“My three children have given me many gifts, but perhaps the most surprising one is a renewed understanding of Christian hospitality. In Biblical times, hospitality often meant welcoming strangers in need of a meal or shelter. For Jesus, it meant including outsiders in meals and fellowship. For us, it can mean those things as well, but it can also mean welcoming not merely strangers and outsiders, but anyone whose messy, noisy, needy presence threatens the ordered, predictable, comfortable life we crave.” –Ellen Painter Dollar
Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house is something I looked forward to growing up. We enjoyed a feast that my grandma worked so hard to prepare. Afterward my cousins and I, along with a few of the adults would go on a walk around the neighborhood to work off the turkey. Usually the late afternoon was cool enough to linger on our stroll. In the empty streets the kids could have short foot races, walk backwards, twirl, or walk in groups of three, chatting and laughing. When we got back to the house most of us were ready for round 2. Dessert. I couldn’t wait for dessert. My grandma made peanut butter blossoms and pies. Oh the pies! Chocolate, pumpkin, pecan, and cherry are the ones that stick out in my mind. Even now, my grandma remembers that my favorite is cherry pie. She is a wonderful cook, baker, and hostess. This is where I first started learning about hospitality.
I have watched my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, sister, in-laws, and sisters-in-law practice the art of hospitality. It doesn’t all look the same either, which is a relief. There is not a cookie-cutter standard in which I have to meet. Pinterest might say otherwise, but I am learning that hospitality simply means opening my home to others. It is inviting someone into my life, even for a few hours and allowing them to feel at home as well.
Over the last couple of years on Mother’s Day my dad has made a point to honor the women in my family in a very specific way. Since most of us would rather eat lunch at home on a day that is particularly busy for restaurants, my parents instead invite everyone to eat at their house. My dad vacuums and cleans so my mom does not have to. He plans the menu and executes. The food is either mostly catered or he grills out. The point is for moms to not have to cook that day. He blesses us through his gift of service and thoughtfulness.
My mother-in-law, Charolette, shows her love to others through cooking. Whenever she has company in her home, you can bet she has prepared something. When the whole family is together she cooks for all 21 of us. Charolette always says she’ll just make a few things, but 18 side dishes, 5 meats, and 14 desserts later we have a banquet spread. My father-in-law quietly serves by washing the dishes after everyone else has flopped on the couch from a food-induced coma. They both welcome others in their home, inviting you to make it yours for however long you stay.
We are not all made exactly the same, each possessing different gifts and abilities. Our schedules may vary as well, some more demanding than others. One person may have more time to devote to however simple or elaborate their hospitality gestures are. Yet the one constant in all of the people that inspire me is their heart to serve and bless others. It is beautiful to watch in motion. Love and generosity are acted out in the different homes I visit. Food is also a common denominator but it does not mean I have to be the next Rachael Ray or Paula Deen. I have been known to toss the pre-made break off cookie dough in the oven for my guests, nothing wrong with that. It can be as simple as grilled cheeses and chips. Food is just something that brings people together no matter how different they are. Everyone has to eat. Breaking bread together merely helps foster fellowship.
Hospitality is a lovely demonstration of service, acceptance, and friendship. For the believer, this is one way we act as the body of Christ, actively living out unity and community in the Church. We start to act like the family we are. Hospitality looks like enjoying one another’s company over freshly baked bread. It is pouring our hearts out over a cup of coffee. Hospitality means inviting someone into the ordinary but sacred moments with you, whether it is with one guest or 30. We laugh together, confide in, pray with one another, and encourage each other. God created us for relational living, so as we knit our hearts through spending time in each other’s homes, we may not only be a blessing to someone, but also find that we are blessed in the process.
Grace upon grace,