Entertaining Angels

I'm ba-a-ack. My goodness how two months fly.
They seemed to stretch so long, and yet, they're over like snap.
We got back a few days ago from a couple weeks in the south.
Myron had work at the SC branch for two weeks
And the kiddies and I got to do school, enjoy the (little) bit of warm weather, and hang out with good friends. To be honest, we were so spoiled by time with friends since we stayed so close to some really good ones and it was a daily occurrence to run up the little pathway to their yard and their house and be welcomed in so freely.  The second week we switched over to staying in a little one bedroom apartment, but we still spent time at their house, as well as lots of fun time with another family and Kent and MaryAnna (who came all the way from TN for 3 days).  I am grateful, so grateful, for how these women loved on my kids and how their older kids were so patient and willing to tote my young ones around with them.  This is a gift that is beyond value to me.

I've been wanting to share a post with you for a while.
One on entertaining guests (more specifically overnight guests) in our homes.
I came back from this trip motivated to write this all out.
I can't claim expert status on this, or even semi-pro.
I learn from every guest that stays with us, and I hope to someday, be ultra good at it!

"Don't forget to have strangers in your homes, because some people have done this and it happened to be an angel and they had no idea who had stayed with them!"  (Hebrews 13:2, paraphrased liberally)

Growing up, I remember my parents often having overnight guests.  We had moved to a new state, new community, and their family and old friends would often come for a weekend visit to scope out the new digs.  I also remember doing a lot of traveling to see family and friends.  Quite honestly, I don't remember of ever staying in a strangers home, tho maybe we have and my memory just fails on this level.  In a Mennonite community it is so easy to connect to someone you remotely know, through someone else, etc.  So there never seem to be total strangers.  And often your friends end up being people mostly within the Mennonite community.

The neighborhood I was raised in had lots of kids running amok in the street.  So unlike many Mennonite kids, I feel like I got to know "outside" people.  The neighborhood kids regularly fished in our pond, played on our swing set and hunted for crayfish in our creek.  We may or may not have learned some, ahem, language and weird behavior from them as well.  My mom had a big old bell she'd ring when she needed us to come back home from running around at the neighbors'. 

A few years ago, when we started going to another church, outside the Mennonite community, I didn't feel as "out to sea" as I had expected.  Although I had grown up running with the neighbor kids,  I think I expected to have a harder time relating to people, when what I really found out was that there are just A LOT of good... no, GREAT... people out there.  Our church networks with a lot of churches, both in the states and worldwide, and we often host conferences where people come from all over to attend.

Have I lost you?  I feel like I might have regressed a bit from my post content, and yet the background to all this is the foundation of where I'm going with "entertaining angels".

We have had the privilege, and it really has been a privilege and not work like I imagined it to be, to host many, many overnight guests.  Most, if not all, have at some point been complete strangers to us before they entered our home.  It would take more than two hands to count the number of times, in the last 5 years, that we have had strangers stay with us.  And most times, not just 1 night, but an extended weekend or week at a time.  I can't believe sometimes, that God arranged this life for me, the girl who used to get physically ill at the thought of having my turn for "host family" (a Mennonite tradition of taking turns to have visitors/other church family over for Sunday lunch) come around again.  I would cry, I H-A-T-E-D it so much (if you need proof, ask my husband).

Many of these strangers we have hosted over the last few years, have turned into wonderful friends.  And if you're reading this, you know who you are!  And I am so thankful for you, and how God landed you in our imperfect home.

So here are some of the things I've learned:
1. It's not about you, it's NOT about your house, it's about your guest.
There was that two year period of not having a kitchen that taught me that you don't need to have a place in perfect, liveable condition to entertain overnight guests.  Because they really don't mind that your washer and dryer are your countertop, that your "kitchen"is just a gutted,barren room and they'll gladly wash dishes in your laundry sink.  Making sure that your guests feel at home and you are giving freely of your truest self, is the biggest key to a successful visit.  I was so freaking embarrassed at first, at how these stranger guests got to know our family's bad habits and attitudes so quickly, because my family is just so real it's ridiculous.  I'm finally learning to just accept that it is just who we are and it's ok to not be perfect.
2. Fake it till you make it.
I just told you to be your truest self, and now I tell you to fake it!?  Do be yourself, but when it comes to your guests quarters, do what ya gotta do to make it look and feel comfy.  My husband expects the multiple pillows on our bed to disappear when we are expecting guests.  Why?  I didn't have the resources to buy a ton of pillows for a while, so I made do with what we had.  I wanted the guest bed to have plenty of pillows and so to do without one for a few nights was just ok.  Slowly I'm collecting more accessories, etc to make the guest room guest-ready even at a moments notice.  Even the down comforter and bed cover have disappeared to the guest room regularly.  So find throws, pillows, whatever it is that you need, from around your house and make it comfy.  If you don't have a guest room, give up the master bedroom and bunk in with your kids.  I know many guests feel badly if they know you gave up your bed for them, but on the other hand, nothing says you're special and worth treating well, than to self sacrifice for your guest.
3. Learn from your guests
Is there something they've asked for?  More than likely it will be something that the next will appreciate also, even if it's not a necessity for them.  Make a note of it, and have it at the ready for the next time.

