Why is it that even though it only takes about an hour to pack for a weekend away, it takes at least three days (but more often a week) to unpack when you return?
At my home right now, there are baskets of clean laundry to be put away, piles of laundry to fold, various sized bags of personal items to be sorted and returned to their respective rooms, and other sundry gear taking up space on the living room floor.
The sprawl of stuff has reached every corner of the house but for now we are too tired to bother so we sit on the couch to rest and hope that our children are exhausted enough to stay in bed.
We didn’t go very far on this trip– just three hours away. But we were gone for three days visiting friends we had never met before. Yes, I packed up my three children and drove to spend the weekend with those whose faces we had only seen through a screen, and whose voices we had never heard a week before.
It started as a connection of baby girls born to families of boys around the same time, shared through photos and captions on Instagram. Over time, more and more similarities were noted. Some uncanny, others silly, and yet others which hinted at the potential of friendship and true fellowship.
In the past few months, we have tossed around the idea of getting together. Turning an online friendship into a real-life one. Then the right opportunity finally presented itself. Since my husband planned to attend an expo in a neighboring town, I decided to tag along and make it a short family getaway.
And my friend? She offered up her home to practical strangers. She invited us to stay and took a risk that we were not, in fact, crazy axe murderers. We took a risk and said yes.
We arrived Friday evening just before dinner. It was dark outside and at least one of us was wearing a pair of slippers. The weekend started off simply– with warm smiles, a simple (and delicious) dinner,and no pretenses of being anything we are not.
Things weren’t perfect. My husband lost his voice earlier that day. My baby was on medicine for an ear infection and was not her usual cheerful self. All of the children took turns being shy and spurning conversation. I probably put my foot in my mouth a few times. There were moments where the conversation lulled. Oh, and the first time I used the bathroom, the toilet overflowed all over the floor (not my fault).
It didn’t take long, though, before we all became more comfortable around each other and the rest of the weekend was a blur of conversation, messy children, and hanging out around the table.
Nothing extravagant was needed or expected. No fancy meals required. Immaculate home totally not the point. Planned activities unnecessary.
The most important things were there. Open hearts. Kindness. A little flexibility. And a willingness to invest a little time and energy into pursuing community.
Here’s the thing about practicing hospitality. A little goes a long way. All it takes is to simply invite people into your daily life. It may seem risky to expose the rough edges of your home. You may be holding back because you think that hospitality means three course meals served on fancy plates with matching linens.
But hospitality is really just extending an invitation to know and be known.
We were created for community. We were created to be in fellowship with God and with each other. And one of the most natural ways to get to know each other is in our homes.
This weekend was full of moments and words that encouraged, challenged, and inspired me. We chatted for hours about things that matter deeply to us. We both took risks sharing matters close to our hearts.
Another weekend away is not likely to happen again soon. And the chances of us taking a trip to stay with almost strangers is even less likely.
However, everyday is rife with opportunities for hospitality– the knowing and being known. Watch out for them. Seek them out. Inviting people in may be a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking.