August 18, 2010

on hospitality

I am so spoiled here at my Mom and Dad's home! I just may extend our stay....

Being in a place where I'm currently experiencing the hospitality of others has me pondering this subject :: actually, I've been thinking on it for a few weeks now and reminding myself of those whose open heart & open home have blessed and marked me for life. 

While many have inspired me through the years, I've been privileged to know two women who lived and breathed the essence of hospitality.  They've never met and never will, and yet their lives were so familiar.  Each had a husband with a primary call to ministry in their local church, four children and were homeschoolers.  Our dear friend Annette lived outside of Chicago and we visited as time allowed and our friend Colleen lived around the corner when we made our home in Connecticut.  Two women, different lives :: one strong commitment to open their homes.

They taught me ~

:: to not be intimidated by the space I have or don't.  Both Annette and Colleen had very small homes...very.  With just enough room (or in one case not quite enough) for their own families, there wasn't much extra space.  And yet, others who visited didn't seem to mind this, people literally flocked to their homes.  One cookie exchange at Colleen's was standing room only if you didn't count the women sitting up her staircase!; no one wanted the gathering in a different location though she offered.  While they both desired more space, this did not become a focus of discontent. A valuable lesson.

:: to allow others into my life as well as into my home.  This for me is the marker that distinguishes these two examples of gracious hospitality.  Planned events or impromptu visits, time with these ladies didn't just mean learning more about how she decorated or where her furniture was purchased (though that is fun info at times!).  They generously shared life and wanted to know about yours.  The focus was on people, not things or simply the event at hand.  At Annette's funeral in 2009, hundreds of people came to honor a woman who made them feel important, unique and made a space in her life for others.  Hundreds.  Colleen's hospitality to an older woman, consistently yet gently inviting the lady to share & be in her home, caused the woman (who had boarded up her back door) to join in a neighboorhood gathering and finally speak to people she had lived next to for 18 years!

::  to be hospitable to those in my home.  Annette's kids were served breakfast in bed on occassion, just because.  Colleen would bring tea in special cups to even her youngest child.  Both served their husbands with flair and yet simplicity.  Their families did not feel as though guests alone received attention, it was a part of the norm.  I appreciate my parents who also stressed this lesson; to create an atmosphere where my children and husband are not jealous of those who visit our home!

The goal of course is not to become these women, though I deeply appreciate their examples.  The focus is to be open to how God is asking me to share both my life and my home :: first to those who live with me, then to the body of Christ and beyond.  And though we've been hospitable in various ways in the past or even in this past year (from large neighborhood gatherings to Bible studies or groups), I am asking Christ afresh how he would have us serve right now

And trusting for the answer...
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