Hot Chocolate Hospitality

One of my fondest memories growing up with my grandmother was her old-fashioned hospitality. In these days front doors were left wide open and pantries were kept stocked with sweet delectables waiting to be shared with company over a fresh pot of hot coffee. On Sundays my grandparents’ home in suburban New Jersey was often filled with friends and family. The aroma of garlic, basil, and tomato wafted throughout the home from the homemade gravy, as us Italian Americans call it, simmering on the stove. The sounds of music playing on the record player, children laughing, and conversations flowing are still fresh in my mind as if it was only yesterday. When dinner was ready, we would all make our way around the oversized dining room table I now have sitting in my home, longing to be filled once again. Hospitality looked so much different back then. It was simple and genuine. There was no Pinterest worthy centerpieces or table spreads. There was no pressure or expectations besides “Come as you are and come hungry, because you will be eating!” When unexpected visitors graced us with their presence on weekday mornings my sister and I would rush to the door excitedly as this usually meant donuts. My grandmother, often still in her housecoat, smiled and welcomed the guests. She was tired, sometimes she wanted to just relax and not entertain, but she never made it known. Her guests would not be made to feel like burdens. My sister and I saw this type of hospitality from our own mother when our friends would overstay their welcome hoping to be asked to stay for another delicious dinner. They always were asked and they always did stay to enjoy my mom’s cooking.

When did hospitality transform from an honor to a burden? Somewhere over the years we began to shut our doors subsequently shutting people out.

We began to demand to be notified prior to stopping by, treating surprise visits as inconsiderate. Overworked and often exhausted, we choose quiet alone time over spending time with the people we love. It has become a chore to visit others and even more daunting to do the entertaining. Sunday dinners with the family began to dwindle and we now schedule out dinner with friends months, sometimes close to a year, in advance. Half the time we cancel those plans with such ease, choosing to be comforted behind closed doors in solitude. The world told us that we did not need others and our culture pushed more “me time” and less community.

The truth is this: what is of the world is usually not God’s will.

We were not only made for fellowship and community, but we NEED human connection in order to grow. The seductive draw of solitude is nothing new for humans, in fact we are even warned about this struggle in the Bible.

1Peter 4:8-9 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

God’s two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. Hospitality is much more than entertaining and welcoming in guests or visitors, it is a genuine way to show love for others!  

I’m about to get very real with you all. B.C. (Before Christ) Christina made a lot of choices that I am not proud of. Driven by what the world told me I deserved, I shut out and pushed a lot of people away. Not only was I a serial canceler of plans, but I was not very kind to my mother in law in the beginning of my marriage. Another thing our culture has done a pretty good job of is shining a negative light on mother in laws. Hollywood almost always depicts them as pushy and intrusive. Magazine articles are shoved in our faces on how to shut them out. Get into a group of newly married women and almost always they are sharing war stories of their “monster in laws.” The lies of the world filled my head convincing me that my mother in law’s genuine love and old-fashioned hospitality, the very same hospitality I admired in my grandmother and mother, was her way of controlling and butting in. As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, and as a mother myself, I have a fresh outlook on my mother in laws motives. I see her hospitality as her love language towards her family and friends. I have different perspectives on moments I once considered inconveniences.

It was a gorgeous August afternoon the day before Ed and I married. In the middle of a heat wave the weather cooled off for a few days leaving us with a refreshing breeze. I already had plans to get my nails done with my bridesmaids, and American tradition.  My future mother in law, who was already very busy entertaining a house full of guests from Colombia to Canada, invited my mother, sister, and me over for an afternoon hot chocolate. Es chocolate caliente con queso, or hot chocolate with cheese, is a Colombian comfort staple. The sweet creamy chocolate finished with the salty, gooeyness at the bottom is truly something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Young and naïve (ok stupid) Christina met this invite with resistance, feeling as though my toes were being stepped on. We went, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I saw how very much blessed I was to be welcomed and invited for an afternoon with my very soon to be husband’s family from all over the world.

