Hospitality: How Much and How Long, Lord? (Part 3A)

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We’ve been talking about the proper Christian response, and what things help, when Hospitality becomes drudgery, when guests stay “too long” or they don’t help or they treat your home like it’s a hotel.  For Christians, is there ever a time when we can ask guests to leave, or say we’ve been asked to do “too much” or that it’s “too long”?

Join in the discussion:  read the comments and leave one of your own.

Read Hospitality: How Much and How Long, Lord? Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking on the links.

Today and tomorrow I’m going to address one particular frustration for some hostesses of long-term guests (visits of more than a day or two) that we have had to deal with: guests not helping with meal preparation and cleanup. Be sure and come back to read Part 3B!

As a hostess, I have never had trouble allowing, even asking, guests to help me, preferring “imperfect” help to no help at all.  My feeling is, “It’s not a problem if I have to move things later to their proper place–I’m thankful for any help with the dishes.” And I am happy to instruct a guest how to do something in the meal prep, because I’m helping them to feel comfortable serving (in general, and specifically in the kitchen) for the next time. I’m also blessing them. Yes, giving them an opportunity to serve is blessing them.  I don’t want to rob them of that blessing.

I frequently show people where to find cups and glasses in our kitchen the first moments they’re in my home, so they can help themselves to a drink of water.  People tell me that they feel at home and enjoy the informality of helping themselves.  When I treat them like family, they feel like family.  (This especially applies to my grown children’s friends, who frequently stay overnight, join us for a meal, or use our shower on the way to an event–this needs an explanation, I suppose, but I’m not going to stop to give it to you now:)  I do not expect elderly guests to serve themselves, but to them I show honor by serving them.

What I have, in the past, had trouble dealing with was when my children meal after meal flew out of the kitchen as soon as the meal was over, forgetting their chores, disappearing to entertain the guests’ children and have a grand old time playing, as though they were guests, too, while I felt stuck in the kitchen doing all the work.

Bitterness is not an acceptable response, so I talked to my husband about this situation, and he told me to keep the meals and preparation simple, not complain, and serve the Lord by serving others willingly in love, and then he instructed the children to stay inside until the kitchen was cleaned up.

I do not cook 3 meals a day for days on end for guests. Meals must include some of these options: eating a meal at a restaurant, grilling by my husband or the guests, asking the guests to cook a specialty of theirs, picnic food or deli food (e.g. hot dogs, watermelon and chips), ordering their favorite food delivered in (for instance, Chinese or pizza).  I also serve leftovers for lunch, and simple breakfasts, such as cereal and fruit, or toast and cheese, or yogurt and fruit.  Sometimes scrambled eggs, or what I call an Egg McWendy (a whole-wheat English muffin toasted, a round slice of Canadian bacon, a piece of cheese, and a poached/cooked egg.) If we make a big breakfast such as pancakes and eggs or an eggdish, muffins, and fruit, we skip or have a light lunch.

When I would get frustrated, it helped me just to be able to share my frustrations with my husband and be able to get some prayer support, too.  Most of my frustrations centered on our children’s changed behavior and their expectations of getting out of work–especially when unsaved guests were in our home for extended periods–and the rudeness of our guests, and the tension that created (both are subjects I’ll touch on in future posts in this series).  My husband didn’t always understand my point of view or my fatigue, since he went away every day to the normalcy of his job.  And because he had to work, he had a built-in excuse to keep his normal schedule pretty much, so he remained much more rested. Even though he didn’t always understand, it still helped to talk it out. With him, and with the Lord.

Come back tomorrow for more on “What To Do When Long-Term Guests Don’t Help With Meals and Cleanup.”

Oh, and thank you to Raising Homemakers for this wonderful linkup on Homemaking–I’m linked up this week!



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3 Replies to “Hospitality: How Much and How Long, Lord? (Part 3A)”

  1. Hi Wendy,
    I can clearly see a mental picture of what you are saying.
    Being a guest is not a privilege to be served totally but enjoy some good fellowship and friendship. If the hostess is taking all the effort not only to serve her own family but also my husband and kids and me then I got to get in the work and give her company in doing the work. right? isn’t that why we are called the “company”? Besides this gives time to visit with the hostess alone and share a little bit heart-to-heart conversation! I think it gets ghastly on a guest’s (esp. ladies) part when the hostess is all alone in the kitchen while the ghastly mom spends time chatting or playing games & doing activities with the men(and probably the kids) without thinking about the hostess. that is so unthoughtful & rude.
    If we have guests for just a meal then I put off the doing dishes work till the morning sometimes so I could spend enough time with the guests i love and would like to honor. this is a different case. But someone stays overnight or few days… then it is better to be involved. As much as hospitality is important(and God’s word suggests us to have that trait) the same way being a golden guest is very important too. And it can be learned easily…

    1. Many good thoughts and insights, Vijaya! The time together with last-minute meal preparation can be rich fellowship when a person helps, whether I’m at your house or you’re at mine! But, if a person doesn’t know how to cook or feel comfortable in the kitchen, we may need to give specific tasks and show what to do, kindly. I, too, sometimes put off the cleanup so I can spend time with my guests, but if there are children in the home old enough to help, I recommend that they (and the guests’ children) clean up right away, because otherwise it can be a lot of work later for the hostess. Also, this can be a time of fellowship for the hostess and her guest. But, it is up to the hostess–sometimes I’d just rather sit and visit. (I never used to be this way, but as I get older, I feel that way.) I think the fellowship is sweeter when visitors feel like “family” joining in every aspect of home life. Do you feel this way?

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