Thriving vs. Surviving—The Little Things That Bring Us Joy: Amy Hannon & Tara L. Cole
Amy Hannon: There’s nothing more beautiful or precious about our lives or things that matter than building relationships with people. The things that pull on us aren’t as important as sitting down with people and getting to know them and meeting their needs and then listening for opportunities to love them and move towards spiritual things and love them really well.
Thriving vs. Surviving—The Little Things That Bring Us Joy: Amy Hannon & Tara L. Cole – Episode #327
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. As so many of us go about our day-to-day, living what we might see as “ordinary” lives, we might wonder, while we are working so hard at our jobs, providing for ourselves or our families, and staying so busy with the many things that make up the basic details of surviving—how can we also begin thriving and really enjoy our lives beyond merely keeping it all together?
Our guests this week offer some simple suggestions for ways to bring some peace and joy to our daily existence. Tara L. Cole is a writer, educator, and mom raising school-aged kids during what can often be seen as turbulent times. She offers a few simple ways she helps guide her kids through this season of their lives through spending time with them, providing boundaries for the media they consume, and introducing prayer into their daily lives. Amy Hannon, the founder of Arkansas kitchen boutique Euna Mae’s, finds that simple hospitality brings joy to herself and others. And although she has turned it into a beautiful business, she encourages us that hospitality doesn’t have to be a show and gives us easy steps to welcome gladly and serve faithfully in ways that fill our hearts and others’.
Let’s begin with Amy’s story.
Amy: My name is Amy Hannon. I live in northwest Arkansas with my husband, Dr. Sam Hannon. I own a one-of-a-kind kitchen boutique named after my grandmother, who was so dear to me. It’s called Euna Mae’s, that’s her name. And by God’s grace and a lot of elbow grease, Euna Mae’s has blossomed beyond the walls of my brick-and-mortar into this beautiful hospitality brand that has allowed me to write a couple of books, curate dinner experiences and culinary travel for folks around the country, plus a variety of other hospitality-focused experiences.
I grew up in a small town in north-central Arkansas called Mountain Home with my aunts and uncles and cousins and my grandparents. Everyone lived nearby, and my grandmother’s house, Euna Mae’s house, was where we would often gather weekly. We would eat there, we would enjoy our holidays there. She lived on the top of the hill, and it’s where we would go sledding in the snow. It was at her house where I have some of my favorite memories of watching her cook for and serve the ones that she loved. I didn’t realize it then, but her love for gathering people around food was leaving a lasting impression on me.
“It was at [my grandmother’s] house where I have some of my favorite memories of watching her cook for and serve the ones that she loved. . . . Her love for gathering people around food was leaving a lasting impression on me.” – Amy Hannon
And when I grew older, she and I shared conversations about how cooking for people was our way to show others the love of Christ that we had in our hearts.
I really valued going back and considering her purpose for why she cooked and served and invited and welcomed. So it’s really no surprise that the Lord stirred in me this desire to create a hospitality brand with this hope in my heart of inspiring others to open their homes and their lives, to show others the love of Jesus, because she did the same for me. I loved my time in the kitchen with Euna Mae. She taught me so much.
The Beginnings of Euna Mae’s
I opened this boutique when I was forty-one after my kids had grown. I had my kids early, and when I opened Euna Mae’s, I had never done retail and never expected it would be anything more than that little store. I just wanted it to be a special place where people could come in and be known, and we could visit and we could talk about whether you put butter or Crisco in your pie crust, and if you were hosting company this weekend, and really just lean in. It has surprised me to no end how the Lord took that and really just lit a fire under it.
It has delighted me to no end, more than I ever imagined, that I get to be a voice in a hospitality arena where I get to cheer for people. I get to cheer them on. I get to put good recipes in their hands and watch them hop in on hospitality. It has been a supreme treat to inspire people and help them understand the greater purpose of our welcome. And then I get to celebrate their courage and their obedience to step out and invite. It is a delight for me. I get to applaud people. I get to applaud their good works and encourage them to make hospitality not just a one-time thing or an occasional thing, but like it becomes a way of life for them, and it’s just a big, fun hospitality party for all of us, truly.
