When it comes to hospitality, my husband is more likely to desire large crowds with lots of activity and I’m more likely to request a quiet meeting in a personal setting. Perhaps we could get together at a restaurant or a coffee shop? Maybe it will be just you and I. Or maybe one or two others.

Neither of these inclinations are wrong, just different.

Over the years I’ve done plenty of social gathering in groups as well as in intimate settings. I’ve grown to love the blessings of multiple people gathered in our home and I’ve loved meeting one on one, in small groups and outside the home.

While our differences have caused tension between us at times, there are a few things we have in common which usually unite us. One in particular. This one thing became quite apparent early in our marriage as we made plans for New Year’s Eve.

I asked for a quiet evening with one other family. We would share a crab leg dinner, the kids could play and the adults would enjoy time in laughter and camaraderie around the table. It sounded dreamy to me and, thankfully, my husband willingly obliged.


One of us, probably me, suggested inviting another family. Then one of us would suggest another, and another.

He smiled at me and chuckled a little because I’d asked for a quiet evening but together we kept thinking of others who might want to join us.

Neither of us wants anyone to feel left out.

hard hospitality

By the time New Year’s Eve came around we had over fifty people join us for the evening. My hope for a crab leg dinner went to the wayside in favor of potluck style appetizers which we’d munch on throughout the evening. We would all enjoy fireworks and sparklers, games and fellowship.

When the 4th of July came around, we found our home to be the hub of much activity once again. Thus, we began a pattern for hosting parties on these two days, partially because shooting fireworks in our out-of-the-city-limits neighborhood is legal and many who live in the city limits want a chance to partake with us. In fact, one year we hosted over 120 adults and children with a live band in the garage of our small home on half an acre.

Thank you God for the yard to accommodate such numbers.

Every event we’ve hosted has blessed me in many ways, even as I wrestled over the years with feelings of overwhelm and stress.


We picked up and moved our family to serve as foster parents in the country. Wide-eyed with equal parts anticipation & fear, we moved forward to serve with full intensity even though I felt taxed and tired. Our situation ended up being intensely stressful for the fourteen months we lived there. Then we returned to our smallish home and I was exhausted, depleted, and spent in every way imaginable.

I found it hard to think and move. Yet, we held our 4th of July party one month later, and on the day before five foster children were to move out of our home. There was so much to do and I didn’t think I could get it done. Right or wrong, we chose to continue for the sake of all the children who looked forward to it.

When five precious children left our home, I crashed hard. The thought of having another guest in our home was enough to send me into a fit of anxiety and tears. I was showing signs of PTSD and simply couldn’t handle anymore.

Internally my heart raged with great desire to serve, to love well, to welcome others into my home while also experiencing a desperate need for quiet, for calm and for self-care. How do you reconcile the two?

It’s been two and a half years since this all came to a head that 4th of July. Today, I still wrestle with what it looks like to show hospitality when it’s hard to do, because anxiety creeps in. When you long to enjoy gatherings in your home but the reality is your body chemistry is physically changed from extreme stress.

I want to open my home to many again. I want to provide an atmosphere of care and comfort where others feel welcomed.

I also know I need to take it slow. I need to find new rhythms because I don’t know when or if I’ll be able to serve in the same capacity again.

As my journey of healing continues, I look back and see God’s hand in allowing hospitality to look different in each season. I’ve come to learn that hospitality doesn’t always look the same for every individual, every family or even every season of life. I’ve come to accept and embrace the evolving beauty of loving in different ways.

Hospitality doesn’t require Pinterest perfect pictures, but it might be the outward gifting of some and we can delight in the beauty they create.

Hospitality happens when we meet for coffee, gather for a church community/small group, invite a neighbor to a night of grilling, and when you open your home for a large party.

Hospitality happens through a phone call to a friend to see how they are doing. Through providing the invitation to share what’s on their mind and heart and providing care in return.

