For the longest time I've held back from inviting people regularly to our home.
Not because I didn't want visitors, and not because I don't enjoy making a meal and serving family and friends with a hearty repaste.
I hold back because of silly things like we don't have enough chairs; the table is too small; there's no room in the narrow galley kitchen to keep it tidy with all those pots, pans, plates and people...I could go on, but I won't.
I knew at the beginning of 2015 that 'hospitality' needed to be high on my list of things to address during A Year of Gentle Domesticity and as it turned out I actually needed that whole year to find a peace with opening our home as it is, to whom ever.
Maybe I had placed too many high expectations on my family and friends?
I'd created a picture in my mind that they would be disappointed with our cramped and unusual seating, and wonder why we didn't make the effort to obtain a decent size table with at least four chairs.
For the past few years I've been having the girls (Heather, Barb and Wendy) over for a sewing day every 5 or 6 weeks and though I always felt overwhelmed the day before and the hours leading up to their arrival, those feelings would vanish within minutes of their first hug and beaming smiles. Not once have I failed to enjoy our time together, but still, my trepidation returned with every sewing date made in my home.
Last December something unexpected happened.
I made a deliberate decision to let it all go.
The concerns, the embarrassment, the panic - gone.
It was as though an unwanted stranger had been secretly residing in my home and now that I'd discovered him could swiftly kick him out the door and out of my life. The sense of purpose and joyous expectation towards hospitality which flooded my heart afterwards has never been brighter.
Actually, I've kicked a few unwelcome things out recently that have dramatically changed my life and in the next few months you'll hear about them, but this 'hospitality' thing was a biggie for me because we had family planning a visit in January and with one small dining table, three chairs and eight people I knew the 'joy' factor of our time together hinged on whether or not I was relaxed and oozing genuine unforced hospitality.
And you know what? That's exactly what happened.
I had a smaller family dinner, the first of many to come, a few days earlier, which was so much fun, so when the big day of the larger gathering arrived I can honestly say there has never been a happier heart than mine.
Some of us sat around the table, a baby balanced on one knee, others pulled up footstools and ate in the living room on the coffee table, whilst another rested back in the recliner and joined in the conversation between spoonfuls of Moroccan Lamb and rice.
It was a 'serve yourself' dinner with large bowls spread down the centre of the table, so when those in the living room returned for seconds (and thirds) the conversation naturally moved easily between the rooms.
Later that night after everyone was gone my heart felt like it had grown so big it would burst sunshine, and even though I came down with a mystery virus just hours later nothing could extinguish the joy inside me.
Something wonderful had been birthed and I was not going to lose it.
Yesterday the girls arrived for a sewing day and I knew I was different.
There had been a spring in my step for two days beforehand and my, did I have fun setting out my mis-matched tea cups, plates and saucers on an old tablecloth before they knocked on the door!
My sewing room chair was wheeled out and placed at the table, sour cherry & cranberry cakes baked, a packet of family favourite 'pfeffernusse' opened, and the kettle put on the boil for coffee...
We laughed, sewed, ate, and laughed some more.
And I realised something.
Hospitality is not about what you don't have; it's about what's in your heart and the people you're serving.
Like the beauty of mismatched tea cups and saucers. As separate pieces they are lonely and not very useful - but together they create warmth, beauty, and purpose.
Here's to something new, something wonderful, something that makes your heart expand like sunshine over the horizon at dawn...genuine, heart infused hospitality.