after the guests have gone…

It is Christmas Eve Eve.

As households all over the world start to swell with the arrival of relatives and friends, our family is experiencing the opposite: a rare moment of having our home to ourselves for a couple of days.

We have a permanent lodger – although really he’s a good friend, and plays the part of a fun uncle as far as our kids are concerned. We eat together, spend evenings together, look after the house together. He left yesterday to be with his family over Christmas. We had another friend staying for a couple of days – he left this morning. On Christmas Day we scoot off to see extended family – but for these two precious days, our home is just the four of us.

This year, our guest book tells us nearly 50 friends and family stayed in our home…including some American friends of friends who stayed when we were away, and whom we have yet to meet. In addition, we housed a theology student on placement for a month, a friend who was without accommodation for a couple of months, and a guy who was here to do the main talks at the York St John mission week. We’ve hosted thank-you suppers, mums’ (and kids’) socials and student meals. We’ve had most of our church over for Sunday lunch. (At least, we had had most of our church over. But it’s hard to keep up when God is growing the church!) And there are friends who pop in regularly – little people come to play, bigger people come to play Settlers of Catan or watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Many people come for work-related meetings with Desert Dad – and, if they come near a mealtime, they’ll almost always stay for food. We’ve never been precise with portions, and there’s always enough.

This is not a boast – it’s just the context for why having a couple of days by ourselves is unique and special. The thought of it all may make you feel tired – actually, summarizing it like that makes me feel pretty tired too! Well, here’s what I’ve learned which makes the whole thing loads easier:

* I don’t have to be über-sociable every time someone enters our home. People don’t come because we’re perfect – they come because we’re genuine. We don’t hide our arguments, our strops, our tired moments, our stressful days. I don’t have the energy to play perfect hostess this much. If we only invited people over when I did have the energy, then I can’t imagine what beautiful opportunities for hospitality we would miss.

* God does it. I know this sounds clichéd, but He does. We give Him our home, our cooking, our kids and ourselves – and He shows up and makes it work. I don’t know how, but He does. I know this because people return and return, despite the negative things outlined above.

* God is gracious, and gives us times of rest. Desert Dad and I preserve at least one night each week solely for each other. We preserve (as much as possible) our day off together as a family. We grab little moments here and there whenever we get them. And this couple of days is one of those moments.

Do I regret this lifestyle choice? Because, even though I would argue that it’s what Jesus demands of us, it’s what the Bible calls us to – it is, still, a choice. As we enjoy some quiet time together, I’m so grateful for what my children get from this rather manic, open-door lifestyle. They are both brilliantly confident at talking to adults – from a whole range of backgrounds. They get attention from lots of different people throughout the week. There’s rarely a dull moment in the house! They are learning to put others first – to offer them the chocolates first, to ask what drinks people would like. Yet they know they have a secure place to call home, and a safe haven in the embrace of Mum and Dad, however many people are in the house. They know they are loved – and are learning to love others as they welcome them into our home.

Happy Christmas! Hope you all have a very blessed, peaceful time this week.

From a rather chilled-out Desert Mum xx

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