I once walked into a house I thought was on a Christmas tour of homes and wandered through several rooms admiring the décor before I realized in embarrassment that I was at the wrong address. Fortunately, the home owners were hosting a party at the time, so I was able to slip away quietly without making too much of a scene.
But the reverse has also happened: Another year I visited a home that really was on the tour, but had a hard time shaking the feeling that I’d come to the wrong place. It was almost as if the owners weren’t expecting us: “You’re here for the Open House? Tonight? I thought that thing was next week!”
Not that the home wasn’t lovely - it was. But, unlike most of the private residences I’d toured during these holiday fundraisers, this one had dirty dishes in the sink, newspapers scattered on the floor and sticky little handprints all over the bathroom mirrors. In other words, this house looked lived in.
Moreover, the folks who lived in it were still there. They had not been spirited away for the duration of the tour, as was the usual custom. The owners of all those sticky little fingers spent the evening sprawled across three sofas in the living room watching television, seemingly oblivious to the steady stream of people parading through their home.
I’m not sure where their mother was that night, but had I spotted her, I would have shaken her hand, for she did me a huge favor (and possibly many of the other ticket holders, as well): She demonstrated unselfconscious hospitality. If she were worried about what others might think of her housekeeping, it didn’t show, and it certainly didn’t keep her from opening her home for a good cause.
I used to get really uptight whenever I was expecting company. I’d clean and scrub and polish and organize (and sometimes even sew and paint and landscape) for weeks in advance, snapping at anyone and everyone who got in my way or undid my work. I was much more of a Martha than a Mary, and I consequently missed out on many opportunities for sweet fellowship, joyful service and gentle encouragement.
But over the years, God has changed this attitude. Maybe that home show assured me the world would not come screeching to a halt if I opened my house to guests when it was less than picture-perfect. Maybe adding eight or nine more children to the mix convinced me that having a picture-perfect home is not my highest goal, anyway.
I still love to entertain, and I still love to tackle home-improvement projects before I do, racing the clock to see how much I can finish before the big event. The difference is that now I do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart - and a lot of helpers, young and old, at my side. And if the guests arrive before we finish loading the dishwasher (or planting the pansies or painting the baseboards), we leave the work for another day, grateful for what we got accomplished, but happy to take a break and share fellowship with good friends who, after all, have come to see us, not our house.
Jennifer Flanders is currently racing to see how fast she can empty the boxes out of her garage after a recent move, but gladly leaves it for later when new neighbors or other guests show up on her doorstep. For more tips on hospitality and entertaining, visit www.flandersfamily.info .