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Are you hospitable? 

I love visiting my sister. When we arrive, she gives us a tour of what she has available. She shows us where to find the extra toiletries for those who forgot. She opens her refrigerator and explains what special treats she found for us. After visiting, she asks what would make our stay better. I feel like I’ve just stayed at a deluxe hotel but at home.
She makes us feel at home, without the need to clean.
She is hospitable.

My husband calls me a party person, for with every boy’s graduation or special event that we host, I am planning and preparing a feast. Last year we had over fifty people for Thanksgiving. With each graduation, the numbers that the boys invite have grown too close to sixty. As their customer base increased with their weed wacking business, so did the people they knew.
And with the Mexican culture, family means total familia.

When one son’s rehearsal dinner included over fifty, I knew it was another planning marathon.
Often, we spontaneously invite a family or two after church. We pull out hot dogs and make a quick dinner.

How did I arrive at being able to host so many or frequently, without preparing?

I didn’t plan to, that’s for sure. And it wasn't easy. I’m an introvert. I like my alone time. When we visit others, I reach a saturation point, where I just shut down. I’m kinda done with people. My husband knows this and will ask, “Are you ready to leave?” And I sure am. I did what I needed for my family. My sons needed all those people to come and wish them well on their new adventures. (I certainly didn't. But I was glad they did. I met some wonderful people through them.)

My husband grew up close to all his family. On Christmas, the doors were like a revolving door of well-wishing family just stopping by.
But not just for Christmas. Their doors were always open. Their table always spread for anyone.
We lived with his parents for a year. I watched as my mother-in-law made meal after meal, catering to everyone’s special needs, as she listened to their news and stories. She sat and listened while family was there.

In contrast, I could only remember a handful of visitors my entire childhood. Potlucks at church were the extent of our visiting others, except for going to visit family, once a year.
When we married, it was an adjustment for my husband to be alone—just the children and I, for the holidays. It was also an adjustment for me to welcome others to our home.

When we first married, my husband invited some of his classmates, just for dinner, nothing intensive. Usually they were bachelors able to appreciate any offerings I gave.

We started hosting a Christmas cookie exchange to meet our neighbors. Anyone able brought enough cookies to share. I provided snacks. The shared cookies were distributed and sent home with everyone. Sometimes we would sing or share what we were thankful for. When we moved to Squaw Valley, it became the only time we saw our neighbors. And something many of our elderly neighbors looked forward to and asked about in July.
Because we knew our neighbors, we could help recently when one became a widow. He came for dinner and shared his struggles. Because I was willing to share my house with others.

As the boys reached out to the community with their weedwacking, they suggested inviting people who wanted to meet us for dinner. 

For each birthday, they chose the dinner and guest they’d like to share it with. One son wanted beef stomach (we had just butchered) with a couple I didn’t even know. I tried to channel his choice of dinner to some food more generally acceptable. He would not be persuaded. The meal was eaten. The couple was delightful. And I learned not to stress over how visitors will accept my meal. (A lesson I must continually re-learn.)

The boys do well at cleaning. If they don’t, it doesn’t get done. And I look the other way. 

I concentrate on the meal and table settings but keep it simple. When planning graduation parties, I include entertaining decorations so moms can eat. When one son was going to crane operating school, I bought Dollar Store trucks and bulldozers and small squirt guns for the centerpieces. When another son was leaving for farrier school, the centerpieces changed to horses and bubbles.

The boys set up their volleyball net or played frisbee. Nothing too structured.

When one son was teaching Sunday School, the coordinator suggested planning a special day to “get to know” his students. When he suggested bringing them home to ride horses, the coordinator announced it from the pulpit. We had fifty people come—I had only met the coordinator once. My son bought pizza. They also brought some. They had a wonderful time.
His students asked later when they could come back for “just their own day.”

The boys hosted their bachelor party at our house, while "the parents" stayed in their room. They had hot dogs with fixings. Simple. Plain. But Appreciated.

It wasn’t always easy to be hospitable.
I would fret and stew over cleaning. I would scream at the boys as they cleaned, inspecting with a critical eye.
I would use my “best” dishes and spend hours washing before and after the event.

I have since simplified my preparations. Making and freezing cookies early. Planning meals that don't require little “last minute touches.” Freezing ahead. Serving what we have. Using throw-away cooking and serving pans to simplify clean up.
I try to rest before the visitors come, because I still shut down when the sun goes down.
The boys know the system. Now most are not home to help with cleaning. Much of the deep cleaning that use to get done is forgotten. 
I don’t peer into corners for dirt. 
I sit and talk with those who come. Catch up on their lives. See what they have been doing.
The dirt is forgotten.
The meal is enjoyed.
The memories are made. 

As an introvert, I struggle with what to say. They seem to remember a lot about us from past Christmas letters. I have received no news from them. What about their kids? Their life? I don’t know. And don't even know where to begin to ask. I forget names. I forget stories they already told me from last year. I don’t make a good conversationalist. I wish I could remember more. But I try.

I didn’t become the “party person” overnight. Nor do I consider myself the "party person" much as my husband says. 
But experimenting with those bachelors, I gained confidence.
After all, people are just people. 


We lose opportunities to help others when we fret more about how our house looks
than whether people are hurting and need help.

When we neglect hospitality, we lose what God wants to teach and give us.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2. 


What has helped you be hospitable?
 

I too am an introvert and though my parents often had friends over, when we were first married we lived back up in the mountains with few people nearby. I don't ever remember entertaining except family. Then we spent 5 1/2 years doing voluntary service with the Mennonite Church and all that moving and meeting new people really opened me up. Especially in Jamaica where out co-workers lived all over the island and with no phone service, they'd just show up. We quickly learned that having drop-ins was a joy and we didn't have to worry about getting ready! All of us were just hungry for fellowship and the simplest things meant a lot. I miss those special days.

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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