It’s Easier Than You Think to Show Hospitality
I have a few tips that I love to share with people who are moving toward the idea of showing hospitality.
1. Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself
First and foremost, we have to remember that we can’t do anything on our own. We have to stay connected and remain in the vine. And I feel like when we want to host or extend a welcome to our friends and neighbors, we kind of barrel forward in our own abilities and strength with the help of Pinterest and Instagram. So we have to remember, more than anything, to seek the Lord and ask Him to find favor with our invitation, and to fill us with His love, and to radiate His life through us, because that’s what we want. We need to be completely honest with the Lord about our worries and our concerns and ask Him to stir up joy and delight as we seek to love and service people. That’s first and foremost.
2. Keep Things Simple
Practically speaking, keep things simple. We always want to go overboard because, again, it’s what we see on social media. But just keep things simple, because the hospitality of the Bible isn’t fancy and the purpose isn’t to show off your life. The purpose is to share your life with others. Make simple food, be yourself. Let the ordinary of your life lead to common ground. Common ground is what we’re aching for, and common ground is where authentic connection and community grow best.
“Just keep things simple, because the hospitality of the Bible isn’t fancy and the purpose isn’t to show off your life. The purpose is to share your life with others.” – Amy Hannon
3. Start Out Small
If you’re just dipping your toe in the waters of opening your home and your life to others, just take baby steps. Rather than hosting a big dinner or extending a big invitation to a crowd, just extend a simple, casual invitation to someone to just run over for dessert after supper, or invite over a neighbor’s family to make s’mores in the backyard, or ask a coworker to run by for coffee.
We have to remember that hospitality isn’t about pulling out all the stops. It’s really about building connection and community, loving and serving others well, and sharing the kindness and grace that is yours through Christ Jesus with the people around us.
This is all there is to it. We extend an invitation, we offer a welcome, and we gather around a shared meal for a sacred purpose, to put on display the fullness of life in Christ, and to share that life generously with those around us. It’s that simple. I call that intentional kitchening. We extend our invitations with intention. We serve our plates with a purpose, to love and serve God’s people well, and to make Him known.
Refocusing on What Hospitality Really Means
We’ve curated our lives to look like something it’s not. I mean, we all take beautiful pictures of our tables and our food and a pretty night out at a restaurant and all that. We don’t take pictures of taco soup in Styrofoam bowls because it’s not photogenic. But taco soup in Styrofoam bowls is what I serve regularly to our small groups and our neighbors and our friends. It’s not photogenic, and it’s not pin-worthy, but it’s precious and it’s valuable. And the purpose behind it is really what we’re getting after when we invite people into our homes.
And so I do think that the social media visual situation and pressure that we feel right now has a lot to do with what we’re talking about here. So we’ve really got to shrug all of that off and refocus on what the hospitality of the people really means. We have to understand the value and the big-picture vision and the ministry of hospitality so that it becomes a priority in our life, and so that we do plan for it. We do schedule it. We do make space in our lives to follow this hospitality command and to really love people well.
Yes, we’re busy and swamped and pulled on. But I really hope I can take the opportunity to encourage people to understand the purpose of hospitality so that once we understand the deep, eternal value of it, we will make it more of a priority in our lives and put it into practice.
A lot of times when you grow a brand of some kind, you actually seem to become more and more removed from the people you serve. And I have really been dead-set on not letting that happen to Euna Mae’s or to me, so I continue to travel and speak to women. I love to stand in auditoriums, and hug necks and visit, and get this broad message out to as many hearts and homes as I can. But there is nothing like gathering women in small groups and knowing their names and hearing their stories and getting them around shared experiences and shared meals and speaking into their lives.
As Euna Mae’s grows and the Lord keeps expanding this brand, the one thing I love most is creating these opportunities to get women around the table. So I do these neat supper clubs and dinners and small group events, and I take women on weekend tours, and they turn into little ministry weekends. It is so, so precious to me. And that is it is a humble honor to be that voice in the lives of people. It’s been really fun, and it always just keeps me close to the Lord, truly, like even this whole hospitality movement. Jesus knew better than anybody that a simple invitation for connection and community over a shared meal created the perfect opportunity for emotional, relational, and spiritual transactions to take place. And that’s the hope of our hospitality.
