Company is coming! I love having house guests! I’m so excited I can barely stand it.
She’s twenty something, a nursing student in search of sunshine and rest. She’s a college kid from the Midwest; she’s smart and beautiful and busy. Really busy, because when she’s not in a class or studying for a class she’s working as a tech at the hospital or coaching the high school girls’ volleyball team. When she sleeps it’s usually at someone else’s home where she’s pet and/or house sitting. She’s my second cousin…she’s family and I love her. Jill is coming to stay with us for a few days! I am giddy. And maybe a little crazy with preparation.
I have it on good authority that she hasn’t seen the floor in her bedroom in a while (sorry, Jill)…that bit shared with me confidentially and now known by all of my gentle readers. But seriously, isn’t that normal for college students who are constantly on the go?
I only mention that because I spent the weekend in what my children refer to as “get out of the way, mom’s getting ready for company” mode. I’ve been known to redecorate, reconfigure and even remodel a day or two before house guests arrive. Limited only by the budget, my imagination and the number of hours in a weekend, I prep and primp and replace after a detailed inventory and review of the ENTIRE house (inside and out) with a most critical eye. Suddenly the bath towels that have been perfectly fine for us are not fit to dry the car off. The dish cloths are embarrassing and every single room needs paint touch up. No detail is too small: the flowers at the front door – really, poinsettias still in the planter in March? That will never do! Off to Lowe’s for geraniums.
On Saturday, I precariously balanced on the edge of the tub in the master bath, pliers in hand, attempting to remove the shower head. For weeks I’d been walking past the new one as it lay ignored in the dining room on a seldom-used chair. Suddenly, Jill is coming, and while she’ll never even use that shower and would likely not even notice the box in the dining room if left there, I was compelled to risk life, limb and an emergency plumbing call because “everything” needed to be done in preparation for her arrival.
That’s when it hit me that I was going there…again. In the course of well-intentioned and needed preparation I had jumped onto the crazy cycle of “Everything has to be perfect if people are coming”.
I’m darn good at house cleaning, likely because of years of experience. I was mentored by one of the best, my dear mother. She taught me how to deep clean; and until the day she died, she declared to me “No one can clean my house like you!” That’s a heavy mantle, my friends, but one that I gladly assumed.
Only recently have I realized that my compulsion for clean and tidy is more about my desire for approval than health and safety. Factor in my tendency to be a pleaser and the result is me perched on the edge of the tub performing plumbing repairs, setting up the perfect storm of disappointment.
Whether at my hubby for not recognizing the many things that I think obviously need to be addressed or in my guests for not “appreciating” the details arranged for them, it will happen. If my motivation is flawed, every interaction will be spoiled. God forbid!
According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, hospitable is defined as being “given to generous and cordial reception of guests,” “offering a pleasant and sustaining environment,” and “readily receptive: open, open to new ideas.”
So often when I prepare for guests, I focus on making our home ready for our guests. It truly is important for bathrooms to be clean and bedding to be fresh; I’m certain that Jill will be glad I cleared the cobwebs in the guest room.
But when considering the full definition of hospitable, I am challenged to evaluate how inviting and welcoming I am as a person. Too many times, I’ve worn myself out physically and abused my body (and at times my family) in the preparation of the house only to realize that my heart was in shambles. The more important aspect of hospitality is that our home be a place of peace and rest, a place where guests feel at ease, valued and welcome.
I am also becoming aware of the need to trust my house guests with my home and myself just as we are. Our guests love us; they are drawn to our home. That, my friends, is a blessing.
Yes, there will be special touches designed to convey, without words, to our sweet Jill “We are so glad you chose us to spend your Spring break with; we love you and we want to care for you”. I’m learning that practicing hospitality requires inviting friends into our imperfection; it’s trusting them to look past our spotted glass and stained furniture to our hearts. For a recovering approval-seeking perfectionist, that’s a big leap of faith, friends.
Intentionally preparing my heart for guests is new to me; I’m not as natural at it as I am the house cleaning/planning part. Praying for them, and asking God to give us opportunities to speak love and grace into their lives seems a good place to start, so that’s my plan. And flowers…fresh flowers and a cute little card on her pillow with the wireless password, because, well, my name is Lorraine. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I just love taking good care of my guests.
“So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:8 NIV