When Hospitality is Hard

Last week I was over at Grace Table, sharing a rather personal and unflattering story of Hospitality Burnout. While they were the most gracious of hosts, I have to admit that it was difficult to write, because if I’m being completely honest, the fact that I’ve always been “the hospitable type” is something that I’ve secretly taken pride in. But life is funny, and it often has a way of bringing you down a notch. This is one of those tales. I’m only sharing a snippet here, but you can click over to Grace Table to read the whole piece.

This is for anyone who’s learned the hard way that part of true soul care sometimes involves putting yourself in a time-out.

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“Once I got married and had a home of my own, hospitality was a habit I carried with me. Husband and I are both very social and we love to spend time with our people. We love to open our doors and invite friends in; To sit around tables, living rooms, and porches, sharing all the small moments in life that really are big. Moments of laughter and food shared, of children running underfoot, and of kitchens full beyond capacity with friends chatting, chopping, and pouring drinks.

I found that hospitality came naturally to me and that I truly enjoyed it. I loved inviting people into my home. I loved planning and hosting dinner parties, play dates, coffee dates, and holiday extravaganzas.

Until suddenly I didn’t anymore.

Ironically enough, my hospitality burn-out came at precisely worst time. After 10 addresses in 14 years of marriage, we had just moved into our long awaited “Forever House”. We finally had all that space we’d wanted.

I expected to move in, make the house into a home, and fling my doors wide open.

I expected that I’d want to.

But life is unexpected (and so is God), and from the minute we took up residence at the Forever House, I found myself both constantly hosting guests and suddenly resenting it. I’d always talked a big game about hospitality and I’d always backed it up by practicing it in my real life. But suddenly it felt like God was calling my bluff.

I’d been happily hospitable when it was on my terms. But what about when it wasn’t so convenient? What about when I didn’t feel like it?

From the day we moved in we seemed to have a revolving door. There was a never-ending stream of people and pets; of phone calls saying “We’re coming for a visit! Can we stay?” And other phone calls saying “Bro, can I crash with you for a few months, until I figure out my next move?”

Every time we said yes, because these were all people that we love, care about, and enjoy spending time with. We said yes, because we’d always been the “hospitable type” and if I’m being completely honest, that was a part of myself that I’d secretly taken pride in.

But I found myself quietly becoming resentful of our revolving door.

I found myself dying a little bit on the inside each time I put on my hostess hat.

I craved time for our own little family to make memories in this new home with just us.

I longed for small, quiet moments without an audience.

I grew tired of constantly having to be “on”. I grew tired of constantly worrying whether the kids were pestering the current houseguest (they always were), or if we had enough snacks in the pantry, or if I’d ever have the freedom to walk around the kitchen without a bra on again.

There was never enough toilet paper or clean sheets, the coffee pot was always empty, and the toilet seat was always warm. It was all making me slightly claustrophobic…

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