We frequently have people in our home and consequently I get asked a lot of questions about hospitality. Or the head shaking I-just-don't-know-how-you-do-it comment. Whether it's mom's group each week, friend's from out of town or people just over for dinner it can make life kind of hectic but we love it.
I think the beginning of our journey down the road of hospitality started because Rob was stepping into the ministry. One of our major conversations when he was first asked to become an elder centered around our home always being ready to receive visitors. As a momma with three young ones under the age of five and another one on the way it was daunting to say the least. But I understood the necessity so I tried my best to make it so with varying degrees of success. This is where I think 'If only I knew then what I know now!' because I am far wiser than that twenty something homemaker.
One thing I've learned is that hospitality is just as much about the spirit and attitude of your heart and home as the physical aspects. It took me many years and more than a few tears to realize that Martha Stewart I'm not. Actually, I think it was more the realization that how to shows and articles are great for inspiration but they happen in a vacuum...life isn't really be lived.
Another thing I've found important to keep in mind is Proverbs 17:1. Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
I've always pictured this to mean that even a measly slice of bread served with peace is better than a full meal with contention. And while that's true, 'dry morsel' is actually rendered old and moldy...or as John Gill put it, a piece of bread that has lost it's taste and virtue. So, there's a little more to the concept than just a humble piece of bread. If I get so wrapped up in the details and forget the spirit of hospitality (literally to share the Spirit of God) then I'm not really practicing hospitality. Humble fare does come into it though. While we do want to be generous hosts' it would certainly be foolish to break the bank and be poor stewards of God's provision just to entertain. In my opinion, this is where the art of presentation comes into play. The simplest of foods can be served in a manner so pleasing as to be on par with a gourmet feast. (With the possible exception of beanie weenies.)
Our wonderful friends left yesterday to head back to Jacksonville after being with us for almost a week. As a family of ten can you imagine the work that goes into getting them here?! Then keeping up with all their stuff in the midst of trying not to impose and encroach on us...that is quite a feat. And, one I will say they accomplish with great skill. One of the reason it's so easy to have the Culbertson's come visit with us...squeezing seventeen people into our not so big house...is because they work hard to accept our hospitality with gracious respect.
After they left I spent the day cleaning and putting our house back into order...back to our normal. It was hard work. You don't have thirteen children, seven of which are boys, running around playing and not have things get messy. But I can tell you in complete and total honesty that every dirty hand or foot print that had to be washed off a wall was worth it. Every extra load of dishes that needed washing or laundry that needed to be done was a joy because we'd had sweet fellowship with friends.
Being afraid of the work that goes into hospitality means you miss a lot of simple joys that come from living in community with each other. This past week we would have missed out on a graduation...
And the preciousness that comes with enjoying food together...
This is the heart of true hospitality...Proverbs 14:4
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
The extra work is worth it whether in the coming or going, giving or receiving. Because a house could be pristine clean and utterly devoid of laughter and memories. I don't know about you but that's not the kind of house I want to live in.