My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary! We’ve been on so many adventures in just one year. One of those adventures has been building a home together.
Making a beautiful home has always been a dream of mine, so you can understand the overwhelming excitement I felt when walking into our first apartment. The walls were bare and furniture was crammed against one side of the room – it was like an empty slate waiting to be filled with beautiful things. With Charlie’s help, I set to work hanging pictures, shoving chairs and couches around, setting up lamps and rolling out soft rugs on the hard wood floor.
As we worked, I kept imagining all of the dinners and game nights we’d host. I envisioned coffee dates at our kitchen table and all the Pinterest-inspired decorations I’d buy from Hobby Lobby.
After our first day of moving in, I was sure I was going to be the number one hostess on College Ave.
For a while, everything went as planned. There were happy evenings playing board games on the living room floor, and friends often stopped by to chat. Despite our tight finances, I indulged in candles and string lights to create a cozy ambience. We even had a lovely double date complete with a homemade Italian dinner.
But then, Life happened.
Charlie started stressing out about exams – he spent many long nights pouring over his books and writing papers as fast as he could. I worked long days at the local bank, helping customers and dealing with poor management. We’d come home at the end of a day exhausted.
Instead of cleaning and cooking in the evenings, I’d slump on the couch and scroll through Facebook. The apartment started looking neglected. Charlie would wash the dishes and I’d run laundry, but everything else got out of hand.
Schoolbooks and papers piled up in the living room, boxes got shoved in our bedroom, and sometimes the fridge was empty when we forgot to go shopping. People would come over to nothing short of a mess and it made me feel horrible.
I gave up on being a hostess – I decided I was never going to be good at hospitality.
The turning point came right in the midst of our chaotic, messy life, when my brother-in-law Matt dropped by for dinner. We were leaning against the kitchen counter drinking coke and eating pizza when he said:
“Laurel, I just wanted to tell you that every time I come over here, I feel at home. You do a good job of that. So thank you.”
I almost choked on my soda.
Matt’s words meant so much to me – especially at a time when my guilt trip was burdening me. I started wondering why he shared those words with me.
I thought about the time he had gotten sick – Charlie and I brought him a hot thermos of tea and some cough syrup. I remembered all the times I made sure he was comfortable, offering him something to eat, pulling out the board games. Matt knew he could always come to me and Charlie if he needed something, or somebody to talk to. These realizations made me feel a bit sheepish – why had I bothered worrying about having a nice apartment when I should have been focusing on the people in front of me?
Life in our tiny apartment taught me something important: making a beautiful home and keeping it clean is not the first step towards good hospitality.
Good hospitality starts with being present, listening, offering a place to sit and a cup of hot coffee. Hospitality begins with ME – not with the home.
And once I started welcoming people in no matter the circumstances, it got easier to keep a beautiful place. Our apartment became more clean and comfortable as a reflection of my attitude.
Of course, there will always be moments when Life takes over. I guarantee that people will drop by when there’s laundry on the couch, or the sink is full of food-caked dishes, but don’t let those things get in the way of being openhearted. Just calmly make a pot of coffee, lean forward and focus your heart on loving the person in front of you.
– Photo credit: Annie Spratt