20141114_AnnaRendell_Hospitality

Last night we had friends over to stay with us. We live near the airport, and they had a morning flight, so it was a great excuse for a sleepover. We held each others babies, we sat in the kitchen and talked until midnight, and we shared crackers right out of the bag. Their room had clean sheets and an avalanche behind the closet door. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink and overflowing right out of it onto the counter, all the way to the stove top. We had vacuumed up the dog hair, but left coats slung over the banisters and a package delivered earlier that day smack dab in the middle of the kitchen floor. I wasn’t even home when they arrived!

It was less than ideal, but it was our everyday. We were in the middle of a very busy, burning the past-midnight oil kind of week, and they stepped right into the thick of it. The thing is, I didn’t bat an eye and neither did they. We hugged, big belly-to-belly hugs, and laughed and dove into deep conversation, right there in my real. The mess didn’t matter because in that moment, actually being with my friends mattered more.

This is how I know that something is softening in me. That something, the thing that would drive me to run myself ragged cleaning before company came – that thing is slowly dissolving as my chosen word for 2014 (welcome) comes clearer and truer than ever before.

A couple weeks ago at a conference, one of the keynote speakers was addressing true hospitality when she said something that literally took my breath away. “True hospitality,” she said, “is when your guests leave your home feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about you.”

Those words left her mouth and punched me right in the stomach.

So often – nearly every time I entertain – I am a hot mess before the guests arrive. I whirl around the house, scrubbing and cleaning and arranging. I plan my meal and make a time chart so things are ready upon their arrival. I snap at my husband and plunk the kids in front of the TV so they’re not in my way. Do I want to create a lovely, warm and welcoming atmosphere for my guests? Of course. Do I want them to leave feeling better about me? I do.

But no more.

No more will I blame a small townhome for my lack of hosting. No more will I allow the mindset of perfection to rule my behavior. No more will I use my semi-introversion as a scapegoat for not inviting people into my home. I deserve more from hospitality.  If we consistently shy away from inviting friends over, we start to give them the idea that they’re not welcome in our homes. And if they don’t feel welcome in our homes, eventually they may not feel welcome in our hearts. I’ve learned this because I’ve lived this, and it’s a difficult lesson to repair.

No, I am ready to release. Ready to release too-high expectations and carefully plotted menus. Ready to release my heart from the prison of perfection. Ready to release my family from the pressure cooker I’ve so often placed them in as we prepare for guests. My heart has let go of those things, and it feels ready to receive.

As we enter these short weeks of holidays, there will be many dinners and gatherings and get-togethers and parties. In the midst of them, may we be mindful of our motivation. May ‘good enough’ truly be. May our doors fling wide and our smiles spread wider. May we practice true hospitality.

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  • tami

    I was just rereading some posts on gracecoversme.com yesterday, and she explained the meaning of the Greek word used for hospitality in the New Testament. I couldn’t find the right post now, so I googled it, and found another blog explaining that there are 2 Greek words used at different times. One is kind of like ‘lovers of strangers’ and the other is like, ‘bringing outsiders in’. So, nothing in there about having my clutter picked up completely, or having 2 different main dishes and 5 sides. I think we might have to repeat this truth to ourselves again and again.

    • Ivy Corbett

      tami thanks for sharing those definitions. They add so much meaning to hospitality! Loving those we don’t yet know – looking for the unique expression of Christ in each one, and bringing the outsiders in – so no one feels on the outside, everyone is included. Beautiful. Thanks for adding that to Anna’s definition!

  • http://walkingwellwithgod.blogspot.com Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    Anna,
    You get it!! There is something truly freeing when we come to the realization that it’s about who is coming to our home, not about us and our home on display. I love the quote from the speaker you heard…that’s a keeper! Hospitality says, “Let me pour you a hot cup of coffee; come sit with me awhile and tell me what’s going on with you.” When we do that the dust and the dog hair balls and clutter disappear into the woodwork. Yes, we want to take care of the home God has blessed us with, but we also want to take care of the friends God has blessed us with as well. Thanks for a great post this morning :)
    Blessings,
    Bev

  • Blayre

    Yes, oh a thousand shameful yeses. But I, too, am learning to release the need for approval and am instead learning my need to pray. Instead of scrubbing my floor, I am getting down on my knees to pray for those who enter our home. Instead of preparing a meal to amaze, I pray love over it and ask that we be a blessing to their hearts (not just to their bellies.) Thank you for this beautiful confession and exhortation to do the same.

