Do you struggle to practice hospitality? I know I do sometimes. 1 Peter 4:9 tells us to “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” But how can we do it? Read on to find out!
“Wakati wa chai (Time for tea),” I would say as I walked through the door of our organization’s regional office. Holding roasted maize or pastries and looking forward to fellowship, I often arranged my schedule around chai.
The three young ladies who worked in the regional office and I would sit on the grass under the warm, Kenyan sun and talk about faith, hopes, dreams and everything in between.
The first week I was in Kenya, my watch broke. I never replaced it because if Kenyan culture taught me anything, it was the value of prioritizing people over projects, talking over time.
Many days, I had morning chai with the ladies at the office and afternoon chai with Cherry, my supervisor’s wife and a wealth of wisdom, grace and good conversation.
Throughout my two years in Nairobi, taking time to sit and talk with others was the drum beat that created a steady rhythm in my otherwise chaotic life. It reminded me of listening as my mom and her friends gathered for coffee in kitchens while their kids played outside and upstairs and everywhere else.
I look back and remember Cyndi, who opened her home to me, adding a single, young woman, living alone in a large city, to almost every family meal for months. She didn’t just invite me over to watch movies or eat dinner; she invited me to be part of more than a meal. I felt like part of the family.
There were others, too. So many others. I received so much hospitality as I traveled throughout East Africa, from missionaries and nationals and expats – people who understood the balm that home can be to someone far from it.
Living in a one bedroom flat with a kitchen the size of a small closet, I tried to show hospitality, too. Young missionaries who lived in the bush often found themselves at my flat for dinner or movies when they came to town. I drove people all over the city, shopping and running errands or seeing sights.
The Difference Between Showing Hospitality and Practicing It
Though I grew up in the “Hospitality State,” living in Kenya taught me the difference between showing hospitality and practicing it.
Because there is a difference, you know.
In her book, Just Open the Door, Jen Schmidt describes it as the difference between “entertaining” and “hospitality.” “The entertaining host,” she writes, “seeks to elevate herself.” But “when the hospitable hostess swings wide the door, all her attention focuses outward.” (page 8)
When we practice true hospitality, we do it with humility, putting others above ourselves.
And, let’s face it: we have to.
When Hospitality is Hard
Because sometimes hospitality is hard.
- It’s difficult to open the door when your kids have just spilled eggs all over the floor.
- Opening the door is a sacrifice when your energy is spent, and the day’s not half done yet.
- When you cringe every time you look at your linoleum floors, it’s hard to invite others to walk on them.
I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately because, to be honest, I’ve been convicted about practicing more hospitality.
When my husband and I first moved to our town, we hosted small group Bible studies every week for years and had families over for potluck lunches every Sunday after church.
Then I became pregnant with twins, and I just couldn’t do it any more. My twins were born, and I had two babies in the house. All I wanted was sleep. They became toddlers, and I was running in circles chasing them and trying to keep up with our older kids, too. I started homeschooling our kids, and my home turned into a schoolhouse.
To invite you to dinner means I have to put the books away. The books are everywhere.
So, what began as a necessary break to prevent preterm labor has turned into years of excuses not to open our home as often as we once did.
No More Excuses
My twins will be six this summer.
And, all of our kids will be in school this fall.
I have no more excuses, and do you know what? I don’t want any.
Having received the blessing of hospitality, the kind that builds deep bonds and changes lives a little every day, I want to extend it to others.
It’s the kind of home I want to have:
- one where everyone is welcome
- a place where people feel at peace
- an open door that leads to open hearts.
Just Open the Door
That’s one of the reasons I was most excited to read Jen’s book, because I believe God is calling me to live the conviction I feel.
I just didn’t think he would test my conviction so quickly.
Yesterday, we began school promptly at 8:00 and descended into full-scale meltdown by 8:15. My son simply didn’t want to do it.
We struggled through a few pages in an hour then I sent him on his way and began to work with his little sisters.
And then the doorbell rang.
I was still in my pajamas, y’all.
As my friend stood at the door, I had a choice. I could crack it open and receive the item she’d brought, or I could actually open the door and let her in.
While she went to the car to get her kids, I went to my room to get my clothes. We had coffee and conversation, and I offered her the last two crumbly cookies I had.
Later that day, after lunch and a couple of hours of “Yes, you will finish this work today,” another friend texted: “Coffee today?”
I took a deep breath and replied, “Sure.”
