For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with the art of hospitality and gathering around a table. The connection, the intention, and the conversation create this beautiful trio that leaves you with a longing for more and the thought of, “I didn’t know how much I needed that”.
As a child, being raised by a single mother who held 7 jobs at once to cover our expenses, time together was rare and eating dinner in shifts felt like the norm. We were raised on a tuna helper budget, but we somehow never went without. Once a year, my mother would host dinner for a group of traveling college kids who served as counselors at a summer camp hosted by our church. A humble pot roast, potatoes, and frozen vegetables on our finest dinner wear was far from fancy, but it was special to us. We lived in a century old house without air conditioning in the summer heat of the Midwest, but my mother’s heart was to invite them into our home and serve them the best she could. Without knowing it at the time, this marked me.
In middle school, one of my best friends lived across the street from our dance studio. It became tradition that Mondays I would come over for dinner before our ballet class. No matter the day, this family would sit at the formal dining table in their historic Victorian home and talk about the highs and lows of the day over a (seemingly extravagant) home cooked meal. Laughter was guaranteed. This practice felt foreign yet so familiar to the longing in my heart for connection around a table.
In college, I was invited to live with a family who had become like spiritual parents to me. They had a son a year younger than me who played basketball at my college. She was a former television host, producer, author, and philanthropist. He was an world renowned architect who traveled back and forth between the two coasts. They also managed, in the midst of it all, to lead a Bible Study for college students and student athletes. Their lives were full. Nevertheless on weeknights, when they were all in town, they would sit around a table in their kitchen with enough Indian food ordered to feed an entire basketball team – just incase anyone were to drop by. It always felt like we ought to be celebrating something, but it was so effortless for them. Their hearts were to pour into the lives of others and invite others into theirs, without question.
I had moved out to Colorado and got engaged to the man that I now have the immense privilege of calling my husband. While we were engaged, we regularly went to the house of a family in town on Friday nights. They were both educators and had 4 kids, middle school to college age range. Their house was small, and not pretentious in any way. The kind of cozy that feels like home. Any empty space was packed with literature. The kitchen and living room seemed to sit on top of one another. No island, just a big table that had no limit to how many chairs could be sat at it- and somehow there were always more chairs filled than you thought could fit in the room. I don’t remember a specific dinner or extravagant dish coming out of their kitchen – but you could count on there being enough food for everyone, regardless of what that number was, and an open door for anyone.
Fast forward to our current day when I get the joy of seeing my three babies at our dining room table – our family of 5 nearly filling the table for 6. Our hearts come alive when we get the opportunity to fill the room further with new and old friends. It’s a small space that often times requires us to get creative. But there is a true beauty you discover in serving others and tapping into the intentionality. I recently heard someone say, “Hospitality is inviting someone else into whatever season of life you are in.” Throughout my life, I have experienced authentic hospitality that has commissioned my heart to long for the same. Hospitality has the power to connect, build, and bless.