  • Melanie Vanlaningham

    I love, love, love this post. I’m hoping that even tho I’m in my fifties, spent too many years in that stressful place of wanting perfection, that it’s not too late to enjoy REAL hospitality because I’ve always wanted it to come from the heart. I had a word spoken about me and my messy home many many years ago and have let it haunt me, always feeling like I could never do enough. It is past time to be free of that word. THANK YOU for sharing the joy that is found in true hospitality. “True hospitality is when your guests leave your home feeling better about themselves, not better about you.”. Yes, and amen!!

  • JP

    This post really impacted me. I grew up in a household where cleanliness and making things ‘perfect’ was a pre-requisite to any guests.

    But you made me think. What can I do to connect more in the moment with guests? How can I be present?

    A few ideas:
    1. Look people in the eye
    2. Laugh
    3. Be honest and vulnerable
    4. Have some wine
    5. Speak

    I was listening to a podcast recently where the host spoke about the Spanish tradition of long dinners. Lots of wine, good food and discussions with friends for hours. I actually remember doing that in Spain myself in college :)

  • http://www.crystalstine.me Crystal Stine

    Oh, girl. Preach. I’m going to keep this one tucked away for awhile so I can remind myself of all of this when I’m too nervous to fling wide that front door and say “come on in! I’m so glad you’re here!” This is the goods, sister.

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com Marty

    I used to be the same way you talked about in your post. I’m recovering…because I seriously WANT people to feel welcome in our home. Last month, a friend called to ask if she could spend the night…I was mid-way on her destination. I broke into a sweat and my heart started racing. As much as I wanted to see this friend, I started thinking of reasons why I would say ‘no.’ I know, right? I said I was recovering! But I MADE myself stop…and say, “yes.” And it turned out to be the sweetest time of fellowship. She ended up coming back through and staying another night and it was wonderful. And I would’ve missed it all if I’d said, ‘no.’

    I love this: “True hospitality,” she said, “is when your guests leave your home feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about you.”

  • Joanne

    Thank you. True hospitality is when your guest leave your home feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about me. This is how it should be.
    I do keep a tidy home and when my friends come over I encourage to be comfortable relax to their leisure. I make it all about them not about the tidiness of my home.
    Thanks for encouraging me even more

  • Sharron Butler

    Oh . . . my . . . gosh – you SO just described me!!! I have never been comfortable with entertaining and you certainly described “my” why! My husband grew up in a home with an open door and his mother was so welcoming to everyone whereas my mother never entertained (and I mean NEVER!). There have been a few times in my life (I’m 72 – but a YOUNG 72 – lol!) that I’ve had the kind of friend that I loved to come by because I felt we were close enough that it didn’t matter if everything wasn’t perfect. I’m trying to make myself realize that I would be a lot more welcoming and hospitable if I could be that way by EVERYONE . . . that way, they would become that kind of friend, too!

  • http://vickithunstrom.blogspot.com Vicki

    Anna! I love this! I was just having this conversation with a close friend the other evening (in my messy home). It is hard to let go of that perfectionism and pride, but it is oh-so-beautiful when we do! I love having people in my home and even though it is tiny and there are usually piles of toys and laundry, it is such a blessing to make memories and new friends in my own living room or around my table. Here’s to what’s important!

  • Tara

    Anna, this is beautiful! May we all swing wide our doors and may our smiles spread even wider.

  • http://abidingloveaboundinggrace.blogspot.com/ ~Karrilee~

    Oh I love this Anna! I have found that I would much rather have a home filled with family and friends that is, let’s say – ‘real’ and a bit messy in corners, than have it spotless and empty of company all together! There is such freedom when we remember what hospitality and entertaining is really about… much like Jesus… it’s really always about investing in people! In loving.

