Hospitality should be about the heart. You may have a small house, and small children that make practicing hospitality a bit harder, but I believe it can be done with a cheerful heart. Perfection is not a requirement in order for others to feel blest.
It’s about the heart.
A week or two ago we had the opportunity to host some guests who were coming to pick up a part from my husband’s job. I personally love having guests over, but that day wasn’t the ideal day. We had been without water for much of the day so none of us had had a bath and the sink was full of dirty dishes. However, I remembered that practicing hospitality does not mean everything has to be perfect. It has to do a lot with the heart of our home. So by making a simple meal we were blessed with guests, and I pray they will have been blessed in our home too.
What’s the atmosphere in your home like?
Having a home that is finished, with plenty of room for practicing hospitality would be nice. I dream of it sometimes. But I also realize that the home atmosphere is more important. Being in a nice, big house with a tense atmosphere is no fun either. Maybe you also struggle with the size of your home. Remember, sizing doesn’t determine everything about how people will be blessed in your home. Is there laughter and cheer, or does it feel strained?
Don’t apologize for imperfections.
I have been invited to homes (and have had the temptation myself) where the hostess apologizes for everything. The food is not quite right, they don’t have the nicest dishes, and they didn’t get everything cleaned etc. In the end it distracted from what would have been a very enjoyable time. Often someone else wouldn’t notice anyway all the little things that are out of order for you.
For me I came to realize that apologizing for everything can be a form of pride and drawing attention to who you are. Let go and don’t apologize for who you are. Let your guests enjoy their time without trying to validate you all the time.
Sure if you burn the food badly, or forget the salt, a simple apology might be in order, but then move on. Bless your guests with your cheer in the imperfection instead.
Don’t apologize for children’s messes. This one is a bit hard for me as I can never get everything in order because as soon as I do, anything they take out shows. But they are normal, not overly messy, little children. It doesn’t hurt for people to see that children live here.
That day we had guests over I had to bathe a couple of the younger children who were getting very tired and needed their beds. I also had to take time to nurse my baby. A simple “excuse me, my children need a bath” is acceptable I think. It’s real life. And I still could enjoy them sometimes.
Someday a separate toy room would be nice. Someday when they are all grown and I can sit around all evening with my guests I am sure I will enjoy it. But for this stage of life in a small house with small children, welcoming my guests into my real life with cheer and joy can be the best gift I can give.
Teach and practice manners beforehand.
Children are children of course, and children can be fun to be around even if they accidently spill their food or pull out toys.
However, teaching children practical manners can be a very good way to make your home a nicer place for guests to visit. Some people might have the problem of their children being overly exertive. For us we have to work on them not being so shy when new people come around!
Every day we try to work on the simple table manners of not talking with food in your mouth, asking to be excused from the table, thanking the cook for the food, etc. It improves the time with guests so we don’t have to be working on it when they are around.
Before guests arrive we remind our children about some basic polite things they should do such as shaking hands, smiling, and answering questions. (They are not required to always do this if they would be with strangers, but when we are around and guests come we tell them it is a safe place to do it.)
All this makes our home a more enjoyable place for us, and for others.
Simple ways to add beauty to your home.
Small places and small children don’t lend themselves to fancy table settings or all kinds of pretty displays. Still there are simple ways to add beauty to your home so others can enjoy it.
That day our guests brought some flowers they found on the roadside so that was a nice little touch to the table as I hadn’t had time to do anything extra. Whenever possible though, it is nice to add some little touch of extra effort to the space or table you will use.
Clean and Neat
I have been in very dirty, messy homes. As much as I say that the atmosphere is more important, there is a level of dirt and mess that can be uncomfortable for others.
Try to have things clean and neat. That day I have been mentioning I could not get the lunch dishes washed as there wasn’t water. I had at least gotten the main area swept and cleaned up. If everything can’t get done, start with the biggest spaces such as floors and countertops. Everything will feel better with basic cleanliness and order (because as busy moms we just can’t get it all done always).
Simplify your service.
Different cultures and places might have different expectations. For me though, at this stage I can enjoy and manage hosting much better if I make sure to keep things really simple. I can serve a simple easy meal, even without desert when circumstances require that.
Have a couple of simple meal ideas on hand that you can quickly put together so that you can be a happy mom and host. For me that would often be soup or rice or tortillas with chicken. It doesn’t have to have a bunch of extras in order to fill tummies and warm hearts.
For our culture here in Costa Rica, having someone over for a meal, or getting invited is rare. I miss that part of my childhood and youth. Yet I have come to enjoy that a coffee break is quick an easy when someone drops in or we stop by somewhere and they invite us to stay for “cafe.”
I also always like to have some baked goods in the freezer for when a passerby asks for food. Even though they won’t step into my home, they get a touch of homemade love covered in a prayer. It’s about the heart.
There are seasons for hospitality.
Hosting guests (and even the annual cookie plates I like to make with my children for the neighbors) is not for every season of life. Having a new baby, health issues, or other stressful circumstances may mean you need to step back. Accept that this is a season to step back on serving the outside world. Take care of yourself and you family, so that at other seasons you can be more ready to serve others. But also remember that mom friends are so important, and sometimes we just need to make the effort.
Save it for later!
Would Jesus feel welcome?
He comes into our messes, and is here with us anyway. I like to ask myself if He would feel welcome in my home, or would there be tension. Katie Kleinsasser shares some thoughts on her blog that have also really blessed me when it comes to Creating Gospel Spaces for Jesus. Again, it’s about the heart. My prayer that our home would be a place of refuge and rest in this hard world, for us and for others.