Let’s just say I’ve never been one to look for opportunities to host. I didn’t grow up with my parents doing that kind of thing, and frankly, the whole idea sent me into waves of panic in my earliest years of marriage. I remember how completely I dreaded hosting a housewarming party for my husband’s family–and it was just a simple affair, really–food on the counter, self-serve with paper plates. And still, it was all I could handle, and I felt sick to my stomach.
I knew I didn’t have good instincts for hosting. I didn’t anticipate peoples’ needs well; I overlooked obvious things ‘real’ hostesses thought of; and I didn’t like the responsibility of trying to make people comfortable. The stress was just too much. The introvert in me felt completely out of her comfort zone.
Eventually, I had children, and with that came opportunities to grow into the role a bit. I got used to having family members for meals as they came to see the kids and help me with them.
The first kid birthday party I ventured–outside, cupcakes, small scale.
There was a time when every Tuesday and Thursday night, different sisters and their significant others ate with us–and I really cooked, from scratch, all the time. I got used to making meals for others to eat with us. (So I kinda got over my fear of preparing food for others to eat, on a small scale.)
But that didn’t extend to parties. We’d promised our sons they could have birthday parties when they were five. And that too was just not something I looked forward to. I know, it’s kids! It’s not a multi-course, sit-down Edwardian-era feast. But still, putting together a party and being the one to manage everything and all the people–was just outside of my comfort zone. I made my oldest son’s party really simple. Dessert and snacks outside, some games. And I got through it, complete with morning sickness.
This is THE part of party-hosting I liked: creating his cupcake joust scene for his knights-themed party. It’s creative, solitary and done behind the scenes…
Two years later, it was time for my second son’s promised party. We postponed it another year because I just didn’t know what to do. Then I chose to have it at Chic-fil-A with a tiny group of friends. Much better 🙂
That was just last spring. So no, the gift of hospitality isn’t something I feel is easy or that comes naturally, even by the lowest standards. A friend highly recommended I take
advantage of a women’s get-together at her house to talk about the gift of hospitality. This woman is amazing: hosting oodles of people at her house, having overnight guests routinely–so that her home is appropriately compared to a bed and breakfast. She has beautiful stories of training her children and teens to take roles in this enterprise–but I? I could never imagine having overnight guests like that, trying to think of everything they’d need!
Then something unexpected happened. I was having overnight guests. I was cooking for people I was just getting to know. And it became regular: a whole day and night a week. Hospitality of another level I’d never considered providing. I didn’t contemplate it. There wasn’t even a second for this fear of hosting to make me hesitate. As soon as I knew of the need, the words, “I’ll help” leapt from my mouth before I’d had time to consider what it might mean. (All I can say in retrospect was that it was like the Holy Spirit pushing me–that’s all I can say to explain an impulsivity that is not the norm for me. Ask anyone who knows me 🙂 )
Then an even stranger thing happened: I was thanked for attending to so many details to set up the whole situation for success. The way the woman described me, I sounded like a good hostess, the kind I could never be. And I suddenly realized I was anticipating peoples’ needs and thinking the way I thought I never could. I’ve spent a while now pondering why. All I can think of is this: love. My heart was tugged by a need for a family, for some kids who needed a nurturing 24-hour place to be. Though I did not know the family well, the need motivated my brain to think deeply and sympathetically, to put myself in their shoes and consider what they needed to find comfort in my home–because I wanted them to find comfort, deeply.
So here I am, a reluctant hostess on the best of days–an introvert who keeps a messy house–and I found myself capable of things I didn’t suspect. Responding in love to others can change what you think your natural limitations are, your natural abilities. Care can bring out the best in you and sides you don’t think you have. I hope I remember this. The version of you that is needed can arise when it’s required. That’s something really eye-opening and hopeful.
Secondarily, this experience has brought positive changes in not only the way I see myself but also my house. Before this, I’d have described my house as this: messy, cluttered, undecorated, not the way I’d want my house to look. But I’ve been seeing it with new eyes: through the eyes of the guests who have made it their home one day a week. When I see a child so comfortable reclining on my furniture, and another child so comfortable spinning in circles on the floor, hair fanning out at the sides, I see the beauty of a home they find welcoming. The clutter and toys that annoy me suddenly transform into expected objects in a home in which resides multiple kids. It’s a place other kids can find comfortable. Also, I don’t see myself as bad of a housekeeper as I previously did. Granted, I now clean a bit more in anticipation of these guests, but also, I have come to see certain messes as just simply the proof of the constant day-to-day living of a family that homeschools its kids. We are here most of the time; activity in this house never goes dormant. We are constantly eating, cooking, making crafts, painting, cutting papers, building, hauling in firewood, coming in from the snow, building indoor forts… Because of our guests, I have begun to see the mess as proof of what we’re nurturing here–of the things we are accomplishing..instead of my lack of accomplishing more cleaning I didn’t get to yet… Of course I’ve read many things over the years about balance between housework and child-rearing and how moms should cut themselves some slack, but something about seeing things through different eyes made me believe it a lot more.
That’s a good change.
Do any of you have fears about hosting or offering hospitality? Or do any of you have stories of your view changing?