Not the Hostess with the Mostess: Extending Simple Hospitality Amidst a Messy & Hectic Life
Hospitality. Sadly hosting others in our homes isn’t done as much today. Before I had my children, having friends over for a meal was something that I did often, and really enjoyed. Hospitality with small children however, is a little more challenging. I’ve come to the conclusion that with young children, I’m not going to be the hostess with the mostess. It simply isn’t realistic to hold myself to the same B.C standards (before children), and I wasn’t the hostess with the mostess before I had children either!.
Really it’s not the cooking that worries me about having others over. It’s the mess that the kids create. Another factor in the equation is busyness. We forgo hospitality because we are busy with a capital B. Even though I have recently reduced the number of commitments that I have, life with three children, a household and a husband with a demanding job is still busy. Even having others over for coffee can be an effort. I feel I have to tidy up before they come, and after they go (if they have small children). Sometimes it’s easier to meet in a café. I recall when my two youngest were both under two, having one friend over for toasted sandwiches was an effort. There are those friends that you know so well, that you can invite them over without having to tidy up. But for most visitors, the pressure I felt to have everything in order was too much. It was easier not to invite others over. I recall a friend helping me put dishes away after dinner, and she saw my drawers that needed cleaning. I was embarrassed. Hospitality is humbling. It requires us to be vulnerable and authentic with one another. But there is something special about opening our doors to others.
“Welcome is one of the signs that a community is alive. To invite others to live with us is a sign that we aren’t afraid, that we have a treasure of truth and of peace to share. A community which refuses to welcome – whether through fear, weariness, insecurity, a desire to cling to comfort, or just because it is fed up with visitors – is dying spiritually.”Jean Vanier
The value of hospitality has been impressed upon my heart recently. Consider what it says of hospitality in the Bible:
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)
We have just started having family nights every Saturday night. We make dinner together as a family, eat together, share a devotion and then do an activity together, which might be a board game or in the case of last Saturday night, creating a mini-golf course around the house. We’ve decided to invite another individual, couple or family over to join us for family night once a month. This way it gives the children opportunity to practice their table manners (which could always do with some improvements), and it helps them to learn to be other-centred and Kingdom centred.
We will make an effort to tidy up, but generally speaking, our visitors are going to have to take us as they find us. I don’t want to become a stress cadet, barking orders at the children, just because we are having company. After all, our friends or others that we want to get to know are there to see us, not the house. Thankfully, having friends over is not a house inspection (even if it sometimes feels like it when you are the host). Most people feel more at home in a place that isn’t perfect. I have had to ask myself whether I am seeking to bless? Or impress? Entertaining impresses. Hospitality blesses.
With three young children, we can extend ‘scruffy hospitality’. ‘Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together’.
Can we create space and give time to host others? Hospitality creates a sense of warmth and belonging, that is sadly missing in our isolationist culture. In an era where loneliness is of epidemic proportions, can we prioritize community over creating an impression? People are hungrier for hospitality than we realize. We can keep it simple. It can even be as simple as soup and bread rolls. I still enjoy cooking, but I know that a meal doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy or something off MasterChef. I’m not going to invite others over every night or even every week. I am, after all, still an introvert. But I’d like to take a risk and invite others over more. Will you take a risk and invite others into your home?