Making a House a Home

Some of us cannot fathom living anywhere other than where we always have. On the other end of the spectrum are those who move once a year or so and are experts at packing, moving and re-settling. For the rest in the middle, it can be a bit daunting facing a new house with empty rooms (well, empty except for boxes…everywhere). Or perhaps some are setting up a new household for the first time and have no idea where to start.

Personally, I hate the chaos of moving, but I LOVE the excitement and fresh start. A blank slate teems with possibilities. That love also carries over into occasionally refreshing my existing rooms, because the physical space has a great impact on home life and health.

For those in the middle or starting out, here are a few tips to help you with the practical side of making a house a home.

Set up one space as a haven. This is for just after a move. Everything is in a state of upheaval. You can only take that so long. The rest your soul, mind and body need to keep going can be helped by taking some time to create one comfortable space. When I was single, this was usually my bedroom; in a family situation, that is often the kitchen out of necessity and for maximum impact. Unpack what is needed there. Set it up approximately how you would like it — at least enough to look nice — and then remove all vestiges of a recent move. When you walk into the room, you should be able to briefly forget the mess everywhere else in the house and just live.

John DeereGet things on the walls to make it feel homey. As soon as you can after moving, put pictures or art on the walls. You will feel warm and comfortable when your beautiful items are visible. You will feel like you belong when your favorite family pictures surround you. It doesn’t take long, but you will notice the difference quickly. Don’t worry too much about location; pick a pleasant, reasonable spot and put it up. You can always rearrange when everything is settled and you fine-tune your rooms.

Color coordination pays off. Whether you are moving or just refreshing your home, colors are key. Not all of us have an artist’s eye, but there are other options. Hardware stores, magazines, IKEA stores and Pinterest all have plenty of ideas that you can straight-up copy if you like.

As a bare minimum, you can use neutrals as a base, and then get help with arranging furniture and accents in each room. This is a good option for budget restrictions and for those who like more frequent change. A neutral wall can be touched up for many years, saving on paint expense, and still look like a new room every so often with just a few changes. Asking for help could mean a professional, but this also could be an opportunity to team with a friend or build a relationship with an acquaintance or neighbor.

Comfortable seating and spaces are a must. When you move into a new house, rooms can tend to feel more like a storage unit than a home. Quickly making at least a few seats (that aren’t piles of boxes) available will start nudging the needle closer to “home” on the dial.

Past move-in time, this is still true. Your home is not a museum; you live in it. Remember to allow for comfortable seating in each of your room arrangements. This ranges from a side chair in the guest room, to a dining room table everyone loves to linger around, to a counter stool or kitchen table that makes it easy for the kitchen to be the heart of the home. The living room especially needs to be welcoming in its comfort. This are all good opportunities to encourage conversation and relationship in your home.

Not all of us are gifted interior designers, but little things like these make a big difference. We all can have that impact out of love for our families, friends, church and neighbors.

FYI: Hospitality

Following is a collection of links that may be of interest to you related to our current topic. Note, listing does not imply endorsement. Please evaluate for your own situation.

Books

Confessions of an Organized Housewife

Hospitality Commands

Open Heart, Open Home

Practicing Hospitality

Resources

Flylady.net — becoming more organized, one day at a time

Encouragement

Hospitality is War — another perspective on the importance of hospitality

Culture of Hospitality — you can do it!

Putting the Gospel on Display — a reminder that hospitality is for all Christians to do

Don’t Tell Me What You Ate — refocusing help…all the way from Greece

 

 

Objections to Hospitality

by Mary Clare Freel

My house isn’t clean enough! The flylady calls this CHAOS (“Can’t have anyone over syndrome”). I have 5 sons who shed debris as they enter a room, so I completely understand this problem. Your house does not have to be spotless. We need not pretend that no one lives here. However, we do want to reflect the glory of God in our homes. God is a God of order, and our homes should reflect the same.

Try to develop a cleaning routine that will keep things somewhat orderly so you are not tempted to hide when unexpected company drops by. You can also enlist family members to help clean. Regular chores for children foster responsibility. A quick blitz of the house is another option. Home improvement projects often happen on Saturdays, so my husband often rallied the kids for a quick clean while I prepared dinner. Whatever wasn’t cleaned was closed off.

