Hospitality Stories

To wrap up my hospitality series, I’m excited to share stories from a couple of friends who I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around the table with many times. They’ve not only been hospitable to my family, but to many others along the way.

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The first story is by my friend Kristi James, a fellow pastor’s wife and blogger, with a serious wit. I always crack up a little when I think of her answer to the oft-asked question, “What’s it like being the pastor’s wife?

Kristi: “It’s better than being the pastor’s girlfriend.”

Yes, yes it is.

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When we moved to Asheville, we lived in a pretty cool apartment in a building that had been built to function as a hotel, but had been used as a mental hospital until the nineties.

As in 1990’s.

It was as gothic and creepy as you’d expect. Once a friend came over for the first time and when I opened the door, she was practically sweating. “I didn’t see another person the entire way up here!” she said. It was dark and quiet, making the whole thing seem even more eery.

In my mind, the ideal home for exhibiting hospitality is one that’s easy to find, has great curb appeal, and maybe even a double-wide circular driveway. Lined with great landscaping.

Our creepy third floor apartment was definitely not that.

And yet, we had people over. We gave them our security code to the building, or we ran down to let them in. We welcomed them, fed them, talked to them, and hugged them goodbye, even though it wasn’t an ideal setup.

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I come from kind of a quiet family so when we got married, I was sure that I’d never be the one to raise my voice. I’m soft spoken as it is, so it seemed unlikely that I’d ever be the “yeller.”

We didn’t have people over for a long time after we got married, because it took forever for us to get our house to a point where I felt like it was moderately presentable. I’m 9 years younger than my husband, and moving into the house he’d already lived in for years made it hard for me to feel confident in my ability to make good choices for a home.

Plus I didn’t really cook. (Clearly I was a real catch.)

We finally invited another couple over for the first time and I was super stressed. I felt the need to be a fancy southern host (although I’m neither fancy nor southern). I had several things working against me. We had a smelly dog that shed a sweater’s worth of hair right after you vacuumed, like a fluffy middle finger taunting you from the corner. Fancy southern women don’t have piles of dog hair in the corner. The kitchen had about 2 square feet of counter space and no dishwasher. Fancy southern women don’t have cluttered counters and unwashed dishes. I knew how to make about 3 things, so I made them. Fancy southern women use The Masters Cookbook and make…fancy things.

I scrambled around trying to make things JUST SO. Right before our friends came over, my exasperation with Duff’s inability to know EXACTLY what I needed help with at every moment without me having to actually verbalize it boiled over, and I yelled some words at him.

Everything about it shocked me. The volume, the tone, the actual words I used; it was awful. He handled it perfectly, walking calmly out the back door to the grill, while I fell apart, crying at the kitchen sink. I looked up and saw our friends walking to the door. Perfect.

***

Hospitality is bigger than having people over, but one of the easiest ways to bridge the gap between being an acquaintance and being a friend is to spend time in each others’ homes. Before Facetime was a thing, I had a friend who wanted to see where I sat when I talked to her on the phone, so she could picture it. Spending time in each others homes is like that – our idea of the person is more grounded and personal once we invite each other into our living spaces.

But I share those two stories because while that sounds romantic, it isn’t always perfect.

Your home may not be exactly what you want it to be. We live in a house now and while it’s easy to find and has some curb appeal, we have street parking and it can be kind of a pain. But we have people over all the time, and you know what? No one has ever turned us down because they have to walk a few hundred feet to get to the door.

Your mental state might not be perfect. Wouldn’t be nice if you could be cool as a cucumber and impressive whenever anyone approached your house? “Who me? I’m just whipping up a batch of meringue by hand. My mixer’s broken but it’s fine! Everything else I needed to do is done so I figured this would be just the thing to fill the time!”

NO. Never going to be me.

Instead, I’ll try to make sure things are reasonable – a toilet that won’t gross you out and handsoap in the bathroom. But your feet will probably crunch on a stray cheerio and you’ll see crumbs from last night’s dinner on a child’s placemat. I might be mad (but I probably won’t have just yelled at my husband because while I’ve yelled since then, the years have softened me a little and it doesn’t happen as often). I might be tired. I might end up needing you to help me with something. But I want you to be there, at that moment. I’m not going to wait until I’m perfectly ready.

Because I’m not ever going to be perfectly ready.

Instead, my imperfectly ready is the best I’ve got to offer.

But when it comes to hospitality, the imperfectly ready is more than enough.

(Also, I ran out of sugar, can you bring a cup?)

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Connect with Kristi at her blog, And Babies Don’t Keep, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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