Last Thursday morning at about 8:45, our doorbell rang.
Startled, I sped to the front door to answer; and as I had just put our daughter down for her morning nap, my arms were uncharacteristically empty. Through the window I could see that our caller was not a delivery man, as I'd assumed it would be, but it was a new acquaintance of mine. It was my neighbor's mother, a small gracious lady from central Asia who has been staying next door for about six months. During these special months she has been household support to her daughter, who has just given birth to their firstborn.
I opened the door and smiled, a bit embarrassed that she'd caught me in my robe and slippers. Certainly I am not accustomed to receiving guests while in nightclothes. I welcomed her and motioned for her to come in -- fully expecting her to see that I was not prepared and excuse herself until a more convenient time. However, she came right in and thanked me, and as is their custom, immediately took off her shoes. And as she did so I saw that she was close to tears and very much needed a friend.
How could I be a friend to her? We don't speak the same first language, and we didn't have either of our usual translators with us this time, and we didn't have my dear baby daughter nearby to serve as a sort of common-ground conversation piece....and I was in my robe! But, I just took a deep breath and ushered her into the living room, glad it was in great shape and silently thanking all the Lady Lydia posts I'd read about keeping things ready for guests *see http://www.homeliving.blogspot.com* Quickly I whisked out a box of tissues and tried my best to be a lady (despite my robe!)
This dear woman really just needed a hug and a listening ear. She didn't stay very long, and it didn't seem to matter too much that we didn't always understand one another's exact words due to our language barrier. From what I understood, she was simply overwhelmed by her impending departure; it would be difficult to leave her daughter and son-in-law and only grandchild. These are universal concerns, there is nothing in that emotion that is unique to her culture, nothing in my culture that prevents me from understanding. My heart was heavy for her, and I think she saw the comprehension on my face.
After she left, I held our guestbook - which I'd had her sign - and thought about what had happened. It was a small thing. Yet, I was glad to learn that this acquaintance of mine counted me as a friend, and that our home appealed to her as a place where she would be welcomed at quarter to nine in the morning for a little cry and some kind words.
Hospitality: that word crosses my mind all the time, it is a goal of mine, something I want to offer people and so often I don't know how to make it happen. It intimidates me and I end up being too formal or - perhaps worse, I postpone asking someone over for tea or lunch or a visit, and instead I wait for circumstances to be ideal. I glanced up at the foyer wall to a cross stitch sampler I made. It reads Friends and Neighbors Welcome. How much more authentic that early morning visit was than so many of my other attempts at hostessing hospitable gatherings!
When the pastor prayed at our wedding in 2007, he blessed the marriage with a prayer that included these lines:
"Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen."
This line especially came to mind as I mulled over the visit that morning: it seemed like our home had been deemed a haven of blessing and peace. I also remembered how the girls at one of my bridal showers had all surrounded me and prayed that our home would be a haven, as well.
I really would like our home to be a haven every day - for my own little family and for those who visit us. It seemed to me that any home can only be a true haven by God's help and our cooperation. What do you think? How do you authentically prepare your homes for guests? Not just the outward trappings of being prepared, which are of course necessary and important, but what is it about the haven-like homes you have visited that makes them havens?