I love having people in our home.
My friend Bethany thinks I’m making that up, but I’m not. I enjoy cooking for and with other people. The hubbub of a houseful makes me giddy. Friends (or almost friends) stopping by unexpectedly gets me really jazzed up.
This has not always been the case for me, though.
I’ve definitely had to learn hospitality skills. There were times in my recent past when I made the children hide when someone came to the door. Now, though, I’m likely to invite the stranger knocking at my door in for lemonade or coffee in spite of any chaos around me.
During my early years as a mother we were living in a new, bigger city and I didn’t know anyone. Thankfully I made a few friends fairly quickly and because we had similar parenting styles and kids around the same age we spent a lot of time together. We cooked together, folded laundry while we visited and generally just enjoyed not being alone with our children all the time.
We had intentional community.
I also had a friend who was well past toddler parenting and made the best pasta carbonara I have ever had. She was my soft place to land on days when I didn’t think I could do it anymore. She enjoyed my little people and seemed perpetually relaxed – something I needed a lot of.
So, here’s a few things I’ve learned about hospitality:
People really aren’t coming to see your house…
I know people say that all the time, but really, humans want to visit with humans. It’s that simple. If you’re going to friends’ houses and judging their decorating or housekeeping skills you need to check yourself. Learning how other people live, seeing their decorations and dishes, gives you insight into how you live your life. People come to visit your home in order to be more human. That’s it. It’s that simple.
There are seasons of hospitality…
I made the assumption that there was something wrong with me when I couldn’t have people over when I had a six week old. I had friends who could, so why couldn’t I? The fact is I just don’t recover well, not from childbirth, a cold, or exhaustion. I need to rest and be gentle with myself. Once I’m back, though, I’m back. Then I can be hospitable. Until I’m there I rely on the kindness of my friends and family to supply a cozy, judgement-free place where I can recharge.
Now that my kids are all older having people over isn’t hard, either. My people aren’t sick every other week, there’s typically only one towel (the hand towel!!) on the bathroom floor, and I’m not nearly as exhausted as I was in those early years of parenting.
If you’re in a season of small children don’t be hard on yourself for not feeling hospitable. It will come. Find a friend who could care less if you haven’t showered in days and is happy to wade through toys and piles of laundry to sit at the table with you. If, like me, you’re in a season where having people over is easier be the soft place. Invite the younger mamas into your home, remind them that all is not lost.
Perfection is an illusion…
Seriously, even when things look perfect they’re not. There’s dust or cracks or something out of place and that is fine. If you only allow people in your home when you’ve dusted, vacuumed, mopped, and have a clean hand towel hanging in the bathroom (who does that????) then they will believe that is what is expected of them. Help lower the standards for house keeping! Let people see your dirty dishes in the sink, your laundry on the living room couch, and your kitchen table that doubles as an ironing board. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to hospitality.
Now, when you have a party or a special even go ahead and clean away, make that house sparkle! But in the meantime treat friends as family and let them come regardless of the state of your home. Shame has no place in hospitality.
Hospitality can feel a bit like baring your soul…
Here in the United States we’ve gotten pretty weird about having people in our homes. Magazines and television shows give the illusion that homes are in order all of the time. When you live in your home, though, order is relative to the day and time. If you’re homeschooling, have small children, have more than one parent working outside of the home, carting your kids to various activities through the week, or are a person your home is going to look very different from day to day.
The first time I have someone over I feel a lot of things. Sometimes I’m embarrassed, especially if I have to rewash all the silverware because one of my people put it away with scrambled eggs stuck to everything. Mostly I feel exposed, and proud. It may sound weird but I like my house more when there are people in it. Inviting a friend into your home requires trust. I have to trust that my friend will accept me as a really am, not just as I present myself to the world.
That trust has never been misplaced.
I hope you’re feeling encouraged to have people over. I am so grateful to each of my friends who has taught me to have people into my home by inviting me and my family in. Some of my most profound conversations have taken place while sipping tea and talking over children running about. I have learned more about Jesus’ teachings when I’ve put a call out to a friend and she’s said, “Why don’t you just come over?”
Be brave, misfits, and invite people in.
My door is always open.
But my toilet is not always clean.
Come on over anyway.