I hesitated, as I stood over the trash can, and took a deep breath. It seemed sacrilegious to throw away a perfectly good book. I caressed the elegant cover and flipped through the pages one more time. I re-read the title, so full of promise, so beautiful, so appealing. Then I reminded myself:
“It’s this, or you’re going to end up in therapy…”

I pictured hospital orderlies dragging me away in a strait jacket. And I tossed the book in.
I’d have to find a different devotional for my morning Bible study next week. I bought the book after hearing the author speak at a women’s retreat a few years earlier. If ever someone had the gift of hospitality…
She talked about using our individual gifts and talents, our own artistic flair, our personal sense of style to create a home environment that embodied “the spirit of loveliness.” A place that was comfortable and homey, but at the same time reflected the beauty and artistry of our Creator God. She insisted that regardless of our budget or time constraints, there were simple things we could do to express the kind of thoughtfulness, the care and concern for others, that would make them feel welcome and loved and cherished in our presence.

It resonated with me on so many levels… I bought several of her books and read them eagerly. And at first, they were so uplifting and inspiring. But the daily devotional turned out to be a terrible idea – at least for me. Here’s why:

At the end of each day’s reading, after sharing a Bible story or a poignant lesson she’d learned in her own life, the author included a series of action steps – creative home-making type things you could do to bless husband or your children, or practical tips for organizing and decorating your home. Or ways you could extend hospitality to your neighbors or your church family that week.

I didn’t have a husband. I didn’t have children. I didn’t have a house. I was renting a room with a coffeemaker and hotplate. (This was not, by the way, how I’d ever imagined my life turning out.) Every time I got to the end of the devotional, I’d be hit by a wave of loneliness, emptiness, desperation, desolation. I’d end up curled up in a fetal position, in gut-wrenching sobs. How I longed to have a family to love and care for… how I wished I could do for them all the things the book said to do.

Or I’d find myself raging at God, at the unfairness of it all, consumed with anger and envy and jealousy, thinking of all the women who were getting up that morning grumbling and complaining about having to take care of their husbands or their children, when I would give anything, ANYTHING…

Or I’d just get frustrated and yell back at the author: “Easy for you to say!” No matter how low-budget or simple the recipe, you can’t invite your Sunday School class to your bedroom for dinner on a Saturday.
On a good day, I’d read another perfectly brilliant suggestion I had absolutely no way to apply to my own life, and sigh and think, “Maybe someday…”

Yeah, someday…

It’s been twenty years, and a lot of things have changed – but I have never yet had the kind of life I once envisioned for myself. I have a wonderful life, a full life, a busy career and ministry. But it’s not the kind of life that seems to be many people’s reality. The kind of life where I could put all those wonderful homemaking ideas and tips and tools into practice. The life where I would get to practice that “gracious living” kind of hospitality.
At least not in the traditional sense. Not in the “come to my beautiful home and let me cook for you” sense. Not even in the “come to my humble home and let me order in for you” sense.

I realize I’m not exempt from the Biblical command to practice hospitality. None of us are.
But what if you’re single – if you don’t have a traditional family lifestyle and schedule? What if you don’t have a home you can invite other people to? What if you’re never there, because you travel constantly – or because you work two jobs — or three? What if you have financial problems or chronic health issues? What if you share your home with family members who just can’t (or won’t) deal with “company”?
I know it’s not just me.

It’s taken me a while to figure it out, but if you asked me for the definition of hospitality, I’d tell you that in essence, it’s making people feel welcome. Wanted. Loved. Cherished. And that’s something I can do anywhere. It doesn’t have to take place in my living space. It’s not determined by my health or finances or the busy-ness of my career and ministry. Or even my personality. (Introverts unite! In our own homes! Separately!)

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I can listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and reach out to the people He directs me to… friends and family or strangers on the street. I can be warm and friendly and kind. I can make time to talk, time to listen, time to get together for dinner or coffee.

As someone who knows what it feels like to be shy, to be on the outside, wherever I am, I can look for people who seem lonely or afraid, and make a special point of drawing them in.
I’ll be honest. It’s not the same as decorating your house in a cozy country cottage theme or inviting all the neighbors over for a six-course dinner party.

Sometimes I still feel a twinge or two, when I read yet another great article full of creative ideas and suggestions – none of which I can do. It’s not the same. But it’s something.

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Christin Ditchfield / Posts / Blog
Christin Ditchfield is an internationally syndicated radio host, popular conference speaker, and author of more than 66 books – including What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free From the Power of Guilt, Discouragement, and Defeat. Christin is passionate about calling women to a deeper life — the life we long for, the life we were created for! And she’s the only woman she knows who can spend hours and hours on Pinterest, without looking at a single recipe. She blogs at ChristinDitchfield.com.
  • Avatar
    Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    This is so helpful. I’m glad you tossed that book – now I’m wondering what books I need to toss!

    August 14th, 2015 10:40
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Thanks 🙂 If I hadn’t written in it, I might have given it to a friend. But it was an important lesson: Not every message I hear is for me! It can be a good word, and still be counter-productive to me, if it’s not where God has me.

      August 14th, 2015 16:37
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    Marcy
    http://www.marcyholder.com/

    My current story doesn’t have a category at the bookstore. The practical advice that works in the lives of women around me has often been the opposite of what is healthy in my life and I’ve quit reading the books. Here’s to walking the unbeaten path in confidence through grace!

    August 14th, 2015 12:11
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    Marty

    I’ve always thought that we tend to neglect the idea that we are to be a hospitable people ourselves and not just practice hospitality. Good post!

    August 14th, 2015 12:26
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    Lynn D. Morrissey

    Christin, as well you know, I love everything you write, and I love you–period! This is a wonderful post with a fresh (and needed!) slant. I have been the happy recipient of your gracious hospitality through conversations, emails, tete-a-tetes (when we have actually have had the good fortune, though rare, to talk in person), and always your loving, listening ear. I have a little purple teddy bear who resides in my bookcase, as testament to your generous encouragement, reaching out to me unexpectedly via the post one day when I needed it most. And I will never forget how you set a table for me at Allume in the hotel lobby, when I had not seen you in years, and patiently listened and instructed me in the art of FB! You are one of the most hospitable women I know, and I thank God for you. God’s command to be hospitable is indeed far more about helpfulness than it is about a house, about compassion than it is about cuisine. I”m so grateful for you!
    Love
    Lynni
    PS And now I know you and I are soulmates if you can pitch a beloved, expensive book. As I declutter mine, I have done that occasionally (sometimes because I’ve moved on, sometimes because what was written was dangerous to me, and sometimes because I had scribbled so much in them I knew I couldn’t just give them away.) It felt like sacrilege, I tell you, and very hard for me to do. Books are my friends! 🙂 But I know I did the right thing, and your post confirms that! Thank you!

    August 14th, 2015 13:55
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Bless you, sweet friend! Next time we meet, I’ll have to show you how to use Pinterest 🙂 That’s where I’ve discovered a world of things like “altered books” — using old
      book pages for art journaling, bookmarks, and the most amazing 3D ornaments,
      garlands, and sculptures. One day (in my spare time — ha ha!) I really want to
      try it… so the next time we need to purge our shelves, we can put those old books to better use! It’s not easy to let go, to realize it’s time to move on — or to accept that what’s perfectly fine for someone else is dangerous or unhealthy for us. But it’s freeing. So grateful for you, too! xoxo

      August 14th, 2015 23:39
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        Lynn D. Morrissey

        Christin, you are so special to include me in so many parts of your journey. Ah yes….altered books. My friend and I, who is more artistically inclined than I, is going to lead an altered books session as part of a longer journaling course on play. So yes, sometimes it is really gratifying to be able to repurpose a book. It really was terribly difficult for me to pitch some, but simultaneously freeing! And anything you write, Christin, frees me! Love you, lady.
        Lynni

        August 15th, 2015 14:53
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    Charity Singleton Craig
    http://www.charitysingletoncraig.com/

    Christin – Thank you for writing this, thank you on behalf of everyone for whom hospitality looks differently than the Pinterest perfect table settings or the Pottery Barn furnishings. I’ve found myself almost paralyzed by that kind of hospitality because I’m just not very good at it. “Hosting” stresses me out. But if i cook a simple meal or share what I’ve got with just one other person, I think that hospitality is heartfelt and received.

    I once heard a pastor say that hospitality is making room in your lives for people. Not only can we practice hospitality with our homes, but also with our schedules, our attention, our resources, and more. You’ve described this kind of hospitality so well here.

    August 14th, 2015 16:16
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Thank you, Charity… I love that — “making room.” It can be every bit as much of a gift of love and sometimes a sacrifice, just in a different way!

      August 15th, 2015 14:33
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    Helena Sorensen

    A friend told me recently, when I was discussing how exhausting it is for me to be around people, that she’s “learning to be with people from a place of emptiness.” That statement has rocked me. I didn’t know that was possible. I’ve always felt the need to “host” the people I’m around. (residual preacher’s kid thing? I don’t know.) Anyway, being with people from a place of emptiness, it turns out, is amazingly hospitable. You don’t have to have the great food or the cozy environment. Bringing yourself to the table is so often all that people need.

    August 14th, 2015 17:39
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Yes! I hear this in the cries of folks who post on Facebook how much they wish we could all go back to the days when we “really cared” about people and “actually called or visited” them. I think they’re desperate for connection and tired of being told, “Message me!” As you’ve shared, our physical presence is what they really need.

      August 14th, 2015 23:31
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    Karen Bradley

    You know as I thought about this I realized that sometimes those of us who enjoy cooking and “having people over” can put so much emphasis on the preparation . . the food, the clean house . . . that we don’t focus on really opening our hearts to the person who is coming. It’s sometimes more about “me” and how fixing everything makes me feel. I need to work on having a more hospitable heart!

    August 14th, 2015 18:14
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Wow! Great connection to make… And that IS what appealed to me in those books years ago — the emphasis on using our gifts to love others well. However we do it, it’s the love that matters.

      August 14th, 2015 23:23
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    Cindy Eberhardt

    Thank you! This speaks to me. Finally, hospitality for introverts like me. Home is my sanctuary and my safe place. It is where I get restoration. I felt guilt for not having people over often. When I do I am hospitable but drained.

    I love where you point out we can be hospitable wherever we go. Now, we are talking. I do this now. My extraverted Labrador and I go walking everyday. We meet lots of people and have become friends with many. This is our ministry. I found we can smile, acknowledge people, listen, take time to chat, be kind…etc. This is hospitality!

    Now when the extravert and the introvert come home we both can recharge, rest and be refreshed…guilt free.

    Thank you

    August 15th, 2015 4:34
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      ChristinDitchfield

      What a great way to do ministry — with your extraverted Labrador to help lead the way! Love it!

      August 16th, 2015 17:05
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    Texas Aggie Mom

    Thank you for this beautiful insight, which seems to give me permission to feel less guilty about my circumstances and their impact on my ability to show hospitality. (Working three jobs, caring for mother with Alzheimer’s, etc.) I am very much an extrovert, but my mother wants NO ONE around, even on holidays. I read all the wonderful books and have learned so much from them, especially Myquillin’s “Nesting Place,” but I just can’t seem to get there from here. Some day, my fantasy family will gather around my table and we will invite all the strays and orphans in our lives to spend a holiday with us. The few times I’ve managed to pull this off, I have lost the company of my family for the day, but feel like I gained much more by hosting those with nowhere else to go. I have a renewed sense of my own backyard as a mission field, and will strive to be more aware of ways I can touch those I encounter in a hospitable way. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

    August 15th, 2015 20:42
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      ChristinDitchfield

      Sometimes it’s really hard, isn’t it — when we have the heart, but not the freedom or the opportunity? But I love “backyard as mission field” phrase… I believe the “little things done with great love” absolutely count. And there were several instances in Scripture where Jesus affirmed the value of ministering first to the physical and spiritual needs of our own families (with the Pharisees, but also with the man in Mark 5 http://wp.me/p4SVe3-DX ). And then “someday”… seasons do change. I’m praying that eventually, in God’s good time, your dream of gathering strays and orphans (along with your family) will be a reality!

      August 16th, 2015 17:03
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  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene

    humor and truth, yes! for what it’s worth, this is my favorite line: “No matter how low-budget or simple the recipe, you can’t invite your Sunday School class to your bedroom for dinner on a Saturday.”

    begins in the heart –
    grace, hospitality, love
    not defined by walls

    August 25th, 2015 13:42
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  • Avatar
    Mattie
    https://twitter.com/Jeff

    I see you don’t monetize your website, i’v got idea how to earn some extra cash using
    one simple method, just search in g00gle for: ruthiezx’s method

    April 12th, 2016 19:46
    Reply
    21
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    Kim Guzzardo

    Thank you thank you. Due to lack of finances, chronic illness, known for being not a good cook and being single I just figured I was doomed to loneliness. This must have been written for me

    May 6th, 2016 16:42
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