There are times when it is easy to show hospitality through a meal. The dishes are all done, the children have been cared for, laundry is put away, and the floor is clean.

And then there are times when it’s not so easy.

Discerning the difference between hard but doable and truly impossible without neglecting absolute necessities has always been hard for me. I will skip parts of our home school in order to make a tasty lunch for someone or I will leave days worth of dishes in order to make my husband’s favorite dish.

But I know that he doesn’t want that, and neither does anyone else we share a meal with from time to time. When I have made that choice I am the one who has neglected the necessary for the unnecessary. Looking back at a few too many of these occasions I see the folly in this.

Had I swapped that homemade pasta for a simple pot of stew I wouldn’t have left the laundry unfolded, covering our bed when it came time to sink in to rest for the night.

Had I made a pot of mashed potatoes instead of a few pans of fried potatoes, I could have spent more time teaching my son to read that day.

Had I worked within my circumstances, with an eye towards what was needful and important, then perhaps I would look back and see hospitality, not showmanship.

When we prepare a meal for others, whether it’s our own spouse and children or a neighbor who could use a break, they almost never care what you make. Especially in that second instance, when you are feeding those you do not normally feed, the simple act of preparing and sharing food with them is what they remember – not how fancied up the table was or whether or not you provided a three course meal.

Hospitality in sharing or simply preparing a meal for another family has come to mean something more than wowing them with this combination or that new trick you learned. To me it has come to mean doing what you can within the circumstances.

When the dishes are all done, the chores behind me, the laundry not shouting for attention from the clothesline; those are the times that we can give our friends and family something extra special – an extra side dish or even a dessert.

But when things aren’t perfect all we need to do is feed them, with whatever food we have and whatever time we can spare. And I’m guessing, like me, you’ve never been disappointed when someone else gives of their time and resources to feed you.

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