The Hospitality Hibiscus

The hardy hibiscus plant is a true showstopper with its dinner plate size blossoms. Unlike its tropical cousin, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the hardy hibiscus is a perennial plant, which brings a tropical flare to a non-tropical flower garden.

As a child, my family spent many summer vacations at Myrtle Beach. It was there in coastal South Carolina, that my Mother fell in love with the hibiscus plant.

Tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. However, after returning home from South Carolina, Dad surprised Mom with the hardy hibiscus variety. Forty-four years later, crimson, champagne pink and white blooms with a distinct red eye, add a South Carolina tropical flare to my parent’s back yard.

One day I surveyed the streets surrounding my parent’s house. I was amazed at all the hibiscus plants I observed.

“Mom, I see beautiful flowering hibiscus plants in many of the yards here. Did you have anything to do with that?”

Mom’s laugh lines deepened, her grin served as her response.

“Seriously mom, even several streets away from your house, I see hibiscus plants.”

With a glint in her eye, mom replied, “Your Dad and I share our hibiscus plants with new neighbors, old neighbors, when someone is sick, or anyone who walks by. One day, your Dad saw Miss Helen out walking and asked her is she wanted a hibiscus. Miss Helen said, “Do I want a hot biscuit?” Laughing Dad repeated,  “Do you want a hibiscus plant?”

Miss Helen received a few hibiscus plants and she and Dad still joke about having a hot biscuit.

I counted over twenty yards with the beautiful hardy hibiscus plants, gifted by my parents. Some yards have all three varieties of color.

The Bible describes the use of hospitality in three easy ways: Show, Offer, and Practice.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2, NLT

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:9-10

Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13

Showing, offering, and practicing hospitality are my parent’s love languages—their gifts. Mom and Dad serve as extra grandparents to the neighboring kids. Dad repairs bikes and scooters and helps to build pine wood derby cars. Meanwhile, Mom is in the kitchen, cooking a meal, restocking the cookie jar or restocking the freezer with popsicles—sharing whatever they have with others.

Show, Offer, & Practice Hospitality. Click To Tweet

Just as the tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Kindness, hospitality, generosity, sympathy, and compassion are also no longer native to our of our culture. By replanting these diminishing character traits we can begin to replenish our communities.

My parents have lived in the same home for forty-four years. They have planted hospitality for decades and have the unique advantage to see how their hospitality has blossomed over the years. 

Sometimes we plants seeds of hospitality, seeds of kindness, seeds of compassion and we don’t remain in the area long enough to see it come to fruition. But whether we stay planted in one neighborhood for a lifetime or move frequently we can practice hospitality right where we’re planted.

How can we show, offer, and practice hospitality with those around us?

~April Dawn White  © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Red Chair Moments, on location at my parents’ house.

Serving Pieces

“Serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

I sat on the kitchen floor, crisscross applesauce style, pulling out rarely used items from the base cabinet. With our home on the market, we need pack away any non-essential pieces. Three piles quickly emerged—store, donate, and toss. I wondered how I acquired this much plastic ware with out matching lids. Toss.

I slid over to the next kitchen base cabinet, and extended by back into a cat stretch, feeling the strain pull across my shoulders and back. This cabinet contained serving pieces. I carefully wrapped the cut glass serving dishes and my “good” Pampered Chef items in bubble wrap before placing them in the storage box. Once the box was full, I taped the lid closed and labeled the box:

KITCHEN: Serving Pieces

I reread the contents of the box “Serving Pieces” and looked down at my hands.

Our hands are built in serving pieces. Click To Tweet

Something was amiss. This level of pondering requires coffee. I opened the refrigerator door and reached for the half-and-half. A 1970’s white plate with avocado green flowers caught my attention. I smiled as I thought, “My mom still has these plates.” Nestled on the forty plus year old plate sat a homemade cheese ball. My daughter requested Grandma’s savory delight for her twelfth birthday.

My mind wanders to author Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. My mom’s language of love is Acts of Service. Mom serves on cooking and cleaning committees at church. Not a week goes by that she is not cooking for someone in the community. While the dining room is full of serving pieces and pink Depression glass, passed down from her mother, mom’s serving pieces are utilitarian and filled with love and prayer. Like mom, I also share in the Acts of Service language . Mom taught me, our hands are our serving pieces to wrap around others in need.

Our serving pieces are extensions of our arms to wrap around others in need. Click To Tweet

The microwave dings and startles me back to my current task. I sip the reheated liquid mercy, and ponder the significance of serving pieces. Our hands are our built in serving pieces. Our serving pieces are extensions of our arms to wrap around others in need, to push a grocery cart or a lawn mower for those who cannot. Our serving pieces become gnarled and wrinkled after years of baking meals for the ill,  recently widowed, or neighbor in need.

Questions probe my heart as I ponder, what about us, do we serve others well?

Do I serve God faithfully?

Do I practice hospitality on paper plate days?

Do I wait to plan the perfect meal and perfect moment?

After nibbling my daughter’s cheese ball, I return to packing. Only God knows how long our home will be on the market. However, should that keep me from serving? No. God calls us to serve. Our hands are our serving pieces, to share with those who are in need. From the bottom cabinet I pull out two disposable pans to make a homemade dish for a few shut-ins in my community.

How can you use your serving pieces (your hands) to wrap around someone in need today?

 

Mom’s Homemade Cheese ball Recipe

2 bricks of cream cheese

¼cup red or green pepper

2 tablespoons of onion finely chopped

1 teaspoon of seasoned salt

8oz can of crushed pineapple (drained well)

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix first five ingredients together.

Roll into a ball.

Chill.

Roll cheese ball into in chopped pecans.

Bible Verses about Serving

Serving God by serving others is one of the most important principles in the Christian faith.  Here are some verses to ponder as we joyfully serve others.

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7).

“But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15:7).

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38).

How can you use your serving pieces (your hands) to wrap around someone in need today?

~April Dawn White

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

This article was first published on Inspire a Fire.com.

Rare Disease Day & Alongside Giveaway Winner

Rare Disease DayThis is the day the Lord, has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, HCSB)

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. The goal of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness to the public and lawmakers on rare diseases and their impact on patient (and family) lives.

Last year, I was diagnosed with hypokalemic periodic paralysis, a rare condition that is prevalent in 1/100,000 people.

I celebrated Rare Disease Day, as I celebrate every “good day,” talking with friends. These particular friends are battling their own health crisis. As I set out to encourage them, I was the one who was encouraged.

Do you know someone whose illness is rare or chronic? Perhaps you can come alongside them today, tomorrow, or this week and provide a little extra dose of sunshine and encouragement.

This is the day the Lord, has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, HCSB)

Giveaway winnerAlongside

Earlier this month, I reviewed the new book by Sarah Beckman, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial. Click on this sentence if you missed the book review.

The winner of the new book by Sarah Beckman, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial is Leah L.  I will contact you soon for address information.

~April Dawn White

*Images courtesy of Pixabay and Morgan James Publishing

© 2017 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

Alongside by Sarah Beckman Book Review and Giveaway

AlongsideRead to the end to find out how you can win a free copy of this book!

“The friend who loves their neighbor well in trial will continue to come alongside after the initial hardship is over”—Sara Beckham, Alongside

Most of us have experienced the desire to help someone during a time of medical diagnosis, loss, or grief.  What are we to do? Sending over a meal is important, but how can we love others beyond taking them a meal? Alongside, is a practical guide of helpful suggestions complied by personal testimonies of the author and others in their time of crisis.

