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Embracing Generosity and Hospitality
August 23, 2018
This subject has been on my heart for the past year or so, and it seems as if every where I turn, the idea of being generous and hospitable is presented to me in such a beautiful, hard-to-hear, remarkable way. I figure I'm not the only one out there that struggles with these concepts and my hope is that this will resonate with some of you. I also hope if that if you are really good at either of these gifts, you will share with me how you practice them!
Throughout my life, being generous and hospitable has not come easily. I can remember crying and yelling at my sister because I didn't want to share and be generous with my time and toys--especially when I was with my friends. She would come into the room when I was playing with a friend and she would try to play with us (I mean...we were cool, so I can see why) and I would get so mad because she was the baby sister and MY friend was over and MY friend was not HER friend and MY toys were not HER toys...
(We are actually friends...it was just a phase I went through, I promise...I mean, look how happy we are in this picture)
If you're an older sibling you may understand this sentiment.
As time went on, I began to become possessive of other things--food, clothes, time, energy, thoughts, emotions. I would hesitate to share them because of a variety of things: fear, lack of control, selfishness, doubt, tiredness, and simply not enough time.
So let's just say embracing generosity and hospitality, which I believe go hand in hand, is stinking hard. My brain, my body, and my spirit are so used to closing up, sticking to what is mine, not losing control of resources, time and energy.
College was the first time I realized I needed to embrace generosity and hospitality. It was the first time I shared a space with people I didn't know as well as my family. I found myself trying to protect my space by separating my stuff as much as I could from my roommates. I would be hesitant to embrace others or allow them into my space because I realized that would be tiring. If I had them over to my room or offered my time, I lost out on things that would benefit me like: sleep, alone time, food I could eat later, and emotional energy reserves.
Gradually, though, throughout the three years of living in a dorm, God began to break apart the bonds of selfishness and fear and I found such joy in not holding on so tightly to what I have. My roommates were instrumental in this process. It felt like they were so willing to give up their resources. Whether it was time or food or clothing they gave it to me without hesitation. I realized that yes, it may have been somewhat difficult for them, but because they cared about me, they extended that love through giving of their time.
I began to feel love for people I barely knew. I started giving away the snacks in my backpack, putting down my school work for a friend who just needed to talk, cooking meals with my own food for others, inviting others to have coffee with me during busy weeks...and I was not in want. I still had snacks to pack, time to finish my homework and practice, and sleep.
I learned and am still learning that generosity and hospitality are not practices that cause you to lose anything. In reality, you are giving away things that have been given to you by our Father. He is the one who has given you your abilities, your character, your emotions, your resources, your salvation--He is the ultimate Provider.
After three years of "warming up" to the concept of generosity and hospitality, God gave Andrew and I the gift of a relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend and then, eventually, marriage. In case you don't know, Andrew LOVES people. Like...LOVES them. He is basically a puppy when people come over--he sits by the door and when they arrive he gets so excited. He's adorable! When we got married, I knew things would change in a really good way. I knew Andrew would want people over a lot more than I would. I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety--I mean, if we're going to be hospitable shouldn't we have a nice house where everyone has a place to sit comfortably and have a three course dinner with the best ingredients and we definitely need to have a super clean home so people think we have everything together.
Here are some things I've learned about hospitality from experience as well as from listening to others who do hospitality well:
1. Hospitality is not perfection.
You can not expect perfection from imperfect people. Just can't happen.
2. It is about embracing people. Laughter. Tears. Conversation. Time you could have spent doing something for yourself.
People are amazing. Truly. I have been inspired and amazed at the stories of the people who I have spent time with--they are wonderfully beautiful and unique.
3. Hospitality is not about you.
4. Hospitality is not entertainment.
I know it is really easy to feel as if you have to have a ton of nice flatware, tablecloths and dishes as well as a nice dinner to serve guests and then on top of that have lots of things to do so they don't get bored, etc. But, if all you have is a couple coffee mugs that are more than a decade old and some good tea/coffee brewed and a couple chairs...that is good. Hospitality is about relationships--not just having a good time.
You can not be hospitable without being generous. I have come to realize this and I think it is so beautiful. Maybe you don't serve your finest meal on your finest dishes--but did the person you commune with feel loved? Valued? Worthy in the sight of God? I sure hope so.
And (I'm sure God is chuckling about this one) my job has helped me learn about generosity and hospitality, too. Scriptures about gardening have just made SO MUCH MORE sense to me. I don't mean to keep talking about my flower farm job but dang...I love it.
I was reading in 2 Corinthians and this verse came up...
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
>2 Corinthians 2: 6
In case you have no idea what sowing or reaping is don't worry...I didn't really either until I started sowing and reaping myself. And boy...let me tell you...both are HARD. Sowing is essentially planting the flowers. In order to make sure that you get some plants to germinate and grow into healthy plants, you have to plant at least two or three seeds together because some may not germinate because they are bad seeds. And planting is no easy task. To make sure the seeds germinate properly, you need to make sure they are planted in the correct environment (not too much sun for some and a lot of sun for others, cool soil for some and warmer soil for others...the list goes on and on), and then you need to make sure they are covered by a layer of soil. To plant you need to bend over, crouch, or kneel--all taxing on your body in some way--and plant by hand all while trying not to crush the seed and ruin the possibility of a beautiful plant. THEN you have to water them...daily.
Reaping is essentially harvesting. To put this in perspective, to cut flowers for a small flower farm it takes me and my boss about 7 hours to cut enough flowers for 250 bouquets each week, plus extra orders that come in. Yep.
Both processes require thought, time, and energy. And, if you are sloppy in sowing, the harvest will be small.
It's the same in our generosity (and hospitality). If we are sloppy in the sowing of our resources, time, energy, and thought, the harvest--aka: relationships, joy, love, laughter, meaningful conversations, lasting memories--will be few.
And what's crazy is that, sometimes, in our generosity, we don't see the harvest. We may give our money or time to a cause or person and we may never see the end result. We may never know if our conversation or our work "paid off" in the long run--but that doesn't matter, does it? If we trust that God has prompted us in our generosity, we do not need to be concerned about the harvest--how it turns out.
Gosh. I love it.
Embracing hospitality and generosity is hard, but if God has been generous to us, it is my joy to give to others. Not to gain fulfillment, but to show others who God is and to give thanks to God for what He has done for me...because what I do should not be a reflection of myself, but the God who created me.
Practical Ways to Embrace Generosity and Hospitality
1. Say "no" to the voice that says "no"
We all (unless you are gifted with the gift of generosity) have been given opportunities to give something, and, let's be honest, we want to say no. We don't have time. Our bank account is too low. We're too tired. Say no to that voice. Literally. Do the opposite of whatever is saying no--even if you think it's still a small thing (like giving $5 instead of $50)--you still did it!
2. Invite people into your space.
Invite people over to your house! If that's too daunting, start by inviting them to get coffee with you or a meal at a restaurant. If you're really adventurous, host a game night or a pitch-in meal with your friends! Super fun.
3. Share your time and thoughts.
I think these are ways that I often forget I can be generous. Sitting with a friend when they need someone to listen or just being with them or going to a friend's athletic event or music concert is a great way to be generous with your time. A way to be generous with your thoughts is to make time to pray for each of your friends and spend time really thinking about what they need--do they need a hug? A note of encouragement? What about a text saying you're thinking of them? Use your thinking time on others' needs.
How are you generous and hospitable?
What are some practical ways you embrace hospitality and generosity?