If you have never had the chance to provide true hospitality to a friend in need, I pray that one day you do.
Not the type of hospitality you’ve had even a few minutes to prepare for, but the type that is sprung on you in a moments notice, a game time decision. A moment when you have to choose between laying down your pride and serving your friend or closing the door.
It is weird to say, but I was so honoured one afternoon, to be able to do such a thing and it changed the way I perceive hosting, to the core.
Now, you’ve heard me talk … or read me write … about how we need to stop portraying this insane idea of perfection, how we need to back away from the frantic frenzy of cleaning when we know company is on their way, and live in peace with HOW we live. Live with the door open, at any time, no need to clean or feel guilty, no need to look like we are OWNING this gig as a stay at home mom (especially when we aren’t) …
** now, before I get too into this, I do want to say that I KNOW there are mommas out there who have the housekeeping thing down pat. They have a schedule they stick to, a minimal amount of STUFF, maybe fewer children or no pets … there are women who do this homey stuff VERY well. I am not trying to suggest that you, momma, need to lower your standards and allow the fluffs and the insanity to take over – you have a great gift, enjoy it. Own it, share it with us moms who can’t even figure out how to keep the dirty clothes from piling up around the bedroom **
Now that I have covered my bases and hopefully I can avoid offending any of my neater and tidier friends … let’s get back to this story.
It wasn’t long ago that a friend of mine needed a favour that pushed me outside my comfort zone. A favour that, for my neat and tidy friends, might seem like no big deal, but for THIS momma, who routinely has a counter full of dirty dishes (I don’t know how they pile up so fast), whose dog sheds so much I could literally collect enough fur to felt a small stuffed animal, and who has way too many children to count … for THIS momma, the favour meant letting someone into my home when it wasn’t READY for people who were REQUIRED to endure the insanity.
I remember the call from my friend Jess, they were selling their home and she had been asked to be out of it for a few hours as the agent brought through a couple prospective buyers. On a normal day this would mean an impromptu trip to walk the mall or maybe hit the gym … but for her, this meant that she was looking at three or so hours sitting in a rock hard chair at the local Tim Hortons. The prospect of which, coupled with some ongoing lower back pain, was simply unbearable.
Jess was, for all intents and purposes, at a loss of what to do that would not cause physical pain for the duration of the visits, but would also allow her some rest.
Well, because she was a friend and lived relatively close, she messaged me.
Could she pop by while her house was being shown?
Normally, the answer would be a resounding YES, of course she could come by and we could chat and sip coffee while my crew played or napped.
I would welcome her with “open arms” after having spend the 20 minutes notice frantically cleaning the house.
You see, normally I would whip all the dishes into the dishwasher *a job that takes MAYBE 5 minutes but is forever being put off*, I would run it, I would wipe down the counters and turn on the radio (because I want DESPERATELY to be the mom that has music playing throughout the day), I would sprint around, picking up all the clothing that was shed throughout the main spaces and I would toss them into one of the bedrooms, closing the door to the mess. I would then zip into the bathroom and give it a quick wipe down, making sure to put away all the toothbrushes and personal items, cleaning up the pee around the base of the toilet #BOYSCAN’TAIM and then I would plop my butt on a chair in the living room so that it appeared as though I was just “relaxing” up to the moment she got there.
I would be a tornado of cleaning followed by the biggest liar of “dude, this is how it is ALL THE TIME.”
That day though, THAT DAY, I got the message while I was out of the house … while I was shopping and wouldn’t be home for at least 30 minutes.
I was faced with a dilemma that I am so grateful for.
Knowing that Jess is a true friend, that we resonate on so many levels, and that the cleanliness of my home bears no impact on how we can enjoy each others company … knowing that this was an opportunity to live with arms wide open … KNOWING that we never locked our front door … I said *through gritted teeth text message* “Of course, our door is unlocked, the dog will not bother you, make yourself AT HOME.”
As I finished up my groceries and picked up a little something special for our guest and I, as I paid and loaded my crew in the car, I wondered what her impression was as she walked through our “open door” to the pile of shoes strewn about the floor, the closet that held all the “stuff” from the car that appeared homeless in this pile, as she took in the counter loaded with dirty dishes and leftovers, the green bin overflowing and a dog who probably had no idea what to do with this home invader.
I considered the judgement, the guilt I was feeling because I was not up keeping my home to a standard of always being ready for guests, I wondered if she would have to push clothing aside on the sofa or if there was a clear chair that she could rest in. I thought about if she would be able to work the TV or manage the myriad of toys.
Here’s the thing though.
Hospitality isn’t about how clean your home is, how good your cooking is, or how your plates all match and your cutlery is real silver.
Hospitality is about welcoming the friend, the traveller, the weary soul, into your life without reservation. Without fear and with the genuine sense of “welcome home”.
This is our home, this is our life, and you are not an inconvenience.
You have not caused me undue stress as I whirl around my home making it appear better than it is, you are not a frustration as I attempt to bake an upside-down pineapple dessert that will pair perfectly with the coffee I brewed moments before your arrival. You are welcome.
As Christians, we need to lay down our pride, our need to appear perfect (or as close to it as humanly possible), we need to stop pretending and worrying about things that have no eternal significance, and we need to welcome one another with genuine hospitality. With a sense of belonging unmatched by the perfectly coordinated and tidy home, by the plethora of finger foods and delicious temptations … by the comparison and expectation that these equal hospitality.
Consider the motives, the intention, and your heart as you scamper from room to room “picking up”, what illusion are you creating and why have you allowed yourself to fall victim to this false bravado. When you run wild to appear more “put together” you’ve crossed from hospitality to entertaining, to providing an experience, a flavour, a sense of being catered to. There is always an air that this gathering took EFFORT, that you’ve been put out by company, that it is not REAL.
Allow yourself to embrace hospitality, to open your doors when the floor is covered in crumbs from snack or the couch cushions from the epic fort you made that morning with your kids. Allow yourself to grace as you gaze into the fridge and put out the remnants of the weeks groceries, the cheese strings and crackers. Put on the coffee and remember that hospitality is not about entertaining, it’s not about the “look how clean your home is” compliments and the “how do you do it” remarks, it’s about allowing ourselves to open our homes and our hearts, our families, to one another. As chaotic and crazy as it may be. To say, you are FAMILY, and you are WELCOME here.
I pray that you experience humble hospitality, that you allow yourself to embrace the times when things aren’t Pin-perfect, when you can say, “come as you are, this is us, you are family now”.