  • http://recollecteddesign.com/ heather m.

    This hospitality thing is definitely something missing in my life… you’ve challenged me to think about it all differently now… I am a freak before company comes so i love the thought of making them feel better when they leave!! If my cat hair on the floor makes them feel better about their dog hair at home, then I could be on to something : )
    Also makes me think of Mary vs. Martha. I don’t want to miss connecting with my friends and family because I’m too busy scrubbing something. Thanks for sharing Anna!

  • http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com Jeanne Takenaka

    Anna, I loved this post. The thought of our guests leaving our home feeling better about themselves than about me? Love. That. I, too, am the perfectionist trying to get the house just right, whooshing countertop piles to our upstairs bedroom where no one can see them. Snapping at the kids and sometimes my honey. What if I could not worry about the dust on the entertainment center and just focus on making our guests feel valued? Hmm, I love this. I think we’ll have to invite some people over so I can practice. :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • http://www.genuflected.com Jenni DeWitt

    True hospitality is hard for me. I’ve been trying to give myself mental peptalks to do better, and your words are so helpful. Thank you! I do believe God is calling us all to more hospitality both in our homes and in our hearts.

  • http://hopehearthome.com Susan Shipe

    This was very timely for me. We have some friends driving through next week and asked if they could stop over for 2 nights. I almost said no and I’m not even sure why. But that word “welcome” rose up in me and I said YES. I know I am going to be very glad they did. Great post.

  • Amy

    You hit the nail right on MY head! So many years wasted because of my fears of being thought inadequate because I hadn’t dusted or whatever. Thank you so much for opening my eyes and my heart!

  • Gina

    Amen! Such a hard but worthy lesson to learn. Thank you for this timely reminder of what really matters!

  • http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com Kristin Taylor

    Yes, yes, yes. God’s been showing me the goodness in being real – and letting go of perfection – this year. So glad you shared your story on hospitality.

  • http://www.simplyjesusministries.com/31days-of-books-that-inspire/31-days-of-books-that-inspire Tobi@SimplyJesus

    Wonderful words, they hit me right in the heart. Thanks for sharing this important truth. :)

  • Kat

    Beautiful words, Anna! Thank you for sharing your heart. It seems as though the Lord is really pressing true hospitality into my heart & my life – after reading the incredible #SRT study on the topic, and then reading Annie F. Downs’ “Let’s All be Brave,” I’m understanding that my bravery is stepping into & learning this heart of true hospitality. Thank you for continuing the conversation for me, for continuing to press this beautiful image of Christ into my life, so that I can follow His amazing example, as the Great Invitor Himself.

  • http://www.leeanngtaylor.com LeeAnn Taylor

    Love this post and your heart! I’ve learned this year this same lesson. It’s worth it to invite people into our home “as is” because it makes them feel welcome. My friends now say “now I know I can invite you over to MY house anytime because you’re a real person and have real messes too!” I take that as a compliment! While I still try to tidy up if I know people are coming over, I don’t stress over it nearly as much anymore.

  • Jolene Patterson

    As I was clicking back and forth checking emails and messages this morning, The Holy Spirit was definitely prompting me to come check Incourage for today’s blog.. So thankful I did..

    This is something that has bothered for years.. I had my first home 9 years ago and all I can remember is wearing myself out making sure the house was spotless and ready to entertain.. and when I think back over all of the gatherings I’ve had over the years.. I can’t really pull too many good memories of times ACTUALLY spent with family and friends.. No more of that!
    My heart is open for true hospitality! Here I am Lord!! <3

    God is so good!! Bless you!

