When we moved to the Big Woods six years ago, we were nervous. We were new, we had no clue what our new house looked like, and had no idea what kind of welcome we would receive. About two weeks before we moved, we received an email from one of the women at our new church. She told us that she and her husband had three kids, 16 chickens, a horse, a dog, and two rabbits, and that she was so excited to meet us. She said that she wanted to host a tea party for us girls at her house to make us feel welcome, and to introduce us to the ladies of the church.
Within hours of our moving van pulling up in town, she stopped by with her daughter to introduce themselves, and offer help moving our many boxes. Her husband and sons helped bring in the washer and dryer, and the next day she stopped by with a plate of cookies on a beautiful green glass plate. Always the cautionary, my mother was scared to death of breaking it, but M. said not to worry about it, because what is the use of having nice dishes if you never actually use them?
As promised, she hosted the tea party, and that was when we learned that she didn't just have one special plate, she had many. Different colors, different styles, all special, but all very freely offered. It was the same attitude of her hospitality, "If I have it, I will share it." At the time, they lived in a small mobile home, and somehow we managed to squeeze thirteen ladies into it. That house was full of love!
Last summer, I had the privilege of helping them work on a new house, building a basement, and learning how to use a sawzall. Once again, those green dishes came onto the scene, as M. served the contractors and electricians coffee and blackberry kuchen outside, throwing a tablecloth over a pile of lumber. One simple act of kindness, and it made them feel at home, even though the actual "house" was just a shell.
Today, she hosted another breakfast, one of our regular monthly Bible studies. There were fourteen of us this time, enjoying her lovely food and admiring the vintage decor. But it wasn't about the dishes, or the antique rocking chair, or the cherry patterned apron hanging in the kitchen. It was about feeling 100% welcome. It was about relaxing, finding peace, and knowing, "I am wanted here." And that is the greatest gift you could ever give... true hospitality.