How to Embrace Hospitality with Little Ones

It was half past 5 on a Friday evening.
I sat on the floor playing with my then 10-month-old and 2-year-old sons waiting for my husband to get home from work. I was disheveled and saggy-eyed from the duties of the day, and as I looked around my house from my vantage point on the floor, all I saw was a hairy carpet full of crumbs and a kitchen floor speckled with a tapestry of food remains and, you guessed it, more crumbs.
I remember thinking, “I could really use company right now. I’d love to host some friends tonight.” But I knew another day was about to pass without me finding the energy to bring my home back to the unspoken standard required to open it.
They don’t call parenting children under 5 “the trenches” for no reason. Any autonomy you used to have vanishes overnight. While you once impressed yourself with a smattering of career accomplishments and various hobbies you now impress yourself with things like your new fancy ability to keep both yourself and your little ones alive at the end of each day.
Since life feels like a rotating door of serving other people’s needs, you might consider it easier to try your hand at Olympic Water Polo than to invite some more people into your home where they’d expect an orderly meal in a peaceful atmosphere… and don’t forget dessert!
But here is what I also knew that day on the rug. I knew I served a God who had welcomed me home with open arms, and who hadn’t stopped caring I go and do likewise just because I’d popped out a couple of kids.
I was reminded that our world is hurting for home.
When my husband and I got married our Pastor told us our home was now the newest outpost for the kingdom of God, an embassy in a foreign land. Today it seems as if homes are treated more like docking stations for human re-charge than places where souls are welcomed, encouraged, nurtured, challenged, nourished, and transformed.
The Bible says, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9). Hospitality is an irreplaceable tool for loving others well. Through hospitality we both invite the lost and encourage the found. Theologian Henri Nouwen said it well, “Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place…”
How dare I disqualify myself from this holy work because I was too proud to let others see a less than perfect home and too lazy to take a little creative initiative.
That day I told God I was ready to offer hospitality to others, crumbs and all. I told him there was no way I could keep our floors perfectly clean, I couldn’t cook a three course meal and I couldn’t even promise him I’d be up for dessert but I told him I’d do it and I’d do the best I could. That day I offered God my “fish and loaves” and then, I got to work.
Here are a few practical ideas we’ve implemented in hopes it will encourage you towards embracing hospitality cheerfully, even if you have crumbs covering your floor or a less than “perfect” anything!
1) Try Breakfast
This is a creative alternative to dinner that we find works wonderfully for us and our fellow friends with little ones. Kids tend to be at their best in the morning, and I’ve never seen a toddler turn down a sticky bun. We do Saturday mornings with friends and tell them to come in sweats and let their kids stay in PJs. Making a simple breakfast is often more affordable and requires less creative energy than dinner. So far, we’re finding it’s a great way to kick off a weekend!
2) Invite Someone Unexpected
Did you know young couples with young kids can hang out with more than just other young couples with young kids? Gasp! Did you know there are plenty of single people who might enjoy having dinner at your house? Did you know there are married couples without children who might enjoy being hosted at your house? Did you know there are teenagers and older folks who might enjoy spending time at your house?
For a long time, space was also a major concern for us. I felt like I could “never have anyone over” because we didn’t have the space to invite three families at a time. Turns out we have plenty of space for hosting a single parent and his or her children, a college student or an elderly couple. It’s been a joy to see my kids learn how to welcome people of all ages and stages into our home.
3) Pizza Counts
A few weeks ago we felt a prompting to invite some friends over for dinner last minute and guess what we served? Homemade pizza on paper plates. I rustled up some leftover chocolate for dessert and called it a night. You know what? We had a really great time. My husband and I were reminded that we’ve never once regretted welcoming someone into our home, but we have certainly regretted going too long without doing so.
Please don’t take my words here to mean I think we should lower our standards for serving others so we’re never inconvenienced. What I hope instead is that this might serve as a big “permission slip” for reimagining hospitality, especially for those with little children.
If you’re struggling to welcome others in your home, bring it to God, ask him to change your heart and open your mind to the creative possibilities before you.

In the words of Shauna Neiquist, “(Hospitality) is an act of love, if you let it be. You can twist it and turn it into anything you want—a way to show off your house, a way to compete with your friends, a way to earn love and approval. Or you can decide that every time you open your door, it's an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide.”

1 Comment

Chrysta - September 23rd, 2021 at 1:15pm

So good Kelly! I don't have kids and I still need this reminder. It's so much more important to show real love than to have my house all dusted and pretty with some memorable meal and a fancy dessert.






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