Hospitality

Every six weeks my hairstylist invites me to sit down as she offers me a cup of coffee. She carefully wraps a towel around my shoulders and we start talking about what is new since we last spoke. We chat about everyday life at home. We share the challenges of picking paint colors, creating art for the walls and arranging our home to work for our families. We laugh about being the type who would probably clean the house for a housekeeper, if we had one.  We talk about how we love to invite others into our homes and churches and how we love to make the experience special and meaningful.

We confess to each other that if you stop in our house on short notice, our heart is to welcome you into the imperfectly lovely, everyday chaos of pets and family. But when we invite you over, we will enjoy blessing you with a special evening that might include a clean (enough) house, good smelling candles and a simple but pretty table set for you to enjoy as we sit down to get to know each other over a simple but tasty dinner.

It is wonderful to find a kindred spirit who understands you so well, a friend you can talk to and share life with — one who conveniently also happens to make your hair prettier at the same time.

As I tip my head backward into the sink filled with warm sudsy water and shut my eyes, I start to relax and take a deep breath. We talk about more than just homes. We share our faith, talk about our work and families, our churches and ways we can bless and impact others around us.

As she washes away my growing number of gray hairs with the promise of a beautiful new auburn color, we take off the masks and let down our guard and laugh about all the things only your hairdresser knows about you. We share our attempts to stay young while admitting we are not feeling as young as we used to be. We confess how hard it is to adjust to being moms of teens and young adults and the ups and downs of navigating marriage in mid-life years.

As she snips away at my hair trying to shape it into something more presentable, we talk about cutting out extra things from our life and the challenges we face along the way. We talk about the sacrifice of loving and ministering to broken people and what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We continue to chat while chunks of my hair fall to the ground and more pieces of our hearts are revealed. We talk about letting go of our old ways, and striving for growth, being changed and what God is doing to reshape us as women.

Most of what we talk about comes back to the heart of sharing our lives and the love of God with others. She dries my hair, sprays on some shine and finally I feel like I am ready to walk back out into the world refreshed and much less frazzled looking than when I walked in. As I schedule my next appointment we exchange words of excitement about what God will do next in our lives. She sends me off with a wave and a smile and off I go, ready to tackle the rest of my day.

Entertaining copy

It becomes clear as I head back to my car that my hairstylist turned friend practices gracious and heartfelt hospitality, right there in the salon. While we both love sharing our life with others through opening our home, hospitality is a matter of the heart. Hospitality is setting the tone for a relationship more than it is about the actual place the relationships are formed. I’ve never been in my hairstylist’s home and she has never been in mine. While opening our home or preparing a meal is a gift we can and should offer to those God places in our life, what matters more is that we serve others by opening our hearts to show interest in people. Our desire should be to make people feel welcomed and loved no matter where our paths cross.

Perhaps our end goal with everyone we meet should be to send them back out into the world a little less frazzled, a little more understood, and feeling noticeably more loved and lovely so they are encouraged and excited to see what God is up to next in their life! That is the true gift of hospitality.

What are some ways you extend hospitality outside your own four walls?

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  1. 1
    Melanie Vanlaningham says:

    Melissa,
    I loved reading your message this morning. My desire has always been to have the heart of hospitality and not worry so much about what it all looks like. I’ve spent too much time and energy worrying about what others see when they come to my home and have probably not invited people in at times because it just wasn’t good enough, but the core of who I am is to help people know that they truly matter, they are worth more than any beautiful home. Words spoken years ago about my messy house (after giving birth to my first child and living in a mobile home) have haunted my heart and continue to whisper ugliness over and over. It’s a constant battle to drown out the voice and live from my heart, but I do, I offer up my less-than-perfect home and self and try to welcome all who show up at my door.
    My biggest area of hospitality happens to be where I go to “work” everyday….middle school. Daily I ask God to help me be a “home”, a safe place, to many young teens. God has broken my heart over and over for these kids and shown me how important it is to know their name, to listen to their hearts, to have open arms and and an open heart to embrace them right where they are. I am so very thankful for all the ways He has expanded my heart and taught me about true hospitality. Hospitality of the heart! Thanks again for sharing your words which help to bring true freedom to who I am and what I can do.
    Blessings to you!
    Melanie

    • 2

      Hi Melanie,

      I know so well how ugly words can hurt and continue to whisper that we aren’t good enough. Opening up our less-than-perfect selves and homes can be so hard with those voices playing in our head! But it’s great that you don’t let them paralyze you. And I love that you are a safe place to young teens. Oh how they need you!!! What a blessing you can be in their lives.

      Hugs to you, Melanie! You have inspired me!

