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Hospitality Inheritance

June 19, 2013

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach…”  1 Timothy 3:2 KJV

I was laughing with some friends recently as we compared stories of how our parents and spouses showed hospitality.  It made me realize just how much my parents’ very different approaches to loving people has shaped my own theology of hospitality.

Hospitality Inheritance

My parents in 1973.

When my parents were first married my dear mother was faced with the reality that my father loved people.  He’s the kind of person who has never met a stranger.  Extrovert is an understatement.  I once rode on the Metro with him from Pasadena to Union Station.  In that 20 minute ride he led two people to Christ.  I’m not joking.  In the early days of my parents’ marriage he was in the habit of bringing drifters home so they could shower, shave, have a good dinner and sometimes spend the night.  I can only imagine my mother’s face when that first happened.  My mother?  Introvert is an understatement.  Even in her introvertedness, she has the Southern Hospitality thing down—even though she’s a California girl.  I’m sure she didn’t let on her surprise a bit.  Except to my father–after the guests left.

When they became parents, my mom, new mother with a tiny baby, finally had to lay down the law, though.  She asked my dad to please take the next vagabond to a hotel and restaurant.

He stopped bringing in complete strangers and homeless people without warning.  But that didn’t mean that we didn’t have our share of people living with us over the years.  The single mom and new baby, the unexpectedly pregnant and scared, the couple who lost their home, the young person who was running away from abuse, the family who lost their job and was trying to re-establish in a new town, the person desperately hanging onto their week-long sobriety needing a safe environment, and the list goes on and on.  I can hardly remember a time that we didn’t have someone sleeping in the living room or the guest room or even, at times, pitching a tent in the backyard.  Yes, even the backyard.  It was just normal to me and my siblings.  I didn’t know that other people didn’t share their couch, the bathroom, food and gas money with non-family members and sometimes straight-up strangers.

And this was just day-to-day living.  When a holiday came around you could expect an extra half-dozen or more people.  My mom had to become comfortable with always making more food than you would think she would need because, inevitably we’d be squeezing in a few extra chairs and serving up a little more turkey and mashed potatoes.  Sometimes when I look back at holiday photos I have to say, “Who are those people?  I forget.”

My dad is still this way to this day.  Recently I was walking across a hospital parking lot with him when a homeless-looking man asked if he had any spare change so he could get the bus to the next town.  My dad, he didn’t miss a beat, “Well, I’ll do you one better.  I’ll give you a ride. Come on.”  The man was super grateful and rather surprised.  “Who are these people???”

Married 40 years!

Married 40 years!

My sister inherited my dad’s  gift.  How, I have no idea, but she knows the names of the people who hold the signs next to the freeway asking for money.  If she’s late for church it may just be because because she’s handing out sandwiches to the people who live under the bridge.  This is her normal, too.  I don’t know what her husband’s face looked like the first time she said, “Oh, I have to make lunch for Jim.”  Jim who????  “Oh, you know….the guy who lives behind the grocery store.”  But that’s her heart–which I know she got from my dad.

My mom’s gift for hospitality manifests a little differently, but with no less heart.

“Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay…” I Peter 4:9 NIV

My mom has always made things lovely for people.  It’s not about entertaining for her, but about giving her best.  She’s an “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” sort of person.She is always the one to host the party, decorate for all the seasons, prepare meals for all the ministry colleagues, cook from scratch, use the good dishes, use cloth napkins, and in general find ways to make her guests comfortable.  The guest room always has clean sheets.  The guest towels are always at the ready.  When she throws a party, it’s not so that she can be known as the hostess-with-the-mostest.  Rather, she really puts her heart into serving.  The fact that it is color-coordinated, beautiful, and looks super-professionally pinteresty is not because she is suchy-muchy.  It’s because she really wants to please those she is serving.  People have suggested and begged her to become a party-planner or to help them throw their wedding/birthday/graduation party, etc.  What she does, though, is for love, not for money.

I am sure my mother inherited her gift from my grandmother who has fostered more than 55 babies of unwed mothers, who sends out more money to missionaries than anyone can possibly guess, who has always lived with an open heart, and never let her right hand know what her left hand is doing.

Our house growing up was always the place to be.  We’d come in with our friends after a concert or a party or whatever.  It didn’t matter the time.  Having teenagers sprawled all over the living room playing cards, eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate.  This was living.  Everyone always wanted to be at our house.  And my parents would be right there in the middle of things.  Sometimes those times of laughing over board games at 2am turned into a time when my mother’s wisdom would shine as she admonished the young people about serving the Lord, living with integrity or treating one another with respect.

I mentioned she’s an introvert?  For her that’s no excuse.  She tells me, “Hospitality is a gift.  A gift you GIVE, not a gift you HAVE.”  That little distinction makes a big difference.

