Not long ago, I had a friend ask me how long I saw my family living in our house. As I paused before answering, she continued, “Because this is like a starter house for you, right?”
I told my friend that I saw us there for the long haul, that we loved our tiny house, that it fit our family just right.
Yet, while I believed all these answers deeply, if I am being honest, her description of my sweet cottage-like house as a “starter home” rubbed me the wrong way. It stirred up insecurities and questions. Should I be aspiring for bigger and better? Is our house not good enough? Would more space make us happier?
While wrestling with these questions and praying that God teach me something through it, I wrote this prayer:
Dear God, we dedicate this home to You, because it would not be ours without You. Thank you for the space and security You have given our family; we do not take it for granted. As a family, we surrender our own agendas to You. Let this home be a space used for Your glory. Let it be Your ‘starter home.’ Let it be a place where friendships start. Let it be a place where neighbors get to know each other. Let it be a place where hard conversations start, where healing starts, where relationships with You start. What do You want to happen here? We know we live in this exact house for very specific reasons. You put us here. Start what You want here, and we will gladly take part. Amen.
Every time I feel some of that discontentment resurfacing, I pray this over our house.
This simple prayer grounds me and reminds me that my focus should not be on what my house reflects about me. Rather, my focus should be on how well it reflects God.
When my focus is off, I find myself seeking to entertain or to impress. I run around like a crazy lady trying to make our house appear picture-perfect before guests arrive. I yell at my girls when they touch just about anything for fear they will mess it up. I freak out over crumbs, dog hair, and other minute details. Did I wipe the baseboards? Are all the beds made? Are the snacks set out just so?
Once the guests arrive, I find I don’t spend much time with them as I am flitting around like a bird making sure snacks and drinks are refilled and everyone seems included and happy. When everyone leaves, I remember very little from the conversations I had because my brain was in overdrive thinking about and striving for perfection.
Ugh—just writing this is stressing me out! Maybe you have found yourself worrying about the same silly things? It is such a bad place to be stuck, isn’t it? The good news is that we can refocus. We can move from strain entertaining to actually using the graceful gift of hospitality.
Hospitality is about welcoming people into our homes. When we are truly welcomed into someone’s space, we can feel it. There is an instant comfort, an overwhelming sense of ease. I bet you can name the people that have made you feel that way in their homes. I know that I can. My friend Rachel is one. From her, I’ve learned the importance of having an abundance of cozy socks ready for guests’ cold feet. This small gesture communicates big love: I want you to be comfortable here. She never fails to have a warm pot of coffee brewing and can whip up the most delicious unplanned meal with random ingredients in her fridge. None of this is for show. Everything she does comes from a place of love.
My friend Sarah is another woman who has taught me valuable lessons in hospitality. My kids feel totally at home at her house. I do too. Her house feels like your favorite pair of worn-in jeans. It is lived in and full of joy—a true reflection of her and her family.
And then there’s my friend Bonnie. From her, I’ve learned the importance of leaving white space in your calendar. Not many women do this. There is so much pressure to be busy. The world applauds the busiest moms. Who can do more? Attend more? Volunteer more? Work more? Bonnie has not fallen into this trap. Because she leaves space, you never feel like a burden when you drop by. She makes room for people. I love that about her.
While I feel welcomed in all three of these friends’ homes for different reasons, they all have something in common. There is an undeniable joy in the way these three friends serve. In 1 Peter 4:8-10, the apostle Peter instructs us to: “Keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Each in their own way, my friends are fulfilling the apostle Peter’s command. When welcoming others into their homes, they don’t grumble (i.e. run around cleaning, yelling at their kids, or freaking out over the details). They don’t merely entertain, they show true hospitality. They all love and serve well, and they do it with joy. Each of us is called to love and serve in the same way.
There is no one right way to create the most inviting space for others. Be authentic in the way you choose to show hospitality. Work with God while you are trying to figure it all out. And if you ever feel discouraged about the size or appearance of your home, I invite you to pray the prayer I shared. I believe God wants all our homes to be starter homes, and when you give yours to Him, He will do amazing things.
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