It was December 30, 2017, the evening before we were hosting a New Year’s celebration for a few families from my husband’s work. We have always enjoyed hosting and entertaining and were excited to have a large group of friends to celebrate with. The guests all had young kids, like ours, and even though none of us expected to actually stay up until midnight, we still wanted to celebrate the beginning of the New Year together.
Although we are normally a fairly tidy family, it being the night before we expected guests, the house was a mess. I planned to wait until the next day to get serious about house cleaning so that everything would look great when our guests arrived. After all, it was December in the mountains and we had two dogs and four kids running in and out enjoying the melting snow and inevitable mud?!? Needless to say, our floors were a special kind of East Mountains dirty that evening.
As I arrived home from the grocery store, my mind was not on guests yet. I was thinking about getting groceries put away, putting leftover lentil soup on the stove and fresh cornbread in the oven. We were busy discussing how we would prep for our friends coming ‘tomorrow’ when Dave looked up and said, “Look at that, someone’s pulling in the driveway.”
I nonchalantly said, “I sure hope they don’t want to come in!” sure that it was the mail carrier or UPS truck.
A couple from Dave’s work had showed up a day early for the New Year’s Party! And they didn’t JUST show up; they had prepared smoked salmon with caviar, drove over an hour to get to our home, and were so embarrassed that they had gotten the day wrong. I was as MORTIFIED as they were UNCOMFORTABLE. My house was a mess. All I had to offer was leftover lentil soup (which hadn’t been pretty on night one, much less a meal I wanted to serve guests as leftovers) and thank goodness hot-out-of-the-oven cornbread.
God reminded me that He works in all things,
not just the things I plan!
Dave welcomed them in; I fumbled, blushed, and apologized for the mess. Then they fumbled, blushed and apologized for being 24 hours early! They insisted that they would just drive home and we would all forget the whole thing. I wanted to agree, but God nudged my heart to invite them in, forget the messy house and give thanks for whatever He had planned for us. And let’s be honest, the promise of smoked salmon may have helped me say yes.
In the book “The Gospel Comes with a Housekey” Rosaria Butterfield says,
“God calls us to make sacrifices that hurt so that others can be served and maybe even saved. We are called to die. Nothing less. Radically ordinary hospitality serves ravioli with redemption life. It is fearless; it is faithful.”
In that moment, I was not fearless but I was faithful; my ideal of a perfect house, any notion of being completely prepared for guests and being a perfectly put-together hostess, had to die. I had to lay that at God’s feet and beg that He would make something wonderful out of my mess and inadequacy.
So, we invited them in. We set the table. I let my pride die right there on my dirty floor and we had an amazing evening. Our guests were lovely. Ami (name changed) is Japanese and spoke very little English, her husband didn’t enjoy being in a large crowd and had struggled with a number of co-workers who would be there the next night and they would not have enjoyed being with the 40+ adults and kiddos that joined us the following night. Their youngest daughter got along quickly with our own children and felt right at home. The simple truth is that Ami and I never would have had three hours to ourselves to discuss quilting, parenting as military families, the struggles of moving regularly, and the challenges her family faces as she attends a Japanese Baptist Church and her husband and children a large non-denominational church, if God had not gifted us with that time so that I could focus just on her.
What a gift that evening was. As I died to my pride, I saw God show up and open a space for us. Ami was allowed to be imperfect in her language as I was imperfect with, well, almost everything else. We laughed easily over the other’s short-comings; their timing and my house keeping. We made connections: being Christians, military spouses and quilters. God reminded me that He works in all things, not just the things I plan!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Ami and I would have missed so much if we had allowed our perceived imperfections to become obstacles that night. As God removed the boundary I put up, He made the space for something wonderful to happen and I am so glad that He did.
The truth is, I haven’t seen Ami again and I likely never will. They moved shortly after our early New Year’s celebration and it is unlikely that we will ever live near the same base again. But I don’t think that God’s point was to form a life-long friendship that day. Instead, He was teaching me that my personal comfort, my pride over being the perfect hostess, or a fantastic cook, is not His goal. God called me to be available, regardless of my home, the perfect meal, or anything else about me ‘feeling’ prepared and He meet me and Ami right there and blessed us both.
