The lunch hour begins at 1pm in the UK. My inner clock, born in the US, is adjusting to pushing lunchtime back an hour. I’m learning to ignore a growling stomach and embrace a culture of stopping midday for a respite. After decades of living hurried up on the inside, measuring time by productivity and eating lunch while standing up at the kitchen counter, Europeans are teaching me about the art of considering.

On a sunny Thursday, I board a red double decker bus; choose a seat in the rear between a woman speaking Italian into her mobile and a man with a beard of dreads hanging down to his belly button. Hop off at the sixth stop, stand on a quiet corner of a new-to-me neighborhood and look at my phone. Google Maps is my now my closest companion.

This day I refuse bullying by my to-do list and accept a lunch invitation from a persevering friend who asks repeatedly over months since my arrival in London. Genuine generosity is most easily identified by the attributes of perseverance and selfless motive.

Under vines trailing over the doorway, I enter a modest home, warm with traces of loving well in each nook and cranny. A puppy garners attention around my kneecaps and ankles, welcoming the intrusion of a stranger into familiar daily rhythm. After initial greetings, we all bound into the kitchen where a heap of long stemmed white camellias cover a small wooden table in front of the refrigerator.

door with vines

All my sensibilities vanish out the kitchen window when I see those cabbage heads, profuse with layers of petals lying like fallen soldiers instead of standing upright in water. But she isn’t paying attention to the flowers.

“I purchased three different kinds of cheese for this salad because I wasn’t sure which one you prefer,” my friend says pulling packages out of the refrigerator. “Which one would you like?”

“I’ll choose feta,” I respond looking up at her standing at the sink. And that’s when I notice an inconspicuous garden through the open kitchen window. A small café table under a giant maple holds plates of couscous and piles of freshly picked lettuce.

Sitting on metal chairs collecting leaf litter adhering to puppy fur like Velcro, we talk about places to buy plants and which varieties thrive well in pollution. She reveals plans for expanding the garden knowing I’m passionate about flowers; a weed pulling addict who finds clarity by digging in the dirt.

Sipping elderflower cordial poured into glasses of sparkling water, I learn its a homemade concoction handed down from her husband’s ancestry. And admit the taste of elderflower has become popular in my family cupboard.

“I can share the recipe with you if you are interested in making it,” she divulges.

On the bus ride home, a bouquet of buxom white peonies lie on my lap and my emotions vacillate between humility and thankfulness for those couple of hours.

I have often approached the gift of welcome in hospitality like eating lunch at my kitchen counter.  Filling an empty slot on the calendar, I overlook the art of considering others.

What cheese do you like? What color of flowers are your favorites? Is your garden sunny or shady? Do you like the taste of elderflower? Would you like the recipe for your family? Would you like to take some of these camellias home with you?

How can I bless you instead of how can I impress you? This question transforms acquaintances into deep friendships.

When I arrived back home, I put those flowers in a vase of water and enjoyed capturing them in photos. It was the first time someone gave me camellias and I wanted to remember the beauty.

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The art of considering unleashes a wellspring of creativity.

What resonates most with people of all cultures isn’t a tidy home, a flaky croissant served on your best china, a freshly weeded garden or the carefully selected font on a lunch invitation.  All are impressive but not memorable.

A few days later, my new friend arrived at my doorstep with the trunk of her car open. Amidst suitcases and potted plants purchased on a weekend getaway were two bags for me. Two bags of elderflower petals freshly picked in a field in Devon. 

I made the family recipe and bottled the sweet cordial. Guess what I gave as a hostess gift the next time I had a lunch invitation?

Considering others first means the art you create from your life dispels any rumors about motive.

