Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hospitality

This week while roaming around on homemaking blogs, I found a link to this wonderful article by Edith Schaeffer. (Sorry, don't remember where I ran across it so I can't give credit where credit's due.)

My mom is one of my greatest inspirations in the area of hospitality. She freely admits that in her younger years she was, in her own words, inflexible. We rarely had guests, and if we did, she had to know a month in advance, know when they were arriving and when they were leaving and in the meantime she got totally stressed out.

In the small Charismatic church (that was before our Baptist days, *L*) we attended at the time, someone spoke a prophecy over her that one day people would love to come to her house. Now I know personal prophecy is up for debate in Christian circles, but we nevertheless found it amusing because having a home where people came often was among her worst nightmares. This was hardly the “word from God” she wanted to hear.

Fast forward a few years and she had no choice but to learn to be flexible. We moved to Texas, and in the first year we were there, we had eleven batches of overnight company, some staying as long as a week. We were so busy just transitioning from one bunch of company to the next, we didn’t have time to plan or freeze up or get stressed out. We were flying by the seat of our pants. That broke the no-company cycle. We discovered the joy of offering hospitality and had company often after that.

By the time my parents bought the farm where they live now, we never knew who might be at a meal or spending the night at any given time. It was a far cry from the days when having a neighbor for supper meant weeks of preparation. Mama, my sisters and I got used to cooking huge amounts for twenty or more people, sometimes on short notice and always on a limited budget. Saturday became bean day. A big pot of beans simmered on the stove every weekend, and if you were a Saturday friend—well, you ate a lot of beans with us! One night we spontaneously put friends up for the night in our tiny home when their car broke down. We fed and sometimes had overnight my brothers’ friends, guys from the local Teen Challenge ranch, the contractors who remodeled our house, an enormous group who helped us paint, a Christian who smuggled Bibles into China, pastors and evangelists, pen pals whom we’d never before met, and anybody else who happened to be around at mealtime or who needed a place to stay. It was fun! It was an adventure! We were more blessed by our guests than they were blessed by us. Hospitality became our joy.

Now my mom is one of the most hospitable people I know. People do indeed love to come to her house because she and my whole family make them feel so welcome. I’m proud of how far she came and how willing she was for God to change her in this area. It’s an example to me.

As a pastor’s family, one of the requirements for ministry is that we are hospitable. Billy and I have had quite a bit of company over our six years of marriage, but I want to get to the point that we can have company, even spontaneously, any time the Lord leads. Flylady’s word CHAOS makes me laugh—it stands for “Can’t Have Anybody Over Syndrome”. Don’t we too often find ourselves there? I know I do. Sometimes disorganization is unavoidable. Sometimes it comes from lack of discipline. And sometimes we find ourselves in a mess (literally) and it just takes awhile to get back on our feet. In any case, reaching a point where we can offer hospitality freely is a worthy goal. There are several reasons this is important to me. One is, as I mentioned before, it’s a requirement for ministry and a commandment to all Christians. Second, it’s a joy to serve the Body of Christ and minister to the world by serving them as guests. Third, Billy and I want our kids to grow up around people of God who will inspire them to greatness in their own lives, and in an environment where they see that sharing the Gospel through hospitality is a way of life.

Sometimes having company is a pain. Sometimes it’s stressful and things don’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s humbling when the house isn’t as perfect as I’d like or the food doesn’t turn out as I hoped. But it’s nevertheless a joy, a command, and a way to reach the world from our own doorstep. I think we underestimate the power of extending refreshment to others, welcoming them into our lives, and taking time out of our busy lives to serve them and give them encouragement. Long ago, before I was married, I prayed, “Lord when I have my own home, let my home have a ministry of healing.” I didn’t mean physical healing. I meant that the desire of my heart was that my home would be a place where people could come to find balm for their hurting souls. I thank Him that He’s answered that prayer, and today I renew my commitment to have a home of hope and healing to share with others.

3 comments:

Windy said...

Stephanie,

Good Morning!! I love reading the stories of your family. I grew up in a home of hospitality... It was the greatest thing in the world. Sunday night dinners were never dull. Either the Minister and his family were there or someone from the neighborhood, my dad's work or, well you just never knew.

Amongst all of our craziness, this was one of the things I have carried forward into my life.

Thanks for sharing! Again, I love reading what you have to say!

Windy

Charity Grace said...

Thanks for your kind words Windy. Isn't it great to have a heritage of hospitality?

Gina Wmberly said...

Steph, I enjoyed your post on hospitality. It reminded me our days at Pickton with our families together. I long for that simplicity again, especially during a busy church week. I am so grateful to God for your friendship during these last 10 years. Oh yeah, Thanks for cleaning my house many,many times during those Pickton days. Love you-Gina