As I’ve mentioned earlier, our finances aren’t in the best of shape. Extremely sporadic paychecks make it difficult to budget—how do you know how much you can spend on something like food if you have no idea when the next check is coming? Then there’s the matter of tithing. You can’t tithe on zero.
Last January, I wrote about how to give to God when we’re broke. I mentioned giving away things we already own, and giving our time. There’s a third way we’re currently giving to God that I overlooked when I wrote that article, even though it’s one we’ve been doing all along: we can practice hospitality.
Desperation Leadership Academy (DLA) is our church’s year-long, full time program for young adults aged 18 to 25. As our website proclaims to prospective students, “It is one year of spiritual training that will put you in an environment to accelerate your love for Jesus, His church, and a world that desperately needs Him.”
Since these students come from all over the country (and some years, even from overseas), they need a place to live here in Colorado. To make the program more affordable, the students are housed by members of the congregation, called “home sponsors,” who sign up to provide room and board for one or two kids from September through July.
[To our recent house guests: I wrote this before you arrived! Really! We loved having you. Please come back soon!]
We live in Colorado Springs, tourist mecca and home of a zillion non-profits. We’re empty nesters, with two spare bedrooms. Put those together, and it’s easy to see why we’re the top “hotel” choice for many of our ministry friends.
Mind you, we love having visitors. We get to see old friends who live out of town, and we’ve made numerous new friends by offering a room to people we don’t yet know. Paul admonishes believers to practice hospitality (maybe because we need practice to get it right), and we find it a joy and a blessing.
Not all house guests are created equal. We’ve had guests so wonderful that we cried when they had to leave. We have also entertained Guest-zilla—you probably have too. Here’s a few suggestions on how to behave so that “Come back soon!” accompanies your departure.
The calendar says November, Thanksgiving is two weeks away, and Christmas isn’t far behind. For years you’ve extended invitations to everyone in your family, and no one has come to visit. But this year…. Your sister just announced that she and her husband are bringing their eight kids. Five minutes later your in-laws called to say they’re finally free this year. Your other sister found out everyone was coming, and didn’t want to miss the excitement. And by the way, can she bring her (humongous) dog? And her boyfriend?
At first you were excited about having a family reunion… but now reality is setting in. Where will you put them all? How will you help them feel welcome?
Pete and I once successfully hosted twelve family members (in addition to our nuclear family of four) in our three-bedroom house… for an entire week. (Five more people stayed with a neighbor, but ate with us.) It would easy now that our kids are grown and on their own—we have two dedicated guest rooms plus another bed in my home office. But we used to live in an area where housing prices were very high, and houses were very small. Where did we put our overnight guests then?
The phone rings about three o’clock on a busy afternoon. Pete wants to bring someone home for dinner. Is it all right with me? With a hurried look at my to-do list, and a quick prayer for help, I agree. He hangs up happy, and I start wracking my brain. I’m suddenly feeding someone I’ve never met before. What should I serve?
This is actually a pretty common scenario at our house. Pete collaborates with ministries all over the world, and he frequently invites out-of-town visitors for a home-cooked meal. As hostess, I want to make these guests feel welcome, while filling them with good food. With years of practice, I’ve learned some helpful tips, which I now pass on to you.
For the most part, you can serve your company the same food you’d normally eat. It is their part to be gracious and thankful for whatever you offer. Don’t feel pressured into putting on a special feast, or spending a lot on expensive ingredients. Not everyone is a gourmet chef.
Guests are coming! Does that inspire you with thoughts of time spent with friends or family? Or does that phrase strike terror into your domestic heart?
I grew up in a house where guests were a Big Deal. We only had dinner guests a few times a year, and I can’t remember ever having anyone spend the night with us, even though we had plenty of space.
When guests were coming for dinner, my mom would pull out her tried-and-true menu of baked ham, a convenience food version of au gratin potatoes (I called them o’rotten potatoes!) and frozen peas. There’s nothing wrong with having a “signature” meal… but every time? While her cooking was perfectly fine, my mother lacked confidence, and this was a sure bet.