My house isn’t big enough! Keep it manageable. Don’t invite the whole church at one time. Do things in small doses. If you don’t have enough table room, use trays for extras. I have used a blanket on the floor for kids to have a picnic. A piano bench makes a great child’s table. Be creative. Spill over into other rooms or outdoors, if whether permits. You can even be hospitable in a dorm room.

My house is not nice enough! I’ll invite people over after we remodel or get nicer furniture. When we were having a Bible study years ago after we first bought our house, it was in a constant state of remodeling. I understand feeling like that, but we were blessed by having the study. At one point we had no kitchen counters, but someone brought a board to put the food out. People are not coming to see your house, they are coming to fellowship around the things of Christ. Let Christ be the center and not your house. If you wait until you have your dream house, you may never be hospitable. Do what you can with what you have. Be creative.

  • Can’t afford a new couch? Get a slipcover or fresh pillows.
  • Ugly carpet? Cover it with an inexpensive rug to cover it or tone it down.
  • A tablecloth over a beat-up table or a coat of paint can update the look. Fresh flowers and candles can add atmosphere. An attractive table setting goes a long way to minimize other flaws in the house.

I am not outgoing enough. Pray that God would help you to overcome your shyness, because it is a fear of man, so that you may minister to others. Invite a combination of people that can carry the conversation.

I am too busy! There may be times in our lives that hospitality takes a back seat for one reason or another. Certain providential hindrances may cause us to take a reprieve from normal duties of hospitality. These may include illnesses within your family, the birth of a baby, transitions of a move, etc. During such times, it is important to maintain contact with others in the church to avoid falling into a reclusive mindset. As soon as circumstances change, we need to ease back into the practice of hospitality. If we are too busy to be hospitable, then maybe we are busier than God intends us to be. Busyness is not the mark of success our society would lead us to believe. Perhaps we should reevaluate our schedules and see what could be eliminated or switched around.

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As you can see, Biblical hospitality expresses itself in a variety of ways — from tea for two, dinner for 12, weekend housing, to even adoption. Through all these expressions runs the common thread of the love of Christ. Our homes should be a fountain of refreshment to those who live there and to all others who enter. Let that be our aim.

Practical Tips for Hospitality

by Mary Clare Freel

You have seen from our previous posts the Biblical demands for Christians to be hospitable and various uses of it. Yet there may be some who simply lack confidence and so shy away from it. Hospitality is not effortless, but it is easier than you think. Here are some practical steps to simplify hospitality.

Always keep in mind what your purpose is. It is not to impress others but to minister the love of Christ to them. You may not have someone over for an elegant dinner but may have them in for tea and cookies. It is an attitude not an event. My friend and my stepmother were very good at this — always welcoming every visitor stopping by to come in and have a cup of tea or coffee no matter how busy they were.

Plan ahead as much as possible. Planning ahead is key to making it smooth but not essential to making it happen. Sometimes spur of the moment get-togethers are the most fun. Planning is extremely helpful when it comes to the Lord’s Day. Here are some suggestions:

  • Put the meal together on Saturday or earlier in the week. Many things can be done in advance. Soup and bread, or salads and sandwiches, are easy to make ahead, as well as meals in the slow cooker. You can also double recipes and freeze one for a later date.
  • If you are not a confident cook, you can master two or three “company meals” and stick to those for Sunday dinners. I am not opposed to Stouffer’s lasagnas or Mrs. Edwards’ pies or other desserts.

Use other ideas for fellowship meals. Saturday breakfast or brunch, baked potato suppers, pancake suppers, and potluck suppers all work well. A spontaneous idea is calling friends to combine leftovers for a surprising meal. You can host a ladies tea or lunch.

Accept any help that is offered. We don’t have to do it all, and many love to help in the kitchen. It often is more fun when everyone is working together.

