“Could I get some more sour cream?” the twenty-something girl asked as I rushed by her table, muttering to myself about the napkins needed by the customers at table four and the fact that those at table six were still waiting for their bill.
“Sure,” I said, forgetting instantly.
“Excuse me,” she said later, and I noticed she still hadn’t started eating her burrito. “I’m sorry, but I’m still waiting for my sour cream.”
“Oh yeah, right . . . so sorry. I’ll get it right away,” I said, speeding to the table across the room to deliver waters and menus to the newest customers.
A bungled order, spilled Coke, and an encounter with an inebriated patron later, I picked up Sour Cream Girl’s bill and grimaced. No tip. I completely deserved that, and I would never forget it.
As a restaurant server, it’s the details that matter. And I am decidedly not a details person, which is why at the end of that summer I vowed never to serve tables again if I could help it.
Last week, I invited a group of ladies over for a clothing swap and to browse jewelry a friend was selling. I tried to remember to offer every friend a drink, but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one woman searching for a glass. She timidly opened the fridge to help herself and that old feeling of the sour cream incident returned.
I berated myself for getting caught up in conversations and forgetting to deliver drinks. I leave my guests holding their coat for ten minutes before I realize they need a place to hang it up. (I blame my rudeness on growing up in Florida where we didn’t wear coats.) And I often forget to serve the appetizers I planned to display.
My children are the least obedient, my food the most store-bought, and my standards of service the lowest, apparently. None of my plates, napkins, or flowers ever match, and I once used a lunchbox ice pack to chill a bottle of Costco wine because I forgot to buy ice.
And yet I keep trying.
Although the details certainly matter — and I think noticing the needs of others makes them feel seen and loved — the details are not the thing. The thing is to notice the breathing, laughing, anxious souls who walk through my door.
The word hospitality seems to heave guilt and pressure onto some people’s backs. But I believe God delights in smashing our boxes, breaking them down, and using them to form mazes and tunnels, airy spaces with skylights. Redefined, hospitality offers freedom, not confinement; acceptance, not judgment.
I like to think of hospitality in terms of Jesus feeding the five thousand:
You don’t have a big home, kitchen, or table? No dishes that aren’t chipped? No money? What do you have? Oh, you have a couple loaves of bread and a few fresh fish? Ok, we can work with that . . .
Right now, as a mom to three kids age six and under, I have very little energy to be a good host. If hospitality means fancy food, Pinterest-perfect decorations, or me wearing anything other than jeans and a shirt I bought at a thrift store, then I’m out. But when it’s scaled down to a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa, or La Croix and cheese and crackers from Trader Joes while our kids whizz around on bicycles in the driveway — that I can handle. That I can offer in faith that God will take and multiply it in the form of friendship and community, connection and greater neighborliness.
If you’re one of the many who runs the other direction when people start talking about “radical” hospitality, can I grab your arm and show you my living room with the laundry basket I didn’t just leave out to make you feel better? My out-dated kitchen with the drawer hanging off its hinges? My children wailing their heads off and wiping their greasy hands all over my couches?
Will you come over for coffee or tea, wine or beer, and cackle and maybe even cringe with me over a mortifying moment in the library today? Because that’s the thing. The emotion, the story, the personal connection, the stale crackers and bland cheese don’t hold us together in relationship, but they help us get to where we need to be. They’re the hospitality offering I have today and the small miracle I pray God will multiply into the moreness of love.
How do you live out authentic, dressed-down hospitality in your home?
What I can offer in faith God will take and multiply it in the form of friendship and community, connection and greater neighborliness. -@leslie_verner: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Leslie, if Myers-Briggs had a factor for Oblivious/Alert (which I think they should!) I would be “O” off the charts.
But, like you, I’m persevering in this hospitality thing because I’ve seen that it really does break down walls and open hearts. So I make lists like crazy and check the menu before I sit down at the table, and if I discover that I’ve forgotten to light the scented candles to mask the smell of St. Bernard, I just try to remember next time. (When your kids are older you can delegate that one. Daughters-in-law make great candle lighters, I’ve found.)
And this image: “I believe God delights in smashing our boxes, breaking them down, and using them to form mazes and tunnels, airy spaces with skylights. Redefined, hospitality offers freedom, not confinement; acceptance, not judgment.”
Leslie Verner says
Glad to know I’m not the only one! I’m a big list-maker, too. And before big get-togethers I make one for my husband as well…. 😉 xo
Pearl Allard says
Leslie, thank you! This was a breath of fresh air to this hospitality-challenged hostess. I had a friend over this week (maybe more like I let her visit me) and because of health struggles the house was…well, what it looks like when we’re living in it with kids and don’t have enough energy for all the things! I had no makeup on, hair was meh, and jeans and a shirt felt dressed up after being sick so long. But I managed to wipe the bathroom down and let that be good enough. God knew a perfectly clean house or looking put together was not what was needed. Two hearts connecting at the “real” level was far more precious. I’m really glad I let her come over!
