Houses filled with love have elastic walls.
Practicing hospitality can be a daunting task. One of my biggest temptations in practicing hospitality is to focus on the ideal and pursue that. The food should be of this variety and arranged a certain way. The house should be clean, mopped, dusted, and vacuumed. The trap set for me is to make it look perfect, so that I gain my guests’ approval, without looking like I’m trying too hard. I believe this temptation is the strongest when I believe the lie that, as a single woman, my homemaking is a pretense of the “real” housekeeping (including hospitality) of wives and mothers. When that lie is fueled by my pride and self-focus, instead of love for others, I’m open up myself for the attacks of worry, impatience, and a spirit of striving and complaining that I’m just one person. Then I miss out on having a joyful spirit at rest in contentment in the Providence that gave singleness and the ministry of hospitality.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13
My parents were the first to help teach me hospitality. As an older child, my responsibility beforehand was to help prepare, which usually meant vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms. The purpose, I was reminded, was that the guests would feel comfortable using a bathroom that was clean and prepared just for them. It wasn’t so they would think, ‘They are really good at cleaning the bathrooms!’ When church members arrived for Bible study, my job was to greet them and ask if they would like something to drink. This was a task that turned my vision away from my shyness to the needs and faces of the people in our home. As I grew up in my parents’ house, I watched as they served others by hosting overnight guests, large groups, individuals, and couples, all for different reasons. Sometimes hospitality was simply for brief visits. Other times it was for people needing a place to live for a while. It all looked different, but it was all service.
Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14
I’m convinced that the heart of hospitality is extending the love of God to those who enter the home and serving them cheerfully, no matter the living situation. I have experienced that God blesses that. One of the ways God has provided is by giving me 14 roommates over the years – almost all of whom have shared a heart for opening up our home for others, whether it was a dorm, an apartment, or a house. In practicing hospitality, God has given seasons of late-night Bible studies, study sessions in college and grad school, pancake nights, hymn sings, baby showers, small wedding receptions, and girls’ nights. Sometimes they were over-crowed; sometimes I wasn’t able to do all I wanted; sometimes I strove to do more than I needed; sometimes I was exhausted and overwhelmed by so much to do; rarely (if ever) did it turn out perfectly. Every time, however, God blessed the efforts. One roommate and I found that, when push comes to shove, it is possible to stack all the living room furniture in the corner and use a line of card tables to have an Easter dinner for 12 people in a 900-square foot apartment, so long as you know your guests are amenable to that as well.
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
Hospitality doesn’t require a husband to partner with you, because you have a generous God who is capable of using your home for more good than you can imagine. Hospitality doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect, or look like an edition of Better Homes and Gardens. Hospitality is generously sharing what God has given, serving with the strength that God provides to meet the needs of those who enter the home.
God is not limited. I am often surprised at what He can do when given unlimited access to my limited means, but he will accomplish what He purposes. I’ve had a guest book for the last 8 years (and 10 living spaces). I love looking through it and remembering the people who came through my home(s) and what we did and what we talked about. It is a good reminder that God is at work in my home and will continue to work, if I submit its use completely to Him. So pray for God to show you how to show hospitality in your home. Pray for God to bless your efforts and your desire to do good. Pray for God to fill your heart with love for Him and your guests. Serve with the strength and leadership of His Holy Spirit. Allow difficult acts of hospitality to conform you more to His likeness and thank Him for His sanctification. Remember that you will reap a harvest, if you do not give up.
Here are some practical ways to set up a home with a goal of implementing hospitality:
- Keep a guest book to help remember the story of your home(s). You can have any kind that fits your personality. Mine is a little book with lined pages for guests to write or draw whatever they want.
- If you live in a space that allows candles, keep a couple good-smelling (even cheap) candles on hand.
- Don’t feel convinced that you have to do it all yourself. Have a friend come over to help you clean or prepare food.
- Keep a cleaning schedule. The more you are accustomed to keeping the space clean, the less frantic cleaning you’ll need to do later.
- On a related note, if you put pans in the oven to hide them, make sure to communicate this to your roommates.
- Communication with the people you are living with is vital. Do not use hospitality as an excuse to disregard the people who share the home with you.
- Keep some baked goodies in the freezer or microwave popcorn and lemonade mix in the pantry for unannounced company.
- One lady from my church suggested a drink basket. I keep the sugar bowl, creamers, and hot drink packets/coffee in this small basket that can be set out with the hot water kettle for guests. It keeps me organized and cuts down on time getting ready.
- When picking out an apartment or a home, ask how accommodating it would be for having people over. Does the apartment have parking passes you have to purchase for guests? (True story) Is there parking available on the street? Is there an open space for serving food and sitting?
- Don’t let small spaces be a deterrent, but keep it in mind when setting up a guest list.
- Consider keeping a box or two of toys and coloring books for kids that come over. I’m in my 30s, so that means when I invite college friends over, kiddos are going to be coming as well. By pulling together a collection of toys and puzzles from my childhood, Dollar Tree, Goodwill, etc., I have a little stash that keeps kids occupied while their parents and I can visit. Now when the kids come over, they just go right away to the shelf with the toys and start playing.
“Your house/apartment feels so welcoming” are words every host and hostess want to hear. No matter how welcoming and put together the space may be, however, the hostess’ attitude is what makes it welcoming. A hostess focused on her presentation of her home will not have her heart free to be content in her Maker His promises, and enjoy her guests.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11