That very gesture of hospitality was one that should have been savored, much like the hot chocolate con queso, not resented. But that is the thing, isn’t it? We are so far removed from hospitality that we don’t even see the blessings wrapped up in those moments.

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Dinner dates are just something we check off on the to do list as we secretly wish we were home on the couch with watching Tiger King instead. I wish I could say that was the worst Christina B.C. has done, but sadly it is not. Years later as I sat at home holding our colicky newborn baby boy my mother in law stopped over to bring us food. An act of servitude was taken with such resentment because how dare someone come to our home without calling first! It felt intrusive because that is what the world told me to think. Now I am not saying there shouldn’t be healthy boundaries, but if someone is bringing you food so you don’t have to cook, dear mama take that moment and give thanks!

A little over six weeks ago my family moved. There was going to be a two-week period where we would be in-between homes and staying with my in laws. Then Covid 19 blew up and we ended up in quarantine longer than we expected. My sweet in-laws took the time to make sure every detail was ironed out to make our stay as comfortable as possible, even giving up a large portion of their home to us. They sacrificed comfort to be hospitable, something I did not deserve. Over the next few weeks we watched the news stories highlighting these unprecedented times. We no longer have the option of leaving out doors open for visitors. We are no longer able to hug our friends and laugh over lunch. There is no small talk at our kid’s school during pickup or in the homegood aisle at Target, all things we would try to avoid. People all around us are dying alone and it really made me think about how short life is. You never know when the last time you will see someone is. You also never know when your story can save the unsaved. Every moment of hospitality is also an opportunity to bear witness. When this is all said and done, we should not only be keeping our doors wide open, but inviting strangers and friends alike to sit around the table and break bread. Our kids deserve to hear the great stories of their grandparents’ pasts, to experience Sunday dinners, and to learn that loving on people can look as simple as spending some good old fashion quality time with them. My prayer for you is that our get togethers be as sweet and savory as a warm cup of es chocolate caliente con queso.

Busy Culture Meets Pandemic

by Christina Zambrano

We break our plans with such insouciance
Believing we have much more time
Treating invites and surprise guests as a nuisance
When did hospitality become such a crime?

Deep relationships we were made to hold
With whom to mourn with and to rejoice
Yet our time and friendship we withhold
The comfort of solitude becomes our choice

We pack our schedules to avoid the truth
Of the emptiness the busy culture brings
Each slot makes us feel valued and eludes
To the fact that in loneliness we are suffering

If we knew forced solitude would become reality
As we try to flatten out the virus curve
Would we have filled our time much differently?
Precious friendships we would conserve

I miss the mellifluous sound of laughter
Of friends and neighbors gathering around
Never again to be taken for granted after
We reopen from this world wide shutdown

Will our front doors now be open wide?
Will our embraces be more welcoming?
In busyness will we no longer find pride?
Finding peace in the relationships developing.

Life Begins With Cancellations.

In light of recent events regarding Covid-19, I wanted to take a moment to encourage you all. I know that at this moment encouragement may be hard to muster with life as we know it changing all around us, and fast. Schools are closing, entertainment and sporting events are cancelled, some church services are cancelled, and the grocery stores are completely wiped out. All you see on tv and social media are updates on the virus. These things trickle down and affect many people with kids, jobs, and even health and wellness.

Many people all over the world are scrambling to find some normalcy among the chaos, but what if our normalcy was never what was intended?

The modern world has many of us living stressed out and burnt out. We are slaves to money, sacrificing relationships and family time. We rely on convenience foods because our schedules are jam packed for ourselves and our kids. It’s not secret that screen time has gotten dangerous for everyone. Maybe it’s time to slow down and put our energy and time into other things.

Here are things that are NOT cancelled:

1.) Community-while it is important now to practice safe distancing this is also a time we can all come together as a community to help one another. Check on the sick and elderly in your town, help with groceries and shopping for those who can’t get out, and offer to help feed the neighborhood kids who relies on free school meals. We live so secluded, but God made us to have relationships.

2.) Home cooked meals. Take time to cook meals from scratch. Learn to make a new dish, or just take time to make an old favorite. Spend the day in the kitchen with your family and make some freezer meals.

3.) Music. Turn the tv off and listen to music. Introduce your kids to the classics, and even the embarrassing favorites of our time.

4.) Get outside! Go for a walk, the park, a bike ride. Make it a habit to let the sun and fresh air kiss your face every single day.

5.) Game night. Break out the board games-nothing causes more family disputes than a good old fashion game of monopoly. 🤣

6.) Read a book.

7.) Read The Word. Pray. Worship. Now more than ever we need Him. Cast all your anxieties onto Him.

*Most importantly stay safe and protect each other.

Dear Grieving Mother at Christmastime,


I see you. I hear your cries, as they were once my cries. Your pain was and still is my pain. Your precious baby or sweet child will not be forgotten, and will always be an important part of who you are. I will remember with you and walk this journey alongside of you.


Grief has often been described as an ocean. Author Vikki Harrison quotes,

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

The waters tend to be calm during quiet times as we navigate life after a loss. Just when you think you have a handle on grief an important date pops up, a song playing on the radio that brings up memories and bittersweet emotions, or the holidays sneak up and come crashing down around us knocking us off our feet. It is during those times that all we can do is swim and fight to stay afloat. 


The holiday season comes and everywhere you go you are told to be happy. “Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!”

Is it possible for grief and joy to coexist?

For many the holidays are the hardest to smile through. Whether your loss was during pregnancy or your child was well over 18 you are faced with reminders that someone very important from your life is now missing. Christmas carols on the radio are about children’s laughter in the air. The malls are filled with young children whose smiling faces are eager to meet Santa with their sweet demands. Cards fill your mailbox adorned with photographs of your loved one’s children. You are happy to receive these cards and love the families that are in your life immensely, but a part of you is missing your child’s smiling face, or wondering what your child’s smile would have looked like. The heart that once beat inside your own body is no longer. It’s a strange place to find yourself in, teetering on the thin tightrope of jealousy and pain. It is then more than ever that we need our church community to help us grieve while keeping us accountable.

Loss can give rise to anger, discontent, jealousy, and bitterness if we are not careful to keep our hearts aligned with God’s.


A few days ago, I was listening to Christmas music as I prepared my 10-year-old son’s breakfast when the song, “Mary Did You Know” came through the speakers, filling the room and touching my soul. For the first time in my life I stopped and listened to the words and began to fall apart. I began to think about Mary as a bereaved mother, not the typical way we are used to seeing this young woman during the present season. Though Mary was faithful she was human and therefore could not have known every bit of what the future held for her oldest son. Her son was God himself who came to Earth as a babe. He had to be held by a woman He himself had created. He had to be nursed and nurtured by those He nurtures. One verse in the song asks the young mother if she knew as she kissed her baby’s face that she was truly kissing the face of God? That made me think did she know that in some 30 years she would be grieving at His feet?  In Luke 2 while Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord they met a man named Simeon. Simeon was described as a righteous man. Led by the Holy Spirit he went to meet the couple and the young Messiah. He took Jesus in his arms and praised God.

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” ”Luke 2:34-35 NIV.

I wonder what Mary was thinking as this man spoke to her. Did she understand what he was telling her? If she knew what this meant would she have treated Jesus a little bit differently? Did she kiss His face more often? Did she hold him a little longer during the sleepless infant nights? Did she hug him a little tighter when he was a young boy with scraped knees? 


Burying a child is one of the hardest things a parent has to do in life and I can’t imagine that this was any different for Mary. “Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” John 19:25. Another version of this verse reads “25 By the torture stake of Jesus, however, there were standing his mother and his mother’s sister; Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.” Mary stayed close to her son and watched helplessly as He was tortured and killed. Memories surely flooded her mind as she grieved. Did Simeon’s words now hit home to her, as the sword of grief struck her heart? Is it possible to survive a wounded heart? The answer is yes, with community. After a loss we often find ourselves wanting to hide and suffer in solitude but we need others more than ever in our times of need. One of Jesus’s last words as he was dying on the cross was to make sure His mother was not alone, and more importantly that she was with fellow believers. Mary had other children but Jesus left her in the care of one of his disciples. His brothers at the time did not believe. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

John 19:26-27 NIV. Later in Acts we find Mary surrounded by many believers praying constantly. It is believed she was among those who got to see Jesus’ face again after the resurrection.

