Did you know that fulfilling the great commission in the scriptures can be as simple as learning to practice hospitality in our homes? Sue Donaldson had wanted to be a missionary to the world, from her youth. In her adulthood she realized that the mission field starts right at her own address, at her own table. You will see the journey she takes, one step at a time, in obedience to her Lord, to love her neighbor. She now sees her home and table as her greatest way to show the world, the welcoming heart of God, one cup of coffee at a time. We are invited into her home and heart to see where the seed of her now blooming hospitable lifestyle began, and how even the most shy introverted busy person, can take steps toward hospitality.
“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:15
Baptist Church as a child
Guests almost weekly
Los Angeles Baptist College, now Masters University
Wanted to be a Pastor’s Wife
Crisis of faith
Sharing doubts with a friend, faith hanging by a star
Traveling to Seattle with a singing group
On mission trip in Guatemala, seeking God
Content to be single
Translating the Bible
Married at 35, after her husband proposed 3 times
Speaking at Bible Study and retreats
Mentored for 25 years
Developing a love for teaching
Called to hospitality
A lifestyle of inviting over the next person God brings into her life
THE P.S. Questions Answered:
Fun stories of hospitality that didn’t go so well
What if I am an introvert, how can I be hospitable?
What if I don’t cook?
Free resources from Sue: Free resources: https://welcomeheart.com/meg-glesener-letters-from-home/
Sue Donaldson’s Links:
“Oh Sue, everyone has doubts.” Mrs. Duncan
“If God is not big enough for your questions, then He isn’t a big enough God.” Mr. HIlls, Professor at Corban University
“Hospitality is for fellowship and community, but it is also to show off the welcoming heart of God.”
“Sharing the welcoming heart of God is a lifestyle of inviting the next person God brings into your life.”
“The great commission where it says we are to go into all the world, well we don’t really have to go very far. We just need to go across the street. And I find that can be more intimidating that going to the mission field.”
“It is not what I do that brings people to Jesus, it is who He is.”
“True hospitality is about the guest, not the host. Entertaining is about the host.”
“Hospitality is welcoming the world to your table and showing them the heart of God.”
Ep. 7 – “The Dream of My Life” Grace Nelson (89)
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Sue Donaldson: The great commission where it says we are to go onto all the world. Well, we don’t really have to go very far. We just have to go across the street. And I find that that could be more intimidating than going to the mission field. Christians don’t have a great reputation in American culture. So, we need to show them who Jesus really is. So, that really motivates me. If people don’t have that motivation, just ask the Lord for it. I remember early on in my twenties, I said to the Lord, I don’t know any non-Christians. I went, I taught at a Christian school. I was involved in my singles group. I was in the church choir. And if you find yourself in that situation, how can we be salt and light? And we are commanded to be, So, I asked the Lord right then to start giving me acquaintances who could become friends, who I could share the gospel with.
Narrator: And now for the next episode of Letters From Home; sending encouragement to your doorstep by capturing the heartbeat of God’s people, one story at a time.
Meg Glesener: When you think of hospitality, does it sound like an overwhelming burden or something that you just couldn’t do? Well, today’s guest is gonna help really break that down. Today’s guest has such a heart for hospitality, but she didn’t always. And you’ll get to hear how the Lord raised that up in her and helped her grow in a lifestyle of inviting the next person God brings into her life. She is living out the great commission to go into all the world by starting with the neighbor next door. Here is the everyday extraordinary, Sue Donaldson.
Sue, I am so happy to have you on the podcast today. We’ve been good friends for quite some time, and I love how God has used you to impact so many people in your neighborhood. And I have just so benefited from your wisdom and your humor, and I am so happy that you’re gonna share your story today on Letters From Home.
Sue Donaldson: Thank you so much, Meg. You’re so sweet to be my friend and really you mentor me even though I could be your mother. You mentor me in the ways of podcasting. I’ve been doing it almost three years now. I get such joy out of listening to people like yourself tell their stories. So, we both have kind of a storytelling podcasts. Yours is about faith, and mine’s about legacy and how they go together. It’s just so wonderful. So, thanks for having me on your show today.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely. I know you have a story. Can you bring us into your home? Growing up, what was it like to be Little Sue, or was it Susan?
Sue Donaldson: Oh no. Always Sue. My real name is Sue Ellen, which has a bad taste in your mouth if you’ve read Gone With the Wind or watched the old show, Dallas. But I didn’t know that at the time. But my mom stopped using the middle name in kindergarten and she told me later, I so regretted and stopped calling you, Sue Ellen. And I go, Oh, that’s okay. But no, my real name’s Sue. Sue Moore Donaldson. I go by my maiden name sometimes too, because I’m a late bloomer, but we can get to that. So, growing up, grew up in a nice community in Southern California, Palos Ver Estates and five kids. Four, four siblings. I was number four. My folks attended a small Baptist church, or we did in another town cuz there wasn’t really an evangelical church on the hill, as they call it, Peninsula at the time. And so, our church was our family, and my mom and dad were very hospitable. So, we had lots of new people in our home almost weekly.
Meg Glesener: What did you think about it? Were you like, Oh, now we’re meeting, meeting somebody new? Or were you like, Oh, good, now we get the good food, or what, you know, what was your experience?
Sue Donaldson: Well, The way my mom did it, she did it with her sister-in-law who was her best friend. And so, sometimes it would be every other week we would be at Aunt Joy’s for roast beef. And then the weeks in between would be at our house with two roast chickens on time bake. And my mom and dad both worked in the Sunday school department, so my dad would go early. He would say first bus leaves in 15 minutes. So, we would be early to church if we went with dad. We’d be late to church if we went with mom, cuz she became things ready for potential company. So, she would look around and see who was new at church and invite them over. Which is kind of funny cuz I did that last Sunday here at my church in San Luis Obispo.
Yeah. I’m like my mom that way. And how did I look at it? Well, I liked it when people came over cuz they did the dishes, and they help mom get dinner ready. And so, then we didn’t have to work so hard, so well, yeah, we’d set the table and things like that. So, yeah, I was used to having strangers, plus my folks were very missional minded, so missionaries who were visiting would also be in our home a lot too. So, that, that affected me for what I wanted to do with my life later on. And so, God used it in a great way.