“Jesus knew better than anybody that a simple invitation for connection and community over a shared meal created the perfect opportunity for emotional, relational, and spiritual transactions to take place. And that’s the hope of our hospitality.” – Amy Hannon
This is overnight hospitality, not table hospitality, but I love to have little Bible reading books on the nightstands in my guest rooms so that if someone were there, believers or unbelievers, they have a little bit of inspiration. They can always maybe be beckoned to spend just a few minutes with the Lord. So yes, we have Jesus Calling.
You know, as the Lord leads in connecting with God regularly through His Word, we really like to encourage people to live that way through inspirational books, through His Word, through worship, through godly community. All of that ultimately fills us up and it fortifies our hearts to do life in ministry, and it fuels our purpose to live in a way that glorifies Him and to make Him known to others.
I have recently, in the last several years, empty nested and graduated all my children and they’ve all left home. So I’m in a new season of my life, and I have been earnestly seeking the Lord in this season of my life, that He will give me opportunities to be joy and light in the world, that my life and my voice, my platform, my social media, all those big things—but then even that, my visits to the mailbox and my encounters with people in the grocery store aisles, all of the things in my life, whether big or small, everyday ways that I would be joy in life. That is my hope, to demonstrate His heart to the world. I never would have dreamed in my whole life that the Lord would have placed me here with this kind of ministry to be able to do that, to be light and joy to the world, and to encourage people to use their homes and their lives to share the love of Christ with people. I am so grateful.
Narrator: You can find Amy Hannon’s book, Gather and Give, Sharing God’s Heart Through Everyday Hospitality and Gathering, wherever books are sold. And be sure to check out Euna Mae’s Kitchen at eunamaes.com.
Stay tuned to Tara Cole’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Author and educator Tara L. Cole’s goals for her children are to see them develop strong relationships with Jesus as they navigate a world that sometimes is difficult. She shares some of the practices she has found helpful in guiding her kids during their school years, and how prayer factors into their daily routine.
Tara: Hi, I’m Tara L Cole. I’m a teacher, author, podcaster, mom, and wife. I’ve been married for a little over twenty years to my husband Jeremy, and we have three active boys ranging from third grade to seventh grade.
Some common worries we have as parents—with our kids attending school, getting involved in things, and all the busyness that they have—quite honestly, some of my fears are like yours about them being bullied, having friends, what they’re being taught in schools, what they’re being exposed to on the phones and social media of their friends. Because even though I have our stuff locked down tightly, what are they seeing?
Since I have time right now and I am primarily teaching online due to some chronic illness, I take my kids to and from school, so they are in the car line 99% of the time. But instead of seeing it as a drudgery—because quite honestly, I spend about three and a half hours in the car line getting my kids each day—I’m looking at that as an opportunity. So we’re doing prayer time in the car. We’re listening to a podcast or audio Bibles, we’re having those conversations that are harder to have at home. So instead of looking at it like drudgery, since I have the opportunity, I’m just looking at it as an opportunity to spend this time with my kids. I know everyone can’t do that. Some of you have to put your kids on buses because you have to get to work. Maybe you have one car and that’s just not an option for you.
I intentionally make space in our days, whether it is car time or just, “Okay, we’re going to come home, we’re going to do chores, we’re going to eat dinner. And then I have nothing planned after dinner. We’re just going to do whatever, take it slow,” and I just sit down and give them time to come up and talk to me. I would really encourage you to just start making space in your day and praying to God and asking Him, “What can we let go of in this season, the stage we find ourselves in?”
Giving Our Kids Tools to Guide Their School Years
It can be really scary out there for parents, no matter your schooling choice, whether you choose public school, homeschool, put them in private school, or any of the things in between. We want to protect them from the ugliness of the world.
As I tell my kids, what you put in is what comes out. So if you are filling up your heart with good things—good music, TV shows, video games, all the YouTube channels, all those things—that’s what comes out. Because I even hear my kids using the lingo that they just heard the YouTube user using on Saturday morning. It’s really important to me to put those good things in their heart, to store up those good things in their heart. So we really protect them heavily, honestly, when it comes to the Internet or any of that. And what I tell them is that when they live in their house, they’re going to be accountable to someone. And so we just start the conversation like that with our kids.
