Food is often involved in hospitality, but is food all it is?
Have you ever had that experience of being a guest, and all your needs are met? Bath towels, instructions for how to use a quirky appliance ahead of time, good conversation, enough alone time, even volunteering to play with your kids…
I’ve had all that and more in the past month. Since September 24, we’ve been out of our house. Yet, we don’t fly to Spain until tomorrow. (I know! That excitement will be laid out in another post.) We have stayed at six different houses since then. That’s six times schlepping our stuff around, living out of suitcases, being with different people, and cooking in different kitchens.
What stands out to me in this moment as I sit on a porch in Ocean City, NJ, is the amazing hospitality I’ve experienced in each place. My kids have been so resilient through all of these transitions, and I attribute it to the hospitality of those we’ve stayed with. I’ve had the freedom to laugh, cry, go off and do yoga, cook for others, eat other’s cooking, and just be. I am so, so thankful for all of the hospitality.
Dictionary.com defines hospitality as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, and generous way.” Synonyms include warmth, cordiality, geniality, friendliness.
Come, let me take you through our journey.
We left our house on August 25th, with renters moving in that afternoon. We stayed in the home of our dear friends and neighbors, the Bettles, for five nights. During that time, Jonathan made Justin a carrot cake for his birthday, Courtney sat and chatted with me over a meal, our kids played beautifully, and there were a lot of conversations standing in the kitchen or lingering around the table. We felt like family.
From there, Justin headed to Guatemala for two weeks of Spanish school, and the girls and I packed up to head to Baltimore. Before we drove away, other friends and neighbors, Elizabeth and Carlos, waved us over for some porch time and brownies to go. We drove to my parents in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
My parents and Aunt Nancy made us feel welcome by helping with the girls’ lessons, taking them to the tennis courts to “play” Pickle ball, helping with laundry, being good company, and taking us camping. We were able to use one of their cars to drive to a wedding. Nothing compares to family.
Partway through our Virginia stay, the girls and I headed to Pittsburgh to see friends Matt and Candice. They had just moved into a new house, yet they still let us come. Candice took us around like tourists to see the water steps near the river and to ride the Duquesne Incline. We enjoyed doing art together and having a grand old time.
After being back in Virginia (and picking up Justin partway through) it was time to go to my brother Charlie’s wedding in western Massachusetts. We stayed in an Airbnb cottage near a lake, and the host met us there. The cottage was absolutely charming, and the host guided us to the lake access and boats. She had provided everything we needed to enjoy our stay, from food in the pantry to life jackets for kids.
From there, we were excited and relieved to be able to stay with Justin’s Aunt Melissa. (Originally we had thought we would drive our car to the wedding, drive it back to Baltimore, sell it, and take a bus to NYC…all in a few days). Melissa lives in New Jersey, and we were at her house last night. She and her husband invited my parents and Aunt Nancy to stay for dinner at her house, since my dad was meeting us there anyways to pick up his car, and they were going to stay at a hotel nearby. Today Melissa took us to her condo in Ocean City. Tomorrow, she drives us to the JFK airport.
I mean, can you believe it? I feel so blessed and cozy and warm to have friends and family and nice Airbnb hosts. There is an art to hospitality, and everyone along the way nailed it. To me, the art of being hospitable means pampering your guests just a little, but allowing them to do the dishes too. It means inviting them in to experience their lives as they do. It means dealing with extra messes and effort, yet making the guests feel as though they couldn’t be more delighted to deal with those extra messes and efforts.
It makes me think a little bit of what God expects of me. I believe the Bible when it says he loves me lavishly. I have experienced that love. Yet God expects me to work at following him, and to work at showing God’s love to others. It’s not a passive Christian life, it’s an active Christian life with responsibility attached to it.
Hospitality, when done well, shows lavish love to others (friends and strangers), yet it doesn’t treat them like royalty. Guests are invited to join in life’s work and play.
As we prepare to go to Spain, I hope to bring with me the spirit of hospitality. I hope to treat strangers as friends I don’t know yet. When we have a place to live, I hope to invite new friends in readily, regardless of our language ability. And I hope to join with them as they celebrate holidays, joys, sadness, and successes.
To help you on your way to cooking hospitably, here are some of my favorite recipes from the web that I’ve used this year. You’re welcome!
Whole30 Mayo in tuna salad, egg salad, on salmon cakes, on BLTs.
Apple Pie (this was a nice recipe, but it made extra apple filling, so I made a hasty apple crisp to bake alongside the pie. Then I froze it).