A few weeks back, friends of ours who live nearby invited us over for dinner. We walked over as a family, all eight of us with the babies pulled in the wagon. Our sheer numbers are intimidating to people and invitations for dinner as a whole family are a rare treat. I was inspired. Their home is smaller than ours, but they invited a family of eight over, joining theirs of 6. We fed ten kids in their combo dining/living room and I felt it - that feeling that I was being taught something, right here, right now.
My house has always been my excuse. When a new family from out of town joins our church and I really want to make friends, I think about my little house and large family and keep my invitations to myself. When friends want to get together for a play-date, I think of ten-plus kids running up and down the stairs of my hundred year old home and keep my mouth shut.
The thing is, hospitality grows community, friendships, lives. The lack of it just serves to fuel disconnect, loneliness, self centered living. Hospitality gives families space to grow, to reach out and be a part of something bigger. Something I miss out on when I pile up my well rehearsed excuses and allow them to build a wall between me and others.
A hard lesson when life doesn't always look like I want it to. A soft stretch for humility when I grasp what it truly means. Giving what I have to another, whatever that is, however that looks. For us, in this crazy time of 6 kids ten and under, not at all like a Pinterest board or Real Simple magazine. Much louder and less neat, but still a thing of beauty and joy when offered with kindness and love.
I was so inspired by my friends that, a week later, we called them over for a backyard bonfire. Our kids ran wild in the gathering dusk and the four of us sat around the fire for hours talking. Easy. Simple. Fun. Putting my kids to bed later on, they couldn't stop talking about how much fun they had, what a wonderful night it had been, how excited they were for "next time." To them, the perfect evening. A lesson in living in community, right where you are.
So I work on my heart, just a little bit at a time. Three things I'm learning?
Give Yourself The Grace You'd Give Another. If you wouldn't judge another Mama harshly for her dated decor or small space, why assume someone would judge you for the same? We are often our harshest critics. Be assured that what you have is not what strikes people about you, what gives your home warmth or your hospitality quality. It's your heart.
One Step At A Time. You don't have to invite a family of 8 over first thing (though rest assured if you do, they will love it!). Invite a new Mama with an infant over to sip coffee while you fold laundry. Offer to take a friend's kids for the day. Small things with great love is the perfect place to start.
Give What You Can, Not What You Can't. If providing a four course meal for a large party is not in the budget, don't do it. Hospitality is for everyone, not just for those who can offer a gourmet meal to their guests. It's not about the food you offer, but the friendship you extend.
It always takes courage to give your heart away, even in small ways. But when you do, you have the opportunity to gain more than you ever thought possible.
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