What happens when you hear the word hospitality?
Do you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Can you picture yourself curled up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee, laughing with friends in front of a fire?
Or do you panic?
Do you feel the pressure of unreachable expectations? Do you resent the cold weather that means you can’t suggest celebrating Thanksgiving at the park?
This time of year brings natural opportunities to host others in my home. I used to have big dreams of being the hostess with the mostest who threw big shindigs at every opportunity. I gathered ideas for decorating and entertaining. I imagined cooking all day and serving multiple courses to my guests.
I read the magazines. I watched the shows.
When my husband and I had our first home, I looked for opportunities to entertain. I would clean like a madwoman to get my messy house presentable, and then spend all my remaining energy (and money) creating a delicious (and complicated) meal.
When it was over, I was exhausted. Each party required weeks of my time and most of my energy.
And then I had kids. Suddenly, blocking out weeks of time to obsess over a party was not an option.
My hostessing became less frequent and eventually almost non-existent.
My heart longed to have people in my home, but I didn’t think I could.
And then I opened my big mouth (and my trembling heart) and volunteered our home for weekly small group meetings with our church. My husband looked at me with panic in his eyes.
Weekly. That meant every week. Like, every single week. He knew how crazy I got when I was expecting the doorbell to ring.
Four years later, I look back on that what-was-I-thinking moment as one of the best decisions I ever made.
My entire view of hospitality has changed. The relationships my husband and I have made with those in our small group have meant so much to us.
And that’s what it’s about. Relationships.
True hospitality isn’t about impressing people or creating the most gorgeous fall display. It’s not about serving bacon-wrapped shrimp or filet Mignon.
It’s about providing a place to be. A place to sit. A place to relax and let down your guard.
A place where people can be themselves and share their lives with one another.
There have been weeks over the past four years when I have served a meal and there have been weeks when I popped popcorn. There have also been times when friends stopped to pick up pizza because no one had time to cook.
There have been weeks when my sink was full of dishes that wouldn’t fit into the dishwasher because I got off my kitchen-cleaning rhythm over a crazy weekend. There have been times when people had to walk across newspapered floor to get through a half-painted entryway.
And no one minds. We’re all thankful just to be together. To have a place to be.
I rarely host the big events anymore. I prefer to host people.