How has God blessed you by calling you out of your comfort zone?
“It's a risk. You let people into your house, make them feel welcome; what if they don't leave!”
This was my husband's tongue-in-cheek answer to the question: What are your thoughts on hospitality?
Maybe hospitality is risky? The introvert in me wonders if the guests will overstay their welcome and asks, “what if we don’t...
“It's a risk. You let people into your house, make them feel welcome; what if they don't leave!”
This was my husband's tongue-in-cheek answer to the question:
What are your thoughts on hospitality?
Maybe hospitality is risky?
The introvert in me wonders if the guests will overstay their welcome and asks, “what if we don’t have anything to talk about”?
The perfectionist in me asks “what if my house or cooking isn't up to snuff?”
The busy in me says, “There's just not enough time.”
These ponderings may feel valid but Scripture leads us to think in a way that is radically different:
At the beginning of Romans chapter 12 Paul beseeches us, his brethren, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, not being conformed to the world, but having a renewed mind. He then goes on to instruct us on what this looks like. In verse 13 he says we should be given to hospitality.
Hospitality is a catalyst for relationship. It has eternal value. It is worth the risk.
When our family traveled to India last March to bring home our youngest son, we brought along our long-time friend, Donna. She helped us navigate the city and introduced us to friends she had made while living in India years before.
Donna's hospitable friends welcomed us into their home. Ravi served fresh-squeezed orange juice purchased from the neighborhood vendor. Caitlyn made pizzas, generously sharing the *real* cheese that is so hard to come by in India. They shared stories of how Christ is working through Genesis of Hope and Cooperative Outreach of India, organizations begun by their family. They asked for prayer.
What if Ravi and Caitlyn hadn't been willing to risk hospitality? They could have simply shaken our hands at a Sunday morning church service or met us for a meal at a restaurant. But by inviting us into their home they communicated a willingness to invite us into their lives. That willingness has led to a relationship that God can ultimately use to further His Kingdom; a relationship that encourages and challenges us and makes us aware that hospitality may be risky, but done with the right heart, has eternal value.
Hospitality is the fruit of a transformed mind. Let God handle the risk and act in faith.
Good wives and mothers have perfectly kept homes, right? And their children never act out, and definitely never in public. They never argue, are never disrespectful to the adults around them. They are perfectly obedient. Good wives and mothers prepare fully nutritious, perfectly balanced hot meals three times a day, and never repeat a meal in a single month. Their homes are...
Good wives and mothers have perfectly kept homes, right?
Their children never act out, and definitely never in public. They never argue, are never disrespectful to the adults around them. They are perfectly obedient. Right?
Good wives and mothers prepare fully nutritious, perfectly balanced hot meals three times a day, and never repeat a meal in a single month.
Their homes are always perfectly ready for a Pinterest or Instagram photoshoot, and so are their families.
The children are never dirty, even when they have spent an afternoon playing in the dirt and mud. Somehow, that just magically slides off their designer clothing (bought on deep clearance from a super-secret online warehouse!) like the little darlings were made of Teflon or maybe Scotch-guard.
Good moms never raise their voices, certainly not in public, because their children would never dream of misbehaving!
What on earth does this have to do with hospitality?! I’m so glad you asked! This mental image of “good wife and mother” affected every area of my life as a young homemaker. That’s the image I desperately wanted to convey. Especially when we had company. When our children were little, we seldom invited people over. When we did, WonderMom would come crashing down on our little family. I cleaned for HOURS like a madwoman. But not just me, even our small children were expected to carry their own weight! I cooked and cleaned. But I wasn’t content to leave it there. I yelled and used biting sarcasm to get my point across. With preschoolers. And my husband.
By the time our guests arrived, I was worn out, irritated, and feeling that “why do I have to do everything around here?!” feeling (even though I had clearly NOT done everything). Which is the worst place in the world for an introvert to be when people are ringing the doorbell.
Which begs the question: Why am I, of all people, writing a blog post about hospitality?! Because God has changed my heart toward hospitality and the expectations I put on myself. As time has passed, I have changed much in this regard. Pretty much done a complete turn-around. Praise God! You see, WonderMom is gone.
What false ideal is keeping you from having people over, or making “hospitality” feel more like “hostility” within your home?
So what changed? A few things, really. First, I realized that WonderMom is just AngryMom in lipstick and high heels. And AngryMom is just ScaredMom being loud. I was scared that I was failing. I had some pretty serious things going on, health-wise. I also had three very small daughters, ranging from 8 month to 4 years. Our extended family was far away. And I was home alone with no friends physically close enough for me to visit easily. And I was tired. So tired. But like a wounded cat, I didn’t want anyone to know how I was struggling.
Second, I realized that the White Glove Brigade wasn’t actually coming to my house. My fears were unfounded. Having small children is a uniquely exhausting season for a lot of people. The small ones take so much time, energy, and effort. They just do. The house can wait. For many, it does! It waits while the littles “help clean” as mama trains them for future chores. It waits while mama hoses off muddy little bodies in the back yard. It waits while mama is up in the middle of the night with night feedings, teething, colic, fevers, stomach flu, and nightmares. Mama does what she can, when she can, and the rest just goes undone. That is normal. And it is perfectly fine.
So, how do we “do” hospitality, now that ScaredMom is no longer running the show?
Four basic things, I think…
We have routines that keep the house mostly under control:
The children are older, and “helping” has become chores that they are quite adept at doing without my direct supervision. BUT, I do NOT clean like a madwoman any more. I run the vacuum, spot mop or do a full mop if it’s been particularly muddy outside, and make sure the kitchen is clean enough. The children take care of their chores, and we call it “good enough”. Generally, our house looks a little bit better than “everyday” but not a lot.
We declare certain areas “off limits”:
Our dog is HUGE and intimidating to some children. He’s also not the most welcoming host. So, he gets locked up and that part of the house is off limits. Also, as our girls are entering the teenage years, we declare the upstairs “off limits” when we have mixed company that includes similar-aged boys. Our upstairs is pretty much only bedrooms and bathrooms. That’s just inviting temptation.
We try not to kill or maim any visitors:
This is where I DO stress a bit. Food allergies and curious toddlers. Food allergies are real and can be deadly. I take them seriously. In fact, I have been known to text a picture of the ingredients list to the mom while I am in the grocery store. Better safe than sorry. Curiosity is normal in toddlers. My hobbies include some sharp and pointy objects. (Which for some reason are generally also brightly colored.) I put my scissors, knitting needles, crochet hooks and such out of reach when I know small children will be in my home.
We stick to the budget:
Our resources are finite. Our time, our energy, our money, even our relationships are all limited. We must steward those well. We try to be mindful of what else may be going on that week and how that affects our resources. We then plan accordingly. Maybe it means inviting someone over a week later, or changing the menu, or altering when chores happen. This one is probably the one where we still have the farthest to go, particularly from the time and energy management aspects. I still have ongoing health issues and cannot be sure how I will be energy-level-wise at any given time. We do our best, but it’s often an inexact science.
What has been the result of this new, more relaxed hospitality? Well, we have people over more often! I am kinder to my family. I enjoy the time with people more. Our friendships are more genuine. I can help other struggling moms as I have been open about my own struggles. I am less isolated. One benefit that I never saw coming – we’re invited into other people’s homes more! Even spur of the moment. Other moms are less worried that I’m going to “judge” them for the state of their home – after all, they have seen that I have no room to judge!
What does this have to do with you? WonderMom was my challenge. Maybe she’s yours, too. Maybe not.
What false ideal is keeping you from having people over, or making “hospitality” feel more like “hostility” within your home? Does that ideal actually carry water? Or is it just the enemy’s way of keeping you from obeying the Lord’s call to open your home?
Know this – we all long for genuine friendships, ones where our secrets are known and safe, where we are loved in spite of (and sometimes even because of) our struggles. We cannot be genuine friends when one of us is presenting an ideal as reality. My challenge to you is this – let others see your family as you truly live. It can be scary, but oh, it’s worth it!
Your job, five-days a week, is to instruct a group of 27 to 35 pupils under the age of ten. Many of them live in safe homes and have wonderful support from their parents. However, at least half of those students show up without having had breakfast. Several of them couldn’t do their homework over the weekend because they lost their pencil in the car in which they live. Several others are...
