I am not by nature an accomplished hostess nor do I even particularly enjoy the role. (Did I say that out loud?!) Only since Cheryl began writing her latest series have I even begun to think why that is. It didn't take long to figure it out: my expectations are always set way too high. As Cheryl states so clearly, "hospitality is not to impress, but to bless." I have been too busy trying to impress and it does not work. At all. Nada. Nope.
So it is true that when that hospitality gene fell from the tree, it didn't land on me. However, it did land on both my mother and my sister. They were often in cahoots together on matters of hospitality beginning with my sister's church youth group when she was a teen. (I was already off over the trail to college as I am nearly four years older than she.) They planned amazing weekly events with casserole suppers and delicious rolls and biscuits and delightful desserts. Everyone wanted to attend. It was a time of great growth for the youth group. Teens were coming from all over the place. Great things happened and continue to happen to this day as a result of those meetings all those years ago. That alone taught me that Hospitality is important.
Since I am unable to point to my own winning ways with hospitality, I'll share what I've observed watching my mother and sister in action followed by placing myself in the role of "one who can always serve even as a bad example."
First of all, my mother planned. She wrote lists. She pondered and considered the event well in advance. Then she began baking and cleaning in advance. Finally, she made sure that she was bathed, dressed, and ready for her guests in her own person. Have you ever arrived for an invitation only to find that the hostess is not there herself? I have. I may even have been that hostess. It's not a good feeling either way. Cheryl described this so well recently when she shared how her hosts all came out of the house to greet her family as they arrived. (I'd send John. ☺) So definitely leaving enough time for yourself before guests arrive is a very good thing.
Then there was the time my sister and I and her two daughters and my daughter and son had just arrived back at her home after church. We were going to do something that afternoon, probably of a crafting nature. My sister worked a full-time job as a maternity nurse plus a half-time job as a home-health nurse. Her home often reflected the fact that she was a very busy and exhausted woman. That day, there was clean laundry being sorted and folded on the living room furniture and piled all over the coffee table. A few laundry baskets were perched hither and yon.
We'd not been there for more than a few minutes when there was a knock on the door. Church friends had stopped by; they were a young couple with two little ones under four. My sister was delighted; I was appalled.
Sis set immediately to preparing lunch and what a scrumptious impromptu lunch it was, too. (I busied myself with setting folded clothes in baskets so the guests would have a place to sit down.) I still remember that Sis came into the living room carrying a tray of cheese and crackers, tea, fruit juice, cookies, a dish of salted almonds and set it right down on the coffee table along with folded facecloths and undies. If I hadn't been so mortified, I'd have broken down either crying or laughing hysterically. Probably the latter.
I ran into that couple last Christmas while out shopping and they mentioned that day as a favorite memory of theirs. Really? Hmmm... I should have asked why exactly, though I think I know. It was the fact that my sister was genuinely thrilled to have them in her home.
The truth about hospitality is that sometimes the unexpected happens. We can't totally prepare because we had not one clue that someone was going to drop in. (Personally, I do love those who call first.) Anyway, one of my best tips for that kind of hospitality is from Brenda at Coffee Tea Books and Me who has taught me to have a "hospitality pantry." In it are kept some cookies and some specialty items such as flavored teas and even some cappuccinos and hot chocolate. It has kept me from feeling totally unprepared even if you might find me with folded laundry on the dining table.
I am learning that genuine hospitality is a matter of the heart. Thanks, Cheryl, for all your hard work in putting together this series and this party. Please find more hospitality tips *here.*