Ah, the holidays.
Does it bring you sensations of good food, friends gathered by the fire sipping apple cider and holiday cheer? Or when you see the holidays coming do you see increased traffic while you shop for Christmas and frantically pulling your house together for guests while simply trying to survive until January 2?
My guess is that most of us want the former, but we’re doing the latter.
Typically this time of year you’re opening your home more frequently than usual to guests who will stay longer than usual. And this is stressing you out.
I get it, I do.
I struggled for a while (and still do occasionally) with wanting my house to look like the pages of a Southern Living magazine around the holidays. I wanted to impress those people who walked into my house by carrying them away in the magic of the holiday season because of the way my house looked. But in focusing so much on the clean house, the perfect decorations and the delectable food – I lost something.
And I could feel it when the holidays had passed.
There was this shallow feeling. A feeling of being unsatisfied. I wanted a do-over – I wanted to go back and try again to figure out what I had done wrong. Maybe I had decided on the wrong decorating theme. Or maybe it was that one particular dish that didn’t turn out just right. Or maybe my lack of clean towels for guests got me in a funk.
No…no. That wasn’t it.
So, what was it? It took me a while to put my finger on it, but God was gracious enough to spell it out for me, practically in sky-writing, so I wanted to share with you the one thing you need to know before hosting or entertaining guests in your home this holiday season.
Let me provide you with some background real quick.
Several years ago (pre-kids of our own), my husband and I served as a host home for DNOW (in short, this is basically a youth retreat where students stay in homes across their community instead of traveling to a retreat center). We were slated to host 7th grade girls.
Nothing could go wrong there, right??? I digress…
Anyway, my husband and I were running around like mad trying to prep the house – cleaning showers, toilet bowls, vacuuming, making several runs to the grocery store…just doing everything we could think possible to prepare our house for these girls.
The day before the retreat weekend, I was sitting in my office running through my mental checklist making sure we had everything ready for the weekend when suddenly the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to my heart saying this, “Kate, you’ve spent all this time preparing your house for this weekend, but what have you done to prepare your heart for the weekend?”
I was stunned.
I sat there and stared out my office window not believing what had just happened. I realized I had done nothing. I hadn’t prayed over these girls. I hadn’t prayed about how my house could be a vessel for God’s love, grace and mercy. I hadn’t considered how God wanted to use my home for His glory.
And this is what I want to share with you friends – the one thing you need to know before hosting visitors in your home this holiday season:
Hospitality is more about the state of your heart than the state of your house.
The state of your heart matters. I have two great friends – one whose home looks a lot like mine – messy. Then I have another friend whose house is always spotless, everything is in its place. I enjoy going to both houses and you want to know why? It’s because of how I feel when I enter their homes. When I step through their doors, I know that I am valued, cared for and loved. Their hospitality extends beyond a cup of coffee, but reaches out to my heart. Their houses may look completely different in terms of tidiness, but that doesn’t matter to me because their hearts are what make their homes.
So friends, I want to encourage you as we embark on the holiday season this year. Messy house or clean house, it ultimately doesn’t matter – that’s not the most important thing this time of year. Give yourself permission to put down the Pledge and Swiffer and instead focus on your company. Spend time with them, be with them, abide together. You won’t regret it.
Because I can promise you this: your guests want to be loved more than they want a clean sink.