Meg Glesener: When did you come to know the Lord?
Sue Donaldson: Well, I was baptized when I was six. We do water immersion in our church. So, I remember that. I don’t remember actually asking the Lord into my life though my aunt was my kindergarten Sunday school teacher, and she said I did it with her later on. My mom hosted good news clubs. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.
Meg Glesener: Totally.
Sue Donaldson: Child Evangelism Fellowship. And so, my mom would host and then the teachers would come in and teach. And I remember when I was eight in my living room, I made sure I was saved, you know, because they kind of, they wanna scare the hell out of you, which they need to do. So, I didn’t remember it and so I re saved myself, or asked God to make sure I was when I was eight so that I could remember the time.
Meg Glesener: Awesome. Sounds like you had a really amazing foundation for growing up, and was there a point where you owned your faith or that your faith was tested?
Sue Donaldson: Because I went to schools that were not where my church was, I didn’t have Christian friends at school. So, even though I’m a raging redheaded extrovert now, I was a redhead then, but I was, I had the typical insecurities in junior high and high school. And I didn’t talk about my faith at school. But I was very involved with our youth group, so it was like a dichotomy. It’s like two different lives. And then as I got, you know, more self-assured as we all do, hopefully by our senior year, I knew, I remember telling my mom, we were on a walk one night and I said, Mom, I don’t mind being a missionary. I’m just petrified of snakes. That’s what I told her. And it’s kind of funny, Meg, because later on different mission, mission fields, I did come across a few snakes in, but I lived to tell about it.
So, but I remember her, I think looking a little askance because you know, Mothers worry about their children. They support other people’s children, but when it comes to their own thinking that they’re gonna be, you know, halfway across the world, which I was at, at a couple different times… I’m sure. She worried about it. I went to a small Christian college. It was Los Angeles Baptist College now the Master’s University. And it was, I went there because I just wanted, I thought, well, maybe I make a great pastor’s wife, you know? And they didn’t have that major, They didn’t offer that as a major. I had a couple, I had a couple, you know, Preachers to be, who wanted to make me their wife, but I just wasn’t interested in them.
So, it’s like, oh, well that’s not, it’s not the major, but I, I really wanted to serve God with my whole life. And I thought, well, one way I could do it would be to be a missionary kid’s teacher and serve God full time that way. But before that, I had actually I had a crisis of faith. I woke up one day, I think my halfway through my sophomore year in college, and I woke up and I thought, I wonder if I have been duped. I wonder if there is a God. I wonder if I only believe this because I was raised this way. And it really rattled me emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, of course. And I didn’t, And it had nothing to do with the school. Had nothing to do with my environment. It was a crisis of faith. Just for me. And I remember finally sharing it with the girlfriend who I trusted, and then she started doubting.
So, then I thought, Oh, I can’t really share this with, you know, the school’s not that big. I don’t wanna mass exodus, because Sue Donaldson, or Sue Moore at the time decided she wasn’t sure what she believed. And God is so good. Of course, we know that. At the time I was singing in what they call the gospel team. And they would go, we would go to churches. We would go to camps. Basically, recruiting for the school.
And in the summer, I was in this gospel singing team and we were up in the mountains of Washington. Your fair state at a camp and during the day and at the meetings we were sing away, I would give testimony, but at night, all by myself. I’d go up on the hills a little bit behind the cabins and I would look at those stars cuz you know, in Washington you can see the stars Down in California, we don’t see the stars that much. Well, we see the Hollywood stars, but we don’t care about those so much. But here I am, I’m looking up at the stars and this is what I said. I said, Lord, I can’t not believe that you made the stars. I know you created the stars because they are so big. But about, That’s about how much I can believe. I’m hang, my faith is hanging really by a star. That’s what I talked to him out loud, and I felt like a little bit like I was going crazy. Well, God, in his great mercy and grace, the president’s wife was there, and one night I took a walk with Mrs. Duncan, and I didn’t know her very well, Megan. So, it’s like when you don’t know someone that well, it’s embarrassing to talk about what you’re going through, right?
And so you, but the good thing about taking a walk at night with someone that they can’t see your face. You can’t see theirs, and you’re, you know, you’re just trying to navigate the path with a flashlight. And I said to her, And you know how your voice gets all cloggy, cuz you’re about ready to say something very emotional and you’re embarrassed? You know, even today it’s like, Oh, I cried today in Women’s Bible study sharing a prayer request, and I thought, you don’t need to apologize, Sue, you’ve been crying for what, 70 years. But at that point I was a little more self-conscious. And so, I said, Mrs. Duncan, I have doubts. And then that’s all I could say. My throat was all clogged up. And I had no idea how she would respond if she would, you know, quote Bible verses at me or whatever. And you know what she said, Meg. She said, Oh, Sue, everyone has doubts. Just like that. I go, Really? Like they never talk about it in chapel. And I had never heard that. And later when I’ve shared that story with some friends, they’ve said, Well, you know, that didn’t happen to me. I have never had doubts. So, I know she wasn’t completely correct, but what she said released me to continue to question and seek God for answers.
Meg Glesener: Hmm. What was your biggest doubt at the time? Do you remember?
Sue Donaldson: That he didn’t actually exist. That he didn’t actually care about… I think it was the whole kit and caboodle. I could believe in a creator God without believing the gospel. Yeah, and I think a lot of people are there. You know, they believe that there must be a God, but they don’t, They don’t embrace the gospel, which is that we are sinners. That God has been, has been pursuing us since the fall, and that we can reconnect through our redeemer, Jesus Christ. So, I think I just felt disconnected with what I had been raised with. And so, in the fall, in the fall in chapel, I think it was probably the President speaking in Romans and he says, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And, and that to me was a formula. And I know Meg, God doesn’t always work in formulas, and I’m not a math person, so formulas don’t work for me in hardly any regard, but I thought, Okay, Lord, you say faith comes by hearing the word of God. So, I started reading my good old New King James Bible all like at least an hour a day, because I wanted faith so badly. And I think sometimes God just wants to see how much we want him.
