When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother.
Her home is always welcoming, and when company is coming, she readies every little detail. Fresh linens on every bed, newly laundered towels and scented soaps at the ready. Everything is clean and waiting for the guests’ needs and desires to be filled. Recipes have been tested ahead of time, all allergies and likes or dislikes have been accounted for. Each grandchild and in-law has a favorite dish or treat she’s thought of and set out, without asking.
I can’t think of any request that actually has to be made, because it’s been considered and lovingly presented.
Her home is generally set up for company, always feels beautiful and ready, and at holidays has the most wonderful tablescapes on the three tables it takes to accommodate us all. It’s inviting and welcoming, cozy and complete, down to the last detail. That’s my mom. And it’s wonderful.
That’s not really me.
I never feel like our home is company-ready. Beyond the fact that we live, and I mean live here, the house seems to forever be in some stage of construction or destruction. I mean, there’s the normal mess from our lifestyle: we are home for every meal and every school lesson, and often we must move on to the next item on the agenda before the previous task is fully completed or tidied.
But then for the last 8 weeks or so, we’ve been in an altogether new state of dysfunction.
Our home has never been in such a shape of disaster as it currently is. Rotten wood, flood damage, fire damage, roof damage (which resulted in interior wall damage, beetle infestation, and carpet damage) are just plain laughable at this point. I kind of want to put up a sign which reads, “Please excuse our progress while we fix…everything.” Our home really isn’t company-ready.
And yet… we’ve also never had so many opportunities for hospitality.
When the two older girls asked if their youth ministers could come for dinner, I couldn’t say no. When we needed a place for the Key Club to have a construction day, the obvious answer was yes. And when my oldest asked to bring a friend home for us to meet, also a thousand times yes. When the kids asked for friends to come over for Halloween festivities, even at 15 and 16 years old, of course I had to say yes.
How many more times will they ask, after all?
So I deep breathe and pray for our company to feel welcome and loved, as though my house were flawless and presented just for them; I smile, and invite, and serve, and, yes, apologize. I clean, and cook, light candles, and freshen up. Mostly, I look forward to the conversation and the sitting with the people. And it’s all genuine, because I’m truly happy to have those youth ministers come into our lives, and I relish the relationship my teens desire with their family. I’m truly happy that my oldest wants us to meet his someone special. I’m loving that my kids are accommodating to their friends, and that they want to hang out here and have fun. Together.
Hospitality, I think, is making others feel at home; inviting, welcoming, smiling, loving, thoughtful, and genuine, even if the backdrop leaves a wee bit wanting.
“I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”