When Hospitality Becomes Reality

Even though I wrote this for the MOPS blog well over a month ago, we’ve just come off three solid months of houseguests. As we head into the holiday season, I hope you find these words encouraging!

annie_rim_hospitalityWhen we were searching for a house three years ago, one of the pieces of my wish list included a dedicated guest room. In our tiny starter home, our guest room-office-library-catchall room was fine but didn’t exude Martha Stewartesque hospitality.

After looking at many different sizes and ages of homes with our realtor, we popped into a random open house one Saturday – and found our dream home. It was old enough to have character but new enough to be up to code. And it included a dedicated guest room with bright windows looking into our yard filled with mature trees.

My dream had been to offer this space to anyone in need: friends, family, folks from church, and those in need of a short-term place to rest.

For a variety of reasons (mainly consisting of two young kids), our guest room stayed empty, save for the annual visits from family and close friends. I loved walking by the one always-tidy room in our home, but I also felt a tug to fill it somehow.

This year, our guest room has been filled from mid-August to the end of October. Between weekend visits from family to friends visiting from Zimbabwe, to another friend moving to Denver and needing a place to land before finding a job and home of her own, our guest room has felt like a revolving door.

My dream was put into practice. Some of the guests were incredible, helping with housework and entertaining our girls. Some were unexpected and high maintenance. Our long-term guest made our transition to kindergarten easier, as she stayed home with our napping toddler while I did afternoon pickup.

But, two full months of other people in our house also took a toll. Our five-year-old cried one night as she brushed her teeth in our bathroom, wishing she could just have her own bathroom back. My communication with my husband hasn’t been what it usually is, because someone is always around and we can’t talk as freely as we usually do.

Again, there are pros and cons. Maybe our daily communication isn’t the same, but we’ve taken advantage of someone being home after bedtime so we can take our neglected dog out into the neighborhood for an evening walk.

I just bought a book about hospitality being a Christian tradition. I’ve just barely started it, but I knew I needed the reminder that, as Christians, hospitality isn’t just something nice to do. It’s a rooted part of our faith – from Abraham and Sarah providing a meal to angels in disguise, to Mary and Martha hosting Jesus and the disciples, to the early church opening their homes to Paul and the missionaries – hospitality defines Christianity.

This season of hospitality has been rich and exhausting. In so many ways, I am looking forward to walking by an empty guest room again, smiling at the only tidy room in the house. But I am also thankful that we are able to model this open-handedness to our daughters. It’s been a challenge to them, but such an important lesson in sharing what we have, in using our own blessings to bless others.

It’s a reminder that, no matter what words I use to tell my children about the message and life of Jesus, the way they really understand it is when I choose to live it out, in our family’s values, in my own attitude, and in ways that they can see God at work in our family.

How has the practice of hospitality stretched you? As we go into this season of increased guests, how do you balance an open home with quiet space?

Originally posted over at The MOPS Blog: http://blog.mops.org/hospitality-becomes-reality.

14 thoughts on “When Hospitality Becomes Reality

  1. We have a room like you describe. We have had a few stop in and stay a bit. College kids mostly, needing a place to flop for the night and when Irma descended on us and the University closed, we took in a young lady. Of coarse family and friends here and there. I tell folks, my door is always open… and it is. But it is nice to have some space too. It can cause friction when the stay last a big longer than a few days. There is a big difference between wanting to do the right thing and the reality of it. It takes some learnin’ to balance high walls of protection and open doors. I have come to believe the table in the home is the best recipe to welcome and be hospitable. I think I may start saying our table is always welcome to you, rather than my door is always open. Because I love company and sharing. But I do love the sanctuary of home too. However, The room is there and will be for any takers in need.

    1. I love “our table is always welcome to you” instead of our door is always open…. Sometimes it makes sense; but that need to recognize the health of our family is so important, too! Thanks for these wise words.

  2. I grew up with parents who often took in others. Often times, they were children who needed to be separated from their family for short periods of time. When my mom moved west, she opened her home to mentally challenged young adults. I didn’t get whatever it is either of my parents had to fill our home that way. Guests? Sure, come on. But, after a few days, I need the figurative space back. Glad you talked about the dream of hospitality and the reality. It’s true with most dreams but dreams that should be pursued. Good example and lessons you and Frank are showing your girls.

    1. We’ve talked about short-term foster care in the future and that would be a huge shift for our family life. (Most likely when the girls are much older….) It’s such a balance, isn’t it? And, where does the church fit in? How do Christians support institutions? It brings up a lost of thoughts.

      Also, in Making Room, Christine Pohl uses the Salvation Army model as a way to do hospitality. 😉

    2. My parents housed foster kids when I was young. I don’t recall it, we were eight already. I do recall having three stacked bunk beds in the bedrooms. I believe they had to stop before I was able to have memories. My older siblings tell the stories. I have thought about exchange students. My brother has done this and developed long lasting friendships as they grew older, his family would visit them in there home country.

      1. Wow!! I have friends with bigger families (4 kids…) and they talk about fostering much more freely than smaller families. So interesting! I remember hosting exchange students – maybe when the girls are older?

  3. Thank you for sharing your guest room with my family! I struggle with having guests for extended periods. I love visiting with family and friends, but I often get stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. I like a clean and orderly house, so picking up after guests for more than a few days begins to wear on me. Plus I miss the quiet and One on One time with my husband and children. I usually try to slip away and get a few hours to myself or request some alone time with my children. Kudos to you for putting up with it for months!

    1. We loved having you guys!! I think that’s a tough part for me, too – how do we get much-needed family time in the midst of hosting? I know on Sunday and Monday, the girls were extra snuggly….

  4. Annie I’ve offered the bedrooms upstairs to our adult daughter and husband who are buying a new home and selling the other. They may be here a month with a 2 year old and an 8 month old. So many Pros to it, but it will change our evenings. We have been alone for so long and this time of the year with no yard work it’s fun laying on the sofa in my hubby’s lap and watching tv. HA!

    We’ve fostered in the past before kids and thinking about fostering again because there are two unused bedrooms.

    1. Haha! That will change your evenings! What a gift to offer your daughter and her family, though! We’ve thought about fostering when our girls are a bit older… Especially if we could offer older kids a place.

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