4. A list of some essentials that make your guest room comfortable:
     a. If possible, go for a Queen size bed.  Please don't pile the guilt on yourself if you've only got a double or a single...it's ok.  But sleeping with a 6'plus man, I've learned that sleeping in anything smaller just gets uncomfortable and makes for sleepless nights.  So if you've got the room and resources, make it a Q!
     b. Layers.  Clean sheets and pillow covers, of course.  And then blankets and a bed cover.  I like to keep another layer folded on the end of the bed, for looks and for comfort.  Throw pillows just add that touch of pretty.  And throw blankets make curling up to read a book, cozy.
     c. Lamps and lights.  Still working on this one.  This house doesn't possess ceiling lights in the upstairs so whatever light there is, is what we've added.  I have a tulle "canopy" over the guest bed along with a string of lights.  A lamp beside the bed is a good idea, so it's easy to switch off after you're tucked into bed.
     d. A mirror.  Noone wants to wait till they've found the bathroom to see that their trip down the hall had the potential for great embarrassment. 
     e.  A chair or bench to sit on.  Often if your guests are people you don't know well, they will probably spend a larger amount of time in their room than if they are your best buds.  Give them a place to sit and chill, besides just the bed.
     f.  A place to put their suitcase.  Like a bench, or a closet, or a luggage rack.
     g.  All the little things:
            -Snacks (this is a big one for entertaining strangers, often guests would like a nibble but would never ask. Crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, and water are some good munchies to keep on the dresser)
            -Alarm clock
            -USB adaptor for laptops.  Adaptor from a 2 prong electric outlet to a 3 (our house is so old most outlets are wired for a 2 prong.  And this is extremely inconvenient for any electronic devices)
            -Internet password
            -Two clean towels/washclothes for every guest
            -Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, etc in case they forgot something from home.
            -I've added a microwave and refrigerator to our guest room closet, although i haven't seen them get used yet, it still allows "stranger" guests to store/heat things without feeling they are bothering you in the kitchen.  This is a total splurge and very much not a must.
            -Fresh flowers and books/magazines are not a must, but sure add a touch of pleasant to the guest room.

5.  Help your guests bring in the luggage and show them where the necessities are, namely the restroom and the kitchen.  And leave a nightlight on in the bathroom, or hallway, because a stubbed toe or loud clatter in the middle of the night in a strange home is just not cool.  In addition, make sure they've got a clean bathroom to use.  There is nothing more disgusting than the sprinkle from your kids' last tinkle putting off an odor to a complete stranger.  Just sayin'.
6.  Communicate with your guests.  This is one that I'm personally working on.  I want to communicate more efficiently on what they can expect when they're in my home.  Let them know what time breakfast will be if they're eating with you.  That your kids are early birds, but they are welcome to sleep as long as they want.  Where the spare key is, if they are in and out of your house.  What your schedule will look like. Etc,etc.  You get the idea.
7.  Be available.  To help, to watch their children so they can get time away, to run to town for a need they have, etc.  If you're not home, leave a phone number they can get a hold of you with.
8.  Most importantly, make a new friend.  I  get the chills when I think about how some of these "strangers" have become such good friends that when they stay with us now, they feel comfortable to get up before we're even awake and put the coffee on.  Or raid my fridge and pantry for a nighttime snack if they come in late and we're already tucked in.  It's just so amazing to me and I love it!

Above all, I repeat, just give of who you are...your personality, family, and space...to your guests.  More likely than not, they will  feel more free to be who they really are.  When you allow an environment like that to be the standard for hosting your "stranger" guests, they often will trust you with themselves and you'll find yourself listening to, and giving encouragement and prayer over, their stresses/fears/and difficult circumstances in their lives.  I still am drawn to praying for some of the hurts, fears, victories that have been shared through our "stranger" guests who are no longer strangers, but now friends. 

So I invite you, and strongly encourage you, to invite strangers in to your home.  Your life will become a wealth of friends and you'll be overwhelmed at the grace that God will allow to flow through you.

I saw this on a friends' wall and it is my heart for our guests:
"Dear Lord, swing the doors of our home open wide
So all people will feel welcome and loved.

May the floors and the walls be strong enough
To carry the burdens of those who come.

We pray noone leaves feeling less
Than when he entered... "

*Do you have some guest tips?  I'd love to hear them, and learn from you!