I have a dream… I’ve always had it… of owning a large house with lots of extra rooms and really a guest house a place for all our missionary friends to take a break. A place with crisp white sheets and views of the beach. Endless fabulous meals and a shelves with good books to read. A place where they could escape from the madding crowd, a place where they could rest and recover and a place that would soften the blow of re-entry. And yet we live in a two bedroomed home and when people come to stay they may have a view of the sea, but the reality is more like lumpy mattresses on the floor and the linen is not crispy white sheets at all.
In a world that is increasingly cellular, seeking indepence from others as the ultimate parenting goal… from birth our children must have their own stuff, in their own room down the hall and later on attend their own school, in their own classroom with their own extra-murals. You can see why families find it hard to spend time together and extended family and hospitality have become an almost unattainable dream. I want my children to know that we live with “the tent flaps open,” so to speak. We practice hospitality, we need to practice!!!
So practice and practice and more practice… always learning and hopefully getting better at it. Sharing our blessings with generous hearts. Hospitality is a way of life, we can’t afford to wait until our house is perfect or until our kids behave perfectly, we can’t wait until our school day is over or until we have the perfect meal ready. Frankly, some of those things might never happen. I think as long as we view guests as interruptions they will be just that… but if we view our guests as gifts from the Lord and opportunities to connect and to serve other folk, then they become the blessing that they are.
We are heading into the more formal part of our school year, it is a big deal for us. Many friends have said: “Oh well we won’t pop in then, we don’t want to interrupt.” There is an audible gasp, and it isn’t a happy one, from my kids. Think of Nehemiah, as he and his team worked to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, they were constantly interrupted by annoying thugs who are doing everything they could to thwart the project… Nehemiah equipped his team and they continue to build. This is a lesson my children need to learn, while school is their primary task it is not their only task. We want friends to feel comfortable enough to stop by… without feeling that they are imposing. So our home can not be too chaotic – though this does happen!!! If friends stop by at a mealtime then they must expect to share it with us, if a mom needs someone to talk to, then to be sure my kids will look after her kids while she chats.
The thing is, we welcome interruptions and firmly believe that we have been blessed with a home, that is not so much ours but our visitors too. My children have grown up with guests at the dinner table a couple of nights a week – and no we are not serving banquets. There are a few things we can do to make hospitality easier on the family, when we do our morning chores it is with a view that someone will be stopping by… make the beds, wash the dishes and clean the bathroom… Things are usually neat and tidy before we start school. And whenever anyone stops by we are only: five minutes from a batch of popcorn; fifteen minutes from a batch of cookies; half an hour from a quick cake; or of it is dinner one of my kids can pop a batch of apples in the oven to bake, quick and easy and makes your house smell wonderful!!!
In a culture that is determined that everyone has their own space… we are determined to keep our tent flaps open and welcome the daily interruptions that a family with eight kids and their friends naturally have. It may not be the guest house that I dream about, but it is our home and we love to share it.