to me, that I could put everything in Sunday morning, plug it in at church and let it cook during the service.

I also realized I need to make a salad and I want to take bread and mayonnaise (those are to staples for the “Ukrainian table.”) I need to add this to my shopping list. The salad I can ask Vitaliy’s mother to make while she’s babysitting our kids Saturday. And it needs to be a kind of salad that doesn’t get ruined by sitting overnight– Vitaliy wants the salad named olivye (it’s well-loved here generally).

Shew, I’m glad I’m writing all this out! I helps me think through all the details. And to see now, can I add something extra? A small gift to send with them maybe? I need to pray and think about that, too. I’ll ask Vitaliy if he has any thoughts.

And just to think about how to help them feel welcome.

Another thing I realized as I thought about this. Years ago, when I visited Ukraine, it used to bother me that the man would sit at the table to talk to me/othervisitors, and the wife would bustle around the kitchen getting stuff for us. In the American tradition, everything is set out and the husband and wife both sit to converse. But I’m starting to get, even myself, that the way I express hospitality (my love of having them with me) here in Ukraine is by moving things, keeping plates and drinks filled, letting people talk while I bustle around….. It’s the style here. Maybe because there is so little room on and around the tables in the first place, that it’s necessary to keep moving/removing…. ?

This is such an intriguing process!

Edited to add: Here is a photo of the couple and our lunch. I ended up hosting it right in the church hall with the elder pastor and his wife and another church member or two.



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So, in one of the books I’m studying this year about hospitality, the author mentioned putting aside a cache of stuff for guests, like clean towels and sheets, so they’re always ready. It’s brilliant because I find myself scrambling sometimes when it’s unexpected overnight guests.

So, I started the collection a few days back when I saw sets of towels on sale in the mall. I bought two sets (a large and small towel in each set). Cost about $6 each.

To that idea, I recently added toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, and then some nuts and chocolate as snacks. The only thing I still need to get a handle on is having a set of clean sheets– I need to buy a duvet set and keep it separate and clean for guests, I think. And some water bottles. Not everything is necessary, but it’s just nice and friendly. Welcoming.

About 2 years ago, I started praying that we could have more hospitality opportunities, like people spending the night, and it’s been interesting seeing that prayer answered! The girls are helping me with this guest project now and asking who will come, and I say, I’m praying– we’ll see who God sends!

Here are photos of what I’ve done so far (I’m storing things in gift bags, as I have a lot of those):






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As follow-up, on these planning forms, there is a place for a bit of evaluation of how it went and what to do differently.


Here is what I noticed:

  1. As far as I can tell, the food was awesome. Menu: Pineapple-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, Korean carrot salad, beet salad (with nuts and prunes). This was a mix of American-Ukrainian that worked. The ham dish is traditional American, and the others were Ukrainian. It was all well-consumed and hugely praised. Thank You, God.
  2. They didn’t mind the buffet-style. I was a tad interested in this, as my friend who is a missionary in neighboring Georgia said that her guests pretty much refuse to eat buffet-style and re-set-up with the table in the middle, tightly spaced and all. It Must Be That Way, apparently, in Georgia. I forgot to ask Vitaliy, and he said nothing when we started, so I brought it up as a topic of conversation, asking if it was OK. They answered that it’s not their way, nationally, but they don’t mind it.
  3. The house was a good level of clean, for me. There was mess in the kitchen from cooking, but the current dishes were washed. And things were picked up well throughout the house–that’s a challenge with Una throwing things all over the place. She was asleep when they all arrived, so that gave us time to get the floors hazard-free. I also wiped down the toilet, but I didn’t get to the sink in the bathroom. It had some paint smears still on the sink from last night’s painting escapade. Oh well, I guess.

Saturday was my prep day, and I realized that I would be staying home Sunday morning with Andre and Una as they are both coughing again, so I could relax more on Saturday and not try to get everything done.


Here was my challenge, and I did pretty well. I’m determined that my experiments in housekeeping and hospitality will not torture my family. I want the process, the entire process, to be enjoyable for us all. Yesterday tested that. I awoke with big plans of what I needed to get done, and we were hosting Ladies’ Bible Study that night too.

So, I need to start factoring Vitaliy’s spontaneity into my plans. Around 9am (or later?) on Saturday, he started talking about taking Skyla and Vika ice skating. (School keeps us pretty rigid this year, so weekend spontaneity should be a planned thing, I guess.)

My Saturday plans became a lot of just being with Andre and Una. It was actually pretty fine. I got things set up in the living room. I made a salad. But I wanted to make a desert for Bible study and thought I needed to get to the store for buttermilk (or a substitute). But after a while, I found the same recipe with ingredients I had on hand. There were a few moments when I calmed myself down and reminded myself that I wasn’t going to be unpleasantly demanding things from  the family during my learning and life in general, and the hospitable spirit would be going all along and not just when guests walk in, and ice skating is a great thing to do with dad, and he’s leaving for a month soon …


I postponed my shopping until after Bible study. Kind of late, but since I was home Sunday morning, it was fine.

