Full House, Full Hearts

Do you ever feel that other people are gifted in an area you will never grasp?  I certainly have. Hospitality is a topic I’ve always ignored at women’s retreats, figuring it wasn’t my forte. My friends who enjoy arranging flowers and have multiple sets of matching china can rule over that domain. My giftings? Well, I have no idea. But I know it’s not hospitality….right?

God uses a variety of circumstances to shape our character. Despite my feelings about hosting people, I had to get over my discomfort years ago when Bubba required a therapist to spend hours each day working with him in our home. In the beginning it wasn’t someone we chose, and the program required that she take notes on his behavior and our handling of said behavior. Although the goal of the program was to help families learn better strategies for raising their special needs children, it was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. I already felt laid bare by the fact that someone was seeing how clean (or not clean) I kept the house, but then to add behavior assessment to a mom of four young children…it was a refining time to say the least.

As Bubba grew older, we had more than one therapist come to work with him.  I gradually became more comfortable having non-family in the home. So comfortable that we didn’t mind at all taking on a live-in volunteer nanny/school helper when we first moved to Thailand! Our home at that time had five regular bedrooms and two rooms designated as “maid’s quarters,” so there was plenty of room for the seven of us.

After G came to live with us it was yet a further stretching, as we became accustomed to a new culture in our home. I don’t wash dishes the Thai way, and there was a bit of tiptoeing around each other as we navigated what we each preferred. Such as the doors being left open constantly, letting all the outside things become inside things. We assumed this was from growing up in huts that didn’t have doors. When her brother joined us, we adjusted further by working to use more Thai language, keeping in mind that they were also adjusting to an entirely different culture.

We moved to a new home last summer, with just three bedrooms.  It was yet another adjustment but the village we are in now is very peaceful.

The recent development with our sweet friend, whom we have referred to as Nan, has led to not just her and her little one moving in, but her husband as well. They are both working extremely hard to afford their own home in the village. They are not seeking what you might expect from a young married couple in a first-world country. They are saving to build one-room hut. With the average Thai salary being 13,500 baht per month (about $430) and young workers earning closer to 6,000 baht (less than $200), it takes a long time to save for even the simplest of grass huts. Our hope is that we can help them save money more quickly by sharing our home.

Oh, we do look back on that seven room house and laugh at home much room we had compared to the three rooms we have now!  In case you are new to the blog, you can read here about our reasons for moving.

Just last week Ethan and I were talking with Nan, and she mentioned that her 16 year old little brother was graduating from high school. (Thai schools offer early graduation at 16, followed by vocational college, or regular graduation at 18 followed by University). She then mentioned that he is a ladyboy. Ladyboy culture is glorified here in Thailand, with a seemingly endless stream of young men dressing and acting as women and saving for gender reassignment hormones and surgeries. Ethan and I casually talked about what we’d do if Nan asked us if her brother could stay with us. Would we allow a ladyboy into our home? This would take “hosting” to yet another new level. But we realized that it would be an incredible opportunity to share Christ’s love and minister to this young man, and we both agreed that we’d say ‘yes’ if the situation ever came up.

Almost immediately after that, and I suppose not surprisingly, Nan asked us if her brother could stay with us for a little while. We had to laugh as we said yes, knowing that God has softened our hearts and prepared us in advance, opening our eyes to the ministry he has in mind for us. Mai bpen rai.

I’ve been reflecting lately on how God has worked in our lives in so many ways over the years. I would never have thought I’d become so comfortable hosting people, let alone people so very different from what I am familiar with. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned. I hope this will encourage someone.

It can be awkward, but that stage passes quickly.  

Where do we start? From everyone’s laundry hanging out in full view constantly, to trying to be polite when your houseguests are cooking with smelly fish paste, we are challenged daily. But as time passes, we find that the little things don’t really matter. Only when we hold onto our own ideas of what we think life should look like do we feel disappointed by our present reality. Letting go is incredibly freeing and joyful.

You don’t have to be rich to be generous.

We are certainly not rich. In fact, our finances sometimes make no sense at all and we just trust God to be the faithful provider He always is. We are so incredibly grateful for that provision! When God has proven Himself so ultimately trustworthy, who are we to hold onto what we are given and limit who can be blessed by it?

Being hospitable doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect.

This was a big misunderstanding for me for so long. It’s human nature to want to look our best around people. But God doesn’t ask for that; in fact I believe that people feel more welcome when they see our imperfections shining through. Yes, my hair can look crazy in the morning. Sometimes our trash overflows, and sometimes there are smells that take concerted effort to identify and eradicate. Sometimes we don’t have the perfect attitude, or say and do the perfect things. But that’s real life, and it’s okay.

God may have a different idea of who we are are to open our hearts to than we do.

It’s no secret that our family is passionate about adoption. For years we’ve dreamed of filling our home with little ones who need a family. Emphasis on “little”, as we had decided (ha ha) to not adopt anyone older than our youngest child. However, God has brought some little and some not-so-little ones to our door. I’ve learned that hospitality is not just for the attractive and desirable; it is for those who need hospitality.

 

Though we are far from being model hosts, I hope that this will encourage anyone who has ever struggled with this area of ministry.  May God bless you as you step out… and let others in.

 

8 Comments

  1. Totally relate to this! I’ve found such a freedom in letting go of how I want certain things or how I want to appear. I’m learning to embrace a very communal culture and, in return, I’ve gained community . Thanks for sharing!

    1. Aww, thanks Jen! I’m so sorry we couldn’t come see you in person while in Cambodia. I know from your open offer to let our entire family stay with you that you definitely have embraced community life! 🙂 Blessings to you guys in your work!

  2. You continue to inspire and encourage me with your willingness and desire to serve Christ; in all situations. Prayers for you and your family as you move where God is leading. Love to you and your family!

  3. This week our Bible Study group is talking about the Shunammite Woman (II Kings 4:8-28. Part of the lesson is about hospitality, how and who we offer it to and other expressions of hospitality. I immediately thought of you and your blog. You express the challenges and thoughts that may stop us and at the same time encourage us in yet another way to share God’s love. Love, hugs, and prayers

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