Believe it or not we all arrived home still liking each other and all saying we had a great time and would do it again...in 5 years...when we had time to forget how much we disliked being in the van for that long listening to small children declare they were "starving" and needed something picked up from the floor and constantly listening to Disney movies!
I found myself being very introspective on this trip. It could be that I was reading the new book for this MOPS year, Momology. It could be that we were visiting my family that we hadn't seen in three years. Or it could be that there was so much social interactions going on that I needed to retreat some. Whatever the reason was, I was focused more on the root of each activity, each relationship, each individual. It was really quite fascinating! And while I won't bore you with all of my thoughts, there was one theme that really stood out - hospitality.
We stayed with several people, met people for meals, and met people for activities. I noticed that each group of people welcomed us differently. I love this quote from Emilee Barnes, "Hospitality is so much more than entertaining - so much more than menus and decorating and putting on a show. It means setting aside time for planned fellowship." We had such wonderful fellowship with so many people! Fellowship - that perfectly defines what we enjoyed about this vacation.
Whether it was our time in the van (sometimes too much fellowship), time when my parents and all my siblings were together in place at the same time, time when we were reconnecting with friends, time when we were relaxing, time when we were learning a new skill, time when we were meeting new people, or even time when we were in hotels - it was ALL hospitality!
Each time of fellowship was different and it made me rethink how I do hospitality. Do I welcome others in a way that makes them feel welcome? Do I set aside time to fellowship with them or do I spend time being busy? Have I prepared (even for the uninvited guest) so that people feel important?
The difference in each time of fellowship also made me realize that there is no one "right way" to practice hospitality. While some invite people into their homes other celebrate that fellowship at a restaurant. While some people let kids play in the house, other create play spaces outside, and others suggest activities that aren't at their home so that the kids feel welcome too. God wants us to do what he created us to do, to use the talents he has given us, to share His love.
There are several times of hospitality that stand out in my mind.
We visited one family that lives in a sizable house and had beds for almost all of our family to sleep in. The had yummy meals planned, and we had great conversation while the kids played. It wasn't the size of their house, or the type of food we ate that made it so enjoyable. It was the conversation and the depth of the conversation. We cut through the "hows the weather?" to topics like "what happens when you don't trust your pastor?" or "how unique God made each of our kids". The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone pitched in to cook and clean - even the kids.
We visited another family and just relaxed. The kids swam or played with legos or were really loud and created a band. The parents reminisced about years ago and played games. Food was made, the kitchen was cleaned, laundry was even done. It was as if we were family.
We got to see all of my siblings at a casual restaurant - Joe's Crab Shack. The kind where the kids don't have to be silent and where you use your fingers to eat. My parent's hospitality was creating that opportunity and paying for the meal. They wanted the family time and they knew we needed to eat. It was a fun time and great memories.
When we arrived home, one friend had broken into our house and left us dinner on the counter, milk and eggs in the refrigerator and fruit in the fruit bowl. Then knew we had a need and they made our transition from vacation to "back home" welcoming.
All different experiences - all wonderful fellowship.
"May its doors be open to those in need, and its rooms be filled with kindness. May joy shine from its windows. And His presence never leave it." --Jewish home blessing