Practicing Hospitality Through Imperfection & Messiness

When I invite someone over to our house, I imagine that I’ll have the perfect day of getting ready for guests. The bathrooms will be cleaned, the kitchen will be spotless (after I bake homemade bread and cookies and make chicken noodle soup from scratch), the baby will never cry, and best yet, I’ll have time to shower. But in reality, the baby is teething and needs ceaseless attention, I burn the dessert, I feel like I have drool and snot all over me (the shower never happened), and the house is less than perfect.

The intimidation of feeling like we have to be perfect can sometimes thwart our best intentions. When the day starts out rough and never smooths out, it’s easy to be turned off from practicing hospitality. But remember? Jesus came because we actually aren’t perfect, and we never will be on this side of heaven. We’re not expected to be.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the reasons why we’re called, as Christians, to hospitality. But all of that means nothing if we don’t actually practice it. I live on the ground, in the nitty-gritty of every day life, so having practical tips from more seasoned women has been invaluable to me on this subject – they help me to know how I can be more hospitable. I hope these tips are of some help as you seek to serve others and glorify God by welcoming in those around you.

Just do it. If you want to be hospitable, plan for it. This seems like a no brainer, but for my husband and I, if we don’t sit down once a week or once a month to think through our open nights and who we would like to have over for dinner, it doesn’t happen. So plan a calendar date. Who has God placed around you to get to know? To encourage? To comfort? To share your life with? Then pick up the phone or write an email so it’s not something we still “need to do.”

Keep the menu manageable. Remember Mary and Martha? Martha was distracted by all she had to do when Jesus was in her home that she wasn’t able to enjoy his presence. She became anxious and troubled. Don’t focus so much on what you are serving, focus on who you are serving. We have 3 or 4 go to meals that are our “company meals”, because they are easy, inexpensive, and can serve a crowd if needed.

Proverbs 15:17, loosely paraphrased, tells us that a simple meal served with love is better than a grand feast served with hatred. Prepare a meal that allows you time to visit and value others, not one that takes you away from your company. Not to mention, if we’re too stressed by our meal preparation, we’ll avoid having people in our home in the first place. Maybe even a meal is too much for the stage of life you’re in – how about just a simple dessert and coffee?

Say yes or ask for help. When someone offers to bring something or offers to help with the clean-up, let them. Hospitality is not entertaining. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to clear the table. There is no better way for someone to feel integrated into your life than to share in common tasks.

You see the dirt in your house far more clearly than others. It’s okay if your counters aren’t clutter-free and you haven’t mopped your kitchen floor yet this week. People don’t mind if you haven’t crafted all your Pinterest projects or if your decorations won’t exactly make Martha Stewart jealous. Honor your guests with a relaxing atmosphere, but perfection isn’t realistic and doesn’t benefit anyone. They don’t want to be impressed, they want to be known.

Keep food on hand. Double your recipes and freeze the extra. Cookie dough keeps in the freezer for weeks! Stock your pantry with a few boxes of brownie mix. Bananas are cheap and make for a quick breakfast side item. My favorite: oil and popcorn kernels for an easy, salty snack.

Pray. How easily this one gets lost in the frenzy! But we need God to use us to be a blessing to others. We need God to comfort, encourage, and sustain the people who come into our home. So ask him.

Hospitality is the lifeblood of a thriving community, and without it, relationships will suffer. It should permeate the church, because it’s evidence of our love for one another. Our homes and our lives are a powerful combination of ministry to our world – let’s invite people in and allow God to use us.

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