Author, Sarah Beckman, has been on both the giving and receiving end of help. Within a span of six years, Beckman lived through eleven weeks of bedrest prior the birth of her third child and four back surgeries.  In her book, Alongside, Beckman incorporates her experiences with the advice of others to provide the byline of the book, “A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in the Time of Trial.” Alongside, features three parts, “First Things First, Taking Action, and Special Circumstances.”

Part 1

In the first part Beckman, explains that at the heart of this book is the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40, NLT).  “Reaching out to help others is more than ‘just doing the right thing.’ It is our God-given responsibility” (page 5).

“It’s Not About You” is the title of chapter two and a reoccurring theme throughout the book. In this chapter Beckman, reminds the giver not to focus on their personal feelings, but the feelings of the one they desire to help.  This concept sounds simple, put as Beckman references throughout the book; often people unintentionally make hurtful statements to those they are trying to help.

In chapter three, “In the Know,” Beckman illustrates a tier system of relationship:Sarah Beckman Alongside

Tier 1: caregiver/close friend

Tier 2: friend/neighbor/co-worker/church member/sports team/shared organizations

Tier 3: acquaintance/friend or friend-of-the-family

Tier 4: infrequent interaction

I found this tier system to be golden. “Knowing your place in the life of the person in crisis will help you know how to respond” (page 15).

Part 2

The second part of Alongside, features a variety of ways to love thy neighbor by taking action. I suffer from a chronic illness and I found this section exceptionally valuable. The first year of my diagnosis was the most difficult. Those who reached out, who made themselves present, those who took the time to visit, those who invited me to normal activities and didn’t always talk about my condition, and those who continued to remember my struggle are the ones I appreciate the most.

Part 3

In the third part of Alongside, author Sarah Beckman shares five chapters of special circumstances such as in the case of a terminal illness, a messy situation, or when faith isn’t shared.  Regardless of the difficult situation, being present is the truest gift of friendship. My favorite quote in the entire book is found in Chapter 7 “Be Present.” It reads, “The friend who loves their neighbor well in trial will continue to come alongside after the initial hardship is over” (page 60).

Sarah Beckman AlongsideMost of us have experienced the desire to help someone during a time of medical diagnosis, loss, or grief.  What are we to do? We are to be a present friend who walks alongside them in their journey.

Meet Sarah Beckman

Sarah Beckman shares on her website, “I love coffee and green chile and golf and my Wisconsin Badgers. I love the water, but also the mountains. And I love traveling to Haiti…maybe because they have both.” To learn more about first time author, Sarah Beckman visit SaraBeckman.org.

Book Giveaway

To enter the drawing, subscribe to my blog:

  • Subscribe to Red Chair Moments on the bottom of the home page and  type in your email address.

To earn more entries, or if you’re already following my blog,

  • Share this post via social media. Each share to a different social media venue earns you one entry (up to three).
  • Share this post via email if you don’t have a social media account (notify me to be entered)
  • Let me know in a comment where you’ve shared.
  • Notify me of your name.

Giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada only.

I will announce the winner February 28, 2017.

DISCLOSURE (IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FTC’S 16 CFR, PART 255: “GUIDES CONCERNING THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”): MANY THANKS TO Morgan James Publisher FOR GIVING ME TWO COPIES of Alongside IN EXCHANGE FOR MY HONEST OPINION.

P.S. If you are interested in reading more of my thoughts on chronic illness and friendship, read Four Lessons Chronic Illness Taught Me about Friendship.

©2017 April Dawn White

Staring in the Eyes of a Zebra: Encouragement in Desert Wandering

Confessions of zebraEyes of a zebra penetrated my desert heart and helped me find strength in God.

In the 1940’s Dr. Theodore Woodward coined the term “zebra” for any rare medical condition. I first shared about this in the article, Confession of a Zebra. Last week, I sat across another zebra and for the first time, I knew someone truly understood me.

Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis affects one per 100,000 people.[1]  It is isolating and lonely to possess a disease so rare that no one around me understands the paralysis, the pain, the impaired cognitive functioning, and sudden muscle weakness.

