I’ve always been a big believer in hospitality. I’ve always said that it’s not just about making room, it’s about inviting people in. It’s making people feel welcome not just in my home, but in my life as well.
I’ve always tended to be an open-book, open-arms, open-home kind of person.
Maybe it’s because growing up as a pastor’s kid, hospitality wasn’t just something I was taught, it was always a normal part of our home life. It wasn’t uncommon for there to be a random new face (or a whole family of them) seated around our table for mom’s regular Sunday roast, or to see a clean set of sheets and towels stacked neatly on the spare bed for a some new houseguest.
We opened our doors to all kinds of people for all different reasons.
We were always hosting brunches, coffee dates, pool parties, dinners, and barbecues. People often stayed with us when passing through town, or if they needed a place to crash. We even had a couple of families live with us for brief periods of time because they needed a place to stay until they found their own.
Once I got married and had a home of my own, hospitality was a habit I carried with me. Husband and I are both very social and we love to spend time with our people. We love to open our doors and invite friends in; To sit around tables, living rooms, and porches, sharing all the small moments in life that really are big. Moments of laughter and food shared, of children running underfoot, and of kitchens full beyond capacity with friends chatting, chopping, and pouring drinks.
I found that hospitality came naturally to me and that I truly enjoyed it. I loved inviting people into my home. I loved planning and hosting dinner parties, play dates, coffee dates, and holiday extravaganzas. Until suddenly I didn’t anymore.
Ironically enough, my hospitality burn-out came at precisely worst time. After 10 addresses in 14 years of marriage, we had just moved into our long awaited “Forever House”. We finally had all that space we’d wanted.
I expected to move in, make the house into a home, and fling my doors wide open.
I expected that I’d want to.
But life is unexpected (and so is God), and from the minute we took up residence at the Forever House, I found myself both constantly hosting guests and suddenly resenting it. I’d always talked a big game about hospitality and I’d always backed it up by practicing it in my real life. But suddenly it felt like God was calling my bluff.
I’d been happily hospitable when it was on my terms. But what about when it wasn’t so convenient? What about when I didn’t feel like it?
From the day we moved in we seemed to have a revolving door. There was a never-ending stream of people and pets; of phonecalls saying “We’re coming for a visit! Can we stay?” And other phonecalls saying “Bro, can I crash with you for a few months, until I figure out my next move?”
Every time we said yes, because these were all people that we love, care about, and enjoy spending time with. We said yes, because we’d always been the “hospitable type” and if I’m being completely honest, that was a part of myself that I’d secretly taken pride in.
But I found myself quietly becoming resentful of our revolving door.
I found myself dying a little bit on the inside each time I put on my hostess hat.
I craved time for our own little family to make memories in this new home with just us.
I longed for small, quiet moments without an audience.
I grew tired of constantly having to be “on”. I grew tired of constantly worrying whether the kids were pestering the current houseguest (they always were), or if we had enough snacks in the pantry, or if I’d ever have the freedom to walk around the kitchen without a bra on again.
There was never enough toilet paper or clean sheets, the coffee pot was always empty, and the toilet seat was always warm. It was all making me slightly claustrophobic.
I found myself beginning to unravel, but I soldiered on because I refused to acknowledge that hospitality was something I no longer enjoyed. I slowly became a very embarrassing version of myself. I’d hide out in my closet or the bathroom just for a few moments alone. I’d snap at Husband when he cheerily asked how my day was. I had a too-short fuse with the kids. I begrudgingly baked casseroles and I bitterly washed load after load of bedding and towels.
I was awful. I know.
I’m not proud.
Finally one evening Husband and I had the rare chance to sneak away for a date night, and as we sipped margaritas I felt it- the word bile, rising up right along with all the negative feelings I’d been brewing. I knew we needed to talk about it, but I firmly told myself to not to ruin our date. I told myself to put this conversation on hold for one more day. I told myself to just enjoy the moment.
I did not listen to myself.
I’m not sure if you remember the part where I said I’m an open-book type of person, but I really am. I have zero ability to fake it, or to keep my feelings in for any length of time. They tend to be written all over my face and on the rare occasion that they’re not, I usually just blurt them out anyway.
I guiltily confessed to Husband how I’d been feeling. He listened. We both agreed that we needed a time-out. We needed to be okay with saying “No” every now and then, so we could say “Yes” to protecting some modicum family time instead. We needed to retreat into ourselves for a bit, to get our bearings and to recalibrate the rhythm of our household.
This is something I’m learning, as our littles become bigs and as our schedules become aggressively busier with each passing year: If we don’t intentionally carve out down time then it won’t happen.
It just won’t.
We have to be the boss of our own calendars.
As a person who instinctually wants to oblige just about everyone, realizing this was revolutionary for me. It dawned on me that I’d been so busy inviting people in, that I’d quit making room for the three people I cared about most.
It was difficult at first, but we took a much needed hospitality hiatus. We carefully, painstakingly created space for our family to just BE, and I cannot even tell you how gloriously liberating it was. I don’t even think I invited anyone over for dinner for a full year.
But after stepping away for a season, I was able to come back refreshed and with true joy. I think hospitality can look different through certain season of life, and that’s okay. An open door is nice, but an open heart is even better.
You’ll be glad to know that I now buy my coffee and toilet paper in bulk and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m ready to fling my doors wide open again.