It’s The Wednesday Writers!
No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.
Today I’m happy to welcome back my friend Stephanie Thompson.
A Place of Unexpected Hospitality
Last year, something exciting happened around here. After living here for nineteen years, we bought a new back door! It is a beautiful white door with a small window. No scratches or marks of age. New.
As a child, I could have never expected a door to be a source of fulfillment. But once you reach adulthood, you set your eyes on different “toys.” A new dishwasher? Yippee!
Our home is small and quaint. Originally we bought it as a “starter” home but due to a lot of factors since then, we are still here. And truthfully, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is the place our stories have unfolded. We have hosted Bible Studies, birthday parties, dinner parties, brought new babies home. These walls have witnessed despair, sorrow, hope, celebration. God has weaved our lives together here.
The distance between the back door and the front door is fairly short. Yet, as you know, there exists a cultural nuance about house entrances. Typically, the front door is used formally and the back door for more intimate relationships. Things like:
The neighbor coming over to ask to borrow a cup of sugar (yes, we are fortunate to have those interactions in 2016!)
My kids’ friends looking for a playmate
The dogs, coming in refreshed and a bit calmer after some time in the backyard.
The Summer Parade of kids going back and forth between the inside for refreshment and the outside for watersports (hopefully not dripping). The glorious breeze and the waft of grass coming in with them.
Because our home is small, there is not a lot of space for storage. Coats and shoes find their place on hooks and a shoe bench immediately after entering the back door. And it opens right into my kitchen. Let’s just say there is always something “cooking” in there.
I’d like to say that the “mudroom” was always organized but it wasn’t.
In the summer, flip flops, packages of sparklers left over from fourth of July and swimming goggles are stored (loosely!) in this space.
In the winter, it becomes cluttered with boots. Not just our boots. The boots of those who grace us with their presence. Whose interactions are woven into our life stories. Which brings me to what I have learned from my back door.
You see, I used to be embarrassed for guests to use it. Even if I tried to cue visitors to use the front entrance, which is so much more elegant and clean, people still chose to use the back door.
Sometimes, my father-in-law would pop over on a Saturday morning to have coffee. There would be a knock on the back door. Yikes! Pancake batter adorned my counters. Dirty breakfast dishes stacked in the sink waiting to be bathed in the dishwasher. I tried to be gracious but inside I was swallowing my pride. He was seeking relationship with his son. I was focused on logistical details.
And then there was the next door neighbor girl, seeking a place of refuge from the insecurity in her own home. There would be a knock on the back door. I saw the door opening to the array of boots and coats strewn about. She didn’t focus on that. Our back entrance provided affirmation that she had value and was loved unconditionally.
So last year, when we bought a new door, there was a feeling of accomplishment on our part. Everyone likes to make their home more appealing and welcoming.We saved and bought a door that added aesthetic value as well as heat efficiency. It was nice to have something new.
But nothing else about the “back door” has changed. Except my perception of it and what it means for us.
I have learned that when people use that door, they feel comfortable. Intimate. Our front door is for people like the UPS carrier, a girl scout selling cookies, trick or treaters, or guests with whom we haven’t developed much of a relationship.
The back door crowd sees us in all our “nakedness”, and still choose to enter our home. And I need to let down my guard and accept it.
For, despite what my door may look like, it represents something beautiful.
What area of your home has become your unexpected place of hospitality?
Stephanie is a graduate of North Park Theological Seminary and an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She writes about sensing the voice of God and encountering the Holy Spirit in the midst of our everyday routines. Her pieces have appeared at Mudroom, The Mighty, Altarwork, as well as other sites. She is a writer for the Redbud Guild. In addition, her passion for those affected by mental illness finds itself woven into her writing. Stephanie lives in Mokena, Illinois with her husband and three teens. .