What is Hospitality?

I am going to let you in on a secret… I am a perfectionist when it comes to homemaking. That doesn’t mean I have perfected it, or that I’m even close. It just means that the job takes up much of my day and my energy each and every day.  This is the only place we have lived in which I have poured myself into, as far as making it look the way I want it to look. I picked out my color palette, the floor, the curtains, and more. It’s my home and I am proud of it.

Something neat and terrifying I noticed about the Lord, is that He takes our biggest fears and prejudices and presents Himself in those things in order that we would see nothing bigger than Him. In order that all of those false shadows would be dispelled and only He would be left. We are finally in a home large enough that we could hold a meeting, a meeting for sharing Christ, a meeting for times of teaching, and a meeting for worship. In addition to the typical dinners and playdates. We are in a place where that could start happening soon and it would be here. The only thing is, I don’t like having people in my private space. Too many bad things could happen. Does that make me un-hospitable?

I used to think that my fears were all based around my stuff- maybe I just didn’t want my stuff getting destroyed and that’s why I am nervous about having people over? I have noticed that some families are very relaxed in their parenting and let their children run through a home and rummage cabinets and fingerpaint the glass doors with greasy hands, and play outside games like jump rope in the living room next to sentimental photos and cherished breakables that were once in my grandmom’s home. My heart skips a beat when children come over these days. Is it because I am too attached to material possessions? Hmmm…

Maybe a little. But, I also think that as a homemaker and one who’s read what the Lord says about my very job, my life’s work, I am protective over an atmosphere as much as I am a place. The Lord wants me to share without grumbling. He also wants me to open my home up to those in need. He wants me to entertain strangers. He says nothing about having to let tornadoes into the atmosphere of peace I’ve maintained for my husband and children. In my opinion, I feel as though the Lord wants me to be open with myself. He wants me to share what I have with those who have not much- that is what the Lord refers to as being hospitable, in His Word, in His Son.

Authenticity is one of the truest forms of respect. There is nothing worse than spending time with someone who is very clearly somewhere else, not present emotionally or mentally, yet smiles and puts on a show. Having a keen intuition is an unwelcome gift of mine and I have never been able to get very close to those who keep themselves wrapped up like Fort Knox. I think offering myself up to be a safe place and giving the love needed for another to be “real” around me is the best hospitality I can give. Hospitality is in the heart, not the home. I realized that recently.

Someone once said to me- not anyone who is close enough to me that they read my blogs so I hope no one thinks I am talking about them- that I am not a real friend unless I let them come over whenever they choose, even if it’s the middle of our suppertime. And that they need to be able to stop by unannounced with their pets and children in order to be a real friend. And that they would “wait for me to change” because they really want to be my friend. When I let it sit for a moment I wondered if she was right. Am I being rude and not hospitable by having those boundaries up?

I like those I am close to stopping by when they need to. I loved a pop in when times were rough back in Gainesville. Even though I never would have asked for it, it was the best thing for me, every single time. If I don’t know someone very well, and their kids follow different rules than my children (i.e. don’t respect my home, our family rules, or the atmosphere we’ve created and basically destroy my home) I don’t want them to pop-in every-other-day.

Now, if Christ is working something out in me and I have become concerned with my things rather than people, that’s another story. But, if I am open to loving a family and want to be a good friend and hospitable, I can offer myself as an honest, safe woman. I don’t need to let others have rule over my home in order to be a good friend or hospitable.

Some families are not so concerned about sanitary issues. We are. I have found that when we spend time with certain people, my middle child and myself end up sick. Every. Single. Time. My middle son is on the mild end of the autism spectrum and so he gets sick very often and picks up illness easily. He gets painful sores all over his body and a cough for weeks after spending one afternoon with a family who doesn’t share our cleanliness habits. I am not knocking the more relaxed way of parenting, but it would be irresponsible of me to allow myself to get sick and be on the couch for a week just because another mom lets her kids cough all over the place without covering their mouths. Sometimes it’s good to let the kids e around germs, it strengthens their immune systems. I get that. But I have a special needs child and I am susceptible to illnesses right now because I have some medical issues I just can’t shake, so I am more concerned with keeping my kid staph-free than I am with seeming neurotic.