  2. 3

    Melissa,
    Ironically when I was stuck within my own four walls, recuperating from extensive knee surgery, I started my blog which was my way of reaching beyond my own little suburban bubble. In doing so, God has shown me that He can do far more than I ever thought or imagined. I have made some “cyber friendships” that would never have been possible without my blog or the internet.

    I also try to actively engage people in conversation when I am out in public. I try not to settle for “Fine” as an answer to my query of “How are you?” I try to go a little deeper, because as we know, everyone has a story and could probably use a listening ear.

    Your post is a good reminder to help me go out and live with more intention every day! Thanks so much!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      Oh yes, I love that you ask more questions than one that can be answered by “fine.” Going deeper invites others in to relationship, and that simple invitation can be one of the most hospitable things we can do for someone else! Bless you for that, Bev!

  3. 5

    Almost every day I’m faced with a choice to practice or not practice hospitality while at work. The conversations I’ve had with co-workers about failing marriages, struggling children, and the tension of trusting God to be the Author of our stories when we’d really rather control the Pen that day — all these remind me daily to practice hospitality. I’m so task-oriented, and embarrassingly, hospitality sometimes feels like a discipline to me. But it’s always worth it. Every single time. I have a very long way to go, but I’m learning…

    • 6

      Amen, it is sometimes so hard to stop what we are doing and open our eyes to who is in front of us. So many needs! We may not think that small effort makes a difference but you are so right, it always does!!

  4. 7

    I just sent this to my hair dresser! She does show great hospitality, but I had never thought of it that way!

    THANKS!!

  5. 8

    Your hairstylist sounds like a very special person, and not at all like mine who is business as usual.

    It takes practice and discipline to consistently make the choice to connect with people all around us in that way that makes them leave less frazzled, but it is so worth it when you see someone’s countenance change and watch some heaviness lift from their shoulders because you took the time to engage in conversation with them and show interest, if only in a quick conversation in the grocery line.

  6. 9

    What a great message and oh so true! That is such a blessing when these kind of people/friends are put into our lives! Thanks so much for sharing this awesome story with us today. :-)

  7. 10

    Oh I love this piece and the beauty of hospitality redefined!

    I’m a hairstylist and feel deeply that the space behind my chair is sacred, holy ground. I wrote about it here.

    http://marcyholder.com/2013/12/04/the-sacred-space-behind-the-chair/

  8. 12

    “Hospitality is setting the tone for a relationship more than it is about the actual place the relationships are formed.” I love this thought–that the essence of hospitality is inviting people into our lives. It’s a heart thing, not a space thing. Well said.

  9. 13

    This was such a beautiful illustration of how we can share Jesus wherever we are. “They will know you are Christians by your love.” Thanks for this sweet reminder of how we are to live and love!

  10. 14

    How lovely that experience must be! I’ve never been to one such as her. I’m an L&D nurse and I hope that I create such an experience when my patients come to have their babies.

    As far as hospitality in my home, I am never so happy as when I have a houseful. When I was younger I would fret and fret that everything had to be perfect. Lets just say that there was not an inviting atmosphere (at least for my family!). As I have grown older, I realize what is important. Although I must admit that being an empty nester and then having my college graduate return home has rocked things a little! :)

  11. 15

    Thank you for sharing these enriching lines. I am blessed with a wonderful, hospitable stylist, too.
    Making eye contact in daily encounters is a way I welcome others into my life. It’s heart-tugging to see the difficulty others have with this. I am blessed by your words today. Blessings to you.

  12. 16

    My husband & I have cultivated a habit of inviting people over at the last minute. Expectations are lowered – particularly my own. Everything’s not planned & perfect. Impromptu hospitality shakes up your day, but that’s part of making it a habit – rolling with it. At the end of the day we’re always happy we did.

  13. 18

    Great thoughts, Melissa. You had me at “hairdresser” since mine is a one-of-a-kind too.

    The Holy Spirit has taught me a lot about hospitality through the years, and one of the most significant is the importance of having a joyful countenance. When you start noticing all the sourpusses, you realize how welcoming a smile really is.

    I’m impressed by your beautiful photos and BH&G accolades, which makes me think your home is less chaotic than you think ;)

    • 19

      I love that, our joyful countenance. That is so important!

      Thanks for the kind words about BHG and photos. Our home is chaotic, let me assure you puppies make everything a mess daily (one case in point, my husband just spent the last hour cleaning up a shredded bamboo placemat all over our family room, courtesy of said pups),. But, I’m happiest and thrive best with a pretty framework for my chaos. It’s a blessing to create a home I love to be in even when it is messy. I’m just glad it encourages others to take a step towards creating a home they love to be in too!

  14. 20

    Love this. Thank you so much for sharing. To look at hospitality beyond my four walls and into the everyday routine…… Very encouraging to my heart today.