Accommodating overnight guests is possible without a guest room. If you don’t have one, you may shift people around and children may double up to open up a room for guests. Air mattresses have come a long way and even have frames to rest on. A den or study can become an instant guest room. Make sure guests know where everything is (i.e. towels, glasses in kitchen) and leave lights on for seeing at night. If you have a guest bath, you may want to have a basket that contains necessities. A basket of fruit and goodies is nice for those who have traveled far and arrive late, especially if they have changed time zones. Try to provide a lamp to read by and some light reading material for those who may have trouble sleeping. Young single folks, especially men, are usually happy to put their heads down wherever.

Kingdom Hospitality

by Mary Clare Freel

Hospitality gives us the opportunity to minister to the household of faith and beyond. In this session we want to explore various ways Scripture exhorts us to practice hospitality. With that in mind, let us look at different types of people to which our hospitality is to extend.

Those in the Family of God — Acts 2:46-47, Romans 12:13, I Peter 4:8-9

All these passages are within the context of functioning within the body of Christ. Believers are joyfully fellowshipping together. This should not be radical thinking within the church, but unfortunately it is. It should be a natural outflow of our love for one another.

What are particular ways to express hospitality to the saints? You may be one who hosts a Bible study in your home, or prayer group (Acts 5:42). When our church first started, for the first year we met in homes. Another way is by hosting guest preachers or missionaries in your home as they pass through (I Kings 4) or are on furlough. Your house may be a stopover for traveling Christians — friends, relatives, church conference attendees, or friends of friends. It helps establish relationships with those in other local churches. College students may need a home away from home, a weekend family for them. Inviting church members or visitors over for a meal should be a regular practice in the church.

Ministering to Strangers — Hebrews 13:1-2

We live in a violent society, one of locked doors and security systems. In the newspapers we read of atrocities committed daily, so the idea of allowing strangers into our homes is somewhat uncomfortable.

Remember the story of Lot in Genesis 18 & 19? Lot lived in one of the most violent, sinful cities since the Flood, so much so that God destroyed it for the lack of 10 righteous people. It is in this setting Lot invited these strangers into his home. What if Lot had not extended hospitality? He would have perished with the rest in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Entrusting God to take care of us, do we throw caution to the wind? We must use wisdom and discernment when dealing with strangers. I am not suggesting that you invite a strange man knocking at your door in for tea while your husband is away, but we can be willing to have those whom we do not know into your home. Perhaps seek out opportunities to do this. Mutual acquaintances are strangers to you, but have been recommended by someone.

Some options are radical hospitality, and not everyone is equipped to do this. You may have troubled individuals into your home for temporary housing. Housing for those involved in a natural disaster may be an excellent opportunity as well. Foster parenting or adoption may be an option. These all require your family to be on a strong footing and your home organized. You and your family will also need the ability to give of yourselves emotionally (James 1:27). There are also government regulations connected with fostering and adoption, so there is much to consider beforehand.

Hospitality to Enemies — Proverbs 25:22, Matthew 5:38-48

How do we express hospitality to enemies? Enemies are not just people that get on our nerves; an enemy is one that feels malice or hostility towards another. Ideally, this should not be believers. It may be a neighbor angry with you for some reason. Or a work situation. Enemies of God are our enemies. They may hate us because of our faith. God can and will handle His enemies.

You can go the extra mile. If your enemy loses his job and can’t pay the bills, you can offer meals or financial help. If their house burns, you could offer housing. Romans 12:18 says to live at peace with them as far as possible. God may use your gentle kindness, your hospitable attitude, your peaceful way of responding to your enemy, to humble him and bring him to Christ or to reconciliation with you.

A Biblical Means of Evangelism — Acts 5:42

Hospitality is a creative, but not manipulative, means of evangelism. Invite neighbors and coworkers into your home and get to know them. This is friendship evangelism. Encourage your children to ask friends over. Welcome them to stay for dinner and be a part of your family — especially those who come from troubled homes. Karen Mains, in her book Open Heart, Open Home, likened her home to a maternity ward where she saw many born into the kingdom. Your home may be the very place that God uses to bring someone from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, and you can experience that joy firsthand!

Now that we have discussed so many opportunities, your ideas may be flowing at an overwhelming level. Our next post will explore ways to simplify hospitality and hopefully relieve some of the apprehension of it.