Meg Glesener: Yes.
Sue Donaldson: And I really wanted him. And then I spoke to another professor, and this is really such a help. I said to him, I, same thing, I didn’t wanna cry. I said, Mr. Hills, I have doubts. And that’s all I could squeak out. And he said Sue, if, if God is not big enough for your questions, then he’s not a big enough God, is he? Just like that.
And that is so profound. And you know what? We’re friends now. He, he follows my blogging, my writing. I got to speak. He, he teaches up at Corbin University and I got to speak in chapel and tell this whole story because I wanted students to know you can ask God questions and that he is big enough for our questions. And what a blessing that was. So, over a period, about six months, my faith returned. But Meg, it became my faith. It wasn’t just because I was raised that way, or I had great parents or a good church or a great youth group. It was because God granted me in his great mercy of faith in him. And so, I wanted to say that we can ask any question of God. But he doesn’t always answer us. I wanted to add that because there might be someone listening today and said, Well, I’ve asked him this and I don’t get this. And sometimes we just, that’s why it’s called Faith, you know? And we don’t get every question answered, especially in our own time. You know, Bob Goff wrote the other day that, you know, we put things in the microwave and God keeps taking them outta the microwave and puts them in the crock pot. And we don’t like that.
Meg Glesener: That’s good.
Sue Donaldson: Cause we want things on our, on our own schedule.
Meg Glesener: Was marriage one of those things for you?
Sue Donaldson: Totally. Oh yeah. I remember on a, on a summer missions’ trip in Guatemala, I remember sort of having it out with God and telling him, you know, my own, my own dad would want me to get married, so I’m sure that you will, because you’re my heavenly father. And then as kept talking and arguing really with God, I had to just completely surrender. So, just like everybody has something to surrender, and that’s what I surrendered. I surrendered my desire to be married, and I told him if I could glorify him more by being single, I would be single. And it wasn’t like there were a lot of, any dating apps at the time. So, I didn’t have a lot to choose from, but you just keep serving the Lord where he places you. So, I was a high school teacher. I went with Wycliffe Bible translators. I joined part-time and then I joined full-time, and I went to Papa New Guinea. And I thought, well, I guess I’m just gonna remain single and when I was about 30, I met my husband, but I didn’t really like him that much, so I said no the first time he proposed. And then three years later you proposed again, and I said yes. So, I was 35 and he was 32. And we’ve been married over 34 years.
Meg Glesener: Praise the Lord. How long did it take you to get to that place of surrender? I think that’s really a hard thing for a single person to, to get to the place to say, Lord, I’m content single, and I know I’m just as valuable single. And it’s not better to be married and I can’t serve him. You know, I, he, I’m just as loved and accepted and can be fulfilled single, right?
Sue Donaldson: Yes. But I wouldn’t say I was content. I would say I was happy because God gave me so many opportunities to be with people who are great, and to serve him in small ways and some big ways. But I would say about once a month I wasn’t content. And then I would go back through this whole surrender thing, which to me is just a great exercise of faith.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely.
Sue Donaldson: Because once you’re married, you need to depend on God just as much as when you’re single. And so that was really a great exercise for me. And I met people who were said, Well, Jesus is my husband, that’s all I want. And I go, Well, that’s not me, Lord. Just so you know. That, that I’m not like that girl. And when I finally got engaged, I had people saying, What is God doing? Sue was doing such a great job as a single person, whereas I didn’t have that viewpoint of myself. And I thought, Well, finally, when I was considering Mark’s second proposal, I thought, this is what came outta my mouth, Meg. It’s kind of hilarious. I was driving on the 210 that’s in Southern California and there’s not very much traffic, and I just sort of pounded the steering wheel, talking out loud to God. And I said, Okay, Lord, if I can glorify you more by being married, all right. And when I heard myself say that, I thought, That’s not me. that’s the Holy Spirit.
Meg Glesener: What was about him that you didn’t like? And then what switched? Cuz I know it wasn’t just, Okay, I’m gonna muscle through this God, if you want me to, to, but I’m sure there’s a change of heart. You’ve been married 34 plus years.
Sue Donaldson: Oh yeah. And, and marriage is basically a commitment, you know, that. So, the first time I just, I was dating his roommate, so there was a lot, oh, there was a lot of interference. Yeah. And they’re both named Mark. So, there was Mark one and Mark two. And Mark two was the one who proposed. And I just, I wasn’t in love with them. There was nothing wrong with him. I just wasn’t in love with him. And then the other one fizzled out as well, and. So when he came back, he, the good thing was he was not pushy. The first time I felt he was pushy and I don’t like being pushed around. And, and the second time he, he, like, he called me out of the blue, like three years of not hearing from him is not pushing anymore. Right. And then he called me outta the blue and we had such great discussions about scripture and about what God was doing and he laughed at all my jokes. And then I found out much later in marriage, like I think the main reason he married me is cuz I’m funny. And so, when I’m grumpy, I’m not really fulfilling what he married. And I can be grumpy. So, God used it. Let me tell you why, cuz this is such a sweet story. One night, the second time we were dating, he just looked at me and he said, I will never love you any more than I do right now based on anything you do or say. Which to me is the way Jesus loves the church. Amen. You know, he says, I love you as is. You know, like you buy something at TJ Max and it’s missing a button. I said, this is the price as is. Right as is. And so, I go ahead and buy it. Cause I thought I can, I can fix this button, right? And Jesus looks at the church and goes, Look, I love you as is.
And that’s why I married Mark Donaldson because to me he was a picture of Christ loving me as is. Now of course, the difference is, is once he got married to me, he realized, what a big as is he had gotten himself into and vice versa. But that’s where you clinging to God and say, You know what? This is such a gift. When I was single I thought, you know, I don’t mind today cuz today is a pretty good day, but I don’t look forward to being alone in my later years. And so, I’m just so thankful right now cause I’m in my later years and I’m not alone. And yes, he snores and he is not perfect. And I do terrible things too. But we are not alone. And we’re with each other raising these beautiful daughters.