Hospitality is about opening up your heart, intentionally.  She welcomes every missionary passing through, personally holds every baby they dedicate in their church, opens up her table and her home, gives money anonymously, financially blesses those who the Lord brings to her mind.  My parents have never been wealthy, but they also don’t operate their lives from a perspective of lack, but from love.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  Proverbs 31:20 NIV

This is my inheritance.  My parents have given me the deep conviction that hospitality is a spiritual discipline that is essential in the life of a Christ-follower.  They have paired that with a thousand practical applications of hospitality.  Sometimes I feel like I’m living up to their example.  And then they go and do something amazing (They recently planted a garden in their backyard with the goal of feeding everyone in their church.  How’s that for the Kingdom Economy???)  and I realize that I have a long ways to go still.

Bowls of lettuce to feed others.

Bowls of lettuce to feed others.

What is the legacy of hospitality (that loving-of-the-stranger) that you are passing on to your children?  Are your actions matching your words?  Do you walk it out day-in and day-out, when it’s sticky, uncomfortable, confusing, or inconvenient?  It’s only when you accept the sticky, uncomfortable, confusing and inconvenient, that you get to the abundant blessing, joy, laughter, and beauty that comes from hospitality.  It’s so, so, so, worth it.

Small party of my folks' place.

Small party of my folks’ place.

“That is where it starts.  You make room in your heart, room in your life, room in the moment for one person, with no strings attached.  All your life someone has been reminding you not to talk to strangers.  All of these well-meaning people only wanted to protect you when you were a child.  You are not a child any longer; it is time for you to determine how you will respond to the strangers among us.  What is dangerous to the child is not dangerous to an adult.  You drive a car now.  You live away from home.  You use knives to chop vegetables.  You drink a scotch and water.  Why do we remain locked up in our fear of strangers?…Hospitality allows us to grow into the human family and share space, share material, resources and ourselves.”  (Radical Hospitality, St. Benedict’s Way of Love)

(Linked to A Little R&RTitus 2 TuesdaysWise Woman Link-Up!Rock-N-ShareMake Bake CreateFantastic Thursday 50,  Tasty TraditionsHope In Every SeasonBreaking The Rules HopFrom The FarmOne Sharendipity Place,  Making Your Home Sing HopYou’re Gonna Love ItMaking A Happy Home,  Motivation Monday,  A Little R&R  Wildcrafting Wednesday and Creative HomeAcre Hop)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2013 8:06 am

    LOVE this! Thanks for sharing!
    “Hospitality is a gift. A gift you GIVE, not a gift you HAVE.” That little distinction makes a big difference…Hospitality is about opening up your heart, intentionally.”

  2. Mama permalink
    June 19, 2013 8:20 am

    My hubby would kill me if he found out I brought a stranger home or went out with the kids to find homeless people to feed. Seriously…we’ve talked about it…

  3. THE Bombshell* permalink
    June 19, 2013 8:30 am

    I literally lol’d while reading this. 🙂 So true.

  4. June 19, 2013 11:05 am

    Wow. I am humbled. I laughed, cried and sighed and said “oh my”

  5. Susan King permalink
    June 19, 2013 2:16 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to your wonderful parents! And a reminder to the rest of us.

  6. June 23, 2013 12:01 am

    Wow – this was sooooo wonderful to read and this line really grabbed me: “She tells me, “Hospitality is a gift. A gift you GIVE, not a gift you HAVE.” That little distinction makes a big difference.”

    What an amazing tribute to your wonderful parents – who are obviously a living example of what we should all strive to be!

  7. lostinavalonor permalink
    June 26, 2013 1:51 pm

    Wow, such an amazing heritage. Somewhere in there I started to just cry. I so badly want to be that hospitable person. I feel so selfish. I think it was the line the commenter before me referenced: “Hospitality is a gift. A gift you GIVE, not a gift you HAVE.” It’s going to have to be a choice for me…not something that just appears. Not sure what to do with all that God is speaking to me through this post but thank you so much for writing it and for linking it up to my Homemaking Party!

  8. July 1, 2013 12:54 pm

    Love this post! Hospitality is something that I really think a lot about and something I think most Christian women need a bit of help with.

    Thank you for joining us last Wednesday for Wildcrafting Wednesday #94! I sure hope you will join us again this week!

    Join on this week for Wildcrafting Wednesday at:

  9. July 7, 2013 11:01 am

    Seeing your post linked up at the Creative HomeAcre Hop was humbling and inspiring! I certainly have a long way to go, here. Thanks for joining us and we hope you’ll come and party creatively again on Sunday at
    I wonder if you would perhaps like to write a guest post for Mumtopia. Please let me know – I’m sure my readers would benefit from what you have to say. For more information, please read the “Be My Guest” page at Mumtopia:
    Best wishes from an introvert in UK!

    • July 7, 2013 11:38 am

      Hurray for introverts! 🙂

      We will check out your guest post page and would love to write something for you!

  10. July 10, 2013 5:09 am

    Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Hope you can join us again today 🙂

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