I have a number of what I call my “go-to” books. I group these books on one shelf in my office and regularly venture their direction when I want to be inspired. Or comforted. Or reminded of a lesson I keep forgetting.
This week, while giving thought to my column, I brewed my favorite cup of tea — Tazo’s Wild Sweet Orange with a dribble of honey — and headed for one of my all-time favorites.
It’s titled, “Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcomed and Wanted,” and it’s written by Karen Burton Mains.
I pulled my first edition copy from the shelf and sat down in a chair that was once my dad’s favorite. As I perused my favorite chapters I took special notice of contents I’ve highlighted over the years:
Our homes play an important role in establishing community and enhancing a feeling of family.
We must learn to think of the church as being without walls, and use our homes as tools of ministry.
Like most writers whose books stay in print and last the test of time, Mains still has a whole lot to say to us even though our world differs greatly from the one she was experiencing in 1976 when she first wrote the book. Today we see each other’s lives through images or comments placed on Facebook. We see a friend’s new baby or funny family vacation photos, or offer comfort when life gets tough and we somehow feel close or connected to each other. Growing numbers of us text, message on Facebook, and share opinions using social media. Yet as close as we may feel when using these various methods, most of us have never set foot in each others’ homes.
All of this ran through my mind in rapid fashion this week when a court appointed Guardian ad Litem dropped by to visit our foster daughter. “Oh no!” I uttered out loud as I heard her drive up to the house, “Just look at our windows! They’re filthy! I wish I’d gotten them washed. I don’t want her to think we’re living like cavemen!”
It was the look of our 16-year-old that could have been Karen Burton Mains herself. “We just look like normal people, Joan” she replied, shaking her head in amusement. “I mean, we live here, you know?!”
Indeed, we do live here: those who are genetically linked and some who are not but are beginning to feel like part of the family. Turning a blind eye to the windows, we invited the ad Litem to sit at our kitchen table across from a warm pile of clothes right out of the dryer. We talked about how life is going. We talked about our hopes for the future.
And I was reminded once again that it’s always a matter of the heart, not perfectly clean windows. It’s about understanding what our gifts are and using our homes as a means for welcoming people. Sharing love. Being real. Opening our hearts. Facing uncertainties with others who are committed to you. Experiencing God’s love.
Joan Bay Klope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org