*Clean the bathroom the guests will be using! Make sure there is extra toilet paper handy and light a clean scent candle. There's nothing that says "unwelcome" like walking into someones dirty bathroom.
*Plan a meal that can be prepped before guests arrive. Having food ready, dishes cleaned up and the table set, tells guests that you were ready for them and enables you to really enjoy their company, instead of being stuck in the kitchen with your attention elsewhere.
*Have an easy appetizer out when guests arrive. But please, please, please do not put out a veggie tray. Try homemade hummus with some grilled pita bread or mutigrain tortilla chips with guacamole.
*Don't make excuses. Be willing to have people over even if there's a mountain of laundry sitting on your bed and don't say, "Please excuse the mess"...it only brings attention to the mess and makes guests feel like they're intruding. Just shut the door to that room or don't say anything at all. Remember, they have a pile of laundry sitting at their house too.
*If serving wine, have both red and white...and make sure the white is chilled. Most people enjoy an occasional sip of wine, but will choose white if they're not regular wine drinkers. If you yourself are not a wine drinker, a Chardonnay or Merlot would be a good option to have on hand.
*If guests are staying over night, place a basket of "might have forgotten" items in the bathroom. Simple things like an extra tooth brush, mini lotion bottle and face wash, can help guests feel more at home. If you are able, make a little basket of things they can take home in their room. Trust me, they'll be talking about it for a long time.
*Have beds made (with extra bedding available) and meals planned for the duration of guests stay. Let your guests know that you were looking forward to them coming and anticipated their arrival.
Those are my tips and I thought that would be the end of my post. But God had bigger plans for my little post. You see, I've been praying a lot about this idea of hospitality. The past couple of times I've had people over, I've thought, "Man, I really nailed that! The house was clean, the food was good and my kids were calm. Check." Then I had this little gnaw at my heart...is that really what it's all about? Did they see Christ in my home tonight, just because it was clean?
In church on Sunday, we read 1 Peter 4:9.
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."
It stirred me to continue learning about hospitality.
"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."
Then this morning I read Genesis 18 to Bubby for school. My intention was to read about Isaac, but I quickly saw how the story is a great example of biblical hospitality. Abraham was sitting by his tent when he saw 3 men. He hurried to them and asked them to stay for dinner. Sarah cooked them a good dinner and the men shared with her God's promise to her...Isaac. They were angels, sent by God. Just let that simmer. How easy would it have been for them to pass up this opportunity to serve. I'm sure it was not easy cooking then and I can guarantee that it was a sacrifice of food and time for Sarah. But she cooked for them right then and there. She didn't ask them to come next week after she had planned an extravagant meal and deep cleaned her tent.
Yes, hospitality is more than simply inviting someone over for dinner. It's more than having the right food, ready at the right time. Perhaps it's more about being ready and willing to serve others when God nudges us to jump up.
It's caused me to pray for open eyes and an open heart, to see who needs to come into my imperfect home for some fresh baked bread.