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.