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The year 2014 was probably the best year for my family, and God blessed us throughout the year. As I reflected on the year a few nights back, I realized that one major reason I enjoyed last year was because of the overwhelming opportunity my family and I had to be hospitable throughout the year.

When we moved to Charleston in July 2013 we didn’t know a single person in the entire region. Within two weeks, we had met a beautiful couple and their children, invited them over, and had already progressed in building a great friendship with them. By December we were introduced to our current church home (Christ Church Presbyterian), and again, we quickly began to invite people over, be invited to other people’s homes, and just got to know people even in January.

Now, it always amazes me when people invite you over and they really don’t know you….like walking up to you on a Sunday morning and asking if you want to come over for lunch. It’s kind of weird sometimes, and it can be a little uncomfortable because you have no idea what to expect. But I am coming to love all of those interactions that become the building blocks of building real relationships with people that you truly care about and love. I mean, some of my best friendships started with really strange and uncomfortable beginnings (i.e. not understanding a word my college roommate said the day I moved in because she was Trinidadian and I had never heard an accent that thick before in my entire life). So this past year I worked on being more comfortable with the things that make me uncomfortable about hospitality. From having to approach people I don’t know, to asking about food preferences and allergies, to not stressing out that everything isn’t perfect or that the food is taking much longer than necessary to cook or even that something did not turn out well. And having to address each of those things has actually helped me to be focused on what actually matters when it comes to being hospitable: love and fellowship.

I know had an inaccurate view of hospitality for a long time. I thought that the home had to be absolutely spotless. The food needed to be perfect. The conversation needed to be light and engaging. The atmosphere needed to be comfortable. Now, I’m not saying that those things aren’t positives, but I’ve realized that they are not the most important things. And if I hold those things as being most important, I keep myself from being hospitable because I want to make sure everything is “perfect” first, and I miss out on all of the wonderful blessings of hospitality in itself. And one of the biggest blessings is building a friendship with a brother or sister in Christ.

You know, that is why 2014 was such an amazing year for me, for my whole family. Yes, it was nice to pay off some debt, but what was even more awesome was finding a church home and building solid friendships with my fellow brothers and sisters. And I don’t mean those cordial “Oh, heeyyyy, how are you? Glad to see you this morning” kind of friendships. But I mean real relationships, where people might tear up talking about the things they’re dealing with, or where your conversation can go from a theological debate to something funny that happened last week, or where people come to you to really ask you to keep a particular situation in prayer, or where you can have a running joke with someone that lasts for months on end, or even where someone feels comfortable enough to invite you over when their home is a wreck and they beg you not to judge them and you tell them you will, but you’ll let them know what it is. Those are the real friendships I’m talking about, and I am so completely blessed to gain so many friends this past year and to find that friendships like these are grafted in the bedrock of hospitality.

Talking to a friend last night, she mentioned how difficult it was to have solid friendships while being a wife and a mother. I could completely relate to her because once I got married, it seemed like everything changed in my life, and it became a lot harder to just get out and get to know people because you have a home, husband, and children to look after. Well, if you find yourself trudging along in a boat with fairly similar circumstances, I would like to encourage you to open yourself up to hospitality as a way to build some genuine friendships in your life.

Now, I’m not going to promise that every person you invite over has signed an invisible agreement to be your new best friend and that they want to honor that agreement, but it is a start. And once you start to do it, it becomes easier and easier every other time. Eventually, it won’t take days to plan out a meal. You won’t care that you spilled some sauce down your shirt. You’ll forget to remove the potty seat out the bathroom or wipe the smear of peanut butter off the bathroom sink, knowing that it’s a 50/50 chance that it’s not peanut butter at all. Gradually, people will get to see how you normally act and function, and what family life looks like for you and your family. And it’s all good because then you can begin to know how to truly hold your brother and sister up in prayer, and you can learn how you can really be a help to them in their lives and where they may need your encouragement the most.

Basically, you learn how to walk with one another and love one another, and you develop a growing desire to bear with one another and even to help shoulder some burdens when possible. Through hospitality you also learn that this life isn’t about you and that everything doesn’t revolve around you. Listening to other people’s stories, you get a better eye on where you need to “build your bridge” so that you can get over yourself with some things, and you also learn where you need to dig deep and get ongoing support and encouragement to weather through other things. On the ultra-practical side, you can get some good recipes, find a willing and impromptu babysitter, and even find someone who can take a look at your car. Hospitality has all sorts of benefits and blessings.

So I know this was a bit of a meandering post, but I just thank God for the opportunity to be more hospitable this past year. I mean, if you know my husband and me, hospitality was actually one of our discussion topics when we were courting because it meant a lot to us. So, to be able to have the opportunity to do it and then to receive all of these many blessings from it, from God’s hand, we have had a beautiful year abounding in much joy and many rich blessings. I pray that God continues to present us with many more opportunities this year, and I pray that you would personally take advantage of any opportunities that come your way as well. Blessings in this new year!

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13

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