Leslie Verner says
I’m sure she didn’t even care! I know I never do! (And thank goodness for wipes you can use to clean the bathroom in three minutes…)
Lynn Koukal says
I finally realized a long time ago that I am more at ease in a comfortable setting when I visit another person, its them I come to see and be with and enjoy the company of. I appreciate the invite, and their taking the time for me, I have told some at times, “I have left my white glove at home.” And when they come to visit me, I smile and say, “welcome” so go to have you here, please leave your white glives at the door! We all laugh and It puts everyone at ease, now we can get on just being ourselves and enjoying each other. This is one of the ways I practice loving myself and others. And isn’t that what God asks of us, and its good.
Leslie Verner says
Love it! 🙂
LeeAnne Adams says
I truly needed this ! I’m one of those that looks at my house and says, “Maybe when I get the floor polished,(which I am not able to do), or when my kitchen is spruced up, etc. But I know God is calling me to show hospitality in my home so I will seek what He wants, who I need to connect with, and then do it. Maybe it’s one person or a group ? The Lord will take my very simple offering and work His will !
Thank you again for this reminder and encouragement ❤️
Leslie Verner says
Yes, start with one! And I always like it better when the homes I visit aren’t perfect–it makes me feel better about my own imperfect space!
Becky Keife says
Okay, I often like to copy a favorite sentence into the comments to let someone know how much I loved their writing, but if I did that here it would entail copying the entire post. YES TO ALL OF IT! So refreshing. So good. So true!!
Last week I invited a group of moms over to visit with a friend of ours who was in from out of town. I wanted to provide the space for us all to connect, but I didn’t have the bandwidth to be a fancy hostess. So what did I do? I told my friends that. I told them that I would have hot coffee and tea and open arms ready for them. They were welcome to bring their kiddos, and a snack too if they were hungry. I wiped off the table, lit a Duraflame log, and it was a beautiful time together. Friends brought fresh fruit and lemon cake and we sat on my dingy couches and pulled up chairs and all over the floor, all focused on why we were there–to be together. Come as you are, give what you have. That’s my kind of hospitality too.
Such a joy to host your words here today, Leslie. xx
Leslie Verner says
Thanks, Becky! Your comment made my day;-)
Rita Brower says
Okay, that was me 16 years ago when I would host several Sunday hospitality lunches per year because my husband is on the church council, and that’s what council members (or their wives) do. Yes, I stressed and made the lists, and cleaned the house (or at least the “guest” areas). The lesson I learned after all those years and countless lunches is this: K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Sister. No more lists for me. Lunches include something I can make the day before and reheat (Sloppy Joes are always a hit), something store-bought (potato salad or chips), and a super-easy dessert (store-bought brownies with ice-cream sounds good) . Some times it’s just soup and ham and cheese buns with chips and a dessert. I also have a few favorite go-to menus. Do I set the table? Nope. I set the dishes, cutlery, and napkins on the counter, and when someone asks if they can help, I just politely ask them to set the table for me. It makes them feel good to be helpful and included, and saves some extra time for me. I even ask them to set the food out. Have you ever noticed how easier it is for women to bond together when they are working together in the kitchen? Guests, especially women, would rather be in the kitchen doing something than just sitting on the sofa waiting for the meal to be served. One thing my husband and I intentionally do is invite guests that probably don’t know each other. The conversations are always interesting and informative. And I really think that most of guests don’t remember what I served them or what the table looked like. They just remember the conversations and laughter, and new acquaintances they have made. Hugs and K.I.S.S.
It’s not about the material things you need to have to be a good host, it is the heart of wanting to serve others is what matters the most. People will forget about what your house looks like or what décor you have but they will remember how kind and gracious you are about opening up your home to them. We get so caught up with trying to be the perfect host that we miss the importance of being present and sharing life with those in our presences. We miss out on the simple conversations and the impact to make a difference and be that light for someone who may have just needed simple encouragements at that moment. Small things matters and they make the most change in such a huge way that we never think about. I remember when I was a kid visiting a friend of mine. They invited me over their house for dinner and although it was a very tiny apartment, I felt the love they had for one another through their conversations with me and each other and that made such an impact on me even today. I am reminded that no matter what food I have at the table or where I am, by having meaningful conversations makes me feel like I had been the best host. Thank you for sharing this.
Stephanie J Thompson says
I saw much of myself in your story. That is exactly why I’ve never really gravitated toward waitressing (and I can’t multitask.) Thanks for the encouragement to serve out of our own “fit.”
I loved this. I am in a small group through our class at church. When it is my turn to host our couples, I become so stressed and anxiety-filled because when the ladies arrive at all homes, so much focus is on the home, decor, place settings, flower arrangements, amazing menu, and this is absolutely not my gifting and totally out of my comfort zone. I love this group, and I know this is my issue, not theirs because I am this way with having anyone in my home playing hostess with the mostest. If my focus is having someone over, and we are talking and lifting up the Lord, I’m good. I love making people feel welcomed and that they matter, I am just uncomfortable having so much focus placed on an area of mine I consider a weakness. I am an introvert and seem to attract extroverts who I view as so comfortable in their gifting. Praying in advance for God’s peace and preparing does help. Praying also I stop worrying and focusing on my inadequacies and more on why we are together!