When you think of hospitality, chances are you will be in one of two camps: either your heart will swell and you’ll fling your front door wide open with a welcoming smile, or your pulse will race and you’ll turn off all the lights while you hide in your bedroom. Try saying the word “hospitality” out loud— do you hear “spit” in the middle or “tea” at the end? Disclaimer: I am no expert in the hospitality department by any stretch of the imagination, so today I am totally #preachingtomyself —but with Easter looming, swiftly followed by Mother’s Day and then a whole summer of BBQ’s and opportunities to iron the tablecloth (no, I don’t do that either), let’s take a prompt peek at the why’s and how’s of hospitality…
Fifteen years ago, we moved into our current house as a temporary measure (!) We had sold our previous house and the one we had hoped to buy fell through, so we rented this one out of desperation. It was super-pricey but we had 3 kids and a dog, so the short-term rental pickings were slim. Long story short, we discovered the owner wanted to sell—and we had already fallen in love with the home and the location. I sat on the top stair and prayed. I wanted to grow my family right here—it felt perfect. I also told (it might have been promised) God that if we could stay in this house, I would be Miss Hospitable—it would be His home and we would use it for His glory. Big words. I’m fairly sure I’ve been lacking on my part (thankful for the grace)… especially when I’m reminded of verses like this:
“Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.” Hebrews 13:16 (The Message)
So how do we take the “spit” or the stress or the hassle out of hospitality?
SPONTANEITY: Yeah, being spontaneous with hospitality gives me palpitations too, but sometimes on-the-spot invitations are the way to go. “Come back to our place!” Thing is, when your visitors know you’ve had zero prep time and there will most likely be balled-up socks and dirty dishes galore, it takes the pressure off in many ways. It’s the real deal. See what you can rustle up in the way of nourishment—your guests will be grateful for grilled-cheese sandwiches if it means they haven’t had to make lunch themselves. Am I right?
Check out the story of LYDIA —she met the Apostle Paul and some of his posse, believed and was baptized, and then invited them all back to her place immediately. No time for even running a vacuum over the rug. You guys, that’s spontaneous hospitality right there…
SIMPLICITY: Why, oh why do we overcomplicate our lives? When we open our homes to someone, we really don’t have to present a full-on three course meal complete with live music in a show-home environment (unless that’s your thing!) One of my favourite evenings was when we invited a couple over for a Friday night dinner and they suggested bringing take-out pizza… umm yes! I threw together a salad and make a chocolatey dessert (because chocolate actually IS my thing) and BOOM! A relaxed, fun night with minimal preparation and negligible cleanup!
SANITY: Sanity is essential when you have visitors in your home. It just is. Frantic frenzies are a no-no. Not fun for you and not fun for your guests to witness. Shouting, “Everything’s fine!” from the kitchen whilst spilling spaghetti sauce down your white blouse, cleaning up puppy puke, and rescuing the charcoaled pie from the oven is so not cool. If the visitors are your friends, trust me—they’ll want to give you a hand. If they are brand new people and you’re trying to make that awesome first impression—why? Why do that to yourself (and your poor, cowering family)? Keeping it honest is key. Yorkshire puddings flop, chicken can be dry, cookies burn, and puppies puke. It’s all good. Truthfully, do you really think your guests are at your place merely for your food? Dogs are not a detriment and kids are not cumbersome—your house is a HOME.
Our English bulldog breaks wind to break the ice. It doesn’t get better than that.
“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine
***Shauna Niequist is the Yoda of hospitality in my eyes, and if you haven’t ever read Bread and Wine, you don’t know what you’re missing! She’s humorous and honest about all things food, opening up your home and your heart, plus there are some amazing recipes, which I use regularly in my kitchen. If you would like to pick up a copy, here’s my Amazon affiliate link (full disclosure here) which means I get a tiny commission while you pay the regular price for Bread and Wine right HERE.***
May I humbly offer a few practical pointers as to how we can actually not spit when we say “hospitality”? Methods of less stress are always on my radar:
- Keep a container of cookies or treats in the freezer. Don’t panic, you can use store bought of you’re not a baker. Somehow, if they’re in the freezer they are less likely to be found and devoured by “other” family members. (You might want a friendly “KEEP OUT” label attached.)
- Make sure there are always beverage options at hand—both hot and cold (even ice and a lemon or lime to slice up in your fancy water!)
- Throws/ blankets are great to have around the place for keeping the chill at bay for outdoor entertaining or all the cozy feels for indoors in the winter.
- Have a great playlist of some pleasant background music to fill any potential awkward silences (unless you have young kids, and then there will be absolutely no chance of silences.)
- Create a short-list of “go to” recipes you are confident making. You want this to be enjoyable for YOU, too! Do not attempt a brand new complex menu with potential for disaster, unless they are REALLY good friends, who will not mind running out for pizza should calamity strike. If dinners intimidate you, invite them for dessert and coffee or a glass of wine instead.
- Let perfectionism go. I know, this one is tough for some of us. We want everything to be… perfect. But seriously, your guests won’t remember the dust bunny in the corner of your kitchen but they will remember your kind invitation and how you opened up your home. They won’t remember the uncut lawn but they will recall the conversation you had sitting on the patio sipping coffee.
The thing is, we are supposed to open our homes and our hearts with JOY: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9) I’m pretty sure “without grumbling” can loosely be translated as “without spitting”. And how do we get to this place of joy in our hospitality? By thinking of our guests more than thinking of ourselves, our reputation, our culinary abilities, and our spotless house. By putting them first. Imagine that…
Your fellow work-in-progress,
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers! Check them out: