The Risk of Hospitality (& Friendship) this Christmas: On Letting Others Into Our Life

{By Tammy Hendricksmeyer}   (For the month of December, during this busy time of the season, we want to give everyone a break to focus on family, friends, gatherings, and the Spirit of Christmas.  We’ll not be posting for the rest of the year. Can you even believe it? The rest of the year?? From us to you, we hope this month is full of refreshing and reflections, of the best kinds. Until we see you on the other side, may God reveal more of Himself to each of you this Advent.)

 

“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.” Faith Shift, by Kathy Escobar

 

Several years ago, on the heels of broken relationships, I took a small leap of faith. I had opened myself up to the scrutiny of that same community, but with a little help from a close friend, I invited others to my home. I was gathering women for an intimate time of fellowship and sharing. I had put it out there.

 

By this time, I had maneuvered small town friendships, ones that were here for the long haul, not sure where the chips would fall. We are a tricky sort, you and I. We can rub together with such a friction, seeming to scuff all the wrong places, it humbles us. We can be bitter too. But who has time for that?

 

In my head, before I actually made a practice of opening up my home, I had always thought it was one of my gifts. News flash: Hospitality runs the risk of rejection. There are no guarantees of reciprocation, much like friendship.

 

Being a reformed serial-mover, there’s an art to hospitality. And for me, it has been a vulnerable one that has taken me by surprise.

 

I live in smalltown U.S.A. By its sheer lack of size (and coziness), it also stretches the boundaries of those who live in it. We navigate relationships as carefully and gingerly as we can. There’s a good chance we’ll see each other standing in the checkout aisle or munching on oily chips from our loud, favorite Mexican restaurant. At some point, we move on with life, but hopefully, we do so with more care.

 

This particular year, I was making a comeback to community on a wider scale. Before that, I’d been cloistered away in a tiny circle, but time had come to enlargen it.

 

When I had openly announced my invitation for women to come over, take into consideration that I live in the backwoods, down past the poultry farm, past the Holstein cattle on the right and a friend’s dairy on the left. I quite literally, live outside the city gates, far from street lights. It was here, miles and miles from town, I had asked others to join me–in the middle of hay fields and one remote house at the end of a long gravel drive.

 

I had not been sure if anyone would show up. To travel to my house, one is making a commitment in both time and distance. So the day of the gathering, I was not surprised by the cancellations or those who wrote me personal notes about their inability to come.

 

I had loosened my grip on the outcome. I had resigned myself because risk makes God bigger than myself. Much bigger, in fact.

 

Even as I had rested in my surrender that day, I received a text from a friend’s unexpected notice that she would be there. Then the door bell had rang with another unexpected guest, followed by a phone call from someone who had got lost on the way. Before long, the room had filled up as I grabbed more chairs to seat everyone.

 

“You are the beloved. So take the time to be loved.”  A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman

 

We had eaten sandwiches, veggie chips, and fresh fruit. Pink lemonade had been served with mason jars. Cold water had chilled in my antique pressure-cooker pot. We had laughed at the zany ice breaker questions and a guest took our picture where we had smiled ear-to-ear when asked to say, “Dinner rolls!!” Our evident grins literally had beamed from the photo. A girl and her bread, unfortunately, knows the way of these things.

 

As part of a sharing prompt, we each had brought a unique item from home to talk about. Telling our stories, face to face, adds a whole other level of authenticity. Who knows if we’ll be town fodder, but the truth remains: God knows everything.

 

hospitality2

 

 

When we least expect it, God surprises us. When we are obedient to His calling, when we put down the Christian-ese and talk frankly, when we’re able to be honest with ourselves, we begin to heal in the process.

 

Our authentic lives, frees others. They let themselves off the hook, the one perfect hook they keep trying to hang from. It also lets us off the hook too. When we hide our true lives, because of shame and fear, we try in vain to live before others, instead of before God.

 

“Shame needs three thing to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgement.” The Gifts of Imperfection, by Bene Brown

 

A strange thing happens when we honestly speak out, any dark thing tied to it loosens its grip. It can’t hold up in the light. So we call it by name. We make it rise from the tomb, taking its grave wrappings off. We can live a-new and resurrected.

 

As we Advent our way to Christmas, hospitality beckons again. We run the risk of allowing others into our imperfect lives. If we’re doing this Christian thing right, time only reveals to us more of the true condition within our hearts. Being exposed with an intentional community, one willing to go there with us, tests our sensibilities and self-preservation.

 

But if we’re in the business of setting captives free, including ourselves, of walking past the fear of vulnerability, we make like fishermen–catch and release. Or in some cases, catch it and skin the carcass.

 

Hospitality is not math. Numbers do not define us. No one tallies a scorecard.

 

Instead, hospitality defines our willingness, our penchant for invitational offerings, our ability to allow Christ to host generosity in our hearts.

 

This could be our Christmas, a threshold of season’s greetings. We can allow others in, not only to our homes, but into our lives as well. We can give God the length and duration of relationships, as they come and go. Our risk only serves as a reminder of Who we serve.

 

So long as the day is today, we can fill the seats at our tables and pass the cup of communion. This season, we can offer the gift of fellowship. It may cost us something but we can give it freely anyway.

 

 

{photo credit: Tammy Hendricksmeyer}

 

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Copy of Copy of Copy (2) of DSC_0183Tammy has discovered writing is the rawest, scariest, frustratingly glorious, rewarding, and essential way to process life. She’s a renaissance woman who’s scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, scaled fortresses in Nuremburg, viewed the Eiffel Tower safely from the ground, and occasionally drives an old John Deere tractor in tim-buck-two. She’s a fighter for others to see their redemptive purpose, beauty, worth, and connection to a supernatural God. She’s the Founder and Curator for Outside The City Gates where she’s also a Co-Conspirator with a team of other writers. Her faith journey is found on her personal blog, or connect with her on  Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving & Give Back (When You’re Solo & Alone, But Even If You’re Not)

We’re grateful for you, the readers here at Outside the City Gate. May your Thanksgiving be full of thanks-living!

 

grateful living

 

 

 

For those without family or community this Thanksgiving:

 

Table for one, Please. A Solo Thanksgiving

 

Single, Alone at Thanksgiving? 6 Ways to Enjoy the Day

 

Restaurant chains that are open near you, just click one of the 3 links included here.

 

 

 

Books for the soul & Holiday reading (add your own good reads for us, in the comments):

 

Man: The Dwelling Place of God by A.W. Tozer

 

Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar

 

Coming Clean by Seth Haines

 

Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs

 

 

 

Some things that are right in the world. A positive look:

 

Good News (Or World in Perspective)

 

Transforming Refugee Camps from Places of Boredom to Hubs of Innovation

 

Thanksgiving and the Power of Gratitude in Business

 

 

And for the coming season:

 

 

 

 

Ways to give that give back (add your own ways to give back in the comments):

 

Shoes with a mission- The Root Collective.

 

 

Handmade jewelry for women that supports women- Vi Bella Jewelry. Their story started here:

 

 

The LuLu Tree– helping Uganda, one momma at a time.

 

Ways you can give to the refugees safely from the comforts of your home and also hear stories of Christian refugees, here.

 

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