Tea and Toast or How about Waffles?
“Back in the 1940s, shortly after World War II ended, most people didn’t have much; and some people had less than others. Our pastor and his family lived on little or next to nothing.”
I was in one of my favorite places, grandma’s house; and I’d coaxed her into telling me a story.
“We found out years later that sometimes the pastor’s family would be praying for God to provide their next meal, and then your grandpa or someone else from the church would stop by with some vegetables from the farm or a few chunks of meat. At the time, we didn’t know how little they had, but all those years later, they told me they’d been very thankful for that extra food.”
I thought about the jars and jars of canned peaches, pears, green beans, tomatoes, and other things that lined our pantry shelves. Boxes of apples, sacks of potatoes, and bins of squash were out in the shed, and our freezer was full of meat. In my mind, I tried to picture what it would be like to depend on God just to eat my next meal.
Grandma interrupted my ponderings. “One time some people stopped over at lunch time. The pastor’s wife knew she needed to give them something to eat, but all she had in the house was a loaf of bread. So do you know what she fed them for lunch?”
I couldn’t imagine.
“She fixed them a lunch of tea and toast.”
“What did the people say?” I asked.
“They thought it was a very nice lunch.” Grandma stooped down and hugged me. “Always remember, Laura, it isn’t about what you have to give people. It’s about giving what you do have. That’s hospitality.”
Not long after grandma told me that story, our family moved to Seattle; and on the first Sunday, my parents took us to church. We did not hide out in the back. Oh no, all seven of us sat five rows from the front.
At the end of the service before the postlude had even ended, a petite woman rushed over to greet us. Mrs. Sickler knew my dad, but she didn’t know the rest of us. “My husband and I would love to have you over for dinner today,” she invited.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Nobody ever asked our family over for dinner on the spur of the moment. I looked hopefully at my parents and willed them to say yes.
“Are you sure?” Mom asked. “There are seven of us.”
“Oh, it’ll be no problem – that is if you like waffles,” she replied.
I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Sickler allowed me to set out her beautiful china, and mom hovered reminding me to be “very careful.” My sister laid out the napkins, and in hushed whispers we told each other to look at the pretty plates and teacups. Then we feasted on waffles.
Many years later I asked Mrs. Sickler about that day, and she remembered it clearly. “All through church I felt God prompting me to ask you over for dinner, but I had no idea what to feed you,” she said. “Then God put in my mind to feed you waffles. Waffles? I don’t mind telling you that I questioned God on that one. Really, waffles? This IS Sunday dinner, I reminded God.”
“Well, you can’t argue with God,” she told me. “So we ate waffles.”
We would eat other meals at the Sickler’s house – ones with regular Sunday dinner food, but my favorite was the first one. Thinking back on that day and how special it was for us to be invited over for dinner is one of my cherished memories.
Genuine hospitality is not having a big house with a beautiful spare bedroom or serving a four course meal. Grandma was right; it’s about giving what you do have.
The word hospitable is used three times in the New Testament and is defined by Strongs as “generous to guests.” Twice, the word is used in reference to the qualifications of a pastor, but recently I found that Scripture commands me to be hospitable too. I Peter 4:9 – 10 says, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
When a person is hospitable, they are being good managers of God’s grace. So the next time God puts a hospitable thought into your head, don’t extinguish it with arguments like, I don’t have anything to feed them. Instead, think of tea and toast or a fancy Sunday lunch – of waffles.