When I discovered a Texas zebra was attending a meeting in my area, we scheduled an afternoon together before her return flight home.  Over the past year, we have texted and spoken via phone, but I savored this rare moment to spend face time with her.

As she spoke, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast our lives.  She, a Texas zebra, whose diagnosis of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis, was confirmed at the young age of six. There was no need for extensive genetic testing, since her father and her sister already possessed this rare neuromuscular disease.  Texas zebra is around my age and our daughters are the same age too. Unfortunately, her daughter (and nephew) was diagnosed this summer.DNA

On the other hand, I was clinically diagnosed at age forty, based on my extensive journaling of symptoms and the adverse effect of certain foods, exercise, stress, etc. Unlike, Texas zebra, I am waiting on the results of genetic testing.

Texas zebra grew up with the rare condition and has assimilated well into adulthood; I was diagnosed as an adult.

I feel like Dorothy, who woke up in Oz, desperately clicking my red heels together to go back home to my previous life.

 

The morning after our meeting, I read these words “Jonathan went to David [in the desert] and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). David was a man on the run, hiding out from the insane King Saul. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s best friend, came to him in the desert to provide encouragement and strength in God.

This Texas zebra was the Jonathan to my David. She met me in my desert place and provided my weary heart with encouragement and strength in God. We are relational people, not created to live in isolation. This was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “that you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).

God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Click To Tweet

children-542104_1920 teddy bears friends PixabaySo often, we want to fix other people’s problems and if their problem is too big, we feel overwhelmed by their need. God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them. Notice, Jonathan did not remove David from the desert; rather he spent time with him there and provided strength in God.

Are you in a desert place? God sees you and He cares for you. Seek refuge in Him and find comfort in the words penned by David (perhaps when he was in the desert), “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).

Have you been through the desert? I challenge you to reach out to someone in a desert place. Be their Jonathan and provide encouragement and strength in the Lord during this dry and weary season.

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

[1] http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1171678-overview#a6

Backyard Bouquet

Backyard bouquet with logoI amble to the mailbox, praising God for the strength to walk this far. Two doors down, I catch a glimpse of my neighbor returning home from his afternoon walk. Usually his wife of over sixty years accompanies him, but she is recuperating from a recent surgery.

Thinking I should visit soon, a verse I’ve been studying resurfaces, “Go in this strength you have” (Judges 6:14).

Southern hospitality dictates, I deliver a meal, but I’m not up for cooking these days. My mind replays my mother’s mantra, “April Dawn, sometimes you gotta make due with what you have until you can do better.”

Don’t overlook the greatest gift you have, the gift of yourself. Click To Tweet

Armed with a pair of scissors and a canning jar, I take inventory of my backyard blooms. I snip crimson roses, mint, magenta butterfly blossoms, and sunny yellow African lilies. My simple homegrown backyard bouquet was all I had to offer.

Go in this strength you have” (Judges 6:14).

Armed in the strength I have, I carefully walked two doors down, holding onto the glass jar with both hands, gravel crunched underfoot. My nerve endings buzzed and crackled as the peripheral neuropathy caused my hands to go numb.

Ever joyful, Mrs. M was thrilled for the surprise visit and humble backyard bouquet. Initially, I was hesitant to visit because I had nothing special to offer. I had no grand meal prepared, no cookies baked, not even a card. All I could offer was a canning jar backyard bouquet and myself.

Hands just meEver since my chronic illness began, I have struggled with feelings of uselessness and inadequacy. I thought all I had to offer was a humble backyard bouquet, but walking home, I realized I often overlook the greatest gift I have-the gift of myself.

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” –Henry David Thoreau

Don’t overlook the greatest gift you have, the gift of yourself.

Do you have someone around you that could a ray of sunshine? How can you use what you already have to bless someone today?

~April Dawn White

*All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author and Pixabay.

© 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

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