Oh friends, today’s author is not only one of my favorite humans on the Internet, but she writes about a subject we ALL need to lean into more. The truth is that even in this age of (supposed) connectivity, many of us feel lonely, isolated and discouraged …but that doesn’t mean we can’t be the first to extend the invitation. I’m so grateful Leslie Verner writes about this in her new book, Invited, because it’s something all of us need to acknowledge and put into practice. Enjoy this interview with her!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I grew up in Florida, but went to college outside of Chicago and moved into the city to teach middle school after college. After four years, I moved to China to teach English. I planned on living there forever and was just starting to feel fluent in Mandarin when I went back to the states for my brother’s wedding during my fifth year in China—and met my husband, Adam. We were married eleven months later and had three children in four years. About four years ago, the Chicago weather got the best of us and we moved to Fort Collins, Colorado.
Getting lost in new places is my favorite. Sunshine, lakes, wild flowers, and green hills feed my soul. I hate shopping, having too many options, and styling my hair. I will choose Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, or authentic Chinese food over burgers and fries any time. My perfect day is to have a deep conversation with a friend over good coffee, read a memoir or novel under a tree outside, wander the aisles of a used bookstore with my husband, then go for a short hike with my kids (they notice so much more than I do!).
I’m an Enneagram 3 wing 4 and get tripped up by wanting to be special (God likes to remind me that I am special—just like everyone else). I’m mostly an extrovert and get energized by people, but crash when I don’t have time alone built in to my day. My introverted husband helps me have boundaries. My journal has been my personal counselor over the years and my career as a writer grew out of daily times of solitude, then from writing monthly newsletters for my supporters while living in China. I was determined not to just write boring letters, but to help my reader see and experience China through my words. My blog is called “scraping raisins” because most of my writing ideas develop while I’m on runs alone. Like those last raisins we scrape from the bottom of the box, my ideas scrape free on runs.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Invited is about all the ways practicing and receiving hospitality reminds us we’re not alone in the world. We invite because we are invited by a generous, welcoming God. It’s also about how Western cultures can learn about invitation by paying attention to the ways non-Western cultures organically practice hospitality.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Moving from Chicago to Colorado and the loneliness we experienced those first three years inspired me to write Invited. I battled similar loneliness living in China, yet was constantly invited over to peoples’ homes, despite being a stranger. I started wondering what would happen to our loneliness and feelings of isolation if we in the West developed a culture of hospitality. I looked to my graduate classes in intercultural studies and experiences living and traveling in other cultures for ideas on how to develop community right here. I also wondered how Jesus, being from an Eastern culture, had an intrinsic understanding of hospitality those of us in the West miss out on as we read the Bible.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words, and also, how have you been changed by writing the book? As I wrote the book, I hoped readers would feel like they were companions on a journey with me. I am not a hospitality expert, though I’ve been the recipient of lavish hospitality and can speak to that. I wanted readers to experience a bit of non-Western hospitality through my stories of living abroad and to imagine what their lives would be like if they had the same culture of welcome.
Writing about community, friendship, and hospitality pushed me to expand my definition of those words and realize I was already practicing hospitality in so many ways. In the months I was writing the book, I meditated on passages of Scripture where God invited us—“Come all you who are weary…,” “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come,”…,” “Come to the waters, all you who are thirsty…,” as well as those where Jesus noticed invisible people in society the religious people often ignored. I began to see the entire Bible—and our lives here on earth–as an invitation into deeper relationship with God and others.
We oftentimes talk about “coloring outside the lines” on this blog: so, how do you hope your book will help readers color outside the lines? I don’t think people realize the power a single invitation has to make someone else feel seen and loved. Instead of waiting around for invitations, what would happen if we invited first? We don’t have to go very far to find another human being made in the image of God to love and welcome. I hope people will notice neighbors and other strangers and make an effort to love—and receive love from—them. Sometimes following God requires us to make awkward small talk, invite before we’re ready, and accept the discipline of discomfort. God is not safe, so sometimes loving God pushes us out of our safety zones.
How and where can we find you on the Internet? You can sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter at www.scrapingraisins.com where I send out book recommendations, as well as a curated list of thought-provoking articles from the web and my latest writing endeavors. I also spend way too much time making friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
So, what say you? Did the message behind Invited resonate deeply with you as well? Leave a message for Leslie, especially if you want to win a copy of her book, or head over to Instagram for more chances to win!
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