On Figuring Out How to Be Hospitable Again * Creating a Haven :: 5

It's fair to say that in the past few decades, I haven't modeled hospitality particularly well.  At least not the invite-someone-over-for-dinner kind.

Yes, I said decades.

When our kiddos were young, the little yellow house perched at the tippy-top of the long winding drive was a beehive of activity with somebody or other always coming and going.  The kids' friends seemed ever-present and if it was Sunday evening after church, more often than not there were people invited in to mingle and hang out.

In the winter, there was ice skating out on the pond tucked in the back woods and afterward, everyone crowded into the eat-in kitchen with the avocado appliances for big mugs of steaming hot chocolate.  We crammed friends and acquaintances into our little haven like sardines for open houses, Bible studies, cozy luncheons, and parties.  

In the summer, picnics and reunions and impromptu get-togethers were pretty much commonplace.  The grill worked overtime while the old metal ice cream maker spun 'round and 'round, and whatever group happened to be there spread out over the great big back yard for conversation and laughter and games, while the folding tables groaned with all manner of pot-luck goodies.  The kids held court high up in their tree house and there were tractor rides to wrangle from dad when they ventured back down to earth.

We were a tireless bunch, and no group was ever too unwieldy for our small haven / big-hearted hospitality.  The calendar was jam-packed, our lives were filled to overflowing.  And it was all very good.

But then along the way, life happened.  Turns out we had chosen a very transient area to call home.  Year after year found us helplessly standing by as we watched way too many friends move from New York to far flung places like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Maine and Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia and Massachusetts.  

And Texas, for crying out loud.  Texas!  Our hearts oozed raw grief with every good-bye 'til there seemingly was nothing left.  

We had invested ourselves in the lives of others and ended up feeling abandoned and very much alone.

It was in that unsettling, unfamiliar place that we picked ourselves up, licked our wounds, and moved out into the country a good half hour from anybody we knew, where for years I became laser focused on earning my masters degree in counseling.  

And if that weren't enough, we began attending a church which was afar off ... and slowly but surely, we found ourselves even more socially isolated.  Not like hermits ... well, not exactly.  But mileage and ultimately serving on that church staff as a counselor for pastoral care worked together to thwart new friendships from taking root.

For better or for worse.

Turns out that the extensive hours of solitude in our new home suited this introvert deeply, restoring my soul and recalibrating me for the steady demands of ministry leadership and counseling conversations.  God only knows how much I needed that soft cushion, those quiet hours of refreshment and connection with my husband, that sweet grace our home provided.    

But in that process, we pretty much stopped opening our door except to family and the closest of friends.  And there we've remained to this day. 

I'm not going to beat myself up over this and if parts of your story are similar, I hope you won't either.

Because this much is true ...

Somebody, somewhere, needs something that only you can offer.

Hospitality is not about freshly ironed table linens, exquisitely casual centerpieces, or decadent five course show-stopper meals, complete with handcrafted place cards perched on gold-rimmed plates.

It's the willingness of our hearts to share life with others.  It's saying, 'you're important, you're valuable, you're loved, and I'm going to extend myself to you.'

And it'll be a freely offered, joyful choice that beautifully reflects the awesomely authentic way God's designed you to be.   

That's hospitality.  Yes.

So, when viewed through that lens, I can peacefully say that in our own unique ways, my husband and I have remained hospitable.  It's sure not what it was back in the day, and not at all what we thought it would look like, but yes, God has kept our hearts tender toward the needs of others.  And the way we've lived that out has brought us both great joy and satisfaction.

This has been a quiet year of transition, grief, and nesting.  But in the midst of it all, I've felt led to bring some homemade soup to a few new friends and neighbors.  Pulled together plates of cookies, apricot scones, or fresh-baked biscuits.  Delivered them without making a great big deal and quietly went on my way.

It's not been easy.  For sure.

We've met some truly lovely people here who have welcomed us warmly.  We've ventured out a bit in inviting a couple to go to Sunday brunch, and I asked a new friend to meet me for a very early morning breakfast.  And wonder of wonders, everyone's said, 'yes.'

These are my first timid steps toward being hospitable in this new place we're calling home.  But God seems to be whispering, 'well, yeah, that's a good start, Linda.  But you aren't going to get off that easy, girl.'

Most of the people we've met since we moved here last summer don't even know where we live.  We hope to change that in the days ahead.  Maybe it won't feel too weird or awkward to slowly begin to invite people over again.  I'm not at all feeling brave about this whole hospitality thing.

Actually, I'm a bit nervous, ya' know?

But I'm hoping it'll kinda be like riding a bike ... you can always pick it up again.  You just gotta hop on, look ahead, and begin to pedal.  

Gee, I hope I don't fall off ...


How do you do hospitality?

How has that grace been extended to you?


visiting with
 Anita .  Kelly  .  Jennifer  .  Holley  .  Lyli