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Let’s talk hospitality.

Friends, I know you’re out there. At least, I hope you’re out there. I was thinking today might be a good chance for us to get to know each other a bit since we’re just starting out together.

Also, I’m really interested in your opinion. Hospitality has been a word on my mind a lot lately. As I’m reading up on the Benedictines, I’m learning that the most obvious distinction between them and other monastic orders, is their emphasis on hospitality as a way of life.  Benedict is clear in his Rule that no one who arrives as a guest is ever to be turned away, but is to be accepted as Christ (RB, Chapter 53).

This has led me to begin thinking that stay at home moms have an opportunity to value and practice hospitality in our lives in a radical way. And no, I don’t just mean that we need to be Betty Crocker, hosting the ladies of the Junior League. In fact, “hosting” is not what I’m referring to at all. If any one fails on the Betty Crocker-ometer, it’s me.

My friend Lia recently introduced me to a book by Henri Nouwen called Lifesigns. I’m only one chapter in, but so far Nouwen is talking about hospitality as the act of creating “home,” which he defines as a space where a person is welcomed and where that person is free to be his or herself, without fear. Obviously that space is not necessarily physical, not necessarily our kitchen. What I’m struggling with is how to see our lives, our world, as a home to invite people into. To offer those around us a sense of being “welcomed” wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. To see the value in the people we pass on the street or shop beside in the grocery store.

Honestly, I don’t really know what that means in my life. There are the general struggles I have about hospitality: On the streets near my home we pass plenty of strangers who are hungry but also clinically insane. As a mother, how do I care for and protect August, not risking his safety, but also work to “welcome” those in need around me? What does it mean to offer hospitality to my next-door neighbor who avoids eye contact at all costs? What does hospitality mean when the weather keeps me stuck inside all day with my son and we don’t interact with anyone?

Here’s where you come in. I’d really like to know what you think about hospitality. Is it something you think about, something you have any insight on? What are your questions? What are your convictions?  Please teach me, mamas!

  • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

    I’m leaving the first comment so that you, dear reader, don’t have to be the first to write something. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

    • Tracy

      Hi Micha –

      I feel like I just met a new friend! Barb is going to share a recent article from the Samaritan with you on hospitality so you’ll see my thoughts. In particular for you though, this blog is evidence of your hospitable heart – warm, welcoming, open! What’s really beautiful is that you’ve created a “home” in this season of your life and yes it is just a season – one that will pass quickly – reflecting Christ, a place for people, anyone, to come and meet Him.
      Thank you, thank you! Look for my blog coming soon “Milk and Honey Musings” a sleeping place woken up by Christ through YOU!

  • Susan M.

    Hi Micha:

    How wonderful to see your blog! A wise woman told me many years ago that hospitality is different from entertainment. I grew up with the notion that they were one and the same.

    I think hospitality is an orientation more than a set of duties. It’s willingness, mindset, and openness. It doesn’t mean that you must be prepared to invite the insane stranger into your home. It’s making clear that if your neighbor won’t meet your greeting, that’s on him, not on you.

    As August gets older, and into school, it will mean how you welcome his friends and their families. On that one, the best example I know we both know. Just think: WWND?

    Keep writing!

    Love,

    Susan

  • http://robert4tnr.blogspot.org Robert

    I’ve been thinking about this a good bit lately, and I think that we fall short in the area of hospitality (even our down-home southern variety), because we exclude to many people from the party. Everyone wants to be liked and accepted. So, we have a tendency to approach only those people who look and act the most like us, because we feel that they are safe, and are more likely to accept our invitation.

    However, Jesus made it clear that everyone is invited to the party. When he allowed the “sinful” woman to wash His feet during a public gathering, with all of the eyes of religious establishment watching, He was including her, even though He knew that this would cause others to exclude Him.

    He went out of His way, to include those that the religious crowd left out.

    Perhaps we simply need to do a better job of following His lead…

    Robert

    PS: Nice post. Thank you.

  • Christina

    Hi Micha! I think it goes back to the classic Mary and Martha example. Lately, I get stressed out at the idea of opening my home because of the perceived amount of work in preparing it and the idea that my guests will judge me if my house is messy or dirty. From talking to other friends about this recently, we seem to think that the biblical picture of hospitality is some type of Stepford, Mary-Martha hybrid that can do it all and that we are failures if we don’t live up to that standard. So I guess I’m concluding that being hospitable means being willing to sacrifice our time or our energy or our perceived image to make others feel welcome – something I have not managed to do.

  • angela dohl

    okay, I’ll bite: “WWND?” ?

  • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

    Thanks for your message, Susan. I’m so glad you’ve been reading! I love your description of “openness” as hospitality. I keep seeing that as being willing to really “see” the stranger I pass on the street. What a challenge that is! To look into the eyes of strangers, to ask God to give me a generous enough heart to care.

    Angela, if only you knew “N”! She is a dear woman in my life from our time in Philadelphia. Her home is always open: to her teenaged kids’ friends, to ministry, to prayer, to friends in general. She is a beautiful example of living out the idea of creating “home” all around her.

  • http://www.atimetodance-amanda.blogspot.com Amanda

    Alright, here are my two cents. I think that hospitality is closely related if not twin sisters to authenticity. To be generous with vulnerability and to invite people into our lives without requiring that they investigate before they figure out who we are. And, I do think it means inviting people into our homes, but only because, as mommies, our homes are an extension of who we are. They reveal us, or at least they should, and invites others to reveal themselves as well. (Hmmm…this just gave me a whole new take on home decorating, which is maybe odd, but also really freeing in a way.) And, rather than looking like Betty Crocker (unless you are that good naturally, in which case, I say, “go, you!”) it may look more like, “Hey, I can’t really afford to feed you dinner tonight cause we are on a tight budget, but could you come over for games?”
    It’s about inviting. Inviting others to know you. Inviting them to be known. Inviting them to see a little bit of Jesus in you and to give you a little taste of him as well. Hmmm…lots to think about. Love this blog, Elaine. :)
    -Elaine
    And p.s….I loved your post on the monster inside. Oh how I struggle with wanting people to think I am super awesome. I can’t even promise you that this comment is free from that desire. It’s funny, as I journaled the other day, i wrote something similar about wanting God to do a work in my life, and wanting it to be about far more than a good blog post. Ugh…I feel you sister…I feel you. And…I love you, and think you are super awesome!

  • http://mommymonk.wordpress.com Micha Boyett Hohorst

    Robert, I think you’re so right. In fact, I think those are very close to the words Nouwen uses in Lifesigns: “excluding people from the party.” It’s a difficult problem, though, especially as we get older, have families, and have a limited amount of time to invest in people. Even in our new move, my husband and I naturally find ourselves connecting with people like us, going to a church with people like us. How can we overcome that natural tendency?

    Christina, I love your thought about sacrificing our perceived image in order to welcome people. I think that’s so good and it goes along with what Amanda was saying about authenticity and vulnerability in bringing people into your home. The more I think about it, it seems that hospitality is a discipline that reveals our own insecurities and forces us to risk our own false sense of value…

    I love your thoughts, friends. Keep them coming!

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  • http://weaveustogether.blogspot.com/ Carol

    I think in some ways hospitality is seeing the unexpected other as a gift from a loving father. We can walk by the gift, or bring it (him, her, them) home and enjoy. Some of our richest times have been in sharing meals with people from backgrounds unlike ours, from generations removed from our own, with interests and experiences we’ve never encountered. A grief to me in our current lives is how little time we give to shared meals, and how hard it seems to reach across those invisible artificial boundaries our culture holds so firmly.

  • http://schwalka.blogspot.com Crista

    Hospitality is something I’ve been having to redefine lately. My favorite way to be “hospitable” is for my house to look awesome, the 10 course meal to be wafting through the air, while i have on the cutest of outfits. Of course my children are being so charming in the other room, and I haven’t even broken a sweat as i flutter from guest to guest asking if i can refill their iced tea.
    Having 3 small children prevents all of the above, and my list of imperfections demolish any hope of achieving 1/2 of that. However, i feel called to share my life, share my little people, share my home. Let others (especially JB’s college students) see what healthy family looks like, have a place to be comfortable and welcomed, and be loved on–pampered even if i can pull it off!
    I’m not sure what this looks like as i have not arrived. What is practical, however, is that Little Debbie does a lot of my baking these days, my house really could use a dusting, and don’t mind the toys strewn about. But would you please come in? That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Not sure where to go from here.

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  • Tracy

    Hi Micha –

    I feel like I just met a new friend! Barb is going to share a recent article from the Samaritan with you on hospitality so you’ll see my thoughts. In particular for you though, this blog is evidence of your hospitable heart – warm, welcoming, open! What’s really beautiful is that you’ve created a “home” in this season of your life and yes it is just a season – one that will pass quickly – reflecting Christ, a place for people, anyone, to come and meet Him.
    Thank you, thank you! Look for my blog coming soon “Milk and Honey Musings” a sleeping place woken up by Christ through YOU!


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