People often comment that our front door is revolving. As a family, we have company for dinner every week and a guestroom that’s more often inhabited than not. Whether weekend stays of family and friends, or a Brazilian man here to study English, or dear friends in between homes, we have experienced the life-giving, joy-yielding potential of hospitality.
We’ve swapped stories over bowls of pasta and glasses of wine, laughed together playing catch-phrase and Funny Bones, and shared hopes and dreams over cups of steaming tea and chocolate.
But it can be hard inviting people into your home, for a variety of reasons… It’s too messy. Too small. Too dirty. It’s not decorated well. Not updated enough. It smells. It doesn’t look like a layout from Real Simple, nor does the table look like Martha Stewart’s.
Or maybe it’s difficult because home is your sacred space. It’s where you walk around without pants on. It’s where you let the dishes pile up. It’s where you enjoy “just family time.” It’s where you let your guard down.
Or maybe it’s hard because you’re insecure about your ability to make a decent meal or to entertain.
Trust me, I’ve been to all these places. And still go there.
During my grad school days, a young mom of two little ones invited me over to her home. It was a new relationship, so I was a little nervous but excited. When I arrived, I walked into a mess of laundry on the floor, puffs scattered on the couch, toys and books covering every other square inch of walking space and cute, wide-eyed kids noisily playing. I was surprised, and at first it made me squirmish. Maybe I came at a bad time? Could I help her fold the laundry? Clean a dish? But with a quick look into my friend’s eyes I knew without a doubt that I was welcomed and wanted. In that crazy, we played with the kiddos and laughed. In that disorder, we cooked together and a friendship formed. In that chaos, I was heard and prayed for. In that commotion, the bar for “hospitality” fell and I let out a sigh. To this day her life-happens-home is one of my favorite places.
I hope this story tells you that hospitality is more than your home and more than entertaining guests. You can communicate love and welcome by providing a clean and comfortable space for your guest. But I’ve also been in very tidy, have-it-all homes and not felt loved or welcomed. So, yes, there is hospitality of home, but more than that, there’s hospitality of heart. It moves beyond a house, a meal, a bed.
In a word, hospitality is love. And love is our deepest need. To love and be loved is common to every man and the driving force behind all that we do.
Hospitality is when you open up your front door AND you open up your life. It’s making yourself available. We can use hospitality as a means to connect with people. It provides us opportunities to serve and meet needs, and even be served and have our needs met. It carves out a safe place for people to belong, to share their story, to be heard, understood, and accepted. It’s a place for you and your guest to know and be known.
Yes, hospitality requires sacrifice. There are costs involved. Literal costs like buying more groceries and laundry detergent and wearing a bra around the house. And figurative costs like your time and privacy. But the love exchanged is priceless.
Hospitality has been a good teacher to us. Lessons in self-sacrifice and laying down your life for the good and benefit of others. Lessons in the beauty of diversity and the power of listening, relating, and encouraging. Over time we’ve also learned that it’s not about feeling the need to always extend an invitation or to say yes to everyone who asks, but more about cultivating an open and generous lifestyle.
No matter how big or small, decorated or simple, clean or messy your home, you can be hospitable. Not just you. Your husband and children, too. Children can be the best welcomers, disarmers and friends! To get you on your way, I have three little tips for you…
- Grab your beverage of choice and the book Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. She shares beautiful stories of opening their home and includes some of her simply delicious, anyone-can-make recipes. It’s an easy, enjoyable and empowering read!
- Choose a go-to recipe. I appreciated this blog post by my friend Jon Aleixo who emphasized simplicity—getting familiar and comfortable with one recipe. His choice course has become my choice course > What to Make When Hosting Someone.
- Toss your insecurities aside! It’s not about everything being perfect, it’s about being available and welcoming.
Challenge > Invite someone over this month! Then come back to this post and comment about your experience 🙂 Or you may share a similar lifestyle as my family. What practical helps would you share with us?