PRACTICE is a word worthy of adoration.

PRACTICE is a solid, steady friend. The one that shows up day after day to get all the things done. PRACTICE extends a hand of grace and a boost of encouragement. It leaves room for mistakes and allows for another opportunity to do it better. PRACTICE gives the pat on the back and