Monday, March 5, 2012

Houseguests: Preparing for them, then enjoying them

Enjoying company is a little easier for me these days. Now that I avoid overhostessing, things are better. There is still a tremendous amount of energy required to prepare for house guests; even a generally clean household needs a few extras before guests can comfortably be absorbed into the home.

I feel like I have read a lot about Christian hospitality and how our attitudes are supposed to be welcoming and how we are to show love to travelers and friends by opening our homes to others. We read in the Bible about how the early church met in homes, about how Chloe (wasn't it Chloe?) opened her home so believers could meet, learn, and worship together. And then there was that couple in the Old Testament who had Elisha over to eat and sleep often on his travels through their village. As I prepared for house guests this time, I thought about that couple. They really were not just fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants hospitable, they were organized. As you recall, they built Elisha a room onto the side of their house, so that he would have his own special place to stay whenever he needed it. Wow. Now that's hospitality.

Hospitality is hard, at least for me. People don't talk about this aspect of hospitality, at least not while I'm in earshot. Maybe no one wants to seem unfriendly, so they gloss over all the upheaval hospitable behavior can cause. We need to be hospitable anyway, because God told us to be. While I was preparing for guests, here are some things I did:
-Planned our flexible menu and grocery shopped accordingly.
-Baked some breakfast treats that are fast "before rushing off to the 8a.m. church service" food options for everyone.
-Talked with my toddler about our guests to prepare her.
-Moved our potty training area to a guest-free zone.
-Put a welcome sign up on the door of the guest area, along with some welcoming toddler masterpieces.
- removed often-used items out of the guest room, in our case this consisted of baby care and baby clothing items
- gave the guest room an extra dusting, sweeping, and overall freshening-up.
- Washed the quilt and linens on the guest bed and brought the air mattress out of storage.
- Washed the guest bathroom really well, after removing all the children's bath toys and towels from it.
-Set out fresh towels and new bars of soap and extra TP.
-Prepared the dining area for guests.

So while I did all that, over the course of the week which led up to the arrival of the guests, I thought about how truly hard it is to do all of that in addition to keeping up with the needs of our household and our family. Because that little list I just wrote doesn't cover any of my usual must-do housekeeping activities, and all of those household cycles (laundry, dishes, meals, childcare, joyfully repeat) continued throughout all that preparation.

And people ask homemakers what we do all day! *smile and chuckle*

Anyway, the act of opening our homes to others requires work, organization, creativity, and then when the guests come we need to show them patience and kindness and attention (yet not overhostess, of course) and enjoy them.

It seemed like a great deal of the preparation involved physically removing our own things from the guests' space, anticipating what their needs would be, and providing for them accordingly. It felt like an object lesson, like I was learning that hospitality is putting someone else's needs first.

So now the guests have been with us a couple of days and I'm realizing that despite the enormous
amount of work, it is so great to have 2 new personalities in our daily routine. They have transformed our household into a place with a lot more laughter and a lot more goofing around, it is really enjoyable. The visit is a treat for all of us. I am glad they have come.

Now I'm off to go prepare for a company dinner and a company breakfast while the little ones nap.

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