The phone rang, and I just knew it was someone calling about the party.
My stomach sank, and I got that nervous tummy feeling. You know that one that happens when you’re tongue tied and the words wont come? The one when multiple conversations play over in your head at breakneck speed, while you try and predict each outcome? Yes, I knew you understood that nervous tummy feeling.
I debated letting the answering machine pick it up, but I knew it was delaying the inevitable.
I glanced around my kitchen and great room. With a plethora of Christmas boxes straggled everywhere, loads of laundry piled on the sofa, and three fully packed suitcases waiting by the stairs, my home didn’t caress, “Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here.” It screamed, “Stay away if you fear for your life.”
It was obvious that I needed to cancel the Christmas party scheduled to be held at our home later that evening.
Having been called out of town unexpectedly the previous week, I knew these ladies would understand. I wasn’t ready for them, and my house surely wasn’t “Christmas party ready.”
“Jen, I deleted the email. What time does the ladies night out start tonight?”
I paused. It was the moment of truth. How should I respond? I certainly knew how I wanted to respond.
The Martha Stewart side of me taunted, “Just cancel. They will completely understand. You’re not really going to invite them in when your tree isn’t even trimmed, are you? I mean look around. One can only get so much done in five hours, and even I can’t touch this mess.”
But then I heard that still small voice whisper. Truthfully, it sounded more like a scream, and it shouted, “Jen, is your definition of hospitality always supposed to be convenient and comfortable? Do you remember the verse you often reference from 1 Peter 4:9: ‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,’ or what about Romans 12:13’s command, ‘Seek to show hospitality or Practice hospitality.’ Do you mean it? Why would you cancel tonight? These women are looking forward to gathering at your home.”
It’s as if I could hear the words from my very own “Welcome Home Hospitality” workshop speaking right at me, and honestly, I needed a bit of a finger wave right in the face at that moment.
Do I invite others into my home only when it’s on my terms? Do I? Oh my, I think I might.
What’s my purpose in hosting friends or even strangers? Is it to cultivate a spirit of welcome and encouragement; to minister to others, or is it self serving in any way?
I picked up the phone.
“Hey there. It starts at 7:00, but just get here when ever you can. I can’t wait to see you.”
The clean laundry repositioned itself from the down stairs sofa to my upstairs bedroom sofa. The suitcases were tucked away in a closet. Five large Rubbermaid containers sat patiently in a corner, giving a whole new meaning to interesting party decor, and I quickly prepared an easy, but delicious, cheeseball, alongside my famous Sour Cream Banana Cake (shh, it starts with cake mix, but no one will ever know when you bake them in cute, little pans.) When asked what they could bring, I decided to let them help. Sweet or salty. Whatever is easiest.
White lights sparkled on the tree, but not one ornament adorned its branches.
It was OK. I was OK. I had been released from the bondage of needing approval. It was going to be a great night.
A few hours later, women poured into my home, and that tight knot that I’d been feeling all day disappeared.
Because these ladies just wanted to share life together, and listen to each others stories. They wanted to laugh and talk and commiserate together. They didn’t care if my tree trimming mimicked Martha’s because in spite of what she whispers, I knew this was a Good “Enough” Thing. In fact, I am quite certain I heard a few sighs of relief when they walked through my door because not one of us can do it all, yet sometimes we just need to be assured that it’s true. We need to see another person’s “bedlam” up close and personal to be certain.
And they saw mine up close alright.
In fact, as I started to apologize and explain the situation (yes, I broke my first rule of hospitality – never apologize for ones home, although this deemed a plausible exception to that rule), one precious friend decided, “Let’s all help Jen finish her tree.”
And so they did, and it was all as it should be. Friends helping friends. Tearing down masks. Climbing on chairs. Sharing Life together.
That night a few years ago, sparked so many thoughts about hospitality for me.
I often wonder why we make opening our home to others so difficult?
Yet, it is. It makes us nervous and tentative and self conscious.
Sweet friends. Hospitality isn’t about creating a Pinterest perfect home. It’s not even about the yummy food, although I love to create in the kitchen.
It’s about just deciding, “Yes, I am available: when ever, for whomever.”
This holiday season, let’s not over think it. Let’s not make hospitality something it’s not. Let’s not second guess our abilities. Let’s just determine, “Yes, I will take that first step and extend an invitation.”
Let’s make ourselves available and then watch how this whole wonderful thing unfolds, OK?
One woman. One invitation. One opportunity for the Lord to do something simply amazing.
I’m passionate about encouraging and equipping women in opening their homes to others, but I know there are so many reservations. Maybe we can help break down the barriers and figure out some answers to why this is something so difficult for most of us.
Would you care to share in the comments? Did my story resonate?
Maybe you have a hospitality story you’d like to share (the good, bad and ugly stories are all welcome.). I sure would love to hear it.