Hospitality Challenge: We Find Time for the Things We Value
I looked at the calendar, lamenting to my husband that there were so few pockets of free time. He was on the other end of the phone and sounded exhausted. Work had taken him to another state for a week, and it would be another ten days before he would return home; we were both tired. With a sigh I counted up the number days he would sleep in our bed that month; the number didn’t even hit double digits. And while he is traveling more than ever before, it’s not as if “busy” is a new word for our family.
The first three years of our married life we lived out of suitcases. Most months had us flying and working from different cities leaving a total of three nights per week at home. I was taking college classes online for two of those years, and during the last one, we renovated our first home. Even with that schedule, we found time to open our doors to friends, host dinners, and do movie nights for our interns.
A few years later we stood on the stage of our church to dedicate our three-week-old daughter, and on the same time, we accepted the position of student pastors. Together we oversaw every aspect of junior high through college ministry: weekly meetings, summer camps, fundraising events, community service projects, and a lot of gatherings with our staff and volunteers. It was a chaotic year, as my husband still held a full-time job, and I was home with a new baby, but somehow we managed to find time to gather people in our house almost weekly.
The evening we first opened our doors for our current home group, we were weeks from moving, and I had just finished a three-day home school event as the keynote speaker. I’ve written before about being deep in renovation mode on the new house, and we arrived home just an hour before our friends. The living room was lined with boxes, and yet, these couples excitedly returned two weeks later, unconcerned that we, and our house, were a little disheveled.
Over the years we have concluded that there will never be “more time.” We get the same 24-hours that everyone else gets. There will never be a “slow” season of parenting or life. There might be slower days, but we won’t wake up one morning with extra hours available to us. Just as I learned as a young adult that being hospitable has nothing to do with how much money you have, or how amazing your space is, I’ve also embraced the idea that time is not something I’ll ever accumulate more of; I have to use what I have wisely. Rather than fretting over what little space there is to fill in on the calendar, our family tries to be intentional about what we do with it— what we make of it.
When I had little children at home, I hosted playdates or invited friends over for after-school snacks and bike-riding. I made coffee at home and sat on the couch in the living room instead of going out to a coffee shop, and in doing so, my children have learned what joy comes from opening our door— from bringing others into our home, and our lives.
When we moved to Redding, I became part of a larger group of women with husbands who travel, and so, a new rhythm was established. Every time my husband is away, I invite someone over for dinner. Some women have children; many do not. These ladies get a home-cooked meal and the added bonus of being entertained by my children for a couple of hours afterward. Some stay and chat with me into the night after my kids have gone to sleep, others head out when the kids go to bed, and a few have become regular guests. Some weeks we’ll have three extra people join us at the dinner table, other times it’s a weekend brunch with moms and other kids. We make waffles, cut up fresh fruit and serve coffee; it’s simple. The kids eat and then run off to play, and sometimes we play board games, go for a walk, or watch a movie.
Recently I felt a twinge of guilt when we scheduled home group on the eve of my husband heading out on another long work trip. Wouldn’t it show my children that time with our friends was more important than family time? What would they think if we asked them to stay in their room so that the adults could have time to eat and discuss the bible? Would it disappoint them, or make them angry? I shared my concerns with my husband as we looked over the calendar, and he assured me that it wouldn’t do any of those things. “What it will do, is show our children that it’s important to have people in our lives who make us better,” he said confidently, “and it will show our friends that they are a priority in the midst of our busy lives.” So, we put the date on the calendar and sent out the group text confirming the next gathering at our home.
To be honest, it can sometimes feel impossible— to synchronize four calendars to find even two evenings per month for us to get together. As a homeschooling momma, it can be a chore to try to get out of the house by myself to meet up with a girlfriend (especially since we try to reserve the baby-sitting dollars for date nights). It can be a struggle, but prioritizing people will always be worth it.
I love that there are apps to track your phone usage (well, love and hate). I cringe when I add up the percentages or minutes that I’ve spent in front of a screen. And I wonder— if we had a way to do that with our lives, if we could see a print out of how our week is actually spent, would it shift our priorities a little (or maybe a lot?) A friend, many years ago, reminded me that relationships are what Jesus invested in, and so that means He wants us to do the same.
This week’s challenge is to evaluate what’s filling your schedule. What is it that you’ve said yes to, that maybe needs to shift for a season? What is it that is actually eating up all of your time? How much of your day planner is blocked off for relationships? Has “time” become a roadblock to being the hospitable person you want to be?
And one final heart check because some of you are deep in a season where life is too busy. I get that; I understand what it’s like to live in those seasons. But then the question becomes, “are you able to see time in the foreseeable future where it may be possible?” If not, chances are that you don’t have a scheduling issue, but a priority problem. If people are important to us, then it will be reflected in our calendar, because we find time for the things that we value the most.