The Day I Learned the True Definition of Hospitality

hospitality

The stain on the seat cushion glared at me. This house would never be clean enough for guests. Who was I kidding? Why had I agreed to host a Bible study in the first place?

My perfectionist nature kicked into overdrive. I convinced myself it was a mistake to open our home. After all, I’d never made a Pinterest worthy treat in my life.

When I hosted a Fourth of July party for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) my Pinterest inspired key lime cheesecake turned into a gloppy mess. No one told me you were supposed to wait until serving time to add the whipped cream.

These are things a person gifted in hospitality should know, right?

I settled on a spinach dip with three ingredients and brownies for the first Bible study, figuring it would be impossible to mess up such simple treats. I didn’t anticipate my two-year-old’s resolve to eat all of the brownies before any of the guests arrived.

To add to my stress, his new favorite pastime was undoing everything I set out to do. I made the bed. He unmade it. I cleaned up a pile of toys. He decided he wanted to play with them again.

In the midst of my frustration, I looked into my son’s eyes and saw one thing: the desire for more of me. My love, my attention, my undivided self. I jumped on the bed and threw my exasperation out the window, along with my resolve for a perfect house.

As we giggled and rolled around the bed, God sent a gentle reminder that hospitality is not about having a Martha Stewart ready living room or immaculately crafted hors d’oeuvres. All these things are wonderful, but the heart of hospitality lies in the heart of the host.

Our guests enter our homes with the same desire as my two-year-old: the desire for love. A spotless kitchen floor can never replace that.

We often fool ourselves into thinking our homes are too small or cluttered, our kitchens too 70’s inspired instead of HGTV inspired, and we miss out on an opportunity to be Christ’s hands and feet.

But God does not call us to strive for perfection only he can attain. He simply calls us to open our doors.

When we answer his call to love and open our doors, we not only take in those who are knocking. We open the door to Christ as well.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 NIV

When our church family poured into our house that night, the only one who noticed the stained cushion was me. We shared stories and laughed. We strengthened the bonds of friendship which started within the church walls.

As I watched my friends make themselves at home and graciously accepted compliments on my three-ingredient dip, I realized what true hospitality was. It was simply saying, “yes” to God’s invitation. The invitation he gives us every day to reach a little further outside of ourselves, love a little deeper, and give a little more.

The invitation is the same every day, as sure as the morning sun. Will you answer it?

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32 thoughts on “The Day I Learned the True Definition of Hospitality

    • I’m glad to hear that it gets easier as you get older, Bev. 😉 I am making strides too. I think with kids I’m just too tired. Ha! Hope you have a lovely Christmas, friend!

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    • Applying these things is always easier said than done, isn’t it? Thanks so much for sharing here, Sabra. I love hearing from you and hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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  1. so true… Love is the most important thing for hospitality. we have hosted over 10 weddings, countless showers and parties AND my house has never been “Perfect” for any of them… but love and peace are always present and that is what people remember.
    Great Post! joining the raralinkup for the first time today… Merry Christmas

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  2. You know what I love about your posts Abby? You have a way of meeting us where we are and making us feel like things are ok. Not sure how you do it so well. You and I have the same issues – kids that undo everything we do. Ha! I love how you abandoned your hopes and embraced your child. You are a role model for me in that. Cheering on you as you cheer me on. Thank you for this.

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    • I’m not sure either, Kelly. I give God all the credit! 🙂 I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. We will get through this together, friend. 😉 Thank YOU and have a Merry Christmas!

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  3. Beautiful encouragement! So often I shy away from having people over because our house is always crazy – and certainly never Pinterest-worthy. But ,you’re right – the best hospitality is simply being together. Great reminder for Christmas as my in-laws are coming, but all the preparation and baking I’d planned have been sidelined by being sick. Will just enjoy the company at Christmas instead.

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    • Oh Kathryn, I hope you are feeling better soon! I have been fighting something too and haven’t been feeling like myself. Here’s hoping we’re both well by Christmas! Thanks so much for your encouraging words, friend.

