Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Does it Mean to Practice Hospitality?

Gabrielle Here:

One of my favorite things to do is have guests over. Whether it's a weekend writing retreat, an impromptu cookout, a bridal shower, a sporting event on television, or a holiday gathering, I am always the first to offer our home and extend the invitation.

A summer gathering in our backyard

Watching fireworks over the Mississippi

Decorating Christmas cookies with our neighbors

After we decorated the cookies, we went around the
neighborhood delivering cookies and singing carols

Go, Vikings!

Halloween costume party and trick-or-treating
Memorial Day Weekend camp out in our backyard

There are a few reasons I love to host. First, growing up, our home was the hub of activity. My mom has nine siblings and my dad has eight, this made for some large family gatherings on both sides. Christmas, to me, isn't complete without fifty people in the house playing games, filling the buffet table with scrumptious food, and tripping over a hundred shoes by the front door. I don't remember a weekend that there wasn't some relative visiting or a day that someone didn't "pop" in to say hello.

The other reason I love to host is because I'm an extrovert and I get energized being with other people. If it's been a while since we've had someone over, I start making plans to host another gathering.

And, third, I love to host because of Romans 12:13. "Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

Do you see that word? Practice.

When I was a young wife, I would get so overwhelmed hosting events at my house. I would put so much time, effort, and stress into each gathering, it made me cringe every time I thought about having people over, and then I would shy away from extending invitations.

But then I heard a speaker talking about Romans 12:13. She said, the admonition to practice hospitality is just that: to practice. It won't ever be perfect. Your house won't be perfect, your food won't be perfect, your conversation won't be perfect--in short, you're not aiming for perfection, you're simply practicing. And each time you host an event, you learn something new to apply next time.

When I started looking at hosting events as "practice," it changed my entire perspective! I started to relax!!! I started to ask others to help with tasks. I stopped making excuses for the unfinished trim in my kitchen, the fingerprints on my windows, and the chipped siding on my house.

I stopped trying to be perfect and just started being me.

Have you ever gone to someone's home, or attended a party, where everything appeared perfect? I have, and you know what I thought? "I can't invite so-and-so to my house! What would she think about the unfinished remodeling projects, the store-bought food I serve, or the stains on my carpet?" So I never extended the invitation. I know there are many women I could have been friends with, but I was too intimidated to have them come over because my house could never measure up to theirs.

But the reverse is true. I've gone to people's homes that aren't "perfect." Maybe the hostess isn't a great cook, maybe she doesn't care if her bookshelf is dusty, or that the kids' toys are strewn about the living room. Maybe she has a pile of clothes in a laundry basket on the couch that need to be folded. You know what I think about that? "Finally! Someone I can relate to. If she comes to my house, I can be real and honest and not worry about what she's thinking. I can focus on getting to know her and not stress out about the details."

The truth is that most people don't judge your home, your food, or your clothes. If they are a true friend, they have come to see you. If they are judging you, then maybe it's not a relationship to pursue.

See that dirt? We were in the midst of a huge landscaping
project (which still isn't completely finished two years later...)

No one cared if the backyard wasn't perfect

Hosting a meal with friends and family in the midst of
our kitchen remodel--yes, that's a plywood counter...
Wouldn't it be nice if we could all drop the pretense of "perfect" and just be real? Think about how much more we could practice hospitality. Think about how freeing it is to just be yourself, with all your flaws, imperfections, and messes. When you're free to be you, then you're free to offer what truly matters: your time, energy, talents, and love.

I can guarantee you that our friends don't come over to see our house. They come to spend time with us.

A sign in a friend's home says it all.

I love practicing hospitality, because I've learned how to relax and let the imperfections be a part of the experience. One friend said that he enjoyed coming over on Thursday nights to watch basketball with my husband last winter, because he was able to see the process of our remodeling project from start to finish.

If I waited until my house was perfect, I'd never have anyone over. If I tried to clean every square inch of my house each time I hosted a gathering, I'd never offer to host again. I would have missed out on hours of laughter, deep, meaningful relationships, and blessings too numerous to count.

Your Turn: Do you enjoying hosting? Why or why not? What stops you from inviting people to your home? 

Next week, I plan to share some tips for hosting a stress-free gathering!


  1. Mollie RushmeyerMay 25, 2017 at 8:49 AM

    Thank you, Gabe! I love this.�� I think I've let some unwelcome "observations" of our house discourage me from wanting to host gatherings. Plus, that's just our family. Even my grandma would be the 1st to say she can't have any of us over before cleaning! But I think you're right, it helps others feel comfortable if we're real-- dust bunnies and all!! It looks like you really know how to throw a party and everyone looks like they're having a blast.�� Thanks for your words of wisdom!

    1. There's definitely a stigma, probably handed down from previous generations, that tells us we have to be perfect before we can offer ourselves or our home to our friends and family. I'll be the first to say I run the vacuum and make sure the bathrooms are presentable if I know someone's coming over--but that's just common courtesy. However, I know that as soon as everyone shows up, it's going to get messy again, so I don't go overboard with cleaning. I'd rather my friends come over and get a "fresh" me, instead of a tired and stressed out me. :) Thanks for being here, Mollie.

  2. My daughter is the hostess, not me! I don't care anymore like I used to about what my house looks like but my house is cramped and my mom is living in our dining room because she can't climb stairs to our upper floor. I don't mind two or three friends coming over but not a crowd. My kitchen table is full of plants my husband is propagating so we eat in the living room on our laps....

    1. Your home sounds full and loving. Having your mother live with you is like being a hostess twenty-four hours a day!

  3. I love your hospitable heart. :)

    1. Next time you come to my house, you'll be surprised at how much (and how little!) we've gotten done on those projects. At least I have a counter top now. :)

  4. This is a great topic and good advice! I too think it's a learned behavior to have everything in order before company, especially if they are anyone other than very close relatives! Unlearning it is the difficult part and giving up that pre-party anxiety! Yikes!

    1. It's interesting how each generation looks at things. It's hard to let go of what we've been taught, isn't it? I still have to catch myself sometimes, when I'm making a fuss about something that doesn't need to be fussed at. :)

  5. This is fantastic. Thank you!! :) The little baby years were hard for me, in that I felt like things were always a disaster around my house, but I think that is an excuse now on my part. I'm introverted and with a big family, I often feel peopled-out. Yet, I feel a strong sense of this being an important thing to do. I appreciate your thoughts on it.

  6. Thanks, Gabe! I shy away from hosting all the time, worried about the state of our home. Even with the kids, impromptu get-togethers with their friends scare me, mostly with the kids I don't know well. What will they think? Will they judge my kids based on our messes? I need to learn this lesson, but I am a long way from doing so. I will work at it, though. It's nice to remember I'm not the only one who'd rather be having fun than cleaning or feeling my home needs to be "perfect", which it never will be. I know the feeling of being more comfortable in other people's homes that aren't perfect as well. Loved to read this!!! Jess Dehn


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