You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet, it’s the fine art of being who I am.

When we got married, one of the things we struggled with was hospitality. I don’t think that I’m inhospitable, but hospitality isn’t one of my gifts. It doesn’t come easily for me like it does for other people. I forget to ask you if you need a refill, and I forget that we shouldn’t just sit at the kitchen table and talk for hours when we could be sitting in softer chairs. I get stiff and awkward.

Mike, on the other hand, would be happy if we hosted a big Sunday dinner at our house every week. He grew up in a community that did that, that had Sunday dinners together with friends and family, and I think he feels the lack of it in his life. I spent a lot of years having my life be overly scheduled, so I shy away from planning something every week like that. Basically, what I’m saying is that having a big Sunday dinner every week is my idea of purgatory. To have to cook, to have to be in town, to have to have the house cleaned . . . I see all of that as stressful rather than a means to an enjoyable end.

I felt like I was beginning to make strides in the area of hospitality – we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner that went over well, and Scott and Kelly were visiting a lot. And then Mike had a rough spring semester, and, this is God’s honest truth, we didn’t have any visitors at our house from Christmas until May. Mike was busy with homework and I read more books than I thought possible. We were holed up here all spring, being anti-social, not because we intended to, but just because we didn’t take steps to keep it from happening. Susan came to see us before she moved and she was the first person who’d been to visit since Christmas. (My brother and my parents had been there, but family isn’t the same as “visitors.”) And when Susan was there, she and I sat at the kitchen table and talked for three or four hours. I forgot to go into the other room where there were softer chairs.

Every month in Real Simple, they have a question that they ask their readers, and recently an upcoming question was, “What’s your favorite thing about your kitchen?” I love my kitchen, so I had to think about it for a while. Is it the cabinet space? Is it the bright yellow color? Is it all the windows? But then I decided that, instead of being ashamed about all the hours spent at our kitchen table, that that was my favorite thing about the kitchen. In a burst of hospitality, we bought a kitchen table that seats six, and we have loved having people over to eat and sit for hours at it. I can stand in my kitchen and think of meals there with friends, of conversations that went long into the night, of card games and coffee, laughter and tears.

The past few years have caused me to learn a thing or two about hospitality, both in my house (from watching Mike) and in my heart. I have gotten better at trusting people, at letting my friendships be reciprocal, at letting people in my space without having so many walls. It’s not the traditional way that we think of hospitality, but letting my heart be more open has been a big step for me. What I really want as far as hospitality goes is for people to feel comfortable asking for a refill, or even getting up to get their own. I want people to let me know if I’ve forgotten to put something on the table. I want them to say, “Want to move to the den?” if I forget. I want our friends to know where the glasses and silverware are so that they don’t feel like visitors. Sometimes I get so stiff that I forget how to create that environment. But I’m working on it. I’m hopeful that having a more open heart will lead to having a more open home.

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