Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When not to have people over..

If you have been reading my hospitality posts, you may be wondering if there is ever a time that I say "no" to hospitality opportunities? Do I expect myself (and everyone else) to be a hospitality machine?  The full and unequivocal answer is: NO and no way.

I think I learn many lessons the hard way.  I tend to be an over-achiever and don't want to be a wimp.  Where some people need a general "cattle prod", I generally need the "reigns" pulled in.  

So, for those high achievers, wanna-be-the best Christian mommies out there types, this post is for you.  The Bible talks about being in season and out of season.  There are some times of our lives, when we are clearly out of season.

I'm thinking of a few possibilities of what out of season might mean for a family.  You can add to the list also.

1) A birth of a child!  It's a beautiful thing, so let's stay low and recover during this time. For us, I take 6 weeks for a healthy baby/ delivery.. more for a C-section.

2) A death in the family.. Let's grieve during this time.

3) Health issues/ surgery/ problem pregnancies etc.  If you are not strong enough to fix dinner for your family, you probably shouldn't be having guests over either. This is nice time to let others serve you and your family.  

4) Massive construction or anything that is unsafe in your home.  You don't want to subject your guests to danger, illness, etc.  

5) Family/Relationship disruptions.  If you and your spouse are fighting (like bigtime fighting), this is not the time to let the rest of the world "enjoy" your family.  Work it out.  Learn to get along and make amends, and THEN go back to serving the Lord in the form of hospitality.  
Now, you are wondering if I ever break these rules.  Well, truthfully, I've never experienced: 2, 4 or 5.  I did have one very tough pregnancy (Emily's) that put me in the hospital during the pregnancy a few times. Could I possibly go the entire length of a pregnancy without having guests over??  

Well, no.  It got the point where our kids were saying, "We NEVER have people over anymore!"

So, we decided there were some exceptions.  We had children who were big helpers, and I had "breaks" in the fiasco.  Also, my mother was very reasonable about letting us have people over when she was at the "helm".  I do have one funny story related to this.

Way back when Nathanael was just a newborn, my mother came to Panama and stayed for an entire month so I could recover.  That was AWESOME!!  As it is with the fourth child, sometimes you forget basic things like buying groceries before the mother comes.  We lived on base housing in Panama, only a mile from the commissary.  There was only one problem.  Only military members could use the commissary, so Will had to get groceries for her.  

So, Nathanael was born on September 8, 1997 (his actual due date), and it was the day that mom was to arrive in Panama.  Will piled Jamie 5, Joanna 3, and Hudson 1.5, into the vehicle and picked up Grandma Jude from Tocumen Airport in Panama City.  He showed up with a rose (probably purchased from a street vendor for a buck) and handed it to my mom.  "Here's for the new grandmother"..  After awhile of driving she asked, "Did Jena have the baby?"  
ha ha ha.. (This was Will's style--just to let the details come out gradually)  

[isn't this about hospitality?  O.K. I'm getting to that part now..]

So, I get home from the hospital and I'm doing my typical thing: eating and sleeping and nursing.. and this Panamanian couple shows up for a visit.  Rod was a shoe-shiner and carwasher.  His wife, Yadira, was the same.  They did all sorts of odd jobs on base to earn money, and they were really hard workers and loved the Lord.  Although we never openly discussed the fact that they may be poor, it was understood that they could just show up at our house if they were hungry.  

So, wouldn't you know it.. they showed up a few days after I brought home a baby.  There's no food in the house, and my mother does not really know about this tradition the Panamanians have (of staying until you feed them) and my tradition (feeding everyone who walks through the door) and my children's tradition of (hanging on my leg until the cows come home).  

So, it was a nice lengthy visit, and I decided that it was time for them to go and the baby needed to nurse again and nap.. I mean I needed to nap.  Whatever.  So, I left myM poor mother in charge of the hungry Panamanians with no food in the house.  [Somehow, I know this will come back to haunt me]  

My dear mother gave me the look that said, "if you leave now, I'm going to kill you" and "WHEN are they leaving?!!"  

And I told her, "If you want them to go, you'll have to feed them."

She said, "should I make a cup of tea for them?"

I told her, "No.  It has to be REAL food.  They will stay until they get real food."  

(And I know this from a friend.  They stayed five hours at a friend's house--just waiting for the food)

So she, with gritted teeth, proceeded to forage around in the empty fridge for some food.  The found a piece of lunch meat and a few hunks of cheese. She managed to FAN everything out over the plate, so it looked like a full plate of food.  She had a little lettuce and parsley and who knows what else.  I'm sure it looked like restaurant food to them, and they had no idea the "creativity" involved to make that "meal" happen.  

My mother will never let me forget the day that I forced her into "spontaneously feeding the masses", but I know.. and the Lord knows, and we really had no other choice.  They'd still be there with bated breath and fork in hand if we hadn't done that Ma!  Thanks a ton.  


MommaMindy said...

I obeyed and broke #3 with my recent cancer surgery. I said no to the company that wanted to be there for about a week, the week of the surgery. But, I said yes to having two olders boys spend one night (the sitter backed out last minute) and a teenage girl spend four nights at the end of the week.(parents were out of town.) My kids had to feed their friends. I did say yes to a family of four two weeks after surgery, because they were in town for a home school conference and couldn't afford the hotel. Hospitality isn't always about clean house and great food, even though we like to do those things. Sometimes it is offering a bed and asking them to put their own sheets on. But, when people ask me if they can stay in my home, I take it from the Lord and only say NO if I feel led by the Lord.

The first year after my initial cancer surgery, when I recovered very slowly, everyone knew if they came to my house I would order pizza-without excuses! It worked out great for families who consider this a luxery!

Hudhornet said...

I just find it unusual that people would ask to stay in the home of a cancer patient. You are a trooper,kiddo. Yes, it was people like you, MommaMindy, that I wrote this post for. Just to let you know that you DO have permission to say NO if needed. But if the Lord gives the grace and strength, by all means--do it. I just think it is crazy to put a Mom through that when she's recovering. I also think that others need to have the opportunity to serve during these times. I have done a crazy thing where I have invited people over and asked a friend to be the hostess, and I just sat there. That worked out famously! I have such great friends--Barbara Harned and BBC ladies--thank you!

Also, this is the organizing mommy, even though it will come up Hudson. :0

Contemplative Mom said...

Great story!

My husband and I are both introverted and hospitality has always been a challenge for us. I have been inspired by your posts. Thank you!

Ruby said...

Loved that story!
Aren't mums great. They usually come through in the end. My mum has fed many on a very meagre pantry in years past but now she is "doddery" and when any of the family go for a meal we provide the food.
My husband is one of those who likes to invite people on short (no) notice! So we've been known to dish up something on toast. Unless the visitors are starving, as your shoeshiners,it's the company that counts. As MommyMindy said, the clean house and great food are not always priority!

Mrs. Parunak said...

Great post! I love your Panama story.