Meg Glesener: Praise the Lord. How did things change when your family started growing? You have three daughters. How did your ministry and heart change as you, you started opening your home?
Sue Donaldson: Well, those are two big questions. I’ll just answer the first one briefly. Your life changes together when you have children, you know that, and so you’re kind of immersed in all their daily needs. And I found it part, part of it, I found a little boring because I was used to, you know, working and doing ministry. And when you have kids, they need to be right there in your face and it, it’s such a joy, but it’s also a little tiring. So, that’s when I really noticed the factor that women need each other. And so, I invited people over with the, with small kids as well. You know, I speak on hospitality and one time I was speaking to this MOPS group and this gal, and I like to do Q&A, and this gal raised her hand, said, I have four kids, so do I wait until they’re all in college before I have people over? I said, Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is when you need it the most. You invite those other moms over, you know? And, and just start a ministry in your home. And so, it kind of meshed together that way. Plus, the lady who directed our women’s ministry, June Marshall, she took a chance on me and asked me after I’d had one child, if I would consider teaching women’s Bible study. And I was a teacher by profession, but I had never taught Bible study. So, I studied hard and I, I’m more of a topical Bible study teacher, but I taught the book of Colossians. And I taught the book of Ephesians in between having babies.
So, that was a great gift to me. Because you know, you know when you teach the word, that’s when the word goes through you first. And so, I got to do that, that in between children. And we had a great mom’s mystery at Grace, and I would teach those women then. And then I started teaching for women’s retreats way back, I would say 26 years ago before my youngest was born.
Meg Glesener: That’s amazing. Were you scared when you first started speaking or were you so excited about the word? Like what was, what were you thinking?
Sue Donaldson: I was terrified. Which is good. It’s good. You’re, you’re teaching the word of God. It’s not Shakespeare. Who cares about Shakespeare? I mean, I did. I taught English, but I didn’t care about it very much. It won’t change your, change your life but God’s word is something to be handled with reverence and, and accuracy. So, God brought me this wonderful woman, and I called her, and I said, Lori, I don’t know what this scripture means. Can you help me? And she came over with all bunch of books and concurrences back in the day when we used books instead of Google. And I said, You know, we would be a great team. And this woman has mentored me the last 25 years.
Meg Glesener: Praise the Lord.
Sue Donaldson: And the first time I got asked to do a women’s retreat, I knew I was prepared, but I was still terrified with the gravity of the position. And I got a call the night before the retreat, and we had torrential rains. Now I know you have rain in Washington. We don’t have rain in California much. But we had had so much rain that the road to the retreat center had been washed out. And so, they had canceled the retreat for the next day, and I thought, Thank you, Lord. You even the wind and the rain, you know, it’s like that scripture… Jesus is in charge of the wind and the rain and I don’t have to teach tomorrow night, and throughout the whole weekend. But of course, they reupped it for two weeks, hence. But I wasn’t nervous then. So, the more you do something, this is a little teaching point here; the more when God calls you to something, it’s great. If you don’t feel ready, you still ready yourself as much as possible. But it’s God who does the work. And then the more you do it, the more you practice, the less. Now it’s like terrifying. If they don’t ask me. I really love to teach.
Meg Glesener: Oh, that’s such a blessing. And I know a big part of your ministry, Sue, in addition to teaching, is you have such a heart for hospitality and opening your home. And I think back of how your mom had that growing up. You were kind of, you know, raised, raised with that. And how did the ministry for helping, helping women be hospitable? Where did that come from?
Sue Donaldson: It’s really a great story. When I first met this same woman who was director of Women’s ministry, she’s now in glory, she said to me, So what is gonna be your main ministry after you get married? We were engaged at the time. I said to her, I don’t know, You know, this was new grounds to be a wife was a new ground for me to cover. She said, Well, I think it might be hospitality. And in my mind, Meg, and I told her this later, I thought, Well, that’s no big deal. You know why I said that is because I was raised with it and so I knew how to do it very well. I was at ease having people over and I didn’t think it was very important. And like I alluded to earlier, once I had children and I realized how lonely women are, I mean, I’d read an article by Dr. Dobson where he said Women with small children Feel like they’re living on a deserted island. It’s just them and their little baby, and they feel alone. And I say that I speak on, well, I’m speaking on the friendship connection next week to a group of moms, and I say that same quote because I know they identify with it, and that’s why they’re in the mom’s group because they need fellowship with one another. So, hospitality. Is for fellowship and for community, but it’s also to show off the welcoming heart of God.
And so, my website is Welcome Heart. It’s not Sue Donaldson. It’s Welcome Heart because it’s about God’s welcome heart. And every believer has an opportunity really, and an obligation to display what his welcome is like. That we are all included and that we throw out, we cast out, cast out the nets, and then God brings in the fish.
Meg Glesener: Amen. What would you say to, maybe there’s some young moms out there who are like, Oh, I don’t know how I can think about doing another ministry right now. I’m, I’m on that island, Sue.
Sue Donaldson: Well, I don’t call it a ministry cuz if it’s a ministry, then you feel, I don’t know, you could feel really intimidated. Hmm. I just call it a lifestyle. Inviting the next person that God brings into your life. That’s all it is. You invite the next person that God brings into your life, whether it be a server at a restaurant this week. I’ve, I’ve done that where I worked. I used to work in retail, and I would get to know certain customers. I have one I call my favorite atheist. She comes over every time I have a dessert night because she loves me. You know, we wanna be attractors to the gospel, not detractors. And one way, you don’t have to go to seminary, Meg. You don’t have to be a podcaster. You don’t have to teach women’s Bible study or be a missionary to do hospitality. You just invite. And so you ask for tips.
