I quickly scooped up the pile of clean laundry from the dining room table, pushed in the chairs, and grabbed a dirty diaper from one of the seats. A quick run over the soft, cedar floors with the well-worn broom kept guests from popping rogue blueberries with their steps. I quickly turned on the diffuser with a few drops of Rosemary and Lemon oil to hide the diaper smell and put out a small bouquet of flowers from the cottage gardens.
It wasn't much, but it was enough to say ‘Come and welcome'.
The routine of hospitality and fellowship has gotten more relaxed over the years – not because we're giving less thought to the act, but rather, we're giving more. Rosaria Butterfield has challenged me deeply over these past few months – years even – to open our home further and deeper to others.
But how? How can we possibly open our homes to others when, ya know, we've got kids and life and a farm and one gigantic, glorious mess after another?
Easy. We just do it anyway.
Our life isn't free of those things. We just do it anyway.
The irony of our hospitality hold-up is that what keeps us from opening our homes to others is all personal. It's all about us. As we try to serve and love on others through the act of hospitality, we're simultaneously self-absorbed by the process. “Quick! Put away all the toys! Don't leave your shoes down! Do you have to be working on that art project right here? This has to be perfect! They can't know anyone lives here!”
Can you think of the last ten times you ate at someone else's table? Were you upset that their shoes were left by the door? That there was a pile of little jammies on the bathroom floor? That the pillow cushions were lined up like a train in the living room? That their children interrupted the conversation? That you enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches and a bag of potato chips?
No. You weren't upset. Chances are, you didn't even notice. Rather, you were so dang thankful to be welcomed into someone's home and to be served that you had a heart of gratitude (not of judgment) for the “life” happening in their home.
And even further, if you walked their chaos… into their mess… into their normal life, you were probably put at ease and thankful for the comfort. Because life is normal and normal is messy and messy is normal. Know what I'm sayin'?
In my early years of hospitality, I kept my real life and hospitality life separate. Every dirty dish was washed before the guests arrived, linens were ironed, and our door was open only on days I had it all together. HAAAAA. Ha. HA! Can you even imagine? HHHAAA! I may have just wet my pants a little bit laughing. How lonely. How exhausting.
Our quest for perfection doesn't serve others, nor does it serve us.
Rather, in trying to do our best for others, we can actually do our worst. We can turn down opening our homes to others because of its state – leaving them hungry and unfilled. We can neglect seeking opportunities to serve others in our home because of the tremendous exhaustion it brings – failing to fill up on the fellowship that will actually give us rest and nourishment.
The consequence of having four children in a five-year span is severe humility. Rarely is their not a pile of dirty laundry by the washing machine (currently in the kitchen, by the way), nor is there a moment without at least a few dirty dishes in the sink. That's fine. Make peace with the laundry. Make peace with the dishes. They're not going away.
Serving is costly and we should expect it to be so. One of the greatest joys in hospitality is feeding hungry bellies and preparing delicious food for guests to enjoy is part of that. The entire process will take time, effort, skill, and money. We should expect no less.
Keeping a beautiful, healthy home is equally costly (especially since it's being slowly being destroyed by the tiny army living inside its walls). But just because there are moments it crumbles around us (read: muddy footprints, exploded rotten eggs, or poorly aimed bodily fluid) doesn't mean we can't throw on a tablecloth, add a few flowers onto the table, light a candle, put on some Madeline Peyroux, and enjoy the moment.
I'm not talking about perfection. I'm talking about joyful, vibrant, real service to others.
So “come and welcome”… friend, family, stranger, neighbor, wanderer, widower, fellow human.
Come and welcome… to a table that will is weighted down with the best of what we can offer you in the moment.
Come and welcome… to a table full of forgiven sinners who are far from perfect.
Come and welcome… to a home that is dirty and tattered around the edges, but rich in love and thanksgiving.
If you could help me fold the laundry and dish up the children, that'd be great.