This time last year I was wearing a thin but determined path between my house and that of my parents. My mom was bravely enduring chemotherapy treatments for leukemia and I was doing my best to fill in the inevitable gaps that formed in the wake of them all. I had never before felt so helpless yet my visceral response, every round, was to run to the place where she was.
 
It was in those pockets of days, in the coming to and in the leaving from, that I caught fresh glimpses of my parents’ deep welcoming hearts.
Because I had always known it, really. I grew up on a steady diet of open doors and full tables and the breadth of my parents’ welcoming arms was storied. I wasn’t just learning the way of welcome. I was falling, once again, into its warm and familiar embrace.
As a young child, I would secretly sit on darkened stair landings, arms wrapped around my knees, leaning into the cackle of laughter and knee slaps that rose up from the gathering of kinfolk below like kites on the wind. I might have been little but I knew the sound of love and no bedtime was going to keep me from reveling in its music.
 
There were also summer parties on the deck and while the kids ran wild through the backyard screaming “Ghost in the graveyard—Run, Run, Run!” the adults sat under Chinese lanterns strung on poles and sipped drinks sweating in the thick air. And, always, there were the stories and the hoots and the hollers and it was all just as it should be.

Sacred Everyday
I grew up the youngest of five children. A great number of years separated me from the oldest so my arrival to the art of, and subsequent schooling in, hospitality was seamless due to its innateness in our home. The art of welcoming was well practiced by the time I joined the circle and thus the only real requirement of my quickening heart was to watch and listen and pray.
And that, I did. All of my life.
 
My parents were always naturals at loving people. And in those weeks that I volleyed back and forth between my place and theirs, I found myself, once again, watching and listening and praying.
I watched as my mother, weak and tired from the various assaults on her body, struggled with how to receive visitors from a sick bed. Always the first one to swing open the door to guests before her illness settled in, she suddenly found herself reflexively rising and then, as the swirling darkness surrounded, settling back against the bedclothes in response to the sound of the door bell. As her illness progressed, one of the hardest disciplines my mom practiced was that of yielding the role of host to my dad and knowing he was walking that path alone.
 
But, even at her weakest, my mom never stopped throwing open wide the doors of her heart. Whenever I crouched at her bedside to feel the heat rising from her brow or curled up under the covers and clasped her hands in mine, I was received into her deepest places. Not even disease could choke out love born in a broken body. Those fissures of cell and marrow became offerings of humility and grace and I always wept in their holy presence.
For you see, my parents were curators of a welcome life.
 
Every day was a fresh opportunity to love anew. Every gathering and every meal were opportunities for gracious joy. And every face bore upon it the sacred imprint of heaven.
Life was rich and dripping and they had the eyes to see it and the hearts to share it.
 
After my mom passed away last April, it seemed as if all the lamps in the world dimmed. The question that hung heavy at the end of every breath was the same for all of us: “How do we continue walking out this life without her?”
Slowly, though, the grief that puddled around us reflected small snatches, glimpses even, of life as it could be. Every morning, the sun broke free from the edge of the world and jumped into the sky, an act ripe with promise.
 
Our appetites began to return and we shared meals at tables round and worn. And as we dared to face another day, we looked at each other with a hushed devotion, realizing the gift of each other, over and over.
And that, my friends, is how you walk out this road. We become curators of a welcome life. For whenever we choose to love anew, or extend gracious joy, or exclaim glory at all of the faces that mill about, disguised as angels, we breathe Jesus into this world.

 

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    Lori Harris
    http://loriharris.me/

    Holly- This was simply beautiful. Your words have stirred up something within me, something that will sit with me the rest of the day: Am I a curator of a welcome life?
    Thank you for sharing your family with us ~

    January 16th, 2015 12:59
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      Holly

      Oh Lori, I am so glad that these words resonated with you! They certainly continue to stir down deep within me, even now. I think it has become a life motto for me, in fact. It is just another way that the spirit of my mom can live on, despite her absence.

      January 16th, 2015 17:59
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    Lisha Epperson

    Your longing and devotion, your vulnerability in sharing love for your mother has inspired me to love mine better. My prayer…that I could learn from your mama, who even in death teaches so much – that I might be a curator of a welcome life. Thank you Holly.

    January 16th, 2015 18:29
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      Holly

      Oh Lisha, your words are a balm to my deep hurt. And your prayer? So true to my mom’s spirit and desires for life. Thank you. Thank you.

      January 16th, 2015 22:06
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    Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    I am continually struck by the reminder that every day is new. Yes! I love waking up to new opportunities. Thank you for this wonderful post, Holly. It really touches my heart.

    January 16th, 2015 20:57
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      Holly

      Thank you for inviting me to this table that drips love and acceptance. What an honor! You have spun a beautiful space here, friend. I pray that it will only continue to bless and enrich lives.

      January 16th, 2015 22:04
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    pastordt

    Amen, amen. Beautifully said, dear Holly. Your mama would be proud.

    January 18th, 2015 5:01
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      Holly

      Thank you, Diana. Please know how much your words mean to this, still, sensitive heart. You are a gem, friend.

      January 19th, 2015 4:09
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    Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    Holly, your words ring familiar in my heart. I lost my Mother in November, and she, too, was a curator of a welcome life. Both of my parents were, in fact. At both of their funerals, ten years apart, the words we heard over and over reflected lives lived to serve others. It is a beautiful legacy they left to our family, and one I pray to leave to my own. Thank you for reminding me of how beautiful a life is that lived in service and love to others.

    January 18th, 2015 9:22
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      Holly

      Leah, I am so very sorry for your loss, especially as it is so raw and new.
      And I hear you about the words spoken after losing someone so dear–they comforted me in their beauty and truth and they inspired me to push on. Like the lighting of one candle from the flame of another, I pray that I can carry on the light.

      January 19th, 2015 4:08
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    Linda@Creekside
    http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/

    I hear your heart. I see your mom’s love in action. Her legacy lives on in your words spilled out …

    January 18th, 2015 19:34
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      Holly

      That is an incredible compliment, Linda, truly. Thank you. I pray that I may live up to its profession.

      January 19th, 2015 4:06
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    Ashley Hales
    http://www.circlingthestory.wordpress.com

    So beautiful Holly. Thank you for so beautifully sharing your hurt and heart and hope. I want that legacy for my own family.

    January 18th, 2015 20:15
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      Holly

      Thank you, Ashley. Writing out the grief has helped me so very much. It has helped me discover, over and over, the gifts my mother left behind. And that has been an immense comfort.

      January 19th, 2015 4:05
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    Amy Hunt

    This is how we worship . . . by offering our willingness . . . by having our hearts open (welcome) to life, even if it hurts and it’s scary. I picture a fawn newly born trying to even stand on her wobbly legs. She’s uncertain, but still she tries.

    January 20th, 2015 14:37
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