In the past three weeks, our home has had a revolving door. People coming in, staying a while, and then leaving. And all the while, I’ve also been sick. And we all know that being sick and being a good host don’t exactly come together all that well. But in the midst of suffering and wanting to be a good host, I’ve discovered a few things… things that matter, and things that don’t.
You see, hospitality — true, Catholic hospitality — is, “more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your home.” (Karen Ehman).
And that right there just about says all I need to say about it! 😉
Sometimes, before friends will come over for dinner or before my girlfriends come over for a girls night or study, I’ll spend that day cleaning so that the house looks good, smells good, and is spotless…
But so much work, and to what end? And especially when you’re sick?
“The best hostesses don’t worry about whether company feels good about their home or food or throw pillows or what have you. The best hostesses just make sure company feels good about themselves. That seems like the better way.” (Glennon Doyle)
My best friend and I joke that we know we’re close friends because we don’t think twice about each other coming over even when the laundry is still in sorting piles on the floor. Or when our dishes aren’t rinsed and they’re sitting on the kitchen counter. Or when I haven’t changed out of my comfy pj pants yet…
I realize, though, that if it doesn’t matter all that much with my best friend, why does it seem to matter more with others?
Honestly, I’l tell you why… I just care about what people think of me and my home.
I want them to think we’re neat and tidy — and clean. We mostly are, but we’re also human. And when we’re sick, the house is a mess. If your house is clean when you’re sick, please come visit mine and have at it. 😉
It has been hard for me to let go of high expectations of what things should look like or how I want them to be before company or guests come over. But because I’ve been sick, I’ve hung the white flag. I’ve surrendered and made what little I can do… be enough.
And the world isn’t ending.
And our friendships aren’t any worse off for it either.
In fact, they sort of feel more real when they get to see the real me — the real, sick, Annie with a house that’s just-not-perfect.
I feel like we’re cutting to the chase this way.
“Welcome to my house, come in! It’s comfortable, it’s a little messy, I’m not feeling well and I care more about you than about the kitchen…”
That is hard for me to say. I promise you. It doesn’t come out all that easily. I’m a recovering people-pleaser and recovering perfectionist, so this is actually kind of hard for me 😉
But I’m learning that our house doesn’t have to be perfect for us to be able to use it to bless and serve others.
I can light a candle, put some music on Pandora, and get out a veggie tray on the coffee table (can you tell? this is my routine for company!), but what your guests are going to remember is more about your heart and the conversations you have with them. You can make them feel comfortable and cared about more through conversation than you can through a spotless home.
And yes, use the things that God has given you to serve others; if you’re blessed with a big dining table and some cooking skills, use ’em, get out the china, and feed your friends!
If you’re blessed with knowing how to decorate for a party, throw one and invite the neighbors!
But if you’re not blessed with either of those things, then just let your heart take over; be vulnerable, be honest, be genuine — and you will be blessing your guests just as much by doing that, and by being there, and by asking them questions and listening — really listening and getting to know them.
Just about anybody can have a spotless home if they really tried, and a well-decorated table with a good meal on it. But these things don’t make a community what it is; hospitality does that.
All of those extra little things – like decorations and ambiance – just don’t matter unless we share our encounters with God with our family and friends. Conversations about Jesus Christ, what He means to you, how He is speaking to you lately… that’s food for the soul! And we gotta feed our friends 😉
Like Tom Hoopes said, over at the National Catholic Register, “We who are laypeople are not being asked to give all, like the Lord’s special band of consecrated lives. But he is asking for us to be poor in spirit. That means putting all of what we have at his service. Do we have a house? How can we use it to reach others for Christ, starting with our family? Do we have cars? How can we help others with them? Do we love to shop? Father Michael Gaitley, of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, in his new book You Did It to Me, suggests skipping a shopping trip and putting the money in a “Mercy Jar” for the poor. We are also used to thinking it is easy to go to heaven. It is not. “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!” says Jesus. This is what Paul means about the sharp-bladed word of God.”
So let me ask you how… How have you used your home to bless others this week? It doesn’t take too much — sometimes all you need are just some chairs and a table. 🙂