First of all, you just ask the Lord for courage, but then you also realize that he gets there before you. That even if your house isn’t ready, you feel like… it doesn’t really matter. People don’t come to see your house. They come because they’re lonely and they need the invitation more than you do. And when you’re feeling down and out, you don’t really feel like reaching out. Or if you’re an introvert and you’re too shy and you think someone’s gonna say no, but you just ask God to give you the courage and you invite one person. You don’t have to invite… I mean, I invite a hundred people at a time sometimes, and it really overwhelms my husband because he’s such a strong introvert, but he is really good one on one. So, you know, I just assign him a few tasks to do, you know, get the extra chairs out, light the fire, talk to so and so, and then go to bed at 8:30. No one will know when you’re gone., but he’s really right when you invite just one family, or one person, you really can get to know the person. Let me tell you a story that happened two Sundays ago. We’ve just gotten back in church in person and our, our pastor always gives us a chance to say hello to someone in church, which is great. And so, I’m talking to two college kids behind me and I got the girls phone number. And then this last Sunday, so, four days ago, there was this young man sitting by himself at the end of the pew. So, I went over to him, and I said, Introduce myself. I said, Are you a Cal Poly student? We have a university here in town. And he goes, Yeah, I’m a transfer student. I go, Oh. So, then I knew right away, well, he’s a junior. I go, Where are you from? The Bay Area, San Francisco. And I said, Would you like to come to our college ministry? We have a great pastor. In fact, right now. So, I, I, you know, we have a big church. So, I walked him down to the front and I introduced him to our pastor. And then I got his number. And then both Alex and Grace, the girl from the week before, came for dinner on Tuesday night. But the fun thing about it was, is that the Saturday before I had two neighbor families for dinner. And I don’t have that many families over because my husband has a really hard job and he, he doesn’t want a lot of company and I, I wanna honor that.
And so, but I told him, I said, You know, Katie next door is having major surgery on Monday up at Stanford. We need to have these two families over. So, I made huge copious amounts of food. So, I knew when I invited these two college students over, I had some really good leftovers. See? So, I only had to cook once. That’s how you do it.
Meg Glesener: That’s awesome. I know for us, when our kids were a little, one of the things that would, we’d have like family meetings and, you know, when the kids start going to school and, you know, how can we be a blessing? Is there, is there anyone on your heart who you might want to have over? And it can be as simple as, you know, the kids wanna have a, a play date or have someone come over, and just being a little more purposeful about it. So, I love how you’re thinking about that almost wherever you go at church, or in the neighborhood or at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, you know, we’re all, you know, like wired in different ways. So, you know, we can, we can have that same heart of hospitality in, you know, the way that God has made us, right? Whether we’re introvert or extrovert, there’s, there’s room for all of us to be hospitable.
Sue Donaldson: Absolutely. And you do it your own way. You don’t do it my way. I don’t do it like my mother. My mother would do it every Sunday. When I had small kids, I don’t know how she did it, but when I had small kids, Sunday noon was kind of crazy. So, we didn’t really carry on my mother’s way. But we do it our own way. But there’s no excuse never to do it. Really. and I talk about these 17 reasons why we don’t, and one reason to do it anyway and ooh and God gives us the strength to do. Because people are lonely. And I go to this one gym class, it’s a women’s gym, and, and so I asked the scale to come over for dessert and so she did, and she was an introvert. But she really, I do conversation starters make and it’s so much fun. And so, we had about 12 women last two weeks ago in my backyard. And the next Sunday she was standing in front of me at church. I go, Angela, I didn’t even know you went to my church. She goes, Well, I do sometimes. So, I thought, Okay, the way the Lord worked all that out is just so exciting. And when I started at the gym she goes, Thanks so much for including me. Cuz her father had just passed away and she was lonely in that grief.
Meg Glesener: Would you say, what would you say drives you to reach out? Because I think some people, they’re so busy, like, oh, just trying to, you know, have the kids not hurt each other and just trying to get through feeding people and trying to not trip on all the toys on the floor or whatever, or whatever stage they’re in. Just trying to get through. What is it that drives you to reach out?
Sue Donaldson: Two things, I would say the Great Commission where it says we are to go into all the world. Well, we don’t really have to go very far. We just have to go across the street, and I find that that could be more intimidating than going to the mission field. Christians don’t have a great reputation in the American culture. So, we need to show them who Jesus really is. So, that really motivates me. If people don’t have that motivation, just ask the Lord for it. I remember early on in my twenties, I said to the Lord, I don’t know any non-Christian. You know, I went, I taught at a Christian school. I was involved in my singles group. I was in the church choir. I didn’t know any non-Christians. And if you find yourself in that situation, how can we be salt and light? How can we be salt and light? And we are commanded to be? So, I asked the Lord right then to start giving me acquaintances, acquaintances who could become friends, who I could share the gospel with.
And then the other thing that drives me is the loneliness. People are so isolated. And they need we need one another. That’s it.
Meg Glesener: All the more. Right. Since, since during and through, through and since the pandemic. Right?
Sue Donaldson: Totally. Yeah.
Meg Glesener: Can you bring us up to speed in what you’re up to today?
Sue Donaldson: Hmm. I’ve been podcasting on living a legacy life. What I like to talk about is that we, what we’re doing today makes a difference. I’m writing a book. I’m writing another book. I think I have one more book in me, but as an extrovert, it’s hard for me to sit down at the computer. So, I’m working on self-control, and I’m speaking at different places, and that’s a blast. I spend a lot of time on the phone with my kids. They’re all girls, so we talk a lot. That’s fun. And then my husband and I like to travel together too, so that’s a, that’s a huge blessing. So, that’s what I’m working on. And my husband did a remodel. He started about 15 years ago, and we’re not quite finished. So I just sort of live in the mess.
Meg Glesener: Yes, that’s, the much of life is that living in the mess. Is there a verse that you would say or verses that shapes who you are in your ministry?
Sue Donaldson: There’s one in second Corinthians five where it says, Since Christ died for us, we who live that’s us could no longer, should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died and rose again on our behalf. And the Lord gave me that verse when I was 15, and it’s always remained kind of like my load stone where I say, Hey, he died, therefore, I live. Therefore, I live for him who died, which means dying to myself, when need be, which is on a daily basis. So, and then there’s a verse in Colossians where Paul of all people asks his friends to pray that he’ll have boldness. And I thought, wow, if he has to pray for boldness, I really have to pray for boldness cuz I sound like a bold person, but you can talk about everything that doesn’t matter for a long time until God gives you the opening. Say, you know, God really loves you.
