Happy New Year!!
Oh, I’m twenty-four days late on that? I mentioned on my Instagram that I’ve had a slow start this year so I’ll have to ask your forgiveness for not writing anything new for over three weeks.
This Christmas, my husband and I spent a week with my family – something we haven’t done together maybe ever, and something I haven’t done in a few years at least. Being a plane ride from family is my least favorite part about living in a different state so this was a wonderful and much needed trip home and time away from work!
Now here we are a few weeks into 2018! I’ve been thinking a lot about goals I have for this year – actually I’ve been thinking about them for a few months now! A friend asked me towards the end of last year what my goals were, what my word for 2018 was, if I’d thought about blog ideas, and about ten other questions for which all my answers were, “I don’t know…” I took that conversation to mean I had some work to do. The days and weeks and years slip by quickly and if I’m not careful 2018 will come and go before I know it!
One of the things I decided to do this year was to pick a word to live by. I’ve never done that before and frankly had no interest in the idea before my wake up call this fall. I haven’t understood how picking a word could help you accomplish things or change something about yourself, but I couldn't get the idea out of my head. If picking a word helps keep a certain idea at the center of my decisions, then that really could make a difference to my thoughts and actions. I didn't get it before, but I think I get it now - so I'm giving it a shot!
But which word to pick? I could’ve chosen “brave” or “bold” like I’ve heard many other people do, but neither struck me as a motivating word for my life right now so I quickly passed by those. After some mulling and soul searching I settled on a word I haven’t heard many claim before:
Hospitable. Starting this year, I want to be marked by hospitality!
In getting married I’ve learned many things (and I’m sure I’ll only keep learning as the years go by), but one of the biggest is that I’m not a great hostess. I’ve always known I’m more reserved and tend towards introversion, but it wasn’t until I hosted things in our apartment, be they with friends or family, that I noticed how tense I get as that kind of leader. I think there are elements of perfectionism at play, as well as letting people into my personal spaces and loosening the reins of the control I normally think I have there. It is not an easy thing to invite people in and let them see that my apartment is sometimes messy and maybe the food I made isn’t great and I’m not the best small-talker. The easy thing is to keep people at arms length and keep my home - and my heart - a place of solitude and safety.
There are two major problems with that mindset. The first is it’s safe, but it’s lonely. Sure, I rarely have to let people in this way, but then my friendships aren’t deep and rich. Relationships are meant to be fun and safe in different ways, and the best ones come through time and the testing that comes with it.
The second problem is that I’m married now, which means I’ve invited someone into the most intimate spaces imaginable. Marriage can’t work well if you keep walls up and people at a distance. My husband is a kind and gracious man so it’s (now) easy to let him see me vulnerable and messy and sometimes mean. And since we know each other I’m a better conversationalist and I know it’s ok if the food isn’t great.
My husband isn’t the only person I’ve let into my life with our marriage though. He has a family and friends that are now part of my life, and those relationships won’t grow either if I’m distant and icy with everyone but the man I married. I don’t want my tendency towards introversion to translate into a reputation for iciness. Who wants to be known that way?
I want to be marked by hospitality, and not just because I want to be a better hostess. In my conversations with family and friends, with strangers, at dinner tables, at church, with my coworkers, and anywhere in between, I want to be hospitable. Read that as I want to be kind, warm, welcoming, and friendly to the people that I know and the people that I meet. This is how hospitality is shaping my year!
So far this reads a bit like a journal entry – perhaps because I’ve resolved to journal every day in 2018, meaning I’ve had a lot of practice lately. There are certainly personal, journal-worthy reasons I want to be more hospitable and welcoming, as you’ve just read. But this word relates to my blog as well!
Part of the goal of this website is to expose people (myself included) to different cultures, but we can only learn so much by reading about something. We’re only really going to be able to understand another culture by experiencing it for ourselves. My experiences of different cultures and cuisines will be limited if I keep them to myself and try to go it alone. There are people from Algeria, Bahrain, Canada, Mexico, Rwanda, and Taiwan who know how to cook authentic meals from their countries and, more importantly, can actually tell me things about their cultures that I can’t read about anywhere.
Even more importantly than learning about their home countries and cultures, I can learn about them! What were their struggles, and their fondest memories of home? What was it like to move to the U.S. – did they have to start from scratch or did they have family here or a job lined up already? What do they miss most about home? Do they feel welcome here? How can I pray for them and their family? These are the things I want to know, and things I want to talk about with other people. These kinds of questions are what take us from strangers to friends. These kinds of questions help bridge cultural gaps.
Jesus shared meals with people much different than him. He welcomed people of all faiths, all races, all walks of life to come eat with him, follow him, and be saved by him. It was not just one group of people for whom Jesus came to earth or died on the cross. He came that all people might come to him and be saved!
As Christians we are called to live like Jesus – to become more like him every day. If he ate with (and offers to eat with) everyone and anyone, shouldn’t we be willing to open our doors, and tables, and lives to anyone and everyone? In a time when racial, cultural, political, and/or religious differences so often keep us apart and skeptical of each other, shouldn’t we be willing (and even excited!) to be kind and friendly and extend invitations to anyone?
Certainly we will do this imperfectly, but perfection is not the point. I can’t go from introvert to extrovert overnight or without errors and awkwardness. It is in the efforts we make that we learn and are humbled, and in which we can see how similar we all are. There is self-consciousness and self-protection in most people. There are struggles and triumphs in every culture. There are tears and fears and celebrations in every family. Let’s be brave and bold and move outside our safe, personal spaces and welcome anyone willing to eat at our table. Let’s be friendly and get to know people! Let’s be marked by hospitality, this year and from now on!