“Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friend.”John 15:13 

“Thanks and praise, for our days, ‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;

 As we go, this we know, God is nigh…

While the light fades from sight,

 And the stars gleaming rays softly send,

 To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.” 

Lyrics from Taps

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Concluding Prayer (part 8 of 8)

As I’m wrapping up this blog series, I want to share some hope and prayers for myself and other single women. My homemaking has not turned out as I originally planned or dreamed, but it is good, and I am lacking for nothing because I have God Himself. Because God is faithful and because true hope and contentment are based in the hope of eternal life with Christ (not marriage), my life can test and prove that His power has indeed “given me all things pertaining to life and godliness” and that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”. My prayer for my life as a woman is based off 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:  May God make me worthy of his calling. May God’s power fulfill my every resolve for good and every work of faith. May my life glorify the name of our Lord Jesus. May I never lose my hope of future glory with and in Christ. May I never forget that it is all because of the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

My hope for my home’s mission comes from an inscription in the Dohnavur Fellowship in India, “There they dwelt with the King for his work” (Dohnavur Fellowship was founded by Amy Carmichael and the inscription is based off 2 Chronicles 4:23).  May my home be filled with the presence of the Lord.  May my home be filled with my King’s work.  May I always see purpose in the work of my homemaking, even if it doesn’t follow the conventional pattern.  

As a believer, I need to accept that my life is hidden in Christ and is secure in Him.  My life is also not my own.  It was bought at a great price by a God who chose me to be the holy woman he loves.  By His grace, I am single, but never alone.  I may wish I had a man’s covenant promise of marriage, but I have God’s covenant promise of life eternal, which is the greatest blessing. Never, then, am I alone, forsaken, unloved, or forgotten.  I do not need the approval of others, nor need to be defensive when my singleness does not make sense to others, even those in the church, because God has numbered my days, written my life in His book, and given me the work that I am to walk in.  Maybe those works will include marriage and parenting, maybe they won’t.  Whatever blessings and sufferings come, I have the same promise that Paul had – God’s grace is sufficient for me.  Lydia Brownback beautifully expounds on this truth in her book “Fine China is for Single Woman, Too”:

Paul did not achieve contentment of this depth by snuffing out his personal desires.  On the contrary, he pursued what he wanted wholeheartedly and received what he was after.  That’s because the thing Paul wanted most was Jesus Christ and his glory… Contentment was something God cultivated in Paul though the trials he faced; that is the same way God cultivates it in us… As for you and me, we might learn contentment through the experience of watching our friends get married one by one, through an awareness that our chances for motherhood diminish as the years sweep by, or through the pain of loneliness… When Paul was plagued by the thorn in his flesh, he asked the Lord on three separate occasions to remove the thorn.  What did Jesus answer? He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor. 12:9).  And through this grace, Paul learned to be content in the knowledge that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Phil. 4:13).  God had a reason for not removing Paul’s thorn: it was to keep Paul humble enough to be an effective ambassador for Christ… And if God has said no, it is only that you might learn that this grace is sufficient for you and to keep you able to serve him in the way he alone knows best… Yet whether or not you decide to acquire china, you already possess the best treasure for serving guests, and that is Christ himself… Offer your singleness to God. Ask him to use it in his redemptive plans in the place where he has set you.  Allow him to take your singleness and make it beautiful.  Let that be your finest china.”

In God’s perfect plan, there is no second best for a woman, regardless of her age or relationship status. The heart-beat of the single woman’s home is the love of God, the fear of God, the peace, joy, and hope of God.  It is God Himself indwelling the single woman, and filling the home with His presence, and consecrating them both to his service.  It is His perfect will assigning the work.  It is His all-sufficient grace making every good work possible and His strength fueling that service.  May we continue faithfully in that work and found abiding in Him until the day He returns.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

The Heart of a Single Woman’s Home: Hospitality in the Home (blog series part 4 of 8)

Houses filled with love have elastic walls.

Practicing hospitality can be a daunting task.  One of my biggest temptations in practicing hospitality is to focus on the ideal and pursue that.  The food should be of this variety and arranged a certain way.  The house should be clean, mopped, dusted, and vacuumed.  The trap set for me is to make it look perfect, so that I gain my guests’ approval, without looking like I’m trying too hard.  I believe this temptation is the strongest when I believe the lie that, as a single woman, my homemaking is a pretense of the “real” housekeeping (including hospitality) of wives and mothers.  When that lie is fueled by my pride and self-focus, instead of love for others, I’m open up myself for the attacks of worry, impatience, and a spirit of striving and complaining that I’m just one person. Then I miss out on having a joyful spirit at rest in contentment in the Providence that gave singleness and the ministry of hospitality.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13

My parents were the first to help teach me hospitality.  As an older child, my responsibility beforehand was to help prepare, which usually meant vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.   The purpose, I was reminded, was that the guests would feel comfortable using a bathroom that was clean and prepared just for them.  It wasn’t so they would think, ‘They are really good at cleaning the bathrooms!’ When church members arrived for Bible study, my job was to greet them and ask if they would like something to drink.  This was a task that turned my vision away from my shyness to the needs and faces of the people in our home. As I grew up in my parents’ house, I watched as they served others by hosting overnight guests, large groups, individuals, and couples, all for different reasons. Sometimes hospitality was simply for brief visits.  Other times it was for people needing a place to live for a while. It all looked different, but it was all service.

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

I’m convinced that the heart of hospitality is extending the love of God to those who enter the home and serving them cheerfully, no matter the living situation.  I have experienced that God blesses that.  One of the ways God has provided is by giving me 14 roommates over the years – almost all of whom have shared a heart for opening up our home for others, whether it was a dorm, an apartment, or a house.  In practicing hospitality, God has given seasons of late-night Bible studies, study sessions in college and grad school, pancake nights, hymn sings, baby showers, small wedding receptions, and girls’ nights. Sometimes they were over-crowed; sometimes I wasn’t able to do all I wanted; sometimes I strove to do more than I needed; sometimes I was exhausted and overwhelmed by so much to do; rarely (if ever) did it turn out perfectly.  Every time, however, God blessed the efforts. One roommate and I found that, when push comes to shove, it is possible to stack all the living room furniture in the corner and use a line of card tables to have an Easter dinner for 12 people in a 900-square foot apartment, so long as you know your guests are amenable to that as well.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

Luke 6:28

Hospitality doesn’t require a husband to partner with you, because you have a generous God who is capable of using your home for more good than you can imagine. Hospitality doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect, or look like an edition of Better Homes and Gardens. Hospitality is generously sharing what God has given, serving with the strength that God provides to meet the needs of those who enter the home.

God is not limited.  I am often surprised at what He can do when given unlimited access to my limited means, but he will accomplish what He purposes.  I’ve had a guest book for the last 8 years (and 10 living spaces).  I love looking through it and remembering the people who came through my home(s) and what we did and what we talked about.  It is a good reminder that God is at work in my home and will continue to work, if I submit its use completely to Him. So pray for God to show you how to show hospitality in your home. Pray for God to bless your efforts and your desire to do good.  Pray for God to fill your heart with love for Him and your guests.  Serve with the strength and leadership of His Holy Spirit. Allow difficult acts of hospitality to conform you more to His likeness and thank Him for His sanctification.  Remember that you will reap a harvest, if you do not give up.

Here are some practical ways to set up a home with a goal of implementing hospitality:

  1. Keep a guest book to help remember the story of your home(s). You can have any kind that fits your personality.  Mine is a little book with lined pages for guests to write or draw whatever they want.
  2. If you live in a space that allows candles, keep a couple good-smelling (even cheap) candles on hand.
  3. Don’t feel convinced that you have to do it all yourself. Have a friend come over to help you clean or prepare food.
  4. Keep a cleaning schedule. The more you are accustomed to keeping the space clean, the less frantic cleaning you’ll need to do later.
  5. On a related note, if you put pans in the oven to hide them, make sure to communicate this to your roommates.
  6. Communication with the people you are living with is vital. Do not use hospitality as an excuse to disregard the people who share the home with you.
  7. Keep some baked goodies in the freezer or microwave popcorn and lemonade mix in the pantry for unannounced company.
  8. One lady from my church suggested a drink basket. I keep the sugar bowl, creamers, and hot drink packets/coffee in this small basket that can be set out with the hot water kettle for guests.  It keeps me organized and cuts down on time getting ready.
  9. When picking out an apartment or a home, ask how accommodating it would be for having people over. Does the apartment have parking passes you have to purchase for guests? (True story) Is there parking available on the street? Is there an open space for serving food and sitting?
  10. Don’t let small spaces be a deterrent, but keep it in mind when setting up a guest list.
  11. Consider keeping a box or two of toys and coloring books for kids that come over. I’m in my 30s, so that means when I invite college friends over, kiddos are going to be coming as well. By pulling together a collection of toys and puzzles from my childhood, Dollar Tree, Goodwill, etc., I have a little stash that keeps kids occupied while their parents and I can visit. Now when the kids come over, they just go right away to the shelf with the toys and start playing.

“Your house/apartment feels so welcoming” are words every host and hostess want to hear. No matter how welcoming and put together the space may be, however, the hostess’ attitude is what makes it welcoming.  A hostess focused on her presentation of her home will not have her heart free to be content in her Maker His promises, and enjoy her guests.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11