  15. 21
    Patty Aslin says:

    Hi Melissa, I am a 68 year young mother and grandmother….I loved this post, because I truly believe where ever I am is where God has planted me! I volunteer at a therapeutic horse ranch here in Colorado and on the days I volunteer, I try to welcome all the other volunteers, clients, their parents or caregivers as they enter the barn. It is so important to me that everyone feels welcomed and valued. The first important thing a person see when they are face to face with you is your “SMILE”…..not wether your house is perfect (or in my case barn) or you look perfect, but the feeling they get from your smile! I have never met a SMILE I didn’t like :~)
    God Bless you and all you other posters! Patty

  16. 23

    This is a big eye opener…..I am thankful for my stylist. We have had many conservation about family, life, and going yo church. She said she has not been to church in a long time.
    God Bless her anyway :)
    Thank you Whitney :) :)

  17. 25

    Just wish to say your article is as astounding.
    The clearness in your post is just excellent and i can assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Finne with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.

    Thanks a million and please ccarry on the rewarding work.

  18. 26
    Becky Jones says:

    Melissa,
    My hair dresser just lost her brother-in-law to strokes at a fairly age. She is a Christian and has sent on her facebook about needing prayer.
    I love the warmest shown at your hair dresser. Your showing of God’s love is great.
    Becky

  19. 27

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder that meeting people in the everyday and experiencing life with them is an opportunity for hospitality.

  20. 28
    Beth WIlliams says:

    I try to extend hospitality by just talking with people. Calling them and seeing how they are doing.

    While my dad was in the hospital and rehab I invited my sisters to come stay with us at night. I didn’t care how my house looked at all. I just wanted to offer hospitality and a nice place to sleep while they stayed with dad all day.

    We need to worry less about how things look and more about extending great hospitality. One way is to go deep and share your feelings with someone. Also ask others about how they are coping and listen truly listen to what they say!

    Blessings :)

  21. 29

    Hello Melissa.

    I am reading your post today because of a very special client/friend/ and now a new found Sister in Christ. This person has been so amazing to me and amazingly for me. I am, at this time, away from home for some much needed away time. Life has crept up on me In such a non positive way with all the challenges we face each and everyday. I realised I needed to step back for a moment to get refreshed, and allow myself to come back to the duties that I had been given from our Father above. So that I could smile again for everyone who acquires them. My newly found Sister in Christ has been such an inspiration in my life. She’s a counselor, as well as having so many other great traits, and I am her hairdresser. God knew exactly what he was doing when he paired us together.

    I thank her as well as I thank you for this beautiful inspirational message. It takes Hospitality to a new level of meaning for me.
    Ron

  22. 30

    Melissa,
    My heart has been touch this morning by each and every comment. I love opening our home to friends and family for a meal or a visit. Through the years I have loved making a home and hopefully been an example to all who have entered our home. God gave me a gift of helping others create a beautiful home through my interior decorating/interior redesign business. I hold prayer meeting on the drive to all my jobs….praying for the family in the home where I’ll be that day and asking help from ‘the Great Creator’ to meet my client’s expectations and to be an encourager to my client. The greatest compliment a client can give me when I finish a job is, “I can’t wait to have friends over.” I love the ministry God has given me!

  23. 31

    The urge to extend hospitality, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, does become an expression of the life, so that it’s practiced wherever you are. I love having guests in our house, of course, but work is a great avenue for hospitality. When I was working and had my own office with a small table for meetings, I always offered coffee until I collected a teapot, two beautiful cups, and the other paraphernalia for tea making. When someone came for an afternoon appointment, we would sometimes have tea together. I always encouraged people to talk, and sometimes we’d have a conversation about something important. Another example is being at a farm dinner, seeing a woman walk in by herself, and inviting her to join our group. Older women without a spouse often have a very difficult time socially because no one pays any attention to them or seems to want to talk to them when approached. Reaching out to such people is a type of hospitality that can be practiced anywhere.

  24. 32

    Melissa…you and your hairdresser have a blessed relationship. :)

    My ‘old’ stylist actually called her studio…Xenia. I guess it means hospitality and that was one of her goals, to offer hospitality to her clients. She did it well. And her beautiful and thoughtfully designed narrow space on the street became very popular. Yes…she was an expert in hair color…that was what made gals make the first appointment. What helped her business to grow….her hospitality and humility.

    I’m going to share this article with her….I think she would be blessed.
    Best wishes for an extraordinary weekend!

  25. 33
    Ruth Lutz says:

    Melanie,
    What a beautiful and inspiring message to remind each of us that EVERY encounter is an opportunity to love one another and to show the love of Christ! We need to remember that we can minister to those around us in simple, yet deeply meaningful ways… Thanks again for making my day!
    Warm regards,
    Ruth