The kids’ schoolwork was still all over the table, and I had no chocolate to offer. The house was a mess, and my kids were quite loud so my friend and I took our coffee to the little table under our giant magnolia tree and enjoyed the calm, fresh air of a warm, spring day.
It was the most peaceful hour of the day, and I would have missed it had I said, “Not today.” If I had done that, I wouldn’t know the stress my friend is under or how much I needed to sit and sip with someone.
We both would have missed a blessing.
Because here’s the thing: true hospitality is not about us, but it blesses us just the same. Practicing hospitality, especially when we don’t feel like it, changes our hearts. It also changes our homes.Practicing hospitality, especially when we don't feel like it, changes our hearts. It also changes our homes.Click To Tweet
When we practice hospitality, our home becomes a shelter for more than just the people who live here. If we are real with our guests, they have the freedom to be real with us.
Hospitality Changes Hearts
That’s what Just Open the Door is all about, hospitality that changes hearts. Jen makes the bold statement that “hospitality has the power to change a generation,” and if I didn’t believe it before, her book has me fully convinced.
Sharing personal stories and anecdotes, she describes how her family has lived with an open-door policy for decades, describing the impact it’s had on their lives and on the lives of others.
How to Overcome Excuses
It’s inspirational, but it’s also imitable. Offering practical tips, Jen makes sure her readers know that they can do it, too. Some of my favorite takeaways include:
- If you’re worried about old floors or peeling paint, remember “that Jesus, the One we model hospitality after, never owned a home.” (p. 35)
- When you’re stressed out about hosting and your kids know it, think “I never want them to associate welcoming others into our heart and home with a crazed mother who loses it for the sake of ‘pursuing hospitality.'” (p. 27)
- If you feel obligated and weighed down, tell yourself “I don’t have to; I get to.” (p. 28)
- When you have too many other things to do, remember “only two things remain in the end: God’s word and our relationships.” (p. 30)
- If you don’t feel capable, remember “He doesn’t require or expect anything fancy; we put that pressure on ourselves. He delights in the everyday average.” (p. 51)
We can all come up with excuses to wait for the perfect opportunity to invite others in, waiting for the kids to clean their rooms or your husband to mow the grass, but the truth is that we want to invite people into our lives, not just present pretty pictures of them.
The question is, “why?”
Why should we open our homes to others? Because, as Jen puts it, home is “our greatest mission field, where we don’t even have to go anywhere to watch the Lord at work.” (p. 30)
The People You Might Impact
And, when he’s working in our homes, we are not the only ones who see it. Hospitality has a profound impact on our children, teaching them to include others, to serve, and to look for what the Lord is doing.
If those are lessons I want my kids to learn, they are lessons I have to live.When it comes to hospitality, I have to live the lessons I want my kids to learn.Click To Tweet
They have to see me open the door and pour the coffee. My kids need to watch as I listen and serve. And, they also need to help me do it.
Moms, the best thing about doing hospitality as a family is the fact you are never meant to do it alone. My husband is great at this, offering suggestions for easy meals to prepare or picking up items he thinks will help. Kids can and should help clean the house. They love to cook so let them be part of the preparation.
Start Where You Are
If you’re looking to minister as a family, start right at home.
It’s where God has put you, after all. “He has called, equipped, and appointed you to do amazing things right where you are.” (p. 38)
Yesterday, I could have said, “I don’t have time.”
But I am so glad I didn’t.
In Kenya, chai time taught me what Jen learned as a student in England. She writes, “The art of taking tea was a tool – an avenue – to prioritize people over productivity.” (p. 155)
“When we prioritize time to fill someone’s cup, it becomes a gateway to fill her heart and soul with the things that matter most. We hope to settle her unsettled spirit and see her leave with her cup overflowing.” (p. 156)
That’s why my door is open, and my coffee pot is always ready to brew. It’s the thought process behind my blog’s logo, too.
It’s the heart of hospitality.
If you’re looking for ways to minister to others and extend hospitality, definitely check out Just Open the Door. There is even a Bible study book, which I haven’t read, but am really interested in doing.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but I was not expected or encouraged to write a favorable review. The opinions above are my own.
How do you practice hospitality? Would you leave a tip or suggestion for opening your home and heart to others in the comments? I’d love to read them and get a bit more inspiration from you!
Also, be sure to add a link up for this week’s Encouraging Word Wednesday link party! I’m so glad you’re here. Share your encouraging words with us!