“It was not perfect, and it was not fancy, but it was my own very first house, and then our first house together. I wanted so badly to fill it with laughter and memories and celebration that I willed myself to overlook what it lacked, and threw open the door at every opportunity.” — from “Bread & Wine” by Shauna Neiquist
400 square feet. That was it. Mine and Jon’s first home, one unit of a four-plex apartment building in Ruston, LA. In that tiny space, we hosted a Cajun dinner for 30+ out-of-town guests a couple of days before our wedding. And after a long work week, which included graduate school for me, we’d trade off with several other couples hosting Friday Night Supper Club. Here, we’d try new recipes, play board games and cards, and stay up talking until the wee hours of the morning. We were thankful that Saturday was not a workday, so we could sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast with copious amounts of coffee, which was shipped to us by his mom from Seattle because Starbucks wasn’t sold in our stores.
During the week, piano and voice students tromped up the stairs and trickled into our tiny front living space for their weekly lessons. And although it wasn’t much larger than a sardine can, we also hosted out-of-town guests, who slept on the sofa bed. We inherited it after a friend purchased a new one. Before that we didn’t have a couch, so we were happy to be the third family to show it some love. In fact, we didn’t have a dining room table either. That is until our landlord, a gentleman from our church, asked if we’d like to have an extra one that he had found in storage. When Jon brought it home, I was thrilled! Finally, a place to sit and eat dinner!
To some, our first home wasn’t ideal. It would have never been photographed for House Beautiful. In fact, it was so small, you had to sit sideways on the commode in order to close the bathroom door. (Lemme tell ya, that was fun! NOT!) Still, we invited people over because we wanted to connect, to share, and to show hospitality.
Size didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now.
Throughout the years and in the many places in which we have lived, we continued to open up our home to others. Realizing all we have is God’s, and we are merely stewards. Before we knew it, sharing a simple meal turned into opening up our home to others in more significant ways. That extra basement bedroom that we rarely saw, much less used, became a home away from home for several college and seminary students for months (or years) at a time. And they, in turn, became part of our family and remain so to this day!
In our home, we throw birthday parties and host piano recitals, Thanksgiving dinners and poker nights, large-scale dinner parties and last-minute get- togethers. We aren’t fancy or formal, even if we do set the table with the fine china and silver. We are just plain ole us. You see, I am from the south, and inviting people over (or just dropping by) is engrained into my very being. It’s just what we do. Not to show off, but to share a meal, a story, and our very lives.
Where we live now, our door is open to piano and voice students, friends and neighbors, and especially to out-of-town family and friends who come to visit. And, quite regularly, we continue to have folks over for meals. But we’ve noticed we receive fewer and fewer invites into other people’s homes. We’ve often wondered why this is the case. Is it us? Some say it’s just the area where we live. Other say it’s because people are too busy. Personally, I think it’s about comparison. Comparing one another’s homes, decor, and even the food that is served, instead of being confident in who we are, where we live and what we have to offer others.
The size of your house doesn’t matter. Oh, and how you decorate, it doesn’t matter either. And, seriously, if there’s dust on the furniture, well, that just tells me you’ve had more important things to attend to than making sure your house can pass the “white glove test”. And please DO NOT stress over what to serve. Heck, if you show up at my house you might get pizza served on china dishes, or Cajun gumbo served in paper bowls with plastic spoons. And watch out! If you have been over to my house more than once, I just might serve you leftovers. You never know!
Size doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that we regularly practice hospitality, but not the Martha Stewart version. Instead, let’s develop our own unique way. Opening up our hearts and homes to others. Where we not only share a meal, but we share our stories. Connecting at a level that’s below the surface. Moving beyond talking about the weather to topics that really count. Daring to reveal who we really are behind the masks that we so often wear. And then, being okay with it. All of it.