On Wednesday morning, I was feeding my girls breakfast. I walked in the kitchen and heard a huge sneeze. When I turned around, I saw my oldest with this giant mass of snot all over her face, hands, falling on the table….I think you get the picture. And I just had to shake my head because I knew what would happen. She was going to get my youngest sick, no matter how hard I try to prevent it, and I was going to end up sick (or putting up a really hard and medicated fight). And then, we were expecting company over for dinner on Saturday too…..the timing was just the worst.
So as expected, my youngest started showing symptoms on Thursday, and I braced myself for a night of very little sleep because what 1 year old will willingly breathe through her mouth when her nose is stuffy and she wants to keep her pacifier in? But unexpectedly, God intervened (THANK YOU LORD! LORD, YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WE CAN BEAR!), and she managed to breathe through her mouth that night so I did get some rest. On Friday, I did my normal grocery shopping and came home with more medicine and ingredients to make a really good chicken, mushroom, and rice soup. And although we had a heat index of 103 degrees, I stood in my kitchen making soup for my girls, while intermittently sucking snot out of my little one’s nose, trying to calm cries, and encouraging my oldest to wash her hands with soap and not kiss or high five her sister. And then with a headache arising, I thought about hospitality and our guests coming over on Saturday.
I’ve read a number of blogs on hospitality over the past few months with the common advice of keeping it real, it’s okay if your home isn’t perfect, it’s okay if your kids act up, fellowship is the most important thing, etc. It’s been a lot of advice aimed at (at least in my opinion) encouraging people to be hospitable when they don’t feel like they have everything together enough to be hospitable well. And I get the point that some people need that encouragement. So, I just wanted to throw my own perspective into the conversation. And it is this:
I practice hospitality with my family first.
So, when I say that, I don’t mean my mom coming to visit, or my in-laws or anything like that. What I mean is, I try to practice hospitality first and foremost with MY family….my husband and my daughters.
He works hard for the money…
My husband works incredibly hard, and he does a lot to support our family. I see that, and I appreciate that wholeheartedly. Because of his personality, it’s kind of hard to do anything special for him or surprise him to let him know how much I care and appreciate all he does for us. But, I know that he would greatly appreciate me handling my responsibilities within the home as much as he handles his responsibilities providing for our home. So I do my best every day to manage my home well and to make sure that he has a good meal when he comes home.
Now, as I write this, I feel like this sounds a little 1950s-ish (that kind of makes me cringe), but I am very mindful to make sure that my work in our home is done well. And I think it ought to be done well. As Christians, we know that we ought to be doing everything as unto Christ. We work and handle our responsibilities each day with a heart and mind to please the Lord and bring Him glory. And I want to. I want God to be glorified, even if it is as unglamorous as sweeping and mopping the floor, cleaning the bathrooms, maintaining the budget, cooking something for the 8th time this week, and keeping things tidy while handling the responsibilities of being a mother too.
So, I practice being hospitable with my family first. I’ll pick things up and put them away all day long. I won’t let my children walk around or play across a dirty floor. I’ll keep the bathrooms clean even though bath-time every night ruins it, and my oldest keeps leaving chunks of blue toothpaste in the sink no matter how much I remind her to rinse properly.
Let’s not forget, the food matters too!
I also practice hospitality with how my family eats. I tend to receive compliments on my cooking from lots of people, but honestly (especially anyone who reads this that has eaten my food), I haven’t prepared anything for any guest in my home that was not first prepared for my own family. So, that means, I will go out of my way to prepare something well for them. I don’t just put my effort and time into meals when guests come over, but I try to always be diligent whenever I’m in the kitchen, even if it’s for a picky 5 and 1 year old, my husband, and myself.
Now, practically speaking, practicing hospitality with your family (especially meal preparation) first makes a lot of sense because it gives you time to perfect your recipes and improve on your cooking as you get their feedback. But on a relational level, I think it shows your family that you are willing to give them your best every day, and not just save your best performance for guests who are coming over. I guess I could say it demonstrates that you are not exhibiting partiality with your love and service…offering better work and treatment to others, while stiffing those who are closest to you each day.
Because if we’re honest about it, having a good meal prepared for you let’s you know that the person preparing it genuinely cares for you. It also offers you comfort as you enjoy and savor each bite, allowing you to relax and open up with others around the table….kind of like when you go home for the holidays, but everyday. (It also reminds me of the movie Babette’s Feast).
And last, (I hope) it is teaching my daughters to have a strong work ethic and be diligent in whatever kind of work God providentially orchestrates for them to do. It’s so easy to be lazy or just not be as diligent and self-controlled as you ought to be when you’re in the home each and every day (another blog for another day). My mind tells me that I would just appreciate the variety of challenges that a non-home work environment would provide me more than the mundane happenings of being at home. But after coming home from church yesterday to discover my 1 year old broken out all over her body from a possible egg allergy (it’s the only thing we can think of), I’ll just try to be faithful and diligent here. And I know that proper faithfulness and diligence requires the same Spirit to be at work within me as it does for any other Christian working in any other sphere. But my family gets the privilege of receiving the “firstfruits” of my labor. And then, when we have the opportunity to be hospitable to others, I can actually welcome people into my home…my everyday home, with my children and husband who are still going to be themselves, and to a meal that is prepared with the same amount of love, care, and attention that my family receives from me every day.
I hope you think about it at least…
So yes, these are my own thoughts on the subject of hospitality. I pray that if you are finding hospitality to be draining and too much of a hassle, that maybe you would consider practicing hospitality with your family on a regular (and daily) basis. I assure you that practicing it with the people who love you most and who will give you (most likely) the most honest feedback on your efforts will help you to actually improve. And once you get yourself into a good groove with things, having a couple of extra people over for dinner won’t seem like that much of a big deal after all. Actually, like this plate my grandmother always kept in her home, you will find yourself treating your guests like family in no time at all!