A Place at the Table (How to Do Simple Hospitality)

May 24, 2013 | 23 comments

The old farmer didn’t complicate it. This was it —

Three cups of hot coffee. A small plate of Oreos. And an extra place at the table, for me.

I’d stopped by the farmhouse up the road to say hello to my friends, Hazel and Helmer. (Hazel is 90 years old; she’s the older sister of Helmer, who’s in his 80s.) While Hazel and I sat on the sofa, plates and cups clinked in the kitchen.

The old farmer, Helmer, had set out “lunch.”

I tried to wave him off, told him I needed to get back home. But … oh then, … well. Sure.

And we sat.

Helmer led us in prayer:  “Come Lord Jesus, Be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

And we ate and drank. We talked about the weather, and the news. About God and the church. And crops.

I could breathe here. And I don’t even like Oreos.

Surely, every good thing in life can be improved by sharing it with another soul. And this, I believe is hospitality, the simple act of opening a space, of making room. It is a quiet acknowledgement of the automatic sacredness of another human being’s life. It’s the easy dignity of sharing a table.

It doesn’t need a tablescape. It doesn’t need matching napkins or three courses. It doesn’t require Pinterest’s help.

It’s just this —

One old farmer,
who sets out a cup,
and lets you know you matter because you exist.

And you can’t help but stay awhile.


The Perfectly Loved pillar mug, a gift from my dear heart-sister, Holley Gerth.  (A gentle reminder of God’s heart for you and the awesome truth that He loves you ‘perfectly.'”)

by | May 24, 2013 | 23 comments


  1. Amber Walker

    I love the old common table prayer its the prayer we taught our kids since birth and all my husbands family and all our youth kids. ..my son very young later added before Amen….And thank you for this food!

    Loved this post!!

  2. sheiladailie

    Such a sweet reminder, Jenn. Makes me want to call a friend and say “Come on out for tea!” Those twenty or thirty minutes can change the whole day!

  3. Elizabeth Stewart

    And this simple post, those simply beautiful photos, I’ll remember this one. Sometimes simple has the most impact on us, doesn’t it?

  4. Diana Trautwein

    LOVE this – love the prayer, the photos (especially that sweet Anna’s smile) and you, too.Thank you.

  5. hisfirefly

    There is a place on the sofa, a place at the table, a place in my heart for you…

  6. lynndmorrissey

    The perfect definition of hospitality, and I love that we always have a place at HIS table! I have a mug, too, and it’s a wonderful remembrance of hopspitality shared at the JT retreat. Please tell Lydia that hopsitality is also shared in words written by hand and mailed across the miles! Hospitality has no geoprahic or age boundaries! I love that girl of yours!

  7. Karmen

    Great post and great reminder! I was just stressing over something silly like having enough chairs for a cookout. When it just matters who is here not where they will sit. Thank you!

  8. lschontos

    You are so very dear. I can’t think of a more delightful way to spend an afternoon. True hospitality and a gracious guest.

  9. Deidra Riggs

    I feel as if I was right there at that table with you! 😉

  10. Lyla Willingham Lindquist

    I’m still reeling over the idea that you don’t like Oreos.

    Not even Doublestuffs?

    I assume Anna liked them and that’s how she got her picture in here. Restores my faith in the Lee family, that one does.

    Love to you, my friend. 🙂

  11. caryl

    Oh I wish I had been there with you to visit Hazel and Helmer…What fun…Great to take the time to visit with neighbors and friends..Not enough of that is done.

  12. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Are you sure this friend of yours is not a South Agrican!! This is the way we do it in my country. No frills and fancy things when we get together, but we share our hearts, our love and at times even our homes! Thanks for sharing your two wonderful friends.
    God bless you, dear Jennifer

  13. Jillie

    Thank you, Jennifer for introducing us to Hazel and Helmer. Simple people. Simple hospitality. Those seem to be the very best ingredients for true friendship and fellowship. I was so happy to read Helmer’s simple prayer–my Gramma Jessie prayed that same prayer at every single meal we shared together in her home. I’ve never been quite sure how it went, but now I know! I feel I’ve been ‘visited’ by my sweet Gramma today, even though she’s been gone for years and years. I loved her so much.
    Your words leave me wondering why hospitality has become such an ‘event’…cleaning, preparing, everything matching, headaches galore…when it really is as simple as a fresh cup of coffee and some cookies on a saucer. Sharing ourselves and our table—that’s all it really need be. Thanks Jennifer.

  14. JulieS

    Thank you for the reminder, Jennifer. I want to be hospitable like that. Just setting out a cup and a plate of cookies. I want to share my table — and my heart — that way.

  15. Hazel Irene Moon

    A cup of coffee and a simple plate of cookies, a prayer and sweet fellowship, what more could you ask for?

  16. marty

    So much more to hospitality than what there seems at first glance…and, because it is such a God thing…so much more that really requires so much less.

  17. Ruth@GraceLaced

    I love this post. After a decade of being a pastor’s wife, I learned that it really didn’t have to be much more than being real, and sharing whatever God’s grace has brought to your physical and spiritual table. Feasting of heart and soul…

  18. Mindy Whipple

    I love this. I often complicate entertaining so this is a great reminder for me. Open heart, open home.

  19. Cindy Hamilton

    I love the filter on the picture of the little girl. So beautiful!

  20. Duane Scott

    I absolutely love this, Jennifer, except the fact that you don’t like Oreos.

    I think you just committed one of the sins of sustenance, not liking Oreos. Tsk. Tsk.

  21. Simply Darlene

    Simple is my first name. Sort of. Not really, but it’s my mode. And that quote with the first image, wowzer.

    Thank you for sharing this lunch date with us.


  22. kimberly

    Ah, yes.
    I live in the country now.

    Still hard to write that.

    I’ve learned a few things here.
    Like always keep the coffee pot ready to boil.
    Because out here, in the middle of nowhere, I get lots of company.
    And no warning.
    Which kinda freaks me out.
    Because I like pretty.
    A pot of tea, a plate of warm scones, pretty music, a candle burning, makes me feel happy.
    But here, just a cuppa coffee, plenty hot and strong, and a chair to sit in, to be listened to, is all that’s wanted.

    It’s probably true wherever we are.

    Especially that listened to part.



  1. Weekend Links, 6.8.13 — Giving Up on Perfect - [...] A Place at the Table (How to Do Simple Hospitality) :: Jennifer Dukes Lee {“True hospitality doesn’t work hard…

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