Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hospitality and Opening our Homes

As homemakers, we are like little magpies feathering our nests - a little twig here a little piece of string there. God gave us such an amazing instinct to make homes and we were created to nest and make comfy, cozy, soothing nests to nourish our families up in.

But sometimes, in this busy era we are in, we can get a little too comfy and forget to share hospitality with others. Our homes are a great place for ministering and blessing others.

It's interesting that the word hospital comes from the Latin "hospes" or host. From that word we get hospital, hostel, hotel and hospitality. These words all have to do with taking care of someone.



Furniture Placement for Hospitality

When I arrange and decorate, my first priority is our every day lives and the needs of my family. Most family room furniture is arranged for tv viewing, but that doesn't always accomodate entertaining.  When I'm expecting more than a few guests, I will nudge a chair or a couch over a bit for better flow and conversation.

Personally I don't like feeling "cornered" when I sit down at someone else's house, and I just assume that others feel that way too.  So I try to keep that in mind when I arrange things so guests can get up without any fuss.

It's a good idea to make sure that guests are within arm's reach of a coffee table or something sturdy to set down their beverages.

It's also nice to have some interesting magazines or books out so guests have something to keep them occupied if you need to tend to a child or something in the kitchen.

Preparing for Little Ones

When my children were small, I did not baby proof my house, I house-proofed my babies.  I carefully trained them to know what they could and could not touch. Baby-proofing is one of the most counter productive ideas of modern parenting. The world is not baby-proofed. 

Still, when having guests with children, it's a good idea to put away anything that is especially breakable or valuable, as well as keep lit candles at levels above their reach.


A Word About Bathrooms

Of course keeping the guest bathroom clean and uncluttered is the goal. (And when guests come it should sparkle.) But consider also having a few things in stock for accomodating  special or embarrassing needs.

  • A pretty lidded container (those upholstered sewing kits function well for this) near the commode that houses various feminine products for female guests. 
  • A hook on the wall or door for hanging a handbag or sweater is a nice touch.
  • Assembling a bathroom "emergency kit" with a few things such as pepto bismol, mini mouthwash, dental floss, band-aids, trial size baby wipes packet (good for stain removal), antacids, mini sewing kit, safety pins, nail trimmer, etc.  Guests who might have an awkward personal need would find these items a great comfort.
  • It's important to keep a roll of extra toilet paper near the commode. As a guest it's very awkward to run out of toilet paper and rummage through cabinets in hopes of finding extra rolls. Seeing a roll out in the open is reassuring.
Focus On Your Guests

The moment your guests arrive, all preparations should cease.  This is the time to shift your focus from preparation to gracious host. Guests should feel like they've just walked into their home away from home - welcome and comfortable. Not like they've just interrupted something.

If a flow of guests is expected, as with an open house invitation, it's polite to remain near the front door to allow you to greet each guest as they arrive. If something prevents you from that, then enlist the help of a friend or older child for this job. It is a bit of an awkward feeling to enter a home where the door is left open and there is no one to greet and welcome you in.

Is Your House Perfect Enough?

We all want to put our best foot forward, make good first impressions and make our guests feel good.  And a clean house is a welcoming house. But it's not about your house being perfect.  It's about receiving people, taking care of them and showing them the love of Jesus.

Things may go wrong. I have come to expect that my family or (cough) husband might do something to embarrass me. We might have a food dilemma or worse a joke that bombs.  (Don't you hae that?) But it's best not to point out what isn't perfect. Unless you are trying to usher in awkward and uncomfortable moments! :)

Remember to laugh and have a good time. Guests are only as comfortable as the hostess. If you're uptight, you can be sure they are, too. Life is unpredictable even when we have plans. Keeping this in mind will smooth out your hospitality and give you and your guests maximum ease.


Conversation

Have some conversational topics picked out if you have planned guests. Think of things that are pertinent to the people you will be entertaining and ask them questions suited to their interests.

Occasionally, you will have one person dominating the conversation.  If it gets to the point where no one else has much of a chance for input, a good hostess will subtly direct conversation away from the chatter box and over to the wall flowers.  The goal is balanced conversation, not a monologue. (I'm not great at this, but I'm trying to learn.)

Refreshments

In many cultures, it is actually considered rude not to give guests something to drink and eat. In the middle east, food is always, always given.  That is so different than what Americans are used to. And though it's not a strong tradition here, I've found that just putting out some munchables without asking if they're wanted is usually appreciated. 

If you have to offer than just water, ask guests what - not if  - they would like to drink. For example, "would you like iced tea, ice water, or lemonade?"  If they try to decline the offer, I just pretend I didn't hear it and get them a glass of ice water anyway.  It can't hurt and they usually end up drinking it. 
Casual Gathering, Casual Food

It's wise to keep a few things stocked in your pantry for unexpected guests who drop by. A quick and easy food tray can start with a box of crackers from your pantry. Arrange the crackers on a plate with some sliced or cubed hard cheese, olives and toothpicks and you have a snack that is virtually fuss and worry free where  refrigeration is concerned.

Not every situation will call for a tray of snacks, but if you feel it does, this one's a great "go to" idea.  Sometimes for casual afternoon visits, I just put a bowl of Goldfish Crackers (with a few napkins) on the coffee table for guests to nibble on.


Relax

This is most important  - treat your guests like family. Being down to earth and comfortable in your own skin and your own home puts people perfectly at ease.  And when they are at ease, the door is open to show them the love of Christ.

As Christians, it doesn't mean our lives are perfect. Sharing from the heart and showing grace to others is where we are fruitful and most useful.

Again, it isn't about having the perfect house, it's about love and joy in a home where the Lord abides.

Then we can truly minister to others. And no matter what magazines, books or tv shows might say, that is what hospitality is all about.

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