Burghausen Castle and Old Town - Bavaria

“One of the most incredible God-gifts I’ve ever received came by way of my husband’s new job. His company was building a huge manufacturing facility near our home in Tennessee, and while it was under construction, he would train in Germany for a year or so. In other words, at mid-life we would have to – get to – live abroad.”Living in Europe is a very different animal than vacationing in Europe, so thankfully we had months to plan. Additionally, his company offered cultural training to ease the transition. Training was incredibly interesting and highly invaluable though we would learn not everything was 100% accurate. Between that and errant stereotypes, we never expected to become friends with German nationals, having learned that Germans don’t throw that word around as freely as Americans.

What a lovely thing to be wrong about.

Before I ever left the States, I had been invited (via email) to a breakfast Stammtisch. Loosely translated as “a regulars’ gathering,” Stammtisch typically brings people together who share a common bond. In our case, it was for women fluent in English, be they American, German or any other nationality. Our group met twice a month and everyone who participated was expected to eventually host or at least co-host.

Within ten days of arriving in Germany, our relocation agent, Vanessa, made the extra effort to pick me up and take me to Stammtisch at Belinda’s. Originally from England, Belinda owned, lived in and ran a bed and breakfast in a nearby town. From the first thing I noticed upon arrival – a hand-chalked welcome – to the last thing we did before leaving – a tour of the vacant B&B rooms, Belinda exuded hospitality. She reminded me that hospitality is best expressed in unrushed conversation with a focus on guests–not a frantic worry over what needs to get done.

Border Cottage - Southern Bavaria 

 

Vintage Fairy Cakes Pressed Tin Sign

 Scenes from a Breakfast Stammtisch

When in a German host’s home, I learned a lot about German culture simply through observation. And I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Stammtisch would become formative in how I would play hostess in the future.

Breakfast Stammtisch was one of my favorite experiences while living in Germany and I was eager to introduce the practice once I returned home, except…

my interest cooled to ice when my husband walked away from the job that took us to Europe.  A “between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place” decision was made when we were faced with extending our one year assignment to three. While we were able to manage logistics for one year, given the ages of our children, we couldn’t handle two more.

We faced unemployment and an uncertain future.

Thankfully, he landed several offers within a few months. Five months later he joined a company that would move us three hours south.

Starting over, living in a small apartment, and not knowing a soul put my hope of introducing Stammtisch on further hold until two things happened:

I attended Allume in October, a faith-based blogging conference whose 2014 theme was Hospitality (my heart began stirring…); and…

…I learned of a new site that whipped the Allume stirring into stiff peaks, one whose creative founder was following a holy prompting to build an online space whose “mission was to practice “brave hospitality” and challenge, encourage, and inspire others to do it too.”  That site was GraceTable.

Allume was a fierce reminder of what makes my heart come alive – opening our home to others – which I had excused away one too many times because of inconvenient circumstance and wobbly excuses.

After a few conversations with GraceTable visionary Kris Camealy, I accepted her incredible invitation to join the site as a writer. Just talking about the heart of GraceTable energized me; it was like looking into a mirror and seeing a clear reflection, FINALLY, after years of seeing an obscured, unfocused view.

I genuinely sensed the Lord was telling me, “Now, baby girl…! I know you from the inside out, now, go…bless others as I’ve blessed you.”

hospitality

Before I could change my mind (and before I fully thought it out), I emailed invitations to practically everyone I’d met in our new hometown, 43 women in all. While I would have been happy if everyone said yes, inviting that many people was a calculated risk: my kitchen table seats six comfortably and maybe eight squashed tight.

There were at least five things my German Breakfast Stammtisch taught or reinforced to me:

1. Just Do It.

Repeatedly, I’ve advised my children to “Be the one to BE the one.” Practicing brave hospitality means saying “Yes” to opening your homes to others. My German friends were continuing a long-held practice, so it was a little easier for them to host rather than initiate something new; but their example inspired me to be brave and at least try. 

2. IDHTBPTBB.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” was my mantra leading up to our inaugural Stammtisch, a phrase oft-advised by my wise friend Nester. We ended up with around 15 women that day. In order to accommodate seating for everyone (Stammtisch is a seated gathering, not as much a time to graze), we moved my dining table to my den. I borrowed two folding tables and lots of chairs from my friend Judi. There was barely room to get around my kitchen–where all the food was and where we ate. My dishes were mis-matched because I had to use everything I had. Janky has never been more beautiful to me :).