“As I tell my kids, what you put in is what comes out.” – Tara L. Cole
I don’t know about you all, but it feels like the issues my parents were having to deal with when I was a teenager and old enough to really think through them are things I’m now having to talk to my elementary school son about. It really hurts my heart that that’s where we’re at. So we do a balance.
Teaching Kids That Prayer Can Help
The best guidance I can give as we introduce our kids to a healthy prayer life is to look at the season or stage that you find yourself in because every season and stage of life with your kids is going to look different.
“The best guidance I can give as we introduce our kids to a healthy prayer life is to look at the season on stage that you find yourself in, because in every season and stage of life with your kids is going to look different.” – Tara L. Cole
For example, when my kids were little and I could strap them in the seats and give them food, and while they were eating their breakfast and making a huge mess of it, we would do a quick devotional. We might sing a song from their Sunday school class, and just do a real quick thank-you-Jesus type prayer during that season and stage of life. As my kids got into their school years, that became so much more difficult. We do not have time at the breakfast table anymore because they’re coming in at different times.
Years ago, one of my friends mentioned praying on the way to school with her kids, and I just picked that up and clung to it. So that’s where it fits best in our season of life right now is that when we get in the car first thing in the morning, I say, “All right, it’s Monday. Whose turn is it to pray first?” And then that kid will pray. The next kid will pray, and then I’ll end with the prayer. And so we just rotate kids every day. But get creative with introducing your kids to prayer and don’t be afraid to model it in front of them.
One of my sons was really struggling with friendships. He just hadn’t found his people yet. There were valleys and all the things as we were praying for five years for friendships for him. God really started tugging on our own hearts by encouraging us to switch churches. And so He, over a series of events, moved us to a different church that had a much bigger youth group. And my sons found they had friends in the youth group. And even this week, we were at a dinner for one of their birthday parties, and my son and ten kids were on the other side of the table just laughing and having so much fun. And even in that moment, I said, “Thank You. Thank You, God, for answering this prayer.” It took years for him to find his people. I just thank God every single time in my heart for him and those friends he now has.
So if you’re new to prayer or new to spending time with Jesus—or maybe you’re like me and you’re seasoned at it, but you’re in a stage or season of life for your brain is foggy and it is hard, then devotionals like Jesus Calling and others are great to just have that two minutes, five minutes of quiet time in the morning, if that’s all you’ve got.
Right now, our family is just really praying over the school year. And again, this only takes like thirty seconds, but it’s so powerful, impactful, for us to pray over our kids, especially God’s Word, and for them to hear us praying over them right now.
I’m going to close us out today with an excerpt from Sarah Young’s new prayer devotional. Jesus Listens for Kids, August 4th:
You are my good Shepherd. I really want to keep my focus on You so that You’re in the center of my thoughts.
I can’t even count how many things I think about during my day. Family and friends, my animals, sports, homework, and classes—there are so many things on my mind! Help me not to let any of those things crowd You out. Because the more I think about You, the more You’re able to do in me and through me. Thinking about You makes me happy because I love You, Jesus.
Help me remember that You are with me every minute of every day, watching over me and loving me perfectly. You’re always thinking about me! And the Bible tells me that Your unfailing Love surrounds those who trust You. Please help me trust You more, Lord.
In Your always-loving Name, Jesus,
Narrator: To learn more about Tara, please visit www.taralcole.com, and be sure to check out her new book, Everyday Prayers for the School Year, at your favorite retailer.
If you’d like to hear more stories about simple joys, check out our interview with Dawn Barton.
Next Week: Kelly Earnhardt Miller
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Chief Executive Officer of JR Motorsports, which she co-owns with her brother, championship NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Kelley shares what it was like growing up in a famous racing family, and how she relies on a foundation of faith that keeps her honest and real in a fast-paced profession.
Kelley Earnhardt Miller: All of us have to be able to move forward in the world and have the job you have or have the family or whatever it is, because you have to have this trust in God, and you have to have this peace that He is leading what you’re doing. And so I have to be reminded that I’m not always the one in control.