On being hospitable

September 30, 2015, by Deena @Shoes to Shiraz


In this age of busyness, of frantic activity, of overpacked schedules, of fatigue and stress, hospitality is often lacking.
No one has the time or the energy to clean their home, make a meal, invite people over and spend time together. And yet it's relationship that makes the world turn, connections that make living a positive thing rather than the dark cloud it can seem.
In the Bible, we are told to practice hospitality, which means that we are to receive and treat guests in a warm, friendly and generous way. Over the years I have learned that it is less about having a Martha Stewart perfect house than it is about inviting people in and being together, less about the food than it is about feeding hungry, lonely souls.  To quote Myquillyn Smith (although not about this topic) "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

Years ago, my pastor preached on this topic and it struck a chord in me. He challenged us to have people over, even if the house was messy, less-than-perfect. So I took his admonition to heart and I slowly allowed people to be with the real me, not the fabricated, everything-is-perfect, isn't-life-grand me. The real me is the one with the paper piles on the corner of her kitchen counter because the reality is that the kitchen is my office, where I live, and that is where I get stuff done: the phone calls, the list making, the lesson plans, the paper sorting, piling kind of living.
The real me has boys. Who use the bathroom. And don't always make it. And the real me doesn't clean the bathroom daily. So you might have to be careful if you come over unannounced and I haven't had a chance to check on the state of the bathroom. If you're a newish friend, I'll run back there and check for you. If you're an old friend I'll just yell a warning as you head on back.
The real me has dishes in the sink - heck, on the counter! - and pans still on the stove. Because we live here. We REALLY live here. And because we homeschool, we are home a lot. Living. You get the idea.
 There are some books that really feed my desire to serve others in hospitality. Part of this drive lies in my DNA: I'm a (hang on...I've gotta look up my letters...I can't ever remember...) an ISTJ or and ISFJ (depending on how I'm feeling that day when I take the test - I'm that close to the line!) Do you know your Myers-Briggs letters? If you don't take a minute to find out. It's good to understand who you are and why you do the things you do. There's a free online version of the test here.
As I was saying, an ISFJ is "characterized above all by their desire to serve others, their 'need to be needed.'" So like I said, it's part of my DNA. But since all of us are expected to be hospitable, there are things you can do to improve your "hospitableness." The first thing I can do is suggest some books. (I do that frequently by the way. Ask my friend Jackie.)

The first one I'd like to recommend is Shauna Niequist's Bread
and Wine. Shauna's prose is so readable, so friendly. After reading her book I felt that I had eaten her food, sat at her table. I felt like I knew her, her husband, and her two boys. She's very open in her writing, transparently telling stories of her life, her childhood, her family. I was sold from the very introduction.
"I'm a bread person - crusty, golden baguette; hearty, grainy, seeded loaves; thin, crusty pizza crust - all of it.... And I am a wine person - the blood-red and liquid gold, the clink and glamour of tall-stemmed glasses, and the musty, rich, almost mushroom-y smell. More than that, I am a bread-and-wine person..."
Yep. I think we could be friends. Good friends. The kind of friend she writes about. Oh and her recipes are great too. I especially love the one on page 171. So simple yet so complex and delicious!

 Shauna recently wrote another book, a devotional, called Savor. And I am doing just that with this book.  Savoring it. It's where I got the idea to write this post, actually. In it, she daily explores what it means to savor life to make the most of every day. (can you see why I might like this book?), to take everything that comes your way, the good and the bad. Good stuff I tell ya!


 The next book recommendation is Open Heart, Open Home by
Karen Mains. It's actually been a while since I've read this book, but as I flip through my copy I see lots of underlining. Clearly it resonated with me! I like that at the end of each chapter there's an "Opening the Door" section which are action points, things to do to begin putting into practice the good advice given. I think I've given you enough to start with. If you finish these and want more, let me know. I don't want to overwhelm you. I want to encourage you to open your home and your heart to those around you: family, friends and those you want to get to know. Invest your time in building relationship, in building community. It's the one thing that will last when all else fades.