Today Anjanette Barr from Raising the Barrs is sharing practical tips she has learned about hospitality. I hope you are blessed and challenged through her post as I was -Debra.
One day recently, I spent the whole afternoon busily checking off my (very long) to-do list in preparation for an evening church committee meeting. The meeting was at another church member’s home and I was leaving my children with my husband. I prepared an early dinner, packed my husband’s lunch for the next day, laid out the kids’ pajamas and diapers (on the couch so they were easy for him to find), and gathered the materials for a few fun activities for them to do together.
With young children, it’s difficult for dad to take over without a little bit of preparation. I knew that he’d appreciate the fact that I’d put some time into making their evening easier and wouldn’t mind so much that the dishes weren’t clean, the bathroom was a mess from bathtime, and the kitchen table hadn’t gotten wiped down (or even fully cleared) after lunch.
When he pulled into the driveway after work I did one last mental check to be sure everything was covered and met him at the door, prepared to kiss him and run. I started rattling off all of the things I anticipated him needing to know before I left as soon as he set foot inside the door and was slipping on my shoes as he stopped me and said, “wait… where are you going??”
Exasperated, I reminded him that I had a meeting (which I’d told him of well in advance and emailed him to put it on his calendar). To which he replied, “I know you have a meeting – it’s just that I thought the meeting was supposed to be here.” His response coincided exactly with the first church member pulling into our driveway!
I immediately knew he was right even though I still can’t figure out how in the world I got the location so confused. In that moment, all I could do was whimper a little as I looked around the house that I’d spent so long preparing for the evening – clothes and diapers on the couch, crumbs on the table, dishes in the sink, and zero refreshments prepared. To top it off, I didn’t even have 10 minutes to run through and do my best to make the house presentable since one of my guests had arrived early!
Really, at that point I could have lost it. I was certainly embarrassed and a bit frustrated with myself, but I’m happy to say that I was able to slip off my shoes, meet my guest at the door with a smile, and go on to have a very nice evening. This wouldn’t always have been the outcome for me in the past, and it’s only by God’s grace that I was able to handle it well this time. It was a testament to how much He has grown me in the area of hospitality in the last few years. As I’ve grown, I’ve found a few things to be helpful that I’d love to share with you.
The “why” is important.
For Christians, hospitality is an expression of God’s love for His children. Scripture consistently links brotherly love and hospitality (Romans 12:10-12, Hebrews 13:1-2), so by opening our homes we are acting out the deep compassion and regard He has for each of the people He’s placed in our lives.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…”(1 Peter 4:8-11)
Make a plan for the “how.”
Even if you are convicted of the importance of hospitality (or perhaps because you are), the logistics of having people over might stress you enough to keep you from actually doing it. I want to challenge you to examine the root(s) of your hesitation and ask God to reveal any selfish or prideful motives that are holding you back from loving others. As you work through those, make a plan for putting His love into action. Here are some tips:
Ease into it
Start small – invite your neighbor over for coffee, offer to teach a friend how to bake bread, crochet, braid hair, or whatever else you feel very comfortable with.
Invite people who already know you’re not perfect – as you branch out in this area, practice on people who love and accept you. Choose a couple of people that are easy to be around so that you can focus on getting comfortable with preparing for guests without the formalities.
Share the responsibility – it’s very common for my friends to offer to bring a salad or dessert to dinner. Whenever offered, take advantage of this! They will appreciate feeling free to ask you to do the same when it’s your turn, and it might leave you with the extra ingredients you need to host someone on shorter notice later. When you have time to plan an event or get together, consider making it a potluck when appropriate to take some of the prep work off of your shoulders.
Make a Habit of it
The more comfortable you are with having people over in general, the less stressful situations like the one I had last week will be. Not only did I already have a good idea of what I could throw together for refreshments on short notice (a veggie tray and bowls full of fruit and almonds/walnuts are pretty standard and quick for me), I was also able to rest in the knowledge that these people have been over numerous times before and know what my house looks like on better days. I’ve also gotten better and better at cleaning as I’ve hosted guests. My husband is thankful!
Do what you need to do to be joyful about it.
Your family does not want to see you rushing around in an irritated frenzy in preparation for guests, only to switch on your happy face when people come through the door. You run the risk of sowing seeds of resentment in the hearts of your husband and children if every dinner party is an “ordeal” for them.
What would make it easier on you? Paper plates? Pizza ordered in? Closing the bedroom doors? An attitude adjustment? Remember that you are setting an example for your children – teaching them how to serve others. Will you teach them to serve willingly, without grumbling (even if it means serving with a carpet in need of a vacuum)? Or will you teach them to serve begrudgingly out of obligation (and perhaps the façade of a perfectly organized home & family)?
As surely as you will grow in hospitality as you venture away from the comfort of a home closed to strangers, God will use you to bless others in ways you wouldn’t have imagined – and may never get credit for. This is one of our greatest callings, no matter our stage of life. And what an adventure!
Anjanette Barr is a wife and mom of three living in Juneau, Alaska and loving the life God has blessed her with. Her days are filled with lots of silly antics and laughter, mountains of laundry, and more love than she could ever hope for or deserve. She blogs at Raising the Barrs. Find her also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.