Much thanks to Joanna Gaines and the Magnolia team, I’m guessing about half the population might now have a decorative sign that reads “gather” hanging on a wall somewhere in their house. You can’t see it but I’m over here raising my hand. Yep, I know I’ve got one. (In fact, mine even came from a trip down to Waco, TX a few years ago, straight from Mrs. Gaines’s store itself.) Centered on the wall above my dining room table, it is visible from the dining table, the kitchen, and the living room. Gather.
My dining room, my kitchen, my living room – my house, it was bought larger than we “needed” for the purpose of gathering people within these walls. They were bought as a place to intentionally practice hospitality.
Growing up, my parents hosted people all the time. My mother has practiced hospitality for as long as I remember – the elaborate and fancy tablescape and place settings, the appetizers, dinners, and desserts. The conversations, laughter, and the widespread variety of those who came into our home: regulars and new families from our church, family members, visiting speakers from our church, missionary families from other countries, people who had great wealth, and people who were struggling financially. All of them gathered within the walls of my childhood home regularly.
While my mother was great at the fancy things and making everything look beautiful, feel cozy and taste wonderful, I realized at a young age there was more to it than that. I’m not sure anyone would complain about a beautiful setting and a delicious spread of food set before them, but I was noticing the other details.
When people filled our humble home, did they laugh and share stories and enjoy their time getting to know one another? Did they relax and linger, not rushed to get back to their place of comfort in their own home? Did they kick off their shoes and coats and make themselves at home? Did they play games and simply enjoy fellowship and each others’ company? Those were the things I noticed as a child, and those are the things I think of when gathering people within my home as an adult.
I love beautiful surroundings; I love a clean home; I love a well-cooked meal. However, far more than the need for everything to be “perfect”, I long for my whole family to love being hospitable. I long for us to be relaxed and not stressed to invite people into our less than perfect home. I want for my home to be a place to drop your shoes and coats and be a place to get comfortable and feel at home, even for first-time visitors. I want for those gathered in my home to most of all feel loved, cared about, and that we are growing an authentic relationship. I want for them to feel hosted in a well-loved home and not just entertained in a crisp, staunch house.
I want to be one who welcomes, for people to feel that I want them in my home and more so, I want them to come back. Hosting is not work that I am doing begrudgingly. . . but in order for them to feel that, I need to be sure I am hosting out of a heart of servanthood and earnest love for anyone who comes in my doors.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9
There were earlier days when I strove for perfection. I wanted the house to be immaculate and the food to be fancy and divine. I wanted the table to look like an interior designer lived here in my home. I would grumble to my family, stressed out and counting down the hours till the people left my home and I could it clean up and be alone once more.
Praise the Lord, for He has been gently showing me what really matters within hospitality. He’s been working on me over the years and tweaking what wasn’t quite right within me. I’m still working on it. Thankfully God commands us to practice hospitality not to be a perfect hostess, am I right? I need to keep practicing. But also – did you catch that? God commands us to practice hospitality. He actually commands it. He doesn’t say, “if you have a gorgeous house, plenty of extra money for extravagant meals, and copious amounts of free time, invite some friends over.” Nope. He simply commands us to “always be eager to practice hospitality.”
“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13
I want to host and love on those that are close friends and those that I haven’t yet met. I want to be glad and sincere in my hospitality. I want to always be not just willing but eager. Friends, hear me now, loud and clear: you needn’t be perfect in your home or your hosting. You need only to invite and open the door.
Lord, help me to practice hospitality in the ways you’d have for me to do it. Enable me to be ready to help when your people are in need.