The final area of hospitality I want to talk about is difficult. My kids are great. I know they can get little attitudes and they are not perfect. But I am not raising bullies. My husband and myself have talked and talked and spent time separate, but with the Lord on the topic of letting friends who have bullies for children, go. As in, we won’t make our kids spend time with their kids anymore. I know, I know, touchy subject and I’m sure this hits a nerve with a lot of people. Again, if it were a close friend who we were having problems with, I would talk with the Mom and work it out. I have been in that situation and we have worked it out and it brought us closer. I am referring to brand new friends who cross our paths who are  not open to talk, but just plain old defensive. I don’t have time for that.

Recently, one of my children was “beat up” by a classic bully. Think “O’Doyle rules!” from Billy Madison. He was held down by two brothers with football padding and sticks. My boy called for help and tried breaking free while I sat in the house having mom-time. When another kid came in the house and yelled that there was a boy being beaten up outside I ran out and helped him up. Apparently it was for no reason. I am not saying that because I don’t want to admit that my kid does wrong. The bullies could not give one reason why they did that. They refused to apologize and the mom of them said nothing. My husband, a former sniper for the US Marine Corps, has decided to give my children bully defense training. We talked with the boys about using our words to defend themselves, but that doesn’t always work. My son who was attacked not long ago cries every night. It was the most traumatic thing that has happened to him in his short life. He replays over and over in his head what he could have done to make these people hurt him and he has nightmares about being pinned down and hit. So yeah, we are teaching our children how to defend themselves with their strength. I am from Jersey. I punched my first mean girl by the time I was in 3rd grade, so I am almost as qualified as my hubby. I don’t have to be hospitable to those who are not ready to be my friend. The only thing I ask of my friends is that they are themselves and they let me be myself, and they don’t have kids who physically attack mine. Pretty simple.

I have been needing to get that last part off my chest. I have a lot of sadness still in my heart when I think of walking out and seeing my boy on the ground with his face in the dirt. I was tempted for a moment to just give up on meeting anyone new. If this is hospitality Lord, I don’t want any part of it. The thing is, it’s not. Hospitality is a heart condition. I want others to feel comfortable when they are with me and when they come into my home. I protect that by not allowing bitterness to take root and by loosening up a bit. I can share Christ and I can share my home and myself with those who have nothing. I actually plan on making that my life’s work once the boys are graduated from homeschool. I have learned what true hospitality is over the last few months. And the wonderful thing is, I don’t have to let anyone take the peace from me, my family, or my home in order to express it.

Thank you for reading!

Love,

Jackie

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2 thoughts on “What is Hospitality?

  1. Dear Jackie,

    I just read your post and agree with you wholeheartedly on everything you said. About hospitality, keeping things clean for health and peace, and having boundaries in the appropriate places. Sincerity and respect are very important and our homes should be sacred places. You stay strong. You have to put your family first. Your children cannot protect themselves, so you’ve got to do it. It sounds as though you ARE definitely very social. Socializing has to do with respecting others. You are trying to respect your husband, children AND your friends in the proper order. Just because we don’t have people over every day or go to other people’s place often it does not mean we are not friendly or social. It takes much dedication to keep a home environment orderly and loving. Your friends should be there to support that beautiful home life you are working hard to create in the midst of this confused and insecure society that often resorts to abuse of power to compensate for a powerlessness most feel deep down. There are a lot of mean kids these days who are not being put in their place by their parents. I think this is because the parents feel powerful when their kids are the “tough” ones out there. These parents are insecure. By sticking to your boundaries, you are showing others that the family IS important and that what you do in your home life matters a great deal. Your children will grow up knowing how to have quality relationships with other human beings that are more satisfying than the old “hey, I’m bigger and better” or “we’re bigger than others so we’re friends” type, which are just isolating.

    Stay strong. You’re a beautiful woman with a beautiful home and family!

    • Thank you! It’s so hard to know sometimes if I am doing the right thing. Boudaries are great and it’s only been recently that I’ve even had any. A few years ago I would have been so afraid of offending someone that I would put their needs before my own family’s needs. It is truly a blessing to get uplifting feedback on this one. I am protective over my children and it’s not always seen in a good light by society. Being bullied at a young age doesn’t need to be a right of passage. It took me a long time to write that post and I wasn’t sure if anyone would agree with me, but I know it’s what’s right for us. I’ve enjoyed reading your reply, thank you for the wonderful compliments. You’ve put a smile on my face today!
      ~ Jackie

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