Monday, May 30, 2016

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

62 comments:

  1. I am always amazed that our lives mirror each others in many ways. I once had my home open to many because my sons always had their friends at our house. Since then life has changed and I haven't even moved. The beauty is what you describe here: "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.' That is hospitality and that is something you do beautifully right here in your blogging home. I love visiting here and always feel welcome. You do more than you think through your writing. Love your heart and willingness to always make us feel at home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Mary ... our kids define so much of what our homes look like and when they leave, the whole scenario changes, and sometimes drastically.

      And it only makes sense that as we ourselves change, how we live out hospitality will morph and shift, too.

      Thanks for kicking off this dialogue, friend.

      Delete
  2. Hospitality is something I've always struggled with. My hubby loves to have people over but it makes me shiver a little just to think about it. I think my perfectionism gets the best of me and I worry it's never clean enough or some other unimportant issue like that. I'm also an introvert so it takes a great deal of energy for me to host. As we've opened our home more often in recent years, it's gotten so much easier though.
    I'm glad God is bringing friends into your life in your new surroundings. It sounds like you will be opening your doors often in the coming weeks, my friend ;). Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband would agree with yours, Candace. I know he would have preferred that I responded in a more proactive way in having people in. But he has respected where I'm coming from.

      But ...

      Delete
  3. Thanks for making me also feel normal in my break from hospitality. I started to open up the door again and it is to hear the word, "Yes". This time around I do not fret over untidyness. I focus on enjoying the moments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, we're normal!

      And I'm glad you're here ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  4. this is a topic i wrote on this week too linda:) i came from a different perspective, partly fed by my reading of rosaria butterfield's book.

    i did find this post helpful b/c it is from where i am now. i'm evolving back to hospitality after a major move followed by illness in my husband. i tend to feel i should ignore those things, but i can't. when the reality of the grief of saying goodbyes, adjustment to new people and places, then to his illness all caught up with me...well, you probably see the results in your office often!

    thanks so much for a great article:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ignoring what's true about us doesn't work, does it, Martha! Life happens and it's hard ... and when most of our energy is going to just making it through the day, there's little to nothing left to offer others.

      And that's ok. God knows we need a sabbatical ...

      Delete
  5. 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.' YES! YES! YES!

    Linda, I cant imagine you falling off the bike! I'm sure you will be the most brilliant hostess! and yes, it is not easy inviting people into one's home but the what one gains from it is so amazing. we have a little easter egg hunt at our house every year and it is one of the highlights of our year. it is wonderful having a house full of adults and children getting to know each other... in South Africa everybody lives behind very high walls so it is important to reach out and invite people into our spaces otherwise we would be so isolated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A little Easter egg hunt! Lovely, lovely!

      I feel the warmth of that hospitality all the way from South Africa to Massachusetts, friend!

      ;-}

      Delete
  6. Linda,
    I love your bike ride analogy. Maybe it's this season of life, but I find that my hospitality is not as constant these days. Like you, sometimes I prefer the solitude. But, God may have different ideas and He did not pour out all these blessings on me only for me to keep them to myself. Really challenged by your post to be more hospitable. Just focus on the person coming through the door and God will do the rest.
    Blessings sweet friend,
    Bev xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love how you ended your paragraph, Bev!

      Yes and amen to focusing on one person, one day at a time. Let's ratchet down our expectations and respect where we ourselves are coming from.

      Cool.

      Delete
  7. Linda, thanks for affirming the truth that their are seasons in our life - all different. This post is so wonderful and full of grace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. I'm a big believer in life's seasons and the impact of all those transitions that change our lives ...

      Delete
  8. Thank you for opening your heart here, Linda. God knows best the direction to lead us. In your counseling you were gifting hospitality: you were offering a safe haven for battle weary souls, a home where they could unburden their hearts...that is beautiful hospitality. And you did good by seeking rest at home and honoring the first commandment.

    I love how God is opening doors for you now in different ways. I would love to invite everyone over for dinner, but God is enabling me to minister in different ways, that do not stretch my unbelieving husband too far. I visit refugees in their homes and am offering hospitality in the listening. But just yesterday I asked to invite our elderly recently-widowed neighbor for dinner and he said yes!!! God is so good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless you, Anna, for honoring your husband. God has blessed you with an incredible gift in visiting refugees and inviting this elderly neighbor for dinner.

      Believing that your husband is seeing Christ in action as he watches you live life ...

      Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  9. I've always struggled with hospitality. Being an introvert and just needing peace and quiet to recharge my batteries in the midst of my over-busy life, having people over just seems to add one more burden. I know that is the wrong attitude ...

    I like your definition of hospitality: "It's the willingness of our hearts to share life with others." I do want to share life with others; that is a big reason I'm into helping my church have a lot of fellowship times. I just need to work on channeling some of energies into personal fellowship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think what you said is important, Jerralea. As we discover how life impacts us introverts, we're better enlightened as to why we respond the way we do, and can choose options that really work for us ... and those we reach out to.

      And I praise God for your willingness to show hospitality in your church. An enthusiastic volunteer is surely worth her weight in gold!

      Delete
  10. This is exactly one of the changes I've decided to make now that I'm 50. I've wasted too much time saying "when I have more money", "when my marriage is better", "when my house is fixed" etc.......Life is way too short. My favorite patron died in February and I never had him and his wife over because things weren't perfect. I'm so done with that. She and I now get together and I don't care how my house looks now. I'm inviting church people over and they have to look past what needs to be fixed. I just don't care anymore. I need people in my life, friendship, etc........I'm excited, but very nervous too............

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You KNOW I'm applauding you right about now, Valerie. I know this is a huge step for you.

      Sometimes saying, 'I'm so done with that,' is exactly what we need to birth a fresh start.

      Keep me posted, ok?!

      Delete
  11. Ah, friend, I identify with this post a great deal and very specifically at some points. We have also had many friends who were closest to us move to other parts of our state that are at least 3+ hours away or other states. Our best friends moved to VA seven years ago just before my birthday. Our children have grown and moved away to start their families hundreds of miles away. While I was working on a church staff in full-time ministry, the house and calendar still stayed very very full with little room for even a reasonable amount of sleep let alone rest. After retirement not quite two years ago, I actually welcomed the change of pace a great deal. I had not realized how worn this somewhat extroverted gal was. Starting my website proved to come at the perfect time. Even so, for the first time in our lives all this and starting in a new church about a year ago have all left us more "alone" than we have ever been. It is not a bad thing; but on holiday weekends like Memorial Day with our children far away and all these realities mentioned we miss having interaction. We spontaneously invited a widower and his friend over this weekend that my husband has known pretty well for some time, but we are at a very different place than we have traditionally been. We are looking for how we gain some footing in this season for couple relationships. I still have friends who are unmarried that I see for coffee, lunch, etc., but gone are the solid couple relationships we have always cherished. It makes me wonder if this season comes to many of us perhaps. People in our season move. Some of them also die. You have given me much to think about and right now I wish you and I were not hundreds of miles away. I have a fresh pitcher of iced tea I'd love to share with you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh, put on the kettle, girl. I'm coming over.

      Pam, I'm so grateful that you're in my life, that you get the whole counseling / ministry calling. And the heartbreak of friends leaving.

      You hear my heart and I appreciate it so ...

      Delete
  12. This is so beautiful, Linda. I am over here from your comment on SheLoves.

    I, too, have been in a season of fewer dinners, fewer people over, a lot less traditional hospitality. We live our lives "out" so much right now, with kids in a season of sports and activities, that home is a sanctuary. The neighbour kids come over and we pull up the lawn chairs with neighbours sometimes on the weekends ... But I've taken the pressure off of needing to be the hostess. I've even asked others to host our bi-weekly life group in their homes. It feels like grace right now. It feels like honouring our season.

    When my kids were younger and I was home all the time, I loved when the world came to me. In fact, I needed it and that, too, was sanctuary.

    My hubby and I both love hospitality (we opened a restaurant two years ago!), so this is simply a season, I believe. And it seems right and good too.

    Beautiful words and blog.

    Kindly,
    idelette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Idelette ... it's so good to have you in on this discussion!

      You're spot on with the observation that so many of us live our lives 'out' these days. And I say yes and amen to recognizing and honoring the season we're in and living in integrity in that particular place instead of trying to force ourselves into a mold that doesn't fit.

      And a restaurant. Wow! Talk about hospitality ...

      Delete
  13. I love how you describe hospitality - "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.' It makes me feel less guilty. With chronic illness weighing me down, I have to reserve my energy mostly for my family and friends. But even before that, it was hard for me because of betrayal in the past and because I'm an introvert. But I do love to make everyone I meet whether in person or online feel "important, valuable, and loved." :) So thank you, Linda. By the way, you extend so much hospitality at your blog here. :) Blessings and hugs to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you just hate those false guilty feelings that are so oppressive? It's so like the enemy to know which buttons to push.

      Trudy, I love how you're paying attention to what this season looks like for you, even while you recognize that trust issues sure do impact how we relate to others, especially when they're not well known.

      Meanwhile, I'm glad you find this to be a safe and welcoming place, here. To say that I'm humbled would be an understatement ...

      Delete
  14. My husband don't have people over as much as we really should. Family? Yes! But we are both introverts who cherish our quiet time together. But you've made such a good point here, Linda - it's not about the dinner table, it's about being available to those who need us. That's true hospitality!
    Good luck with the bike ride! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll leave the biking to my husband, Martha! I much prefer being on my own 2 feet ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  15. What a lovely post - bless you for sharing your heart. Showing hospitality has always been a stretch for me, and as the years have passed, my efforts have dropped off, almost to nothing. Thank you for inspiring me to start small, simply. A pleasure to be your neighbor at #tellHisstory!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Start small. Yes, yes!

      I'm with you ...

      And I'm so glad you dropped in, neighbor!

      Delete
  16. Well written, and heartfelt! Our kids do seem to bring a buzz of activity into our lives, and then the pause does seem to come, doesn't it! Yeah for you making some cookies and soup for those around you... just a little here and there, amazing how new friendships can spring up! Keep pedaling my friend :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a season for that buzz of activity, friend ... and then there's a brief respite.

      And then here come the grandkiddos! And there's more buzzing than ever before!

      I couldn't be more grateful ...

      Delete
  17. I used to be much more hospitable when my children were younger. The last few years...not so much. But slowly I'm trying to build relationships and open my heart and home again. A friend here, a movie night for a few women at church there. It's slow because my time and energy is scant after work and homeschooling my teen, but even if it's just a cup of tea once or twice a month, I'm determined to take those steps toward loving people. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Joy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like your reminder that hospitality doesn't just take place in our houses, Joy. It's an invitation to connect, to indulge in a girls-night-out, to be present for another soul where SHE is.

      Good stuff ...

      Delete
  18. Linda,
    You welcome everyone with a good dose of hospitality to your online home! :) I related to your story today because I feel as if I've been shedding friendships for a variety of reasons lately (some intentional, some as a result of circumstances) and I feel at some point in the future I can make a fresh start and be open again. I think God leads us through these seasons for however we need to benefit from them -- and sometimes it's just to rely on him more and our friendships less, maybe?

    I was so glad to hear I'm not alone in this in-between season and that you've been there ahead of me and are already venturing back in to connecting your heart to others! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you, Valerie. That shedding of friendships can be a painful process no matter what the reason. It can leave us feeling raw, vulnerable, grieving.

      Especially when there's any kind of abandonment or betrayal woven in there.

      Sigh.

      Been there, done that ...

      Delete
  19. "But then along the way, life happened." That about sums it up for me and my house, Linda. These days, my renewed desire to throw open the doors often needs to be set aside so that someone else can have quiet sanctuary here. But when it comes to the kids, I'm learning to say yes to those opportunities for company, because for so long I just didn't have the bandwidth for it. Just writing that threatens to bring on twinges of guilt, but I'm guessing you may understand ... By the way, I second (or third) what others have said about your online hospitality--always warm, gentle and exemplary. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Farewell 'twinges of guilt'!!! You are not welcome here! For Lois has chosen a wiser way to live ...

      Delete
  20. Great insights, Linda! Hospitality can be more about open hearts than open homes. I have a feeling that you'll be surprised at how well you can still ride that old bike :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're such a steady encourager in my life, friend ...

      Delete
  21. I love your description of hospitality, that it's about sharing our lives and showing people they matter, and that it's something each of us can offer in our own individual way. I relate to your feelings of finding it daunting but I'm sure you will remember how to ride that bike! I echo what others have said- this blog is a place that is always warm and welcoming and encouraging and I'm sure your home is the same.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad when I hear someone feels at home here, Carly. Thanks for that sweet thumbs up!

      ;-}

      Delete
  22. As I read through your post and the comments I was encouraged to see so many acknowledging the seasons of life. Our home was so much busier when the children were home. And then came the needs of my parents in another state that has required frequent travel. Recently my mother (94 years old) transitioned to a nursing home. But I can meet someone for breakfast or coffee. Today I am having a friend that moved back to this area over for lunch. (This is the first time in quite a while.) I have found that there are several women in my church involved in care of a parent. I can linger in a conversation with someone after Bible study. I love your statement "It's the willingness of heart to share life with others."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't flexibility a wonderful gift in this season? And what a huge encouragement that you and your friends offer each other as you care for your parents.

      That, for sure, is a very much needed boost.

      So happy you're in on this conversation, Carol ...

      Delete
  23. "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."

    You have such a wonderful way of writing. It is so descriptive; it is as if we are there living your every word. I wish I could write like that.

    I certainly would love a little of that home-made ice cream. I remember many years ago my parents had an ice cream maker which you turned round and round by hand. I think I'll sell up and move next to you for some of your ice cream.

    God bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been awhile since we had the ice cream maker. But the homemade stuff was always a big hit around here ... especially the few times we headed to a farm for fresh cream.

      Ah ... those were the days ...

      Delete
  24. Well I seem to do hospitality in fits and starts... Thinking if I could just get chairs for the kitchen table that weren't in disrepair then I could have gals over again... but we do have a couch and there's a floor! We've never been party people exactly but I am feeling God nudge me a little more these days to invite people in... matching plates or not ♥ Right here holding out a hand of hospitality with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I hear you about the 'fits and starts,' Heather. I'm guessing that's true for most of us. And you can be sure no one would even noticed that the chairs needed work once you swept your visitors up with your warmth and welcome!

      And yes, I am feeling that nudge, too ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  25. Somebody, somewhere, needs something that only you can offer.
    That, right there. Will you put that on a pillow for me? I need that reminder as I never feel good about having people over. I never feel like my house is clean and organized enough so I wear myself out cleaning for days. I am trying though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh, if I wait til my house is clean we'll NEVER have another soul in! Betcha they'll never notice if you don't spend all those hours cleaning ...

      Why do we do this to ourselves??

      :-{

      Delete
  26. I've definitely gone through rhythms when it comes to hospitality. I love having people over, but I keep my group small. Over the years I've learned it's best to keep your close friends few. I always feel when I do decided to have people over, God blesses me in the most unexpected of ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the way you put it, Alecia, referring to these seasons as rhythms. And yes, yes, yes to keeping groups small! Too much craziness is simply overwhelming, yes?

      It takes an introvert to know an introvert ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  27. Bruce is an introvert, so we are hoping to find a "balance" here that we can both live with --- let's open the doors every few weeks (maybe not every weekend.) I think it's important to be intentional about it though because if you don't, weeks go by and you never quite do make that phone call....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keeping this all in balance is vital ... we tend to go off the deep end either way, don't we. This is where a husband and wife can keep each other on an even keel.

      And yes, Lyli, yes to being intentional about this, and other invitations we see as important. It's too easy for things to fall off the radar, especially if we're not all that sure about it in the first place ...

      Delete
  28. FABULOUS post. It really shared your heart and you were very honest. You are an amazing person, and really show the love of Christ to others, always welcoming people into your home.

    {via email}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you're a sweetheart, plain and simple.

      You're always encouraging me ... and I love you for it.

      ;-}

      Delete
  29. It looks like you are enjoying the Cape. Your new home looks beautiful. You and Tim have done a great job. You have quite the knack for decorating.

    I still remember when you asked me what my decorating style was. I didn't know then - and I still don't know now!!!

    {via email}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, your style might not have a name, but I'm guessing it's lovely, gentle, and gracious, just like you are ...

      ;-}

      Delete
  30. Your description on your early hospitality years sounds so enchanting.

    I would also like to have something like that but have noticed that people are so busy that it is hard to make deep connections. My husband and I have had to be intentional about fostering relationships with couples and have formed a supper club. I have to make concerted efforts to spend time with girlfriends and set up a regular "patio night". But what is interesting is that when we do make the time, we discover that everyone else is starving for connection as well. We all want connection...the problem lies in allowing ourselves to slow down and give up other commitments so we can focus on the really important ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Supper Clubs and Patio Nights?

      I'm in!

      You're spot on, Stephanie, in reminding us all that these occasions to gather together must be intentional. Sometimes, yes, they are serendipitous, in these days of crazy schedules, it looks like we need to be more purposeful.

      Thanks for that reminder!

      Delete
  31. Thanks for sharing this post... so real, so raw....so you. Someday I hope to meet you and give you a big Chrissy hug. Your hospitality here has meant the world to me. Thank you...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a bouquet of kind and generous words you've given to me today, Christine. Talk about hospitality ...

      Bless you, girl ...

      Delete

'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda