Hesitant hospitality. Have you been there? You have every good intention and desire to swing wide the doors of your home and let the masses in to be well fed, well loved, comfortable. Then reality happens and maybe you have a bitter taste left in your mouth. I’ve been there. And I have a few ideas to make opening your home a little easier.
I’ve been the scrambling angry mom cleaning an entire front room with my last baby wipe 15 minutes before company arrives. I’ve had big dreams and then less then perfect results. My feelings have been hurt and my eyes lost sight of the ultimate goal of hospitality. In the New Testament of the Bible the Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, means “the love of strangers.” Karen Ehman, in her book “A Life That Says Welcome” has this to say on the topic of hospitality:
“God began to teach me that there is a huge difference between “entertaining” and offering hospitality. Entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others. Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.”
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with so many awesome ladies who have shared similar thoughts and fears on this topic. Our houses are too small, too messy, too many kids. We don’t have enough money, dishes, space, time, etc. The lists are long and full of our reasons and concerns. Well, enough of that. Time and time again I truly have learned that people want a connection not perfection. So after many trials and errors, and I’m sure many more to come, I’d love to encourage you today with some of my experiences in hospitality.
Scripture gives us so many examples of what hospitality looked like and where our hearts need to be. I’m afraid that the pictures we see today of perfect homes, magazine-worthy food spreads, and nicely playing children has turned off many women from even trying. A few of my favorite books on the topic are shown above:
– A Life That Says Welcome, by Karen Ehman
– Emilie’s Creative Home Organizer, by Emilie Barnes
– Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist
– The Most Important Place on Earth, by Robert Wolgemuth
Because my husband is a Student Ministries pastor we probably have a little more “opportunity” to open our home then most. It’s our joy! But to be totally transparent with you this joy is from the Lord and not anything I’m doing. I struggle to keep a tidy home with three little ones around while running a busy lifestyle. On top of being a pastors family we are hosting a church adult cell group here once a week, having senior high youth group here on Sunday nights, and trying to maintain relationships with play dates and in-house bible studies. It can be chaos! Most, if not all, of our disagreements stem from our opinions on what is “clean enough”.
Every time I focus my heart on WHO is coming into our house rather then every detail of every room – it’s always a better time. This takes some prep time. For example, a few years ago we had just moved into our home and our cupboards were a little more then bare. Financially we were struggling. The Lord had provided just what we needed for our little family and it was a night that the youth were going to come over. The youth budget provided the snacks and the evening was going fine until I noticed a certain teenager in my fridge. I panicked. I could not believe he was looking in my fridge! We might have had a few bottles of ketchup and a package of lunch meat. Maybe. Then the words just pierced right into my heart, “Wow, you don’t have any food. Our fridge is so full we can’t even shut it.” Crash. I was instantly more concerned about what this person thought about the contents of my refrigerator then loving them and being a soft place they could land for an hour. It bugged me for days and days after until I realized my pride and repented of it. Plan ahead! Know your crowd and your temptations. Let them in and love them as they are.
Just this past week I was able to pull together with a girlfriend and join a play date. She threw together some easy snacks and brewed some coffee while I provided the special creamers. It was a team effort because again that was all I had! It wasn’t fancy or super planned out but I am serious when I tell you it was one of the best times of conversation with (new) friends that I have had in a long time. The focus was on getting to know hearts, not impressing with my amazing snack making skills or how awesome my new whatever looked. Offer what you have and know that it is enough. We all want that relationship connection and when we get caught up in obsessing over what we don’t have and never give the opportunity to pour out and have people into our lives – we miss out. We miss out on relationships, blessings and the chance to be a blessing to someone else.
Your home is enough. Your presence is enough.
I’ve enjoyed hospitality in so many types of places: dorm rooms, tiny apartments, even while sitting at a park (a friend sharing a coffee and conversation while our kids played). Big or small, rooms filled with amazing decorations or just one simple couch, whatever you can use for the Lord is ENOUGH.
- Have a mom and her kids over for a coffee date. Provide a pot of coffee and a small snack if you feel so led. Let the kids play and strike up a conversation.
- Invite your pastor/youth pastor/whatever pastor and his wife over for a meal. It will be a blessing to them and give you an opportunity to learn more about them. It doesn’t have to be fancy!
- Autumn is fast approaching. Load up a fire pit in your yard or on the deck, invite some friends and have an end of the summer S’mores party! If you are on a tight budget ask each family to bring one of the ingredients. Enjoy the cooler nights outside around the fire.
- Host a small group bible study in your home. A few girlfriends and I went through a bible study book last year together. We took turns rotating houses and it was a blessing to each of us. It was a focused time around the dining room table(s) and the smaller children had each other to play with.
- Early morning prayer. This one is crazy hard for me (I’m not great with super early mornings), but when I was involved with it I loved it! Join a group that is meeting in the wee dark hours of the morning for mom’s prayer. This can be a rotating group as well. No makeup, come as you are, bow in prayer and start your day connecting with the Lord and these ladies.
Things will get dirty. Kids will break toys and mark up furniture. People will see your stuff, they’ll see your life – but what an amazing sacrifice and opportunity to be a blessing and serve the Lord with your life and home. I hope your hesitation has melted away and you are encouraged to open that front door and love on some hearts. You can do it!