Practicing Hospitality in All Seasons
Golden leaves, warm sweaters, and crisp air. There are few things I anticipate as much as the arrival of fall each year. The long, bright days of summer slowly shift into the cooler, shorter days of fall, and I eagerly welcome the changes. Whether you greet the arrival of autumn with this same delight or sadly watch the retreat of summer, we can all choose to approach this season with a heart to bless others.
As fall makes herself at home, we are naturally drawn indoors. It is precisely here that we all have a blank canvas before us just waiting to be touched with our unique gifts of creativity and ministry. But herein lies our problem. Some of us don’t know what to do with our blank canvas. Perhaps the canvas is half-finished from the last move, and we are hesitant to open our home until everything is Pinterest-perfect. Or perhaps we are worried that there’s not enough seating around the dining table to accommodate dinner guests comfortably. However, whether you live in a two-story townhome (my current reality), a sprawling ranch, or a small dorm room, you can bring others into the warmth and welcome of your home.
In God’s Word, we are instructed to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9 ESV). Similarly, Paul tells us to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom. 12:13 ESV). These clear directives (in addition to others found in Scripture) are a reminder that God desires our homes to be places where others can be refreshed in body, mind, and soul.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a renewed interest in homemaking and hospitality — even among those with a secular mindset. The world seems to be craving comfort and fellowship in the midst of these increasingly tumultuous times. Yet true hospitality involves more than a comfortable chair and conversation. True hospitality requires us to be dependent on God’s Spirit for our motivation, inspiration, and implementation.
What comes to mind when you think of hospitality? Crockpots, coffee cups, summer cookouts? In its essence, I believe that true hospitality begins with a life that has been transformed by the Gospel. When we are living in the reality of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we understand that every area of our lives is intended to be a means for communicating His truth. As we welcome others into a home marked by God’s presence, our guests can encounter His existence in the way we honor Him in the day-to-day reality of our lives. Our words, attitudes, and priorities speak of the One we serve, and even the more tangible expressions of beautiful music playing in the background, a welcoming hug, or the warmth of a steaming cup of tea can all be a means of conveying God’s love and truth.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines hospitality as “the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.” I have been convicted as I’ve pondered this definition, remembering times when I indulged in feelings of reluctance, inconvenience, or irritation as I prepared to welcome others into our home.
What do all of those feelings have in common? Well, they are all very self-focused. It is entirely possible to approach something like inviting others into our homes with a selfish mindset. There have been times when I’ve rushed around shortly before guests have arrived, barking out orders to my family in a complete panic over the fact that unless we pull off a miracle, our guests (usually friends who know and love us) are going to see our home in a less-than-perfect state.
In these moments, my heart is not resting in Jesus, and I am not acting for His glory or with the intent to bless others. Instead, I am motivated by my desire for personal accomplishment, or simply, for the appearance of “having it all together.” None of this displays the humility we are to have towards others that Scripture promotes:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:3–6 ESV).
While my initial desire during these times may have been to turn outward to bless others, if I remain focused solely on how clean my house is or my proficiency as a host, I am missing the point. When done in the right attitude and for the right reasons, true hospitality refreshes both those who enter the home and those who live there. There will be times when we open our door feeling less than ready for last-minute guests or a little embarrassed over that very conspicuous (and overflowing) basket of laundry we intended to stash in the bedroom. These kinds of situations have helped me to humble myself before God and others, remembering that the goal of hospitality is His glory, not mine.
HOSPITALITY IN ALL SEASONS
Hospitality — the welcoming of others into our hearts and homes — will look vastly different in our unique seasons of life and location. We might find ourselves putting off hospitality because it feels too daunting with three little children underfoot, or we think our home is not ideal for hosting. And certainly, there are times when hospitality may need to be put on hold for a while for various reasons (e.g., health issues, welcoming a new baby, moving, or other times of transition). But as we consider our reasons against hosting, it’s important to seek God’s wisdom before we consult our feelings. Speaking for myself, if I opened our home only when I felt “up for it,” those times would have been few and far between!
However, if you are in a season where you can practice hospitality, look around and notice afresh what the Lord has blessed you with that can be shared. Do you have a living room where you could host a Bible study group? A table to gather friends to enjoy a simple-but-warming dinner of soup and bread? A front porch where you could sit with a friend or two and enjoy the beautiful fall weather as you talk?
When I was single, my roommate and I enjoyed inviting friends to our room for tea or coffee. Even though we had a fairly small space and limited resources, we made it our aim to keep our room beautiful and inviting. The space we shared was decorated with special items from home, photos of friends and family, lots of books, and fun thrift store finds. For a touch of whimsy, we even named our room “The Green Shutter Café,” as a nod to the chippy kelly-green window shutters we wrangled inside. We had the means to welcome others into a restful environment and share in encouraging conversation, laughter, and times of prayer.
Now that I am married and have three young children, hospitality usually looks like inviting friends over to share a meal or hosting our church community group. Sometimes I will invite a friend and her kids over for a playdate. At other times, I might invite a single young woman over during nap time so I can catch up on what’s going on in her life.
It is all too easy to neglect hospitality if we are waiting until our living room is arranged just so, or we finally have the whole house deep cleaned. Instead of dwelling on what we view as hindrances to opening our home, take note of these challenges. Ask the Lord to help you see them as opportunities to grow in flexibility and creativity. When we are viewing hospitality through the lens of the Gospel, we are able to focus on what truly matters — and that is to proclaim Jesus in and through our homes. Whatever obstacles you might face in this area, ask God for His creativity and inspiration. He will enable you to see beyond the practical challenges and glimpse the eternal value of opening your home.
When you practice true and humble hospitality, your home will be a place of purposeful beauty and refreshment. So, in all seasons, seek to show hospitality to those God puts in your path. And as you seek to honor Him and love others, may He bless you richly with His presence.
Ways to Begin
- Collaborate with your housemate(s) and host a themed dinner or dessert gathering in your home, taking time to share testimonies of God’s goodness or another specific theme.
- Invite a couple mom-friends and their kiddos over for an afternoon playdate. Earlier in the day, have your kids help you prepare a simple treat as you talk about the blessing of hospitality.
- Take a fresh look at your surroundings with the aim to bring warmth and comfort to the space. Can guests easily find a place to set their mugs? Is it time to tuck away light throw blankets and replace them with cozy ones? Could furniture be shifted a bit to better facilitate conversation and connection?
- Put together a basket of toys and books for little ones who visit your home to enjoy.
- Identify an area of hospitality that feels daunting. Tackle this area with a resolve to learn and grow for God’s glory. This might look like asking an older woman for her best no-fail recipes, practicing your conversation skills, or learning how to make an amazing pot of coffee.
- Connect with others outside your peer group. Invite an older couple over for coffee and dessert or a group of singles over for dinner.
Cozy Hot Cocoa Mix
This prep-ahead recipe will ensure you have a comforting drink to offer your guests this fall and winter!
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Add all ingredients to a glass jar with a lid and shake to mix. Put 1–2 tablespoons of cocoa mix in a mug. Add 8 oz. of hot milk. Whisk together or blend with a milk frother. Enjoy!
*Variation: Add espresso for an instant mocha!
RECOMMENDED READS TO INSPIRE A HEART OF HOSPITALITY
The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer & Deidre Ducker — A delightful Christian classic exploring the value of cultivating beauty and order as expressions of the First Artist. Written over fifty years ago, it is filled with rich inspiration for crafting a home (in any season) that testifies to the beauty and reality of God.
In My Father’s House by Corrie ten Boom — We know the ten Boom family for their incredible courage when they sheltered Jews in their home during World War II and for the intense hardships that followed as a result. But their readiness to say yes to God at that pivotal time was cultivated many years before as they intentionally chose to open their home to their community. As you read, take special note of how many significant moments and conversations took place at their humble table and within their home.
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss — My mom gave me this book for my 14th birthday, and it has continued to encourage me throughout many seasons of life. It is the fictionalized journal of a young woman in the 1800s as she steps into marriage and motherhood. Some of her defining moments center around her struggle to surrender her ideals for home life and ministry as she learns to joyfully accept the assignments God sends her.