Monday, March 20, 2017

Hospitality - What It Is, What It's Not

My friend Nancy’s coming to visit. She’s been my friend forever.  

But I don’t see her often.

 When she comes over, I want to honor her with a picked-up house.

“Guys’ c’mon. Clean this stuff up,” I say. We’re running like mad and the day’s stacked hard. Appointments. Commitment. Now just ten minutes before we fly out to the dentist. And Nan will be here when we return.

Two little guys scramble. They go to their knees and pluck small cars from the rug. They chase strays that have landed, tires up, under the wing chairs. They try. But there are miles of Hot Wheels track, running in loops and tangles under the dining room table. Twining into the walk-through closet and back out. Pushing into the back hall. A T-Rex jump ramp, jaws gaping, is clamped on the back of one dining chair, and an angled, three-lane drag strip is the new focal point of the living room.

I breathe deep and shove orange track into a plastic tote,but it’s time to go. I whisk the children away from the mess. Defeat presses hard as I walk out the door.

If I’m honest, it’s not about honoring my friend. 
If I’m honest, it’s about me.

 I want to show that I can do it all and that I can do it all well. But today I’ve fallen short.

 Wild-mess short.

An hour later we return. We’re just in the house, just in the middle of the muck, when Nan arrives. She comes in and the boys rush to her arms. Or friend greets each one. Takes time to look into their eyes and rumple their hair. I hug Nan and her arms wrap around me, too.

Then she pulls away and does the loveliest thing.

She looks at the track. The cars. The mess. The dinosaur clinging to furniture with grey, jagged teeth. And she smiles. She walks into the thick of it and she gets to her knees.

“You boys have been busy,” she says. “It's wonderful. Show me what you’ve built.”

And two boys cluster our friend. They take her by the hand and pull her into their world. She follows. She listens to their voices and to their hearts. She takes a car and sends it down the track.

And I stand in the wonder of it all.

Where I see my own inabilities and shortcomings, Nan sees gifts and talents. Where I see a mess, she sees a way to engage my boys.

And I think about hospitality.

Isn’t this what true hospitality is? Sharing what we have. Who we are? Stretching out and letting someone in? Really in? When opening my home and my heart, if I'm brave enough to take the focus off of myself, there’s so much to give.

And receive.

Like Nan’s wisdom and grace. And little- boy goodness manifested in a wild tangle of track. Or my friend and my sons bonding deep. It’s a gentle flow of love. My family giving what we really are, vulnerable offering that reflects the trueness of life, and Nan receiving with joy.


Poured straight out.

It's a blessing to all.

Lord, help me to offer from-the-heart hospitality...thank you for opportunities to open our home...


  1. Shawnelle, what a beautiful post on hopitality. Strong, straight from the heart, an eye-opening moment of grace from God. Thank you for sharing! Love & hugs!

  2. Thanks for the kindness, BJ. You make my heart smile:) Aren't those grace moments precious? Couldn't breathe without them... Love and hugs back!

  3. This is beautiful, Shawnelle. I SO understand. I've felt this same way more times than not when friends were coming over. And look. Nan shows us the better way.

    Thank you. This touched me heart, as your writing always does.