Meg Glesener: Before we seal up the envelope on this letter of encouragement, we have prepared little treat for you that we like to call the PS, so you can see more of the heart and personality of our guests.
Narrator: Here is your P.S.
Meg Glesener: Are you ready for some bonus questions? I know you have such a heart for hospitality. I would love to hear about a situation that didn’t go so well. Well, that was more of a learning experience for you.
Sue Donaldson: Ah, that’s a great question. I, each time, Meg, I have to present my hospitality to the Lord because you just never know what people are gonna say, and you want God to be glorified. And I think a time where it was a failure, we invited this older couple over for Christmas dinner who didn’t have family in the area. And all three of my kids were such brats at the time, and they, they were upstairs after dinner just yelling at each other. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I am the worst mother in the world and I’m so embarrassed. But this couple were so sweet cuz you know they’re older and they understand children, and they brought them each a gift card for Christmas. It was so nice. So, yeah, I struggl another time this chicken dish called for wine, and I didn’t have white wine, so I just put red wine on it. So, it was purple chicken. I mean, no, I have lots of failures, but through the failure you realize that, hey, I’m a human. And it’s not what I do that brings people to Jesus. It’s who Jesus is. So, it’s, it’s humiliating at times. But when I’m humiliated, that means I need humbling, right? So, I don’t go out of my way to make mistakes, But mistakes happen.
Meg Glesener: What would you say to somebody who maybe they just, they don’t cook. And I think a lot of women nowadays too, a lot of millennials, they just, they don’t cook. So…
Sue Donaldson: i, no, my kids don’t cook. They date people who cook. I told them to marry firemen cuz I think firemen know how to cook. But so far that hasn’t happened.
Meg Glesener: So, maybe that’s like a fear for like having someone over, like, I can’t cook. I don’t know what to do.
Sue Donaldson: It’s totally a fear to a lot of people because they just don’t like cooking. Some people know how they don’t like. I give away copies of free recipes just that are tried and true. You have Google at your disposal. My mother didn’t, so she just made the same thing every Sunday. So, practicing hospitality, like anything else, when you practice, you feel more confident and at ease. Yeah. And you know, Meg, true hospitality is about the guest. It’s not about the host. Yes. Entertaining is about the host. And so, if I’m all worried cuz I’ve decided to do a meal that I’m not confident in, then I’m thinking about myself. I’m not thinking about the person. A friend of mine who’s really such a great hostess, she said, Sue, get good at really one thing. Like she’s really good at homemade biscuits. So, homemade biscuits can save any meal if everything else is dried out or burned. If you have homemade biscuits or even Pillsbury biscuits, you know, pound the can on the counter and add some yummy jam, and you hog heaven, right there. And so, I would say it’s like practice. My husband’s a doctor, so he practices medicine, but you know, if he practices and mess up, you know, people could die. But normally people don’t die at my table with my cooking. But the idea is if I’m a really good cook and all I think about is how good I am, I’m not focusing on the guest. I’m relying on myself. So, another a tip for young families or if you’re not used to doing hospitality, is to ask the Lord to give you a partner to do it with. So, a girlfriend who also wants to learn about doing this, the biscuit or maybe someone, Yeah, just get through. Do it. Do it with a friend.
Meg Glesener: Yeah. I know that’s so good. Or Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Instacart. I know my daughter uses that all the time. Mm-hmm. , I mean, we can buy muffins at the store and put ’em on a, a little plate or, you know, become really good friends with somebody who makes a great biscuit or, and then she can bring the food and you’re like, I’ll host. You bring the biscuits, right? Mm-hmm. and start…
Sue Donaldson: I’ll tell you something, a funny story; I met this new gal in my Bible study a few years ago, and she has five kids, and I just really liked her and I said, Hey, come on over for coffee. We were still talking like two hours later when my husband walked in from work and she said, Oh, Sue, I, I feel comfortable having my kids’ friends over, like, you know, we buy pizzas. To me, that’s too expensive. I, I wouldn’t do that, but that’s how she does her hospitality, but she says, I’m really too afraid to do it like you do. And I said, Here, here’s my book. I gave her a copy of my book. I said in the back there’s a recipe called Katie’s Chicken Supreme. Now this is a gal who lives in our town named Katie, who owns restaurants, and Inn’s and, and furniture stores… I mean, she’s very, very talented, but she makes the same chicken dish whenever she has company. And so, I asked her for that recipe. It’s in the back of the book. I think you used like Can mushroom soup or something like that, Can cream mushroom soup. And so, I said to my friend, Lori, here’s my book. And in the back is Katie chicken Supreme. And if you would ask Mark and I for dinner next weekend, I will make Katie’s Chicken Supreme. And she laughed and a few minutes later after she got home, she texted me, she goes, Would you and Mark come for dinner next Saturday? And I will make Katie’s chicken? And she did. And we had a great time. So, really, it’s just a matter of choosing one thing you’re good at, and then just practice it on different people.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely. And I know I’ve done that where you, you have like the fundraisers at school, and they have the tub of cookie dough. Or even if just taking like little or making some frozen cookies. You know, I, we did that before where I made five different kinds of cookies in the little balls. And that way if guests were gonna come over, I could just do something really quick. The only problem is with eight kids, you know, they would eat the cookie dough balls. I’m like, I’m never buying cookie dough again From the fundraiser. Yeah, yeah. But yeah. Sometimes when you have a minute you can like do a little freezer prep, right?
Sue Donaldson: Oh yeah. My favorite thing is not to do it in balls. I’m too much in a hurry all the time. But I over, I have this couple recipes where I do it like one time and a half cuz my mixer isn’t that big, and then I roll, I throw, I slab, throw slabs on wax paper, or saran, and I roll them in like long logs. I call them cookie logs. Yeah. And I only make one pan of cookies at that time, and the rest are in logs. And then I can pull out a log when someone comes over and it defrost quickly on the counter. Or you putting microwave and then you, by the time the evidence heated, They’re ready to go. And then they go, Wow, we get home, cook cooking. And that’s good to do it for your own children. So, when they come home from school, they smell it. Mm-hmm. cooking in the oven and they think, Wow. Mom is the best in the world.
