I had so much to say about “quiet hospitality.”
I intended to begin with all the stories of my early, “loud” hospitality. All those parties and gatherings and big efforts.
Those efforts weren’t misguided. It was a good season, but it was only that. A season. And as our family grew, and we uprooted for a few big cross-country moves, it ended.
I planned to tell you all about the quiet hospitality we live today. About the cooked breakfast routines and the Friday night homemade pizza tradition. We no longer have the space in our lives for big efforts, but by living a few good, daily rhythms it has become easy to invite others into them.
I thought I would tell you about the ways in which hospitality has become, not this extra, added-on thing, but something woven into the daily fabric of our lives. For instance, there is the young neighbor boy who spends every afternoon with us while his parents finish out their workdays. Also, there is the young woman who recently moved into one of our third-floor attic bedrooms.
But the quietest and most beautiful hospitality I am living right now is this: God has set a table for me in my own house.
It began, I think, with a prayer. Though I didn’t connect the prayer and the table till much later.
Over the past few months, I’ve been praying these occasional, desperate little prayers that God would help me connect with my eight-year-old son. There wasn’t any problem, exactly. It was only that we were like one ship and one little boat passing in the night. And I wanted more.
About the same time I started praying those prayers, this funny little desire began flitting through my mind.
I began to wish I was English. Or that I lived in the UK. Or maybe both. Actually, it might be most accurate to say that I wished I could live in one of the British novels I’m always reading. I wanted to live in one of my favorite books for the simple reason that I wanted to stop, every afternoon, for tea.
I didn’t just want to take a cup of tea to some dark corner of my house and try to block out the sounds of my squabbling children. I already do that on a pretty regular basis. No, I wanted to gather up my kids and sit down with them at our kitchen table every single afternoon. I wanted to pour out tea and nibble a little something just-baked, and maybe read a chapter of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud. Preferably the chapter where Tumnus and Lucy share tea in front of the fire.
Feel free to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of my wish. A wish that even uprooting myself across the ocean wouldn’t make true. Because apart from a cook in the kitchen baking scones every afternoon and an attitude adjustment for my kids, who seem to prefer arguing over Legos to listening attentively to quality literature, my little dream was impossible.
I knew this. But I still wanted it.
When I say that God has set a table for me, I mean it quite literally. And you’ve probably guessed by now that it’s a tea-table.
It is afternoon tea with my three older kids (my youngest is generally off wreaking havoc in another room) plus the neighbor boy. My firstborn and I are usually the only ones drinking tea, but there’s a teapot on the table and usually something freshly baked, so we call it teatime.
Honestly, I have no idea how it happens. All I know is that when my children returned to school after Christmas, this space seemed to open up in the afternoons. When my older two arrive home, I leave my laptop and my deadlines. I start some quick baking (or I pull something from the freezer). Someone (usually the child begging for a snack right now) sets the table, and we all sit down as soon as little brother walks in the door.
It happened once, and then it sort of kept happening until the day, about a week or so into it, that I told my kids I’d be out of town for a few days.
The first thing my son said was, “What about our tea party?”
At first, I didn’t understand. Tea party? Do we have a party on the calendar? But when he said, a little franticly, “can Dad make tea!?” I understood that the afternoon tea break that meant so much to me meant something to him, too.
He was counting on it.
I think that the very quietest hospitality might just be the hospitality God extends to each of us.
I am also beginning to think that at the end of all my prayers is a table. And that table is prepared by Love.
Photo used with permission: Kelli Campbell