Skyla was appointed to stay home and help me this am. We peeled potatoes and beets, sliced ham, sliced bread, mashed potatoes, made sauces and stirred them, set stuff out on the table, kept Una and Andre entertained.

People came, I was calm, got things out in a good way, we ate. Some who were going to leave quickly stayed a bit longer to try the food. The man who organizes the mission trips is extremely gregarious, so that was fun, and his wife is so nice, too! We photographed ourselves (this is pretty Ukrainian perhaps).

Then we who remained had coffee or tea and peach cobbler and cookies and talked a while about stuff.


Dishes washed!


Things to improve: Screens. They are so everywhere. They need to be somehow contained. Or handled with a plan.

I’m still thinking about how to help the kids with politeness skills. They are all pretty quiet and non-smiling with first-time enterers. Thinking about how to handle this, some of it might be a matter of time, but we can be talking about it, too.

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In this book, by the same authors


The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook

they put a form for planning an event. It’s looks like this:



sorry it’s sideways– it used to be easy to edit that, but now I’m not sure how….


I have my first two “events” this weekend (Ladies’ Bible Study tonight and lunch tomorrow) so I went through these pages and just made some lists of things and got ideas of how to arrange the furniture and stuff.


So, I started today by cleaning up the living room in ways I normally don’t. Details and time. These are things I usually skimp on, BUT not now. This is Real Life University. And it’s a lot of fun, hands-on learning 🙂

Dusted! I could count on one hand how many times I’ve dusted in the last 12 years …. OK, slight exaggeration, but … not too far from the truth. But this cabinet really needed it. It had a thick layer of dust on the glass shelves. I also put some family photos inside and cleared out some books that made it look junky.


Some of Vitaliy’s artwork was laying in there, so I hung them in small places.


And I dusted around the computer, which always needs dusting. And rubbed old tape off the glass in a few places. Straightened books and stuff.


Moved furniture. Thinking this through, I’ve decided to do a buffet-style lunch instead of trying to cram us all in around a center table. It’s just so tight. I think circular seating with a long table to serve oneself might work better. Going to try it, if Vitaliy’s game with it.


I even gently ironed some wrinkles out of that green tablecloth. Before, I would’ve just let it go. Yes, it was a pain to get iron out and I nearly killed the computer trying to find a way to get it plugged into some outlet, BUT I did it!

I’m also praying about ways to include the kids. They are at such helpful ages. But I am not sure. I’m going to let it be spontaneous requests this time. Maybe plan out their tasks for other events, when I have a better idea of what I want them to help with.

Hoping to get salads made now, and clean the kitchen while Una sleeps….. But, we’ll see what happens 🙂

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I’m reading Practicing Hospitality, and one author recommends having a Hospitality Journal, writing down things I realize or fear or face as I grow in being hospitable.

I love  journaling, so of course I thought this a great idea. And I think I’ll do it on my blog, as I’m in a stage of life with way too much paper to keep track of as it is.

This Sunday we’re hosting the small group (for lunch after the service) that Vitaliy is going with on a missions trip to the taiga in Siberia. (That was a lot of prepositions.)

I’m familiarly nervous about it. So, as the book recommended, I write down exactly what I am thinking/feeling.

  1. I’m nervous about the menu. I do these weird American/Ukrainian dishes sometimes that don’t really fit here or there culturally, I feel.
  2.   I’m nervous about preparations/organization. It’s hard to have everything ready when these apartments are so small and cramped and lived in, and trying to get all 6 of us peacefully out the door for church, then have things ready for guests and a lunch fixed when we return. And getting things set out while people are milling around. And we don’t have sufficient plates and bowls and spoons, and they are all mismatched.
  3. I also just feel this, after analyzing this in the back of my brain all day, …. I feel this unwelcomeness in my own apartment. This is opening an old and deep wound that I have tried to ignore for a long time. … I hate the walls, the furniture, the smallness, the … everything pretty much.

I feel this unwelcomeness myself in my own home, and having company over, where I’m trying to make others comfortable, raises the submerged feeling of discomfort that’s always flowing around down there. I’m having physical reactions just writing and thinking and focusing on it right now. And I’ve never really worked through it–I’ve accepted it and kind of stuffed it down as a thing I can’t really change–and that is a better level than it was before. Before, it constantly irritated my psyche, my senses, and constantly frustrated me.

I think this is the year to move farther. I’ve gone from frustration, to resignation. And now, I need to move further. Into what, I see not. I guess we’ll all see as the year goes on.

What makes me pondering this is a quote I read in Home Comforts:

Her [the traditional woman’s] secret was that she identified herself with her home…. She lived her life not only through her own body but through the house as an extension of her body; part of her relation to those she loved was embodied in the physical medium of the home she made.

And it’s hard to do that when I literally “hate” my home.