Meg Glesener: Yes. Yes. So, I like, Romans 12 talks about practicing hospitality. If you would put hospitality like, how would you like define it? At its core?
Sue Donaldson: Hospitality is welcoming the world to your table and showing them the love of God. That’s what the hospitality is to me. And the world is the person next door or at church. Look, I wanna challenge you listeners. If you see someone, I’d really like to say this to my church. I said it to my pastor in a text, actually, but I said, if you would look down the pew this Sunday, and if there is someone you don’t know, you may know their name, but you don’t know them because they haven’t been in your house, would you take the courage? Ask God for the courage, they say, I would love to get better acquainted. Are you free this next week? And put a date on the calendar.
Meg Glesener: That’s great. That’s really good. And I, I think one thing I’ve learned, like I’ve learned so much from you, Sue, and I know when I had young kids, there was this little old lady across the street, and she had these Canasta nights and she would invite me and I’d be the only one with all these older ladies. And I love just watching her. Like she put, I still do that today, but like she had, you know, like little salts and peppers at each table and little plates. And I think just the image of a woman reaching out and loving, and inviting someone in, it puts a picture. And I know there’s like a lot of life groups and community groups at church and that’s another place to sign up. Sign up. Go into other somebody else’s home and see kind of what they do. And then you, you kind of have some idea of what’s on your heart. And just like Sue saying it can be so simple. Is there someone you think in the scriptures that, you know, like, just kind of shows hospitality with their life?
Sue Donaldson: Jesus. I, I talk about how he did hospitality on the beach, which is what we think of in California. Having a cookout on the beach. He invited his followers to come and have breakfast at the very end of the book of John, I believe. And he said, Come and have breakfast. The cool thing is, is that he already had fish and bread, but he told them to bring their fish. And so, I call it the first Baptist potluck cuz it’s like he had food, he didn’t really need our food, but he invites us to participate. And so, we bring what we have. And what’s in your hand might be Pillsbury rolls, or it might be a six pack of Dr. Pepper. Whatever is in your hand he asks us to bring. But he has the real food. And at that breakfast on the beach, He had the most challenging conversation with Peter. Do you remember that?
Meg Glesener: Yes.
Sue Donaldson: He said to Peter do you love me three times? Now, why did he have to ask him three times? Well, all I can think of is what Peter was carrying around a shame of denying Christ three times, Jesus had forgiven him, but he hadn’t forgiven himself. And I think Peter’s saying out loud, Yes, Lord, you know I love you. Three times helped him take on the forgiveness that God offered. And what they had to eat at that breakfast was secondary, maybe tertiary to the importance and the purpose of that breakfast. What, what Jesus used with fish and bread on the beach, maybe sand in their teeth, who knows? He used that to change a man’s life. And if we can look at our hospitality as, Wow, Lord, could someone’s life be changed by my simple hospitality? I am all in.
Meg Glesener: Amen. Oh, you said that so well. I know for you it started off small and now you do big things. You know. How, how, What are some of the things that you do to reach out today? Like, you know, you talked about having a table like in your backyard or barbecue kind of things. Mm-hmm. , Can you talk about some of those kind of events that you like to do?
Sue Donaldson: Well, I think some people are into big events and some are into small, so I don’t want to say one is better than the other. My husband will say, like I mentioned, he only wants one family at a time. And I complain and say, Look, I do just as much work for four families. I’d rather have them get them all over with, you. So, I, I go back and forth at Christmas, I do Christmas eve soup and bread potluck, and we’ve had up to 50 people on Christmas Eve because people who don’t have family or they’re estranged from their family or they live town or they live out of state, they need a place to go on Christmas Eve after the Christmas Eve service. So, that has been really great for my kids because my husband’s a physician. We couldn’t leave on Christmas and so we would be sad without a big group, right? So, I did it as a self-serving thing, a little bit , and now people come automatically and they can be invited from the service, because I already have three soups going in of Crockpots and other people I know are bringing them. So, that’s a big one. Right now I do neighbor, not just neighbor, but I do desserts in the backyard, especially during covid. Because we couldn’t be inside. So, I’ll have between eight and 12 women come and we do conversation starters, and it’s not about faith, it’s just about getting acquainted. But from that, people have come to know the Lord because they wanna know more about it.
Meg Glesener: That’s amazing. Can you share maybe somebody who did get to lead to Christ?
Sue Donaldson: Yeah. My next door neighbor. When she answered the questions that I posed, I think I was asking you in your conversation, start. Yeah, I always ask a surface question, then I ask a little deeper question because it gets people more comfortable, cuz they don’t know each other. And so, like last week I asked what’s the best thing that’s happened in the last six months? And then the second question was, what legacy did you receive from your mother, even if you I had a difficult time with your mother? Can you think of one good thing you got from her? Because I was speaking the next morning on a mother’s legacy, so I told him, Hey, I’m doing research. And so, the, that was great. But this other gal, she, she couldn’t come that night, but she came about a year and a half ago and she shared how she didn’t think she had much purpose anymore because her kids were growing up. And she texted me later and said, I’ve always known God existed, but I need more of God in my life right now. I need to know how to connect with God. Well, there’s an opening for you, Meg. So, you know, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a coach, but I can, I can lead you to scripture. And so, I said, Well, let’s have coffee. And it took about two weeks, even though she lives next door for us to get our schedules together. And about the third time we met, she prayed to receive Christ. And we do a Bible study about together, just us on the porch about twice a month.
Meg Glesener: That’s amazing. That’s so encouraging.
Sue Donaldson: It’s amazing. Yeah. It’s like, you know, and then the one on the other side too, you know, she comes to all my dessert nights and we’re praying her through a big medical situation. So, it’s like, Sue, you don’t have to go to Brazil. Oh, I wanted to tell you this when I got married, Meg, I had a good friend who said, Sue, I, I’m so sorry that you got married because you always wanted to be a missionary. And I said, Oh, come on. I said, California needs missionaries. It’s not where you go, it’s who you, It’s who you live for.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely.
