Teenagers are easy to cook for. You don't even have to cook. Chances are, they'll want a box of microwave popcorn for dinner. After we got married, I stressed a lot about having people over. Since we had people over nearly every day, you can imagine that my life felt pretty stressful. I've told you all before of my (now-not-so) secret desire to be Martha Number Two. When I started to figure out that homemade hand-filled cupcakes with piped frosting were getting about the same reception as the box of Oreos, it changed a lot of things. Jesus, He changed a lot of things too.
It's been a process, this thing of hospitality. From the get-go, I knew that I wanted our home to be open. Heck, that's what I wanted from my dorm room. How much more I yearned for our home to be a haven. To be a place that would elicit an audible sigh and a feeling of let-down, of rest. Yet as we welcomed people in, I was the very opposite of rest.
I realized last night that Jesus has done some work in me. It's a good thing. I wasn't stressed. I wasn't anxious. I wasn't insecure that my efforts would fall flat.
Hospitality is beautiful when it becomes not about me.
So how do we let people in without making it about us? Here are some things I've noticed in my journey.
- Release my ridiculous house expectations. You guys, I actually used to want people to think my house was never ever messy or dirty. Um? What kind of goal is that? "Hello, my name is Lara, and I am a freakin' good housekeeper, and I hope you feel natural in my immaculate house. By the way, I notice you forgot to remove your shoes at the door?" In general, I do try to keep our house picked up (it does feel more peaceful that way), but I've stopped moving piles inside closets and leveling all the lampshades before the first knock. We have a life. We are real. We are messy. So our are guests. A lived-in home makes me approachable.
- Serve food that is the most amount of good for the least amount of stress. I do like to cook. I do like healthy, homemade food. What is the best meal I can prepare in the time that I have? Sometimes, that's tacos. Sometimes, it's a fancy new recipe from Jamie Oliver, everybody's favorite British kitchen chum. Sometimes, it's pizza in a box. We have two go-to meals for larger groups: crepes and calzones. They're different enough to be fun, but they're still easy, partly because your guests are making the food! We just set everything out and let them assemble.
- Open our home when we're gone. This has been so good for me because it helps me release the notion that my home is mine, and the things in it should be used how I think. When you let people use your home and you are not there, you have no control. That is good!
- Be a vessel. Part of the stress of hospitality for me come from my introverted-ness. I hate small talk. What if I can't think of good questions to ask? Our home is my personal refuge, and it's hard to let a lot of people into that precious space. What if they overstay their welcome? Jesus has been showing me that I am just His vessel. In Philippians, Paul tells the church that he loves them with the affection of Christ Jesus. It's Christ's affection with which we love people! It's Christ's heart in us. We are the jar He uses. That takes so much pressure off my shoulders. I don't have to orchestrate the night. I don't have to have the plan.
Aaron reminds me all the time that hospitality is simply letting people into our lives. It's not a show, an act, a routine, an unreachable ideal. It's life. With extra people sitting on the couch. (Or sprawled across the floor.) :)
What about y'all? How do you host/hostess? Thoughts? Do you love a house full of friends or do you want to crawl under the bed at the thought of such a thing? :) Do share.