3. Regularity is underrated.  

There’s something lovely about an on-going social outing that doesn’t involve gift-giving or great expense. Because dates are established at the beginning of the year, you have something to look forward to all the time! Because our German way of life wasn’t as hectic as it is here, I was realistic about setting the calendar. During summer and busy months, we only meet once; on the months we meet twice, one is at a local coffee shop. This takes pressure off of finding hosts while providing continuity for our gathering.

4. Don’t say “no” for others.

A lot of my new friends have deep, deep roots in this place; they have “enough” friends already, some of which go back to grade school. I almost felt bad inviting some of them to Stammtisch because I know they don’t need one more thing to do. And yet…several still came! I forced myself not to assume “no’s” for those I sensed were too busy and invited them anyway. One of these deeply-rooted ladies was the first to volunteer to host our next gathering. She may not “need” one more thing, but she loves the idea of meeting a brand new cast of characters.

5.  It’s not about you, anyway.

Stammtisch is simple hospitality, a celebration of life and friendship. It’s never about the host or any one person. It’s taking a few minutes out of hectic lives to engage one another in conversation, to catch up on personal news, to learn about places to travel, books to read, movies to see. It’s providing opportunity and atmosphere for friendships to be established and nurtured. 

I was fortunate to find a community of friends quickly when we moved to Germany, largely because of our twice-monthly Stammtisch breakfasts. And though I waited over a year to bring the tradition to our new home, the response has been sweet confirmation that people are hungry for real life connection. 

 

Please share your thoughts–I’d love to know what prompts you to open your home to others, and why you think it’s valuable to do so!

 

 

 

 

Robin Dance / Posts / Blog
Southern as sugar-shocked tea and in a scandalous affair with her college sweetheart, Robin is mom to two in college with the third almost there. She believes the kitchen table is a sacred alter, first classroom, and safe refuge, where the currency is spoken in love and good food. She hates "cooking close" and shoe shopping (gasp!), loves snail mail and surcies, and finds holy communion where sand meets surf. She's also rumored to make the best apple pie in the world. In addition to writing at robindance.me, you'll find her at The Art of Simple, {in}courage and Deeper Story.
  • Sarah

    I’m inspired by the way you put your intentions into action, Robin!

    January 26th, 2015 13:28
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Sarah,

      It might have taken me a while, but the blessings are exponential :).

      January 26th, 2015 15:36
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  • Jeniffer Sheriff Smith

    Yesterday we opened our home to a dear girl we’ve known since she was in middle school and her fiancé. She lived with us the summer before she started college, so she’s seen the bad and the ugly as well as the good. Before the afternoon was out, she had washed the dishes that had piled around the sink and I was struck with the thought that God knew that I would struggle with cleaning so He sent me friends (and a husband) who love it. Sometimes hospitality is just that reminder that we aren’t alone after all.

    January 26th, 2015 14:02
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      “Sometimes hospitality is just that reminder that we aren’t alone after all.”

      What a lovely view of hospitality, Jeniffer…I likey :). (and what a fun time for ALL of you!)

      January 26th, 2015 15:38
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  • Brianna Wasson

    Hi Robin! Two years ago, my family got to live in Germany for a year, too. I never got invited to a Stammtisch, but my family was able to make dear friends who opened their home to us many times. My favorite thing was afternoon coffee and cake on the weekends. (And not just for the coffee and cake.) 🙂 Before we left there, I vowed to start inviting people to our home for coffee and snacks or whatever on a regular basis. To get to know them and share life with them. And, you know what? I haven’t done it like I’ve wanted to. I mean, I invite close friends. But something keeps me from reaching out of my comfort zone and inviting people I don’t know well yet. I guess it’s fear of uncomfortable. Thanks for reminding me of stuff I learned in Germany (and at Allume too). 🙂

    January 26th, 2015 15:01
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Brianna,

      We were there at the same time, I think!! (2012) The Stammtisches we attended (there was also an evening one with men and women) largely originated through my husband’s company. There was a pretty large expat community so they wanted to do whatever they could to help with the transition. I was a grateful recipient. And, yes!! I was thinking about afternoon coffee and cake this morning–I LOVE that tradition, the slower pace it demands.

