When I was a young minister’s wife and mother of three little boys, I used to practically kill myself getting ready for company. Inviting folks into our home (which the church owned) was an unspoken expectation of the congregations we served, especially in the very early years. Thankfully, I enjoyed inviting folks over for a meal. My mother set a precedent of cleaning the house from top to bottom before she would allow anyone into our home. I watched and learned. The fact she was too tired and grumpy to actually enjoy her guests once they came was not lost on me either, but that’s how I thought it was done.
I entertained that way for many years until I realized that I was having people over less and less because of the gargantuan task it had become. Making my house pristine and pretending that we lived this way all the time just got too exhausting. What would people think if they saw my living room cluttered with toys or dust on the coffee table? For shame! It was simply best not to have company at all instead of risking my reputation as a homemaker and my health as I struggled to get everything picture perfect.
Then one day, I found myself at Pepperdine University listening to a well-known preacher’s wife discuss God’s call to his people to be hospitable. Imagine my amazement when she confessed that perceived expectations and the daunting task of housecleaning had kept her from opening up her home to others. She was my people! Then, she told of how one day a woman from church, she barely knew, dropped by unexpectedly. Her house was a mess. Her daughter’s science project cluttered the dining table, dog hair lingered on the sofa, and every step going up the stairs had something plopped on it waiting for someone to actually stop, pick it up, and take it on upstairs with them. The speaker actually confessed of being tempted not to invite the visitor inside. That’s when she noticed that the woman had been crying.
The two women sat on the dogged-hair sofa for over an hour as the uninvited guest poured out her heart. The speaker told how something in her changed that day and how her priorities got themselves rearranged to better align with God’s. Before the conversation ended, her guest apologized for dropping in on her like that. It was then, the speaker noticed the coat of dust that covered her coffee table in front of them. Without a word, she leaned over and wrote, “Welcome” through the gathered dust.
Something realigned in me that day sitting in that beautiful auditorium with the Pacific Ocean glistening outside. My hospitality, or lack of, depended on nothing but my own heart. Pledge, Clorox, Swiffer’s or the like would no longer dictate who I allowed through my front door. If someone stood outside on my welcome mat they would indeed be greeted with open arms no matter the clutter inside. And, if I had to choose between a perfectly mopped floor or sharing a meal with friends, I will choose to fill up the chairs around my dinner table every time.
We are in the Christmas season. Our homes have been decorated with care. Yeah, COVID has put a kink in all of our holiday cheer and our homes may be off limits to those outside our own bubble right now, but that won’t always be the case. Soon, very soon, we will be able to once again open up our doors in greeting. Let’s prepare ourselves for realignment and write in our own dust, “Welcome. Welcome, all!”
Oh, BTW, the photo today is of the bottom shelf of one of my bookcases. If you look close, you might see a message.
Later, dear peeps,