Can grief and joy coexist? Is there a secret for a Christian to have joy while suffering through the loss of a child? Can we be both joyful all the while grieving?  

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:6.

Peter explains what while we will suffer many different trials in life we can rejoice in our salvation. We have been saved and that is something to be joyful in even in the midst of grief. Grief is a normal emotional response to a loss and one that should not be rushed as there is no timeline to how one will cope. It is OK to feel the emotions, the sadness, the aguish all the while being joyful in Truth. Mary may have seen her precious boy’s face again on earth, something we will not get to do. We will see our child once more though, and there is hope in that!

A Nurse’s Hands

Not long ago I was out at the mall with my son when we passed by a mall kiosk. I was in kind of hurry so I looked down and tried not to make eye contact. It was clear out of my peripheral vision the woman was trying to get my attention. Before I knew it, she waved to my son. Shoot I’m done for now, I thought. I was right, my sweet boy will say hello and talk to just about anyone. He has been this way all of his life. At 3 years old he proudly yelled in Starbucks after a nice older man held open the trash can lid for him, “See mom! Stranger dangers are NICE!” True story and today was no different. The woman asked my son if he was enjoying his summer and I could see she was holding a bottle of luxury hand lotion. Once he was finished giving her a detailed account of his summer, she quickly made eye contact with me and asked if I was interested in trying the lotion, for free, of course. I felt obligated at this point seeing as her and my son were now besties, so I obliged.  

As she began to massage my hands with the thick cream that smelled of lemon and green tea from the $25 a bottle lotion she held, she made a face. “Your hands are very dry! What do you do for a living?” “I’m a nurse,” I answered. She nodded, “That explains it.”

Often unpolished, dry, and cracked from constant handwashing a nurse’s hands are vital to perform an array of tasks. It is a physical and very hands on trade.  A nurse’s hands hold steady as we inject a vaccine into a squirming toddler with gentleness and accuracy.  Hands that guide our stethoscopes over the hearts of babies and the elderly alike. With these hands we squeeze the bulb of a sphygmomanometer to get a precise blood pressure reading on a patient with a splitting headache.  Our hands pass out lifesaving medications, dress wounds, remove stitches, and apply oxygen masks. Our hands have seen more bodily fluid then one would like to admit. These hands have applied pressure to stop bleeds and held urgent lab reports. Hands that cramp up at the keyboard from the massive amount of documentation required and hands that administer chest compressions 2 inches deep during CPR, desperately trying to save a life.

Anyone who has been to a doctor’s office or hospital has witnessed a nurse performing one or all of these tasks, but our hands can tell you stories far more than what meets the eye.

These same hands that perform lifesaving tasks do much more than you will ever learn in nursing school. You see these hands have held a sick child rocking them to sleep when their parents couldn’t be with them. These hands have held the hands of the dying and embraced mourning family members. These hands have brushed the hair of those who could not do so themselves and patiently fed those who could no longer hold a fork. These hands have held story books and played peek a boo trying to make a child smile.

These hands have held the salty tears from our eyes after particularly hard shifts and have been clasped together tightly as we fall on our knees and cry out in prayer for our patients.

I don’t ever expect to be remembered by my patients but if I am, I hope it is for these things and not the skills that are required of me.

I left the mall that day with a bottle of expensive new hand lotion and a smile on my face. At least I know the next time I hold the hand of a patient I will have the softest hands they will have ever held, or at least that’s what the saleswoman told me.

I would love to hear from you! What are some things you hope to be remembered for by your patients?

Pursuing Friendship in the Wake of Rejection

“I gotta go straighten up, I’m having the girls over tonight,” she said as we got off the phone. I sat there with the phone pressed against my ear long after the call had ended. She was having her friends over and I wasn’t invited.