Even the son of man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

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Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, this is so special and descriptive, and immediately captures for me the hospitality that I, too, have received at the lovely hands of a generous English lady. What is it about the British–their love for civility, for beauty, for flowers, for hospitality, for eating al fresco in gardens? We always enjoyed tea and delicious repasts on our friend, Deborah’s, patio (even in the chill of evening) encircled by bounteous blooms. My heart is with you always, and even moreso, I think, as you share the hospitality you are experiencing in your new life abroad, both in the receiving and in the giving. I think what I love about you most is that you constantly seek to bless, not impress. Granted, you already know that I think you are one of the most gifted authors on the planet, and I love saying so and championing your work, but I think it is mostly because through your words, you share a heart of love, not a love of self. Thank you for including us in your luncheon. I am leaving this reading fully satisfied.
    Love
    Lynn

    September 23rd, 2015 12:45
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      What a generous comment Lynn. It brought tears, thank you! I’m so glad that is what you think my writing communicates. What grace! xx

      September 23rd, 2015 17:47
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  • Mary Gemmill

    LOVED loved loved this post Shelly and rejoice in the changes of heart the Lord is bringing to you to increase your JOY !! loved the pics with words,and this line; Considering others first means the art you create from your life dispels any rumors about motive.

    September 23rd, 2015 18:28
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      Thank you Mary! Yes, joy IS my word this year isn’t it?

      September 24th, 2015 9:12
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  • Pat Baer
    http://patbaer.net/

    You are a hospitable writer Shelly. Your words are carefully selected and well placed. They are also memorable. Thanks for demonstrating the Art of Considering so beautifully today.

    September 23rd, 2015 23:07
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      What a lovely thing to say Pat, thank you.

      September 24th, 2015 9:12
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  • Kathleen Smith

    This morning I am giving thanks for your writing! I love the clarity of your writing, the fragrant details.

    September 24th, 2015 2:58
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

      I’m honored and humbled, thank you for pulling up a chair at the table with such welcome.

      September 24th, 2015 9:14
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  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene

    you taunted the senses aplenty with this piece. beautyFull.

    elderflower? interesting. i make an elderberry syrup with medicianl properties that also tastes good. is yours for flavor only?

    September 24th, 2015 10:20
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com

      I don’t know about medicinal properties Darlene but it sure tastes good! Thanks for stopping by.

      September 30th, 2015 18:20
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  • Janet from FL

    Nice to see you here Shelly, not in your usual place. I am not familiar with elderflowers, so I looked up a picture of them! Enjoy all!

    September 24th, 2015 14:49
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com

      Hi Janet, thanks for stopping by. Love that you looked up the elderflower. I think it grows in specific places, not a common flower.

      September 30th, 2015 18:21
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  • Judy

    Beautifully affirming; this kind of hospitality is a quiet gift that we can offer in the background of a crazily busy world. Thank you.

    September 25th, 2015 11:53
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com

      Thank you Judy, appreciate that you took the time to leave a comment.

      September 30th, 2015 18:22
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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for another beautiful post, Shelly. Your carefully-chosen words transport us to your locale–today, an English garden, where hospitality flourished among the flowers. Years ago I met a young woman who also embraced considering. During our first encounter she asked questions and showed genuine interest in my answers. She gave me a precious gift that evening–a sense of value. I pray that all my encounters do the same for others. And thank you for the memorable directive to guide us: Seek to bless instead of impress!

    September 25th, 2015 12:13
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com

      Yes! A sense of value. That’s exactly it Nancy. Thanks for being here, you are such an encouragement.

      September 30th, 2015 18:23
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  • Trish Pederson
    http://invisiblelove.com/2015/09/06/when-god-said-go-to-planned-parenthood/

    The art of blessing others through the simplicity of just “being” and sharing what makes “you” you. All is given from God, every good and perfect gift, and it is all meant to be passed on so that we may see Him and become like Him.

    September 26th, 2015 10:45
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    • Shelly Miller
      http://redemptionsbeauty.com

      Yes and amen! Thanks for reminding us of that.

      September 30th, 2015 18:23
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  • Pamela Roberson

    Hello everyone, this is my first night to this amazing site. I’ve read several of the articles and just wanted to say thank you to all who are sharing. I hope to take time this week to click on each of your blogs and get to know more about you and the various ways you share your blessings from God. Thank you and keep up the good work, God loves you all and so do I.

    September 27th, 2015 22:57
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  • Shelly Miller
    http://redemptionsbeauty.com

    Pamela, I’m so glad you stopped by Grace Table, there is always a chair pulled out for you at the table here. Thank you for letting us know you visited and we’ll look forward to welcoming you at our blog homes!

    September 30th, 2015 18:25
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