All good things must come to an end, and I can't think of a better way than this to end this series of posts from some of my favorite bloggers on one of my favorite topics -- hospitality. I hope their words have given you some inspiration and ideas, especially as Thanksgiving, a time of gathering family and opening homes and sharing meals, approaches. And I hope they've made you feel welcome here on my new website. I know I'm settling in.
Bethany Suckrow works at one of the schools I cover, so for a long time, we kept tabs on each other on social media: I on her, in case she posted any news happening at the school I ought to write about; she on me, in case I posted an article I'd written about the school. Sometime later, we realized we actually had a lot more in common than the school. Like the fact we write for work. And we write on the side. And then, for fun, we write. I love what she's written today about how gathering together as a family brings together all the elements of hospitality.
Full-time writer by day, artist and blogger by night, Bethany authors the blog She Writes and Rights, where she shares both prose and poetry related to life, faith, storytelling and creativity. Her greatest passions are Grace, words, and a good cup of coffee. She and her musician husband Matt live in the Chicago suburbs.
Everyone is laughing at my cousin’s 18-month-old son, Mason, as he sings la-la-la-la-la-la along with his grandma, my aunt. She has taught him the chorus of this old country tune during afternoons when she sits him in her lap on the big old porch swing. His ears perk at the sound of her singing it as she explains their ritual to us, and his baby voice echoes it back in delight. We laugh, and he sings it again, louder this time, and then we’re all taking turns singing it to him and he cackles at all the attention, clapping his hands, watermelon juice dribbling down his chin.
Can you feel it?
I have struggled with joy this year; to find it, to hold on to it, to believe it is real. Even now, in this scene that overflows with it, there is a certain bittersweetness to it, because this is the tenth year of this family tradition, but it is the first year that we are here without my mother. She would have loved this evening so much, and the ache of this new motherlessness is deep in moments like now.
Yet how grateful I am that my aunt, my father’s sister-in-law, opened her lakehouse to the whole crazy brood of us, siblings and spouses and children, and now their children’s spouses and their children’s children. How grateful I am that my parents’ generation saw fit to create this tradition for us. As our family grows and we invite more and more people into it, and as I live my everyday life 400 miles away from that sacred place, I give thanks for the ways that God blessed my family with the gift of hospitality and what it has taught me about His grace.
Our ritual of gathering and inviting brings together all the elements of true hospitality - space, nourishment, time. We gather together, we eat, we enjoy time with one another, and everyone is always welcome. Not every family can spend four whole days together in a remote location without bringing harm to one another, but in our family we know unequivocally that the door is always open - both here at the lakehouse and at home. This custom of hospitality has left the door open for joy to enter in, even during the hardest times of our lives.
And so this is what I know about hospitality : it is the language of grace.
And these are the words I know by heart :
“Come. Sit. Eat. You are welcome here. You are loved.”
And so it is in these ways that God speaks to my heart most profoundly, and where I find the most joy. It as familiar as a favorite song, as comforting as a bowl of Aunt Denise’s German mashed potatoes, as warm as the candlelit faces of all His sons and daughters around one table.
For more from today's guest Bethany Suckrow, visit her blog, She Writes and Rights. Read all posts in the You're Welcome series here, and all posts about hospitality, here.
Photo credit: Don in Massachusetts.