Throughout life, each one of us has experienced exclusion. From classmates chatting excitedly about this weekend’s sleepover to friends planning get-togethers without you to coworkers talking excitedly about last night’s dinner in the break room. This particular conversation on the phone, however, stung more than usual.

The woman on the other end of the call was my childhood best friend.

This day it became apparent that I was not one of “the girls.” As the night went on, her social media profile filled with pictures of the ladies on their fun night together. They were smiling, laughing, and enjoying wonderful fellowship. Each picture was followed with the hashtag #jesusgirls.

Oh, how I wanted so badly to be a part of the #jesusgirls that night. Rejection slithered in like a snake and began feeding me lies. Que the feelings of abandonment and the negative inner monologue that many of us have unfortunately had.

Rejection comes from the Latin word rēicere which literally means “to throw back.”

And that is exactly what it tempts us to do. We can be thrown back into the shadows of despair. We retreated. We stop attending social functions. We cancel plans. We put up walls out of fear of further rejection. That’s exactly what I did. I even convinced myself that I was comfortable in isolation and that I preferred to be home on the couch eating a Ben and Jerry’s and binge-watching Netflix. Fear of rejection kept me in a place of familiarity and isolation.

Retreating from relationships out of fear doesn’t actually help us in the long run though. Trying to do life alone is detrimental. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity and one who falls and has no one to help them up.” This verse emphasizes the benefits of companionship, friendship, and that sharing of life that brings relief from isolation.

It continues in verse 12 which says, “though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

The nerdy nurse inside of me couldn’t help but think of the human heart when reading that verse. The chordae tendineae, commonly known as the heart strings, are a group of elastic/collagen strands in the heart. To prevent the valves in our heart from blowing out under the extremely high blood pressure within the ventricles of the heart, these strands hold and support the valves to remain closed or open while the heart pumps vital blood to our body. Since the force of the blood is so strong one cord would not be sufficient enough to do this job, so there are multiple strings working together, supporting life. Isn’t God amazing?!

Just like the heart, we need people in our lives for support. We need them in the good times and in the bad times. We need them to keep us from blowing out under pressure, much like the strings in our hearts.

It didn’t take long for me to crumble under life’s pressures in my isolation.

I began longing for friendships once again. I cried out to my Father. I immersed myself in His truths and protected myself against the lies. In Christ, I found comfort and healing that I never could have found from another person. God used this season of loneliness to draw me closer in my relationship with Christ. And in that, I found freedom. Freedom from rejection and the chains that come with.

As I realigned my identity in Christ, I once again embraced His love for me. 

From a place of fullness in Christ, God gave me the courage to start branching out again. I started by simply keeping plans that were made with friends. I determined to make my yes a yes and my no a no. I accepted invites to things I normally would never have said yes to. I accepted coffee dates on my only day off of work while my house was a mess. I joined Bible studies as well as began leading one.

None of these things are easy for someone who has dealt with relational rejection. These simple things were difficult and awkward for me internally. I had to fight the lies that told me I was unloved and would never fit in. God has been faithful to me. Throughout this journey, I have met people that I never would have met and formed relationships that would have otherwise never happened if I didn’t say yes.

Once we step out of our comfort zone and pursue relationships from a place of love, things begin to change. 

As we navigate through life we form many different types of relationships. Some of these relationships are lifelong and some are for a season in our life. Each relationship formed in your life needed to happen in order for you to be who you are today. God is using the joys, sorrows, rejection, and acceptance to draw us closer to Him.

Looking back now, I’m grateful for my friend on the other line that day. I will park my mind in a place of sweet memories and gratitude of the journey God has used to grow me closer to Him and to others. I now know that I don’t have to be a #jesusgirl to accepted. I am already Jesus’s girl — and because of that, I will never be alone.

Please share your thoughts with me below!

  • How have you faced relationship rejection?
  • What do you think God wants to teach you in the midst of that rejection?

This post was featured on GirlDefined. See guest post here.