      Ok..forgive me…did we meet at Allume? Do you have a blog link to share? Let’s talk more about this stuff. I’ll gently nudge you to ask new people over. I’ve been a “new people” multiple times over in the past ten years and it is RARE for anyone to BE the one :).

      January 26th, 2015 15:56
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      • Brianna Wasson

        Oh, no need for forgiving!! We did meet at Allume. But man it’s crazy how many people you meet there, isn’t it? 🙂 My blog is http://www.BriannaRWasson.com. I haven’t written there in quite a while, but God has been working lately to get me back there. I would love to talk more about this stuff with you!! And gentle nudges? Yes, please. I need it. I so want to be the home that welcomes people and opens its arms and offers no-matter-what kind of acceptance. Thanks, Robin. 🙂

        January 26th, 2015 16:12
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        • Robin Dance
          http://www.pensieve.me/

          Oy. I appreciate your grace; there was a catch in my spirit that we DID meet but I didn’t recognize your teensy picture :).

          Hospitality–opening my doors and having people in our home AND in my heart–jazzes me. Is there anything better than lingering around a table not noticing the time go by?? Let’s stay in touch!!

          January 26th, 2015 22:01
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  • Beth
    http://withlove-simplybeth.blogspot.com/

    You all here inspire me to keep opening my doors. And not only to open the doors to my open but to reach out and connect in many ways. Saturday’s appear to be becoming “coffee date Saturday.” I had one this past Saturday and have coffee dates confirmed for the next three. Love them!!! Blessings.

    January 26th, 2015 18:25
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      That’s FANTASTIC, Beth! That you’ve planned so far in advance tells me you really get this, the need to engage on purpose. It rarely happens by accident and most of the time we just talk about needing to get together :).

      January 26th, 2015 22:03
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  • Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    I enjoy hearing your stories, Robin. It is beautiful the way your experiences have shaped your hospitality, and I am grateful for how you share it with us!

    January 26th, 2015 18:54
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Have I mentioned how much I love Grace Table for initiating conversations like these??? They put it out there front and center, how we can love people into our lives and homes and right around the table. You make me smile, Kris. 🙂

      January 26th, 2015 22:04
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  • vanessa muemmler

    I love that you took home this wonderful tradition and that your memories are so fond. I will tell the group about this post, if they have not seen it already. Miss you, my friend.

    January 27th, 2015 7:35
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      VANESSA!!! I was going to share it with you!! I also need your mailing address to send our family’s Christmas card (I kept forgetting but have one saved for you…forgive me, bitte? 🙂 ). I’m also writing about it on my blog and will let you know when it’s complete; I’ve had a time rounding up pictures, but a LOT of fun strolling down Memory Lane. Oh, how I miss you, too. xo

      January 27th, 2015 17:20
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  • Joy B. Rudolph
    http://joybrudolph.com/

    Robin, I love this idea. I find it interesting how hospitality can be so easy to postpone even when we find it so life giving. Thanks for sharing this encouraging piece of German culture.

    January 27th, 2015 21:57
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      You’re right, Joy; when we make the effort it’s SO worth it. So why is it SO hard to make the effort??? (MY pleasure to share!! 🙂 )

      January 28th, 2015 19:34
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  • Bri McKoy
    http://oursavorylife.com/

    Oh Robin! I love your heart. And your post made me miss Germany terribly. Thank you for sharing your story. You’ve inspired me! Xoxo

    January 28th, 2015 13:40
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    • Robin Dance
      http://www.pensieve.me/

      Bri!! When were you in Germany…do I know this story? I’m missing it something awful, I guess because I wrote about it. 🙂

      January 28th, 2015 19:35
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  • Bonnie Jean

    One thing that took me most of my life to learn was that hospitality is a gift you give to others and to yourself… but it is not about having the biggest house or perfectly matching anything although I used to think so. It is the conversation and love and relationships that get passed around and it is nice if the food is good but it is most important that love and welcome are there.

    February 11th, 2015 0:49
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  • Richella Parham
    http://www.impartinggrace.com/

    YES! The willingness to go first in endeavors of the heart is exactly what the world needs from us! In so many ways, we can show hospitality in all kinds of settings, can’t we? I love the way your friends in Germany both welcomed you and inspired you, and now you’re doing the same for women in your hometown. Makes me wish I lived in your town! 🙂 (And you know I think of your hometown as Maycomb, don’t you?)

    February 11th, 2015 1:59
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