Hospitality is a life-giving, breathable gift of generosity. It doesn’t hold to a stagnant, uniform idea. Instead, we are given the gift of allowing hospitality to flow through us in different ways. We have God-given freedom to create beauty in the ways we give love to others. 

Hospitality is an invitation which honors the inclusion of another person’s story with ours. 


Create Your Favorite Guacamole
Guacamole can be personalized in a number of ways. This recipe includes my favorite variations, but feel free to add or omit with the suggestions provided. Most importantly, make it your own. Create your own favorite guacamole!
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  1. 1 large Haas avocado (or 2 regular size)
  2. 1/2 - 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice (appx 1/2 a lime)
  3. 1/4 t salt
  4. * 1/2 t cumin
  5. * 1/2 garlic powder / granulated garlic
  6. * 1/8 t chili powder
  7. * 1/8 t onion powder
  1. * 1-2 t chopped cilantro
  2. * 1 T diced purple onion
  3. * 1 T diced tomato
  1. Slice the avocados in half, remove the pit & scoop out the flesh. Add desired additional options beginning with a minimum of lime & salt.
  1. ~ Items listed with * are optional and make up my favorite version. My daughter doesn't care for cumin so she omits it. Others have raved about my guacamole with cumin and my husband loves it best chunky with cumin.
  2. ~ Begin with less seasoning and adjust as needed for your taste.
  3. ~ Look for limes with thin skins & make sure they are squeezable. Roll them under your palm to prep the release of juices before cutting them open.
  4. ~ When looking for avocados, look for ones which are semi firm. You should be able to gently squeeze without hollowness.
  5. ~ Look for the stem remnant (if intact). Look underneath. You are looking for partially green and white. If it is dark, the avocado is already too ripe. Green may mean it needs to ripen.
  6. ~ Avocados ripen quickly, but if you need to speed up the process place them in a small brown bag for a few hours.
  7. ~ If your avocado is hard when opened, or full of brown spots, your guacamole will most likely not taste good. The flesh should be soft and green. A few small brown spots are OK.
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Jolene Underwood / Posts / Blog
Jolene Underwood is a faith warrior acquainted with many of life’s challenges as well as God's healing work. She is passionate about cultivating a life well-lived, because she knows the power of God to revive weary souls. She believes a well-lived life is one that goes from surviving to thriving, no matter what the circumstances are. Join her conversations of encouragement & faith at joleneunderwood.com and on social media at @theJoleneU
  • Avatar
    Lynn D. Morrissey

    I always appreciate hearing from you, because you write well and with a heart of passion *and* compassion. We love to open our home, too, and to larger numbers. Our home is the most spacious in our family, yet even when we had a smaller one, we still had large numbers flooding over into every nook and cranny. I understand the tension you felt. I love people and love making a place for gathering and visiting and feasting . . . and yet, also by nature, I’m really contemplative and thrive on solitude. It’s a balance. And also entering into the mix is each person’s season in life. But I love what you are saying here. Hospitality is not defined by tradition or expectations or size but by seasons and a willing heart. Thank you for the hospitality you have offered right here, right now at Grace Table and at Rise Up Writers. This writer rises up and calls you blessed!

    March 21st, 2016 9:51
    • Avatar
      Jolene Underwood

      Lynn, your hospitality has reached through the internet & the mailbox in ways which have touched my heart greatly. Thank you for loving well & giving of yourself to others as you do! Thank you for your kind words which continually encourage me to keep on. Love you!

      March 21st, 2016 12:45
  • SimplyDarlene

    I wonder why extending grace, kindness, rest, and nourishment to our own selves is oftetimes the hardest mode of hospitality…

    March 21st, 2016 14:41
    • Avatar
      Jolene Underwood

      So true Darlene. I think this is especially prevalent when we know life isn’t all about us, but we also wrestle to know that we matter enough. At least, this is the struggle I wrestle with. Seeking God above all, while still valuing who I am as a unique and deeply loved human created in God’s image.

      March 22nd, 2016 9:20

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