Of the hundreds of things I learned from my mom, the art of hospitality ranks high on my list of favorites. My mom knows very well how to open her home to guests, and more importantly, she knows how to open her heart to those guests.
Growing up in a home with a dad who once owned a restaurant and was a caterer, most everyone assumed that he did all of the cooking at home. Dad could whip up a feast for five hundred people quicker than humanly possible. He once tried to break a record for the world’s largest ice cream sundae, pouring bucket after bucket of ice cream into a plastic-lined canoe. Yes, a canoe! But at home…he was not the shining star in the kitchen. Mom was.
Maybe it is a little known secret that mom can cook and bake as well as she can. She has never flaunted her ability to do so. She has just always loved to create in her kitchen, and to share those creations with the people she loves. She taught me well, and I am forever grateful for that.
With those things in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts about hospitality. Hospitality is not something at which I’m an expert, but something that I love to do. Something I’m learning how to do. Something I want to do more.
I don’t know about where you live, but let me tell you something about the town in which I live. It’s growing like crazy. New houses spring up seemingly overnight. And these new houses? They’re gorgeous. Huge. Expensive. Lovely.
Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I find myself thinking how much easier it is for those homeowners to practice the art of hospitality. They’ve got huge dining rooms with fancy dishes. Expansive entryways with coat rooms as big as my kitchen. Granite countertops that glisten and shine.
And then there’s my house. I love my house. I truly do. It was a complete answer to prayer, and the furnishings it houses speak to God’s creative ways of providing for our needs. But left unguarded, my mind can compare. It’s easy to make excuses for why I should leave the get-togethers to those who have more space than I do. More amenities.
At one point, things bothered me. While I love the 100 year old bench that seats guests at my dining room table, I hated that it squeaked when they sat down. I have worried myself sick over the fact that my guests are squeezed tight like sardines around my table…that once someone sits in the middle of the bench, they’re stuck there until the guest next to them gets up. That the chatter and laughter around the table echo like crazy off our hardwood floors, making the room very loud. That our dilapidated front door greets guests with a broken handle and a slam shut behind them. That our family room carpet is splattered with spilled coffee stains and baby spit up. That our main floor bathroom is small enough that guests could wash their hands while using the facilities. That the light to said bathroom is on the outside wall, and nobody can ever figure out where the darn light is.
And then I realized that enough is enough. That nitpicking this home that the Lord has provided is not only an affront to His great provision, but it greatly diminishes the joy that can be found in hospitality. That true hospitality has nothing to do with my squeaky bench or cramped dining room, but that it has everything to do with the people that fill it. That hospitality is not dependent on the size of my house, but on the size of my heart.
Oh, the great joy I have found since changing my attitude about hospitality! We have hosted some fun get-togethers, squeezing in far more people than a fire marshall would deem safe. 🙂 And when the guests leave and my body is tired from the days’ preparations, I can almost hear the resounding chatter and laughter from friends and family. And my heart is full. And I smile. Nobody cared that they sat at a squeaky bench. Nobody cared that they ate off plates scratched from many years of use. Nobody cared that the water goblets they drank out of were collected from places like The Dollar Store and Goodwill. In fact, I have learned that stories make for great dinnertime conversation, and I want to tell my stories. Stories of how God has provided. Maybe not through fancy stores with top-notch furnishings, but with the things I needed to host dinners with those closest to me. If you don’t believe me…check out one of my kitchen cabinets…everything, I mean EVERYTHING in this cabinet has come from either garages sales, Goodwill, and even the side of the road. Yes, I once found an entire box of stemless wine glasses sitting out for the garbage man!
And so I challenge you, dear reader, to open your front door. To welcome others into your home, and therefore into your lives, without hesitation. To lay aside worries about the size of your home, the quality of your furnishings, or your ability to cook. Those things simply do not matter. What does matter is your heart, and your willingness to open it to others. Hospitality will not only bless those to whom you show it…it will bless your own soul in a way that might surprise you. Try it. You won’t regret it!