A few years ago, we had friends stay overnight 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 on the bed and an avalanche behind the closet door. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink and overflowing right out of it onto the counter. 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-midnight-oil kind of week, and they stepped right into the thick of it. The thing is, I didn’t bat an eyelash 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. Something had begun softening in my heart, and the thing that drove me to craziness before company came was slowly dissolving.
At a conference I once attended, one of the keynote speakers was addressing the topic of 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 I am a hot mess before guests arrive. I whirl around the house, scrubbing and cleaning and arranging. I plan my meal so everything’s 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 did…
…but no more.
No more will I blame a small home for my lack of hosting. No more will I allow the mindset of perfection to rule my behavior. No more will I use my introversion as an excuse for not inviting people into my home. My guests deserve more from hospitality, and so do I.
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 our friends may not feel welcome in our hearts.
No, I am ready to release. Ready to release sky-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 the Easter season, quickly followed by the end of school and start of summer, there will be dinners and gatherings, 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.