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  4. Amazing post, Abby!!! … “I realized what true hospitality was. It was simply saying, “yes” to God’s invitation.” <— This is so true! All we have to do is say yes! Loved this! Thanks for sharing and infinite blessings to you, Love! 🙂

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  5. I love this! Thank you for being so authentic and teachable in crucial moments with your children. God is using your heart and writing in an awesome way. Merry Christmas!

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  6. I say YES to this post! Loved it, Abby! With company on their way to my non-Pinterest worthy house tomorrow, this post was just what I needed to read. Instead of using all my energy to clean floors that will be dirty within minutes, I think I will save it for conversations and laughter. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Merry Christmas!
    Renee

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  7. Abby conviction pierces my heart. I am a perfectionist. Just call me Martha. Oh and how it will rob me of the joy of opening our home. I am working on that and needed this good reminder. Merry Christmas friend!

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  8. I’m just getting here today, Abby! (Christmas kept me busy, maybe?) But I love your definition of hospitality: accepting God’s invitation to open our doors. I learned a huge lesson at Thanksgiving, when all of our food was just a wee bit on the room temperature side due to my broken oven. But the funny thing was I relaxed and enjoyed more because I felt free of expectations. Who expects hot food with a broken oven? Lots of us place unnecessary expectations on ourselves all the time! (Even when my oven does work, the food could be cold!)

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    • Betsy, I am still catching up too. I am so looking forward to your series this month! So glad to hear you were able to relax because of the oven. Funny how God works, isn’t it? 😉

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  9. Just discovered your blog through the CBCE {Christian Blog Comment Exchange}… and I loved how you stress that hospitality is essentially a heart matter… not some competition to see who can have mad hosting skills… and how easy it becomes to miss the point.
    Can’t wait to read more of your posts.
    And I bet your dip was awesome.

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    • Amen, Christine. It is not a competition at all. We women put so much pressure on ourselves. 😉 Thanks so much for your encouraging words and I’m so glad to connect.

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  10. I LOVE this post! This is my first time visiting your blog and I’m so glad I discovered it. Your line about your sons resolve to eat all of the brownies before your guests arrived made me laugh out loud. I have a toddler also and she also likes to “undo” my cleaning efforts, but I have settled on the same conclusion- she just wants more of me, and how can you fault that?? I know I will long for the day she so eagerly wanted my time at some point, so I want to take advantage of it as much as possible now. I love the poem:
    “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow.
    For babies grow up we’ve learnt to our sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
    I have been thinking about all of this in relation to my house, because I’m certainly not the cleanest person by nature, and like you- perfectionism starts to sink in prior to any visitors coming over, but I believe you are right- we notice more than others do and it should be about time spent together in fellowship with Christ. Wonderful post. I look forward to reading more.

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    • I love that poem, Kristi! It’s so true that we need to grasp those moments because they go way too fast. I’m so glad we connected and I look forward to reading more of your posts as well. Thanks for your encouraging words!

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  11. I can so identify with this. Totally me. I stress and stress and always find that once people get here, it’s all good. That’s when I tell myself, I need to do this more. I need to stop stressing so much. Then, next time comes along and I stress and stress and ….. you get the idea. Good post.

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  12. One of the most memorable dinners we have ever shared with friends is when the main floor of our home was being painted. We couldn’t even pretend it was neat and tidy because there were ladders and paint cans all around but the fellowship at the table was so sweet and rich nobody paid any attention to the mess! I can’t even remember what I served for dinner but I do remember that hearts were shared deep and real and a new level of friendship began.

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  13. Can I say it again? This is beautiful, Abby. The homes that I love visiting range from obviously child-filled 😉 to stuffed with memories to nearing that “Martha Stewart” perfection, lol. But the common thread that runs through them all is: precious, loving people.

    If we can only remember that when we are on the giving end… 🙂

    Thank you, sister. What a great post!

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