Homemaking was something I never dreamed about when I was growing up. I was always dreaming about ministry. And it’s been hard even thinking about it or spending money on it as missionaries, too. But with children, … the raising of children develops so many areas, especially related to home. Because they are my  my closest neighbors, and those with whom I am primarily hospitable.


This is all somehow terribly exciting.

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So, I’m making quite a few revisions in life and testing new things as I’m studying homemaking and hospitality this year. There will be a lot of posts about this, I think.

So, meal(s) of the day.

Doula clients (who cook wonderfully) gave me their Betty Crocker cookbook, so I looked up a pork chop recipe (as I had bought pork chops). Buying pork chops is a new thing for me, I don’t really do it a lot. But, I’m expanding my repertoire. I also have been craving glazed carrots for a while for some reason. And I decided on mashed potatoes as a side.

HOWEVER, the pork chop recipe I liked required 3-8 hours of brining the chops. Well, it was Christmas Day here yesterday, so there was a service, and Vitaliy and Vika would be coming home hungry, and I needed to have something ready. So I decided on a light, half-way meal. Which, as I was making them, morphed into toasted sandwiches with a cucumber/tomato salad. On the pan for toasting: American bread slices, buttered, with scattered ham bits, and a slice of cheese.


Actually, this lunchette was a big hit.

For the special dinner, I julienned the carrots and boiled them, then paused to do the glazing later while the pork chops were cooking. And Andre and I made a bunch of mashed potatoes.


Andre peeled his first potato all by himself! … But the second one, he didn’t want to keep trying. So, one was enough for him.

Andre also loves to take pictures on my phone. I thought this was a good shot.


I also played magnets with Una– she loves hearing animal sounds.


Note: for mashed potatoes–it’s important to boil them in salted water—I know “everyone” knows this, but there was a point in my life when I didn’t know this! Also, for yum, yum mashed potatoes–I mash them up in the mixer (learned that from my mom), and I add butter and chicken broth (or rabbit broth, or turkey broth).

I won’t elaborate on the pork chop recipe, but I put them in the oven to cook and glazed the carrots. Then we were ready to go. To eat.




Now, the meal was fabulous. Vitaliy and I loved it. But. Real Life. Skyla opted only for mashed potatoes because she is our final child dealing with oral thrush and it hurts to eat. Andre also wanted only mashed potatoes — the pork chop was too spicy, and the glazed carrots, well, I made him eat a few bites, then later, asleep on the bed, I fished them out of his cheeks (he was quite the hamster). Vika was emotionally overwhelmed from being at a friend’s house all afternoon, didn’t want to eat at all, and cried through a few bites that took about an hour to insert into her mouth.

So hey, the food was great! The company was great too, because they’re my kids, but needy. 🙂 ❤

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So I’m going to blog a few goals. I went back and reviewed my 2015 goals/ideas. Some I’ve done (the weight loss, read through the Psalms 4-5 times).

I also did some things last year I never imagined in that January. I started a Russian-language blog and a MomHeart ministry for our church. I also started a small group for Bible memory in our church, and maybe another one for practicing regular Bible reading. (I’m gifted in inspiring people, but not gifted in organizing systems to then serve the need….)

Our home school took an unexpected turn with doing fourth-grade video school. We are still chugging away on that. I’m glad we’re doing it. For a year.

So here are some goals and projects for 2016:

  1. I’m reading through the Bible chronologically, using biblestudytools.com. Really like that site!
  2. Our Bible verse memory group–I’m trying to organize us to memorize some portions in Ephesians this year.
  3. I’d like us to raise full support. This is a goal for more than a year, I think. We are at about 54% of our support. (I’d like to meet this goal by the year 2018.)
  4. I’m studying home making  and hospitality this year. I have some great books. After doing this for 12+ years of marriage,  and in a very Ukrainian lifestyle, I have more questions and ways I want to learn and improve.

I have more goals written, but I want to write about something else now.

The Lord has arranged for another young man in our church to help in the pastoral ministry–2016 is his trial year. And Vitaliy is happily handing over many responsibilities. We both feel a fresh breath for ministry, for focusing on evangelism as Vitaliy’s calling and gifting.

For a few years now, he took and then helps teach a course for Ukrainians about reaching other cultures and especially unreached peoples. And this February, for 4 weeks, he’s going with a small group of men to evangelize small villages in the Taiga of Siberia. It’s extreme evangelism. -40 temps, etc.

And I’m praying for fruit.

It’s refreshed my value of short-term trips–going into hard-to-live-in places to evangelize. And Lord willing, it will be yearly.

I’m gearing up for a month без-Виталия (without Vitaliy). I think we’ll do fine. The gals in our church are so emotionally supportive, and I may ask his mom to come live with us for that time–she’s wonderful with cooking and the kids.

I have more to say, but wrapping it up for now. Here are photos of my books I’m studying as my homemaking/hospitality course, and a page I made and laminated for kitchen-cleaning. I’m thinking of doing a few pages like this. It gets me emotionally involved in the process.





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