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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
hospitality is hard

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.

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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.

Amber Salhus
Amber Salhus / Posts / Blog

Amber is a wife, mom to two tiny tenders, writer, comedy lover, and movie buff. She writes over at http://ambersalhus.com (Did I Shave My Legs For This?) where she is all about keeping it real, telling the honest truth, and finding the humor in all of it.

  • Kathleen Grace

    Yes! I am going through the same thing. Years of feeding what can seem like every family in our church, sometimes 30+ at a time, and suddenly I feel burned out, cranky, and just plain tired. Why is it that taking a break makes me feel guilty? And yet, I just can’t go on with a happy heart without a break. Thanks for sharing this post. Hospitality burn out is real!

    August 5th, 2016 8:00
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  • Beth R
    http://www.justplainbeth.com

    Amber, I loved this. I am not one of those people. Hospitality comes hard for me, and I have to fight to say yes and throw open the doors. Hospitality was not something that was modeled for me in my life, and so it makes me feel like that awkward middle school kid on the side of the gym, not sure if I should ask the cute boy to dance, or melt into the wall.

    August 5th, 2016 10:38
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  • Lorretta Stembridge
    http://www.dancingonthedash.com

    So encouraging. Seriously– I have discovered these same things about myself… I have an “expiration” moment– like the drugstore pony that rides and rides along with the music and the crowds and then STOPS. No more. Even with my kids — now grown into early adulthood– I love the visit time and overnighters but the weeks on end thing gets me all twisted up. Recalibration. Good word and good application.

    August 5th, 2016 15:10
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  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org

    Amber, I can understand some of what you experienced. I had always been the hospitable sort, but after going through a year of trauma a couple of years ago, all I wanted to do was retreat. Thankfully, I did take the time I needed and am beginning to return to hospitable-ness. Thank you for your transparent post. I know that it will minister to many.

    August 5th, 2016 20:07
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  • Theresa
    http://www.theresaboedeker.com/

    Thanks for your honesty in this post. Life seems to be about seasons. Sometimes after giving and giving, we need a season to regroup and recharge (or whatever) so we can give again. We need to hear both sides of the story and not feel bad (or like a failure) if we take a little time off.

    August 6th, 2016 1:12
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  • K. Ann Guinn
    http://simplyflourishinghome.com/

    Thank-you for honest and vulnerable post. I think it’s so important to balance hospitality with caring for ourselves and our family. It can be difficult to hear which “yeses” are from God, but that’s what we ideally need to do. There are times to give and give, and times to “fall back” and regroup, refresh and gain new vision and direction. Then we can join you in offering true, heartfelt hospitality.

    August 6th, 2016 12:52
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  • Katie

    “An open door is nice, but an open heart is even better.”
    Really appreciated your openness in sharing this post.
    Gratefully,
    Katie

    August 8th, 2016 2:51
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  • Marian Vischer
    http://www.marianvischer.com

    Just now getting a chance to read this. SO GOOD!!! I grew up in a pastor’s home as well and, like you said, there were always new people around the table or in the living room. I always assumed I’d be the same way but my husband and I are so not that way at all. Hospitality is big in my heart but stresses me out in real life. Embarrassing but true. {I’m working on it.}

    August 9th, 2016 9:31
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