Monday, August 21, 2006

Hospitality Makeover - Turning Over A New Leaf in the Woodlands

HOSPITALITY, n. The virtue which induces us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging.

"The Bible lays much stress upon the practice of hospitality. Not only does it enjoin hospitality as a duty, but it presents many beautiful pictures of the exercise of this grace and the blessings which it brings... When the spirit of hospitality dies, the heart becomes palsied with selfishness." -- Ellen White

"There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease." -- Washington Irving.

Be not forgetful to entertain stranges: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. -- Hebrews 13:2.

Ahh, to be "hospitable". A joy and a burden simultaneously. For years I struggled with this issue, torn between a desire and knowledge to have "planned" company, yet my lack of time and energy to prepare for it.

I grew up witnessing the two extremes of entertaining. There was my mother who never had guests (well, maybe once a year) and my grandmother who had unexpected people dropping in daily and joining the family for a meal, snack, or short visit. I always enjoyed life at my grandmother's home and decided at an early age I would immitate her generous spirit when I was an adult. Over the years I have been in the midst of numerous family members who have most definitely been blessed with the gift of hospitality - my aunts Cathy, Ann, & Connie to name a few. These ladies have always seemed to have a knack for making everyone feel welcome, at home and valued when in their presence. There are also many friends I have from back home in Fargo-Moorhead that possess this same ability... Shereen, Joanne, Jill, and Polly to name a few.

During my college years, my apartment was always the place friends congregated to hang out and spend time together - which was always fun. When Mike & I were married (b-4 kids) we entertained on a regular basis - again our little home being a hub-bub of activity with friends, co-workers and the like.

It wasn't until the children came along that suddenly formal entertaining and planning became burdensome to me. It seemed for years I was always pregnant and ill/tired or nursing clingy babies or toddlers and life continued to grow busier with a schedule that was regularly full. Although I missed having "planned" visitors over on a regular basis, I had no desire to take on the task of entertaining. Don't get me wrong - we still had PLENTY of company over - weekly as a matter of fact. Friends and neighbors dropped in regularly for visits and of course we hosted family get togethers on the holidays, BUT we were not inviting families over for a meal and relaxation hardly ever.

This was something that always troubled Mike (being the incredibly sociable fellow he is) and he would often encourage me to rise up to the challenge with promises of assurance that it would be worth the extra work involved because of the enjoyemnt that would be had by all. He of course offered his help as mush as his schedule could allow.

Now, even when my spirit was willing, we were still faced with the challenges of a very small home with a "2-Butt Kitchen" that our family barely fit in, and a small living room area. There just was not much room for guests when our family already filled up most of the house!

Needless to say, it became a goal of ours to one day be able to entertain on a more regular basis and make preparation simple and efficient enough so that ALL of us could enjoy it. My ultimate mentor and role model in this area is my dear friend Beverly whose very name brings to mind the word "hospitality" to nearly anyone who knows her. She is truly blessed with a gift and countless families and individuals have enjoyed her warm, welcoming ways. Much of what I have learned over the years on receiving guests has been from observing her the many times our family had the opportunity to visit Beverly's home.

Well, with all of that said, once we moved here to our new home we thought that after some time passed we would get to know people slowly and begin to regularly invite people over. YES and NO! We have had people over- LOTS of people, but there was nothing "slow" about it! Since we moved here in May, we have had company at least once per week - often more than that and usually for a meal - both planned and unexpected. Despite not always being prepared, it has always worked out and always been enjoyable for all of us. We have had several families from our immediate area over multiple times, as well as friends from Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Karlstad, Minneapolis and South Dakota. We have hosted anywhere from 1 person at a time up to 30 and have overnight visitors as well. The summer has been busy with guests and we have a fall line-up ready to arrive as well.

I'm not sure if it's the larger house, more kitchen prep room, no nursing babies, or an attitude overhaul on my part but I am definitely enjoying being a hostess much more and truly finding it a blessing. My children are overjoyed to have friends over regularly to play & visit with, and Mike is thrilled to finally be able to spread his social butterfly wings!

In the meantime, I'll continue to meditate on Bible verses, quotes and poetry like the samples included here when I start to feel weary or burdened and wish to resort to my old hermit like ways!

And YOU? You'd better come for a visit very soon!

"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." Romans (ch. XII, v. 10-13)

Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their evening fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And every stranger finds a ready chair:
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laught at the jest or pranks, that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale,
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
-- Goldsmith.

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