Your job, five-days a week, is to instruct a group of 27 to 35 pupils under the age of ten. Many of them live in safe homes and have wonderful support from their parents. However, at least half of those students show up without having had breakfast. Several of them couldn’t do their homework over the weekend because they lost their pencil in the car in which they live. Several others are sleep-deprived, having been pulled out of their homes late at night by CYFD. Others woke up to an empty house and return to that same empty house at the end of the school day; and so, no one sees their math test or helps them with their spelling words. Several do not own clothes that fit them.
You are held responsible for the academic progress of these students.
"To enter another’s life and carry their burdens with them is an act that speaks so loudly of the love of our Savior, who entered our lives and took our burdens upon Himself."
Not only that, but studies show that you are traumatized by your students’ trauma. The black eye that stares at you from the third row, the emaciated frame that slumps over in the second, the red-tear-stained face that blinks at you from the fourth…you take them all home at night. Though you cannot fix their situations, you cannot simply walk away from them. Each one becomes uniquely yours when they step into your classroom; and when they hurt, you hurt.
This is the reality for many teachers in APS Title 1 schools. Click here to read, "Teacher Turnover in NM is High. Here’s How We Fix It." an article detailing, from a teacher’s perspective, what a lonely job it can be.
We have been so blessed with the opportunity to support A. Montoya’s teachers over the past three years. This year, we are hoping to send a personalized note of thanks to each and every teacher. Click here to partner with us as we join our teachers in the incredible and challenging jobs they face by signing up to write to them. It goes a long way to encourage the heart of a hard-working individual who invests so deeply in our community.
To enter another’s life and carry their burdens with them is an act that speaks so loudly of the love of our Savior, who entered our lives and took our burdens upon Himself.
Easter is upon us. Are you eager to celebrate this Resurrection Sunday? Or is Easter this year just another of those ‘special’ Sundays that come around every so often? I’ll confess this year Easter has kind of crept up and I haven’t reflected and prepared like I should have, or even as I’d like to have. I have found...
Easter is upon us. Are you eager to celebrate this Resurrection Sunday? Or is Easter this year just another of those ‘special’ Sundays that come around every so often? I’ll confess this year Easter has kind of crept up and I haven’t reflected and prepared like I should have, or even as I’d like to have. I have found that taking a little time to remember can go a long way to restoring my eagerness to celebrate.
A great Easter memory, and reminder for me, was our first Easter in Russia. We found the Russian people in general to be stoic and cynical; not open to displaying much emotion, unless it was anger. But at church on Easter Sunday, people were rushing around greeting one another with “Christ is risen!” and the response “He is risen indeed!” The greeting and response were very familiar, but the enthusiasm with which it was delivered, and the expressions of joy on those faces were at once startling and infectious.
"Praise Him that He thinks
each of us are worth that cost!"
Having the freedom to express themselves in such ways was still relatively new to these Russian believers and so they took advantage of the opportunity – with gusto!
Having enjoyed such freedom for my entire life I was a little taken aback at the excitement of my fellow believers. Then I realized that I was in danger of being complacent. Complacent at the death, burial and resurrection of the very Son of God?!?! How could that be? Yet it is so easy to become complacent, to be satisfied and comfortable with the way things are. To take for granted the privilege we have to celebrate Easter Sunday.
Remembering that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are inexorably intertwined is perhaps the greatest way to avoid complacency in this season.
Remembering that Jesus died for my sins, and not just died but died in the most horrible way, bearing guilt and shame He did not deserve, suffering separation from His Father; this prepares my heart and mind for Easter.
Remembering that He did this knowing full well who and what I was before He transformed me and recognizing He would have done if I were the only sinner in the world humbles my spirit and fills my heart with gratitude for my Savior and my God!
I hope you can come and worship with the MCC family on Good Friday evening. What a great opportunity to remember what Christ has done for you and at what great cost. Praise Him that He thinks each of us are worth that cost! And in that worship and remembering may your heart be truly prepared to celebrate the wondrous resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
"Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is the stagnant soul."
Don’t let yourself be complacent about Easter. Remember! Rejoice!
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