Here at our house, we take hospitality seriously. The night of my sixteenth birthday party we stayed up on our feet till late hours, putting the finishing touches on the three birthday cakes, the well-dressed tables, the place cards, the tripled menu—everything. Everyone had an amazing time (and my feet hurt like crazy for the next few days).
No doubt about it—a well-planned evening filled with good food and good friends can’t be beat. My mother is my heroine when it comes to hospitality. She knows how to keep her house in shape to receive company with only minimal cleaning, and with our big family, she’s used to feeding crowds. And did I mention we’re perfectionists? We love to have everything just so and unlike any other hospitality experience. (P.S. With several young ones—what can I say? It’s definitely unlike any other hospitality experience.)
That’s all very good. The problem comes, however, when that perfectionist mentality gets in the way of the true heart of hospitality. Let me explain.
The other day at church my mother was met with a very bouncy, very excited plea to have so-and-so over for dinner that day. Her bewildered look said, “How did I ever manage sixteen years with this child?” She said—“Well, what will we feed them?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ll make something. Please?”
I violated two family rules in this encounter. Firstly, the application process was rushed far too quickly. To be completely legal, a request to have so-and-so over must be brought up weeks—months—in advance, and that just to have them nominated for the nomination category. After a process of elimination, the nominated nominees are weeded out into the official nominees—and then we can select our guest (sometimes with pleas and promises not intended to be kept) and plan the dinner.
Secondly, there is no way anybody is stepping foot in our house unless at leastthe living room’s dusted and there’s a hot, respectable meal on the table. We take our hospitality very seriously, as I said. We want to ensure that everything’s under control, that everyone can relax and enjoy the encounter, that our house won’t be chaotic and uninviting. We aren’t always fancy, but we’re always complimented on a clean house and good food—lots of it. That takes some planning.
And that prohibits spur-of-the-moment lunch invitations on leftover day.
But in the face of ecstasy, my mother, with my oft-repeated assurance of handling lunch, surrendered—as long as Daddy approved. I think I let out a whoop. (I’m working on the ladylike part. Truly I am.)
All that was left was the logistics of hospitality.
“So what’ll we have?” my mother asked.
“Well,” I replied, thinking that our Sunday leftover buffet didn’t make the cut, “I can make macaroni and cheese. From the Velveeta cheese box.”
That’s it. We spent about twenty minutes setting everything out buffet-style on nice platters, cleaning up the house, putting mismatched Christmas and “Let It Snow!” placemats on the table and waiting for company to arrive. It was a snap to make and a snap to clean up and the whole rest of the day was just fun.
I was even complimented on the macaroni and cheese.
There have been other spur-of-the-moment hospitality ventures that have borne fruit too—the single, brand-new visitor at church who was content to share our leftovers and our home with us for a few hours that afternoon. Extending a “won’t you join us for lunch?” invitation to friends who just stopped by to chat for a minute. Precious times that have gone down in memory and yet wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t just opened up and offered—without the big plans.
How many people could we reach out to and bless if our hospitality was spontaneous—because our hearts (even if not our menu plans) were always in order? That’s what I remember after visits. The hugs. The laughter. The heart-to-heart chats.
A few toys scattered here and there or the fancy plates and gourmet meal—not so much.
I can’t remember what flatware our last hostess used, but I can tell you that the meal was good, the fellowship even better and the hug she gave after we left made me want to spend a few more days there.
Opening up our homes is more than opening up the door—it’s opening up our hearts. And if that love and warmth is dished up, even the plainest dinner of macaroni and cheese becomes one of the best meals ever.
Bailey @ Big House in the Little Woods