I've invited some blogger friends to stop by Fridays through the end of October to share their thoughts and stories about hospitality in a new series here called "You're Welcome." Because you are welcome here on my new website.
I hadn't met Theresa Bluhm before she volunteered to write a post for the series, and... wow. Her beautiful words cut straight to the heart of what hospitality is. (Her graphic design is equally beautiful -- check out her work -- as is her evident care for her friends and family.) "What a love!" May that be what all our guests say of us!
Theresa is a Christian wife and stay-at-home mom to a sweet little 11-month-old boy. She graduated from Texas A&M University and now volunteers for the American Cancer Society. She recently started up her own graphic design business and is working on writing her first book.
I couldn't wait to get married and have a family. I couldn't wait to be a homemaker. To be hospitable. I couldn't wait to keep the perfect home. Cook the perfect dinners. Read the perfect bedtime stories before we all said goodnight and climbed into our beds with our perfectly crisp sheets.
I had it all planned out. I would host dinner parties with beautiful invitations. We would use or best dishes. And everyone would rave over our pasta primavera and blackberry cobbler. I would have play dates, and other mothers would ask where I got the lovely pillows on the couch or my delectable-smelling candle. Our home would be a place of comfort, warmth and serenity. Not just for us. But for all of those who entered. And I... I would be so proud to have people at our home.
I remember those thoughts very clearly.
My dreams were to live in a neighborhood where neighbors would bring over fresh-baked cookies for the newbies moving in. And if a stranger's car had broken down in the middle of our street, we would welcome them in for a tall glass of iced tea and to use our phone.
I laugh at myself now. Looking back on that young girl, so full of hopes and dreams and, let’s face it, a little... OK, well, a lot naive. I grew up in the 80’s. Back when maybe we could have invited strangers in without a care in the world. Back when neighborhoods were like family and stay-at-home wives and mothers were like June Cleaver. Those visions I had never included piles of laundry, grilled cheese sandwiches, nights with my husband working late or pest control men knocking on my door. They didn't involve days of staying in sweats and a ponytail all day or an uncomfortably crowded living room when a few couples come over to play games. And, sadly, they never once included a world where I am too scared of who is on the outside to open my door, and my heart, with love and kindness.
My husband’s heart is bigger than mine. Significantly. It’s one of the reasons I married him, in fact. I heard stories about him before I ever met him, about him bringing a homeless man home from the gym, giving him an iron for a job interview and a warm bed to sleep in for the night. What I would have called insanity, my God calls hospitality and love.
I've noticed I never hear my husband grumble words like, “But the front glass door is broken!” or, “Could it wait until we get the carpet clean?” when talking about inviting guests over. It made me take a long, hard look at myself. I felt like, through him, God was trying to tell me something.
He was trying to tell me the couple we met at the fall parade who don’t know Jesus need our hospitality desperately. It doesn't matter what kind of stain I have on my carpet that I can’t get out, but what kind of stain they have on their hearts that we could help them make pure by telling them about our Savior. And the young girl we met at the football game with a baby, sitting all by herself... well, it didn't matter what was broken in our home, but what in her life had made her broken and how we could help by telling her about the only One who could make her whole again.
1 Peter 4:8-11 says,
"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
You see, I always was focused on the wrong person. I wanted my house to be nice and clean and decorated up lovely so my guests would think I was a great hostess. But those things don’t necessarily make a great host. What does is our attitude to serve. Truly serve. Not just the homemade cobbler, but the needs of others. Our focus should be on God getting the glory, every time we open our door. I have gotten so wrapped up in what Pinterest and the media tell me my life should look like, I've lost my way. Perfection turned into my goal instead of authenticity and charity.
I pray every day to have a heart more like my husband’s. One that would invite a stranger in for a meal, even if all we had was bread and butter. One that put aside whether or not our laundry was done when we could have a game night with our friends.
I no longer want to be the couple that invites people to our home to have them leave and discuss in their car how great my cooking was or how pretty our wall decor was. Instead, I would rather be the servants of Christ, the ones whose guests leave saying, “What a filthy house! What an awful meal! But what a love God has for us... What a love!”
For more from today's guest Theresa Bluhm, visit her blog, Always in Bluhm. Read all posts in the You're Welcome series here, and all posts about hospitality, here.
Photo credit: Pinterest.