  • http://www.amomentofsimplicity.blogspot.com/?m=1 Patti

    That was such a great post. It’s such a reality of behind the scenes hospitality. The putting our best foot forward at the expense of so many other things. The sanity of our own family in our feverish attempt at perfection and our lack of connection when our guest are with us. Thank you for that truthful, honest reminder! :)

  • Patty Aslin

    Beautifully said Anna! At 68 years young I have finally (better late than never) realized what I truly want friends to feel when they inter our home. The short list is #1~welcomed #2~Loved and most important #3~I always say a prayer that our guest will feel the presence of God in our home. People will not remember everything about the time spent in our home, but they will always remember how we made them feel! Blessings, Patty from Colorado

  • Kacie

    This is good stuff right here. After seeing my house, everybody would be feeling better about themselves! Wink, wink;) Such a good reminder that we should be hospitable – whether we planned for it or not.

  • Michelle

    Oh what wise, wise words coming from one so young. You will save yourself a lifetime of exhaustion and failure to truly connect with your guests by altering your expectations of YOURSELF in this way. I am 58 and still trying to learn this lesson, so your words hit ME right in the stomach. Good luck to you, and to me, as we enter this holiday period. And thank you.

  • Angela

    I absolutely love this post -,releasing and surrendering the need for approval !! How freeing. Thank you, Anna.
    Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13; 2.

    Lord,Let your love show up in unusual places!

  • Karen

    What a great line…. “True hospitality,” she said, “is when your guests leave your home feeling better about themselves, not feeling better about you.”

  • judy

    You have really encouraged me.I’m going to put this into practice. You’re exactly right, it’s far more important to make them feel good and loved and welcomed, than to make myself feel good. thank you so much for this much needed word. I’m not too old to learn this at 68! May our Father continue to use you for our good and His glory. Judy

  • Beth Williams

    I grew up like JP in a home where perfection was expected. We vacuumed weekly moving furniture and there were no crumbs allowed on the floor. Now I’m not as picky about housecleaning and I want to be more hospitable.

    A few weeks ago our neighbor and her sister stopped by. I took them to our back porch and we sat and talked for a bit. Then I let them come in and see the house a bit. I wanted them to feel at home.

    This Thanksgiving we are having his family over to our house for the meal. It will be tidy and somewhat clean. But the good part will be the conversations had and the food eaten with family!

    Perhaps at Christmas we can do the same thing with his other nephew and family over also (total of 10 people). I enjoy people and being with friends. I want to be a good steward of all that God has given me– regardless of how it looks.

    Blessings :)

  • cathy

    The mantra at our home is “knock and walk”. I absolutely LOVE having people in my home.
    Amid dirty dishes or manicured tablesettings, family and friends’ presence makes my heart full.
    I agree that its not about me, it truly is about making them feel comfortable and better for having made the stop & for joining me in a meal or conversation. This day- afternoon or evening is what is important. Filled with hugs, smiles and gentle conversation, minds and souls are renewed and filled. THAT is the purpose of hospitality.

  • Alice

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder. It came just in time. We are hosting our son’s wedding at our house next week on Thanksgiving Day – 38 people for turkey and all the fixings. I will strive to make each one feel better about him/herself rather than being amazed at “how beautiful your house looks.”
    My husband has a saying which we use often. “If you’re coming to see us, come anytime. If you’re coming to see the house, give us three months notice.”

  • Kelly Garbe

    Great post. Part of hospitality is inviting people to yourself. Knowing deeply that I am a beloved child of the king helps me to be, free to be me. “Love God…Love your neighbour as you love YOURSELF.” Jesus has freed me to live beyond comparison and to love people…I’m having so much fun listening to the Father and partnering with Him to be hospitable with women I know well and women who I don’t as know well. Our world is hungry for love, let’s receive it from Him and give it away. I’m asking Jesus to bless hospitality on all of us who read this post today.

  • http://michelemorin.wordpress.com Michele Morin

    We decided 21 years ago when we moved into our home that we would not wait for it to be perfect before inviting people to join us here. God has blessed that decision, and through all the renovations and dog hair, toddler toys and baseball bats, we have had a stream of missionaries and friends, kids and family come and go. Our kids’ friends feel welcome and we are all enriched, while being reminded that God cares more about people than He cares about our stuff. I doubt if any of our guests go away wondering why we still don’t have the dining room floor finished. Thankful for your words of wisdom today.