Sue Donaldson: And you know, this town is a very wealthy town, an educated town, and so they don’t need God. You know, they think they don’t need God. So, you have to get to know them through hospitality, so you find out what their needs are and then they’ll turn to you when, when something tragic happens. Let me tell you, that’s what happened.
Meg Glesener: Hmm. That’s really good and I know you have conversation starters and, and meal ideas and stuff like that on your website, and you have like this amazing Facebook group for people just to participate in. And I know you have a great podcast. Welcome Heart. Living A Legacy Life. I Got to Be On. It’s a great podcast that inspires like about what we want to leave behind. So, yeah, if you wanna join her Facebook group, it’s called Welcome Heart. Welcome Home. There’s lots of Tips. People participate. You can ask questions or find out what other people are doing. Or just, you know, have it per, have some ideas percolate. And then her website, welcomeheart.com, has so many great things, and there are free resources there. And I’m gonna put a link to that in the show notes. So she has gifts for you of some ideas and some some lists and questions and all kinds of things that think, think you’re really going to enjoy. And hey, wherever you’re listening to Letters From Home, just pop in a little search bar…
Sue Donaldson: welcome Heart, living a legacy life.
Meg Glesener: And one really cool thing, Sue has just like I do, if you go under the Google Play or the Apple App Store and you type in Welcome Heart Legacy, she has her own app for her podcast. And then when you’re in the mood to be encouraged to find out what’s somebody’s legacy, and she’s had Bob Guff and lots of amazing people on there.
You get to hear Sue’s beautiful heart and she’s right there on the podcast just encouraging and able to just hear what people wanna do for Legacy, and what they’re wanting to leave behind. I mean, you can just pop in Sue Donaldson, s-o-n in Amazon and find, I’ve got a lot of our hospitality books and where to start out and conversation starters and lots of things. So, Sue is a huge blessing. What if somebody wants to have you speak at their church?
Sue Donaldson: Oh, they can just email me, sue@welcomeheartcom. But they might wanna look at my speaker page because it lists think 15 or 16 keynotes as well as eight retreat series. And so, hopefully one of those would be of help and service. I’d just like to serve that way. It’s fun for me to meet people in person, and I’ve been doing it a while, so I offer outlines and resources. And I’ll go anywhere. I’m going to Pennsylvania in March. That’s kind of cool to do a women’s retreat there. I just did one down in Southern California and so, just you could email me and ask about timing, scheduling and what I could offer to help you. So, Connect me with any event planner. That’d be super.
Meg Glesener: I, I know you have like a phrase that’s super important to you that’s kind of forms your, your ministry.
Sue Donaldson: My tagline is, Changing the world, one cup of coffee at a time. Tea works too. And the reason I use tea works too is because whenever you talk about hosp, whenever I speak on hospitality to any kind of group, there are always objections. People automatically say, Well, I can’t, I can’t because… and then they tell me what it is. I had one woman hear me on Amber Collins podcast, talk about hospitality, and she wrote me from Vermont. She’s a pastor’s wife, mother of seven, and she said, I had every single objection that you mentioned. And then she started doing my four-week steps to hospitality hosting, and now they love doing it, but it just takes some practice. But the idea is that if I, I add tea works too, because one of the objections I’ve heard are, Well, I don’t drink coffee. Well, obviously that’s totally not the point, but you know what? People will use anything to get them out of doing what God has called us to do. It’s not really a suggestion. He says, be hospitable without complaint. And it doesn’t mean I don’t complain. I do complain at times, but that’s what he says, and so I’m just trying to be obedient.
Meg Glesener: Absolutely. And I’ve got my cup of coffee here and you have your cup of coffee too. So, just two ladies sitting down, having a conversation with a cup of coffee. I know it’s really on your heart to leave a legacy for your girls and their families. What is it that you want to leave behind?
Sue Donaldson: I want them to know how much God loves them. That’s the main thing because that will carry them through any challenge that comes their way. And that their worth is not in what they do, and that God is pursuing them and all they need to really do is respond and receive. People think they have to go after joy, they have to go after grace, but actually we just need to open our hands and receive it. And I got that from studying Ephesians three, where Paul prayed that they would understand the, the vastness of God’s love. And I thought, Wow, if Paul’s praying that, That’s what I mainly pray for my kids.
Meg Glesener: How do you know while you’re alive that you’re on your way to leaving that legacy?
Sue Donaldson: Well, they just gave me a 70th birthday party, and they all gave spoken tributes. And even though, you know, none of us are perfect, I felt like I could die right then because I felt like, okay, I did my job. And I think the fact that they talk to me, even though, you know, I, I have the spiritual gift of Exhortation. I just can’t use it on my kids unless they ask. So, I think the main thing as parents of adult children is to not preach, not give advice unless they ask. Because it can be a real turn off when your parents are telling you what to do. And also, to pray for other people to come alongside of them because they’ll listen. There’s just something with the parent thing that can be off putting. And so I’ve done my job, but I can always do better. So, you can always ask your kids, Hey, do you know that God loves you? And they’ll go, Yeah, Mom. But you don’t have to ask ’em. You just have to continue showing it cuz that’s the main thing, cuz love draws them to himself. And that’s what the main thing is though, that they have a relationship with God no matter what decisions or wrong decisions they’ve made or are going to make. Just so they know that God has continued to pursue them. And we know that because he sent his son, He loved us to the cross and back.
Meg Glesener: I trust Sue’s story encourages you as much as it encourages me. I love her. Of just the simple things. It feels like sometimes hospitality should be this big thing that we’re doing, but it can start with the grocery store and who’s sitting next to said church or being a mom or having our kids at school. It’s. Opening our heart to others, and I am praying for us today as we go out, that there’s somebody on our heart that we respond to that nudge, even if we feel inadequate to cook, but they would open our homes up. And be part of the Great Commission sharing the love of Christ in our homes.
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Second Corinthians 3:3. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God. Not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. Until next time, go in peace.