Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Singleness & Hospitality

Leslie Basham: As a single woman, Carolyn McCulley, benefited from visiting the homes of other families.

Carolyn McCulley: I went to these women's homes and I saw the peace and the order. I saw all sorts of things like linen napkins and candles being lit in the bathroom. I thought, "My goodness, there is this whole side of femininity that I've never considered."

Leslie Basham: It's Monday, June 13th, and you are listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When I go out and speak at women's conferences, I find that about a 1/3, maybe as much as 40%, of our audience are women who are currently single. I find that many women who are single are kind of living their lives in limbo, waiting for something to happen down the road, something being marriage, in order to really start living life.

Well, our guest on Revive Our Hearts this week is a woman who believes that women who are single can live purposeful, intentional, and meaningful lives right now. Carolyn McCulley, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Carolyn: Thank you.

Nancy: Thanks so much for writing this wonderful book called Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? And the subtitle is: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred. I love how practical you are throughout this book as you unpack Proverbs chapter 31. A chapter generally thought of as applying to married women, and yet you say these are character qualities that need to be true in all women's lives--that femininity is not something you have to be married to pursue.

Carolyn: That's right because she is such a well-developed woman. She is a gracious hostess. She is a good cook. She is a very savvy business woman. She handles her finances well. There is something there for women in every season of our lives to be able to look at and say, "This is a standard of excellence and biblical wisdom in a woman's life."

Nancy: Now as you think about the Proverbs 31 woman, you think of a woman who was very domestic. Her life centered around, of course, the Lord. She fears the Lord. But then her life centers around her home. That's her base. She's really like the woman we read about in Titus chapter 2 who is a keeper at home. She loves her husband. She loves her children. So, it is easy for those of us who are not married to skip over a passage like this and think, well domesticity, homemaking . . . those sorts of qualities and activities, those are something way down the road for me when I get married.

Carolyn: Yes, and I think I had that idea, too. After college I lived with my cousin, and then I had my own apartment for awhile. I would not say that I had any kind of picture of domesticity. As a matter of fact, my family called my cooking fish wads and pudding lumps. I was pretty bad.

Nancy: What did your apartment look like?

Carolyn: Oh, the inside of an ashtray. I was a smoker at the time, and it was disgusting. I just came flying through the door, dumped my clothes here and there. I was treating my house as a crash pad. There was no sense of the arts or inviting people in or anything. It was just a place to dump my belongings.

Nancy: Then at age 30, you came to faith in Christ, and your whole world really got turned topsy-turvy at that point.

Carolyn: It did in many ways and even in the practical ways. I got invited to the homes of married friends and families, and I was expected to participate in church life as a single, not necessarily just with other singles but with all sorts of people in different walks of life. As I went to these women's homes, I saw the peace and the order. I saw all sorts of things like linen napkins and candles being lit in the bathroom. I thought, "My goodness, there's this whole side of femininity that I've never considered."

Nancy: So, hospitality isn't something that is just for married women?

Carolyn: No, it's not. I think when we look through Scripture we see an excellent account in Lydia. She was a single woman. She was a business woman. She obviously thrived. She was in a busy European city. When she encountered Paul, she was prepared to offer hospitality to him upon her conversion. She persuaded him to come to her home. She was inviting him into a large group setting no doubt. It wasn't just her private abode.

When Paul was freed from jail, whose home did he go to? Lydia's. She used her home as a mission field. It's even conceivable to think that the Philippian church got its start in a single woman's home.

Nancy: Now, most of us don't have a house full of servants, and it's easy to feel that if we are going to invite others into our home everything has to be just perfect.

Carolyn: Well, it's true, and I think it has been the influence of Martha Stewart and others in the sort of entertainment industry that have ratcheted-up the standard that makes it a performance rather than a place of just saying to someone, "I want to spend time with you, and I want to invite you in."

Now, of course, it blesses people if you clean your house and if you have done a few things to make it inviting. But it's not about a performance, and when people sense that, you are tempted to do some really strange and odd things.

In my book, I told a story about inviting a set of couples over to my house at Christmas time to just bless them for what they had done for me throughout the year. I was so stuck on the idea of presentation and having everything just perfect that when my guests showed up half an hour early accidentally, I actually shrieked at them at the door. I was like, "You're early. What are you doing? I'm not ready; the house isn't ready." I sent them away for half an hour until they could come back. Then I made a joke about it, "You just can't get good help these days. I am so sorry about the kitchen maid."

But you know, I was more concerned that everything be in order and all the candles be lit and the china set and for that matter for me to be dressed and not in my stained sweatpants that I was more willing to send them away and say come back in half an hour and not receive them graciously.

Nancy: This really misses the whole point of hospitality, and that word itself means love of strangers. It's a love of people and making them feel comfortable and welcome in my home.

Carolyn: Yes, and I really learned a lot from a little booklet called The Hospitality Commands. That book showed how the early church used their homes as a mission field. Not only were they places where the church actually met, but they were places where they could invite people, those didn't know the gospel, into their homes to share what was going on.

This is what we can do whether we are single or married. We can open up our homes to our neighbors to invite them over to have tea or coffee. It doesn't have to be a big extravaganza. It doesn't have to be a ten-course meal. It can be just come over for a cup of tea. I want to spend time with you. I want to know what's going on in your life and your heart.

But you can't do that very easily in a restaurant. If you are sharing with someone and the Lord is moving in their heart, it's harder for them to be open, to possibly cry or to spend time when you are in a restaurant and being moved through quickly. But if you have invited someone into your home, you have a more relaxed opportunity and more privacy to be able to share. If the Lord opens the door for you to pray for that person or to share the gospel, you don't have to fear being interrupted like you do in a restaurant.

Nancy: An open home really does communicate an open heart. I think this is because it is so rare today. People really do let down their guard and are more open to building bridges and relationships when we invite them into our home.

Carolyn: I once threw a dinner party for a series of couples at Valentine's Day. I invited them to come over, and I served them. One man there said, "You know, I wouldn't have done this when I was single. I would have just had pizza." But in this man's mind, what he remembered more was what the impact of youth in his life as a single. As we get older our lives and our tastes and our standards change just the same as if we were married. So what we would have done at eighteen is different, at thirty, at forty, at forty-five.

Nancy: I don't know. I still know how to bring in pizza.

Carolyn: Yes, but I am more willing to expend the effort, I think, then when I was younger to try to bless somebody. Perhaps I have a little bit more disposable income, too.

Nancy: You're a single woman; you're working full-time to support yourself. How do you find the time to have Valentine dinners for couples at your house?

Carolyn: Well, you have to make it a priority. You have to plan for it. You have to look ahead into your month, your year or whatever and say, "I'm going to set this time aside, and I'm going to do this, and I'm going to practice cooking. Simply because these are skills I need to make a warm and inviting home, where people can practically feel the love of God in the fact that we have gone to some effort in order to bless them when they have arrived at our doorstep.

Nancy: I find that a lot of singles are waiting for married people to invite them into their home for a meal and can get a little hurt if people don't. I think a lot of married couples don't realize, by the way, what a blessing it is when they include singles around their table. Is it hard for you, Carolyn, as a single woman to go up to a couple or series of couples and say, "Would you like to come over to my house?"

Carolyn: No, it really has not been because I try to cultivate relationships with the people no matter what their marital status is and invite them over. Couples are among some of the most eager recipients because they get to go some place. This is special.

Nancy: I've actually had a family in my home over the past several days. They were supposed to leave a few days ago before we got into this recording series. One of the family members got real sick and had to have an emergency appendectomy while they were at my home, so they ended up staying until this morning. I found myself really glad to have them there, but scurrying a bit to have company, have a house full of people, and at the same time be preparing for this series of programs.

But what a blessing it has been for me as a single woman to have a home that is open to families. This happens to be a family that is in some need at this time and some issues that they are dealing with as a family. Just to provide for them a haven, a place of encouragement, a place of hope, a place where this family member could recuperate after this appendectomy--it's really a blessing to give and to serve in that way, though it requires a level of sacrifice.

Carolyn: Yes, it's so rewarding to have people of all ages and seasons of life in your home. I've had little boys in my neighborhood come over to have a Veggie Tales club. They just started showing up at my house because I was there. So, I invited them in and in this day and age, of course, you have to keep the door open. It's a sad commentary, but necessary so others understand what you're doing.

I invite them in and share the gospel. So, whether it has been a little bevy of 7-to-9 year-old boys, whether it has been married couples, or whether it has been entire families descending on my house in order to stay for the weekend, it is just being willing just to say, "I don't have three or four guest rooms, but I have several sofa beds." It is just opening your home; people will come.

Nancy: So Carolyn, the Lord has really done a transformation in your life . . .from living in an apartment that looked like an ashtray to developing a heart for home, for hospitality. Is there hope for a listener who says, "I don't know how to cook. I don't know how to keep my house; my house is a mess. Could my house really become that kind of haven and refuge for other people?"

Carolyn: Oh, there's definite hope. There is a lot of fun in the practice of doing it. I know a group of ladies in my church and their household . . . . What they have done is they have decided to spend one week each cooking for the others and just practicing as a household. Then they have preplanned times of hospitality when they bring people over. So, as a group of single ladies they have decided they will practice this now and each take a turn.

I think that's wonderful even if you don't spend a whole week doing it, if you can set up a family night in your own household where each of you takes turns cooking or doing other things or cleaning together or whatever it is, in order to practice these domestic skills. They need to be mastered.

Nancy: And if the Lord should have it in his plan for those women to be married someday, certainly there will be a husband who will be very thankful.

Carolyn: Yes, indeed.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking to Carolyn McCulley about ways single women can create a welcoming home. Carolyn talks more about this in her book, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? In it she shows what it's like to live a full life while embracing God's call to singleness. Carolyn takes the characteristics of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 and shows how these qualities can be developed in the life of a single woman.

If you're single, we think you will find it very helpful. You can find out more by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also order by calling 1-800-569-5959. That's 1-800-569-5959.

We need your help as we continue to call both single and married women to live their lives according to a biblical standard. Our ministry is supported by the prayers and financial gifts of our listeners. Your contribution could result in women applying God's word to their hearts in new ways. You can send your gift to Revive Our Hearts, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501.

Tomorrow we will talk about singles and finances. Hope you can be here for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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