Oh, how VERY glad I am to have my husband home!
He and 15 others from our church just completed a short term mission assignment in El Salvador. They came home exhausted and exuberant! The vocational building project we started some six years ago is almost complete.
While he was away, I had the joy of hosting several people in our home for various reasons.
During our first trip to El Salvador in 2011, our original team assignment had to be scraped. We were quickly re-assigned to work with a struggling little church positioned literally on the side of a mountain.
Within just a few days, our hearts were knit for eternity with the young pastors, their children and the beautiful people of that mountain community. There was no government assistance for the families trying to scratch a living from the uncooperative soil. That meant no water lines, no sewer system and sparse electrical service.
Yet in spite of the harsh living conditions, we found them to be some of the most hospitable people we'd ever met. "Mi casa, es su casa!" (Thanks to Margret Register, my eighth grade Spanish teacher, for that line.)
We tend to hear that popular phrase and imagine some sprawling hacienda with Antonio Banderas waving to us from the grand staircase of the entryway, "My home is your home!" But on the mountain of Portellious it has a different connotation.
"Welcome! Would you like a glass of rain water collected by my cistern?"
"Have a tortilla, won't you? She's frying another one on that stone in the lean-to kitchen now."
"That's a long walk up the mountain. Sit with me a while on this wooden bench. My husband built it."
"Oh, you need a toilet? Yes, my outhouse is over there."
"Mi casa es su casa!"
You get the idea.
During one of our hikes up the mountain, we experienced a torrential downpour. The rain started just after we'd arrived at the home of one of the church members. They gladly made room for our team to join them. We crowded together onto the narrowly covered areas outside their sleeping room and the shelter that served as a kitchen.
They spoke no English and we knew only a few phrases in Spanish. But we all smiled and sang for one another while their baby slept and the chickens clucked and the storm roared. I left there feeling I had been hosted like royalty.
It gave me a new view on hospitality!
I grew up living in a house that was open to strangers and friends alike almost all the time. Mom never worried much about her carpet or curtains or special dishes. She just wanted people to feel welcome. And they did!
Over the years, I somehow began to focus more on appearance than on atmosphere when entertaining. And that subtle shift caused me to stop inviting people to our home at random times.
They could only come when I'd had plenty of notice. Prepared a full meal. Sanitized the guest bath. Touched up the living room paint job. The list went on and on.
But this year, Frank and I made a decision to change that. Now granted, with just the two of us living here it is much easier to keep things tidy. And I must be honest, we also have more room to hide a mess quickly when necessary.
Even so, we've decided to keep the priority on enjoying the company instead of impressing the company. It makes for a much more relaxed visit.
There was a season in my life when I would hand guests a set of clean sheets and say, "These are for the bed you'll be sleeping on in that room. Welcome!" I don't have to do that anymore. But I don't rush for the paintbrush, either.
And we've discovered there's a hidden secret about hospitality that our friends in El Salvador know well. When you open your heart and home to visitors, it breaks you out of the ugly prison of selfishness and moves you into the beauty of kindness. That is a move worth pursuing!
Hope you find a little something to ponder for yourself as we approach the 2017 Season of Celebrating.
What about you? Did you grow up living in the house that was open to all the neighbor kids? Do you enjoy hosting surprise guests? Or do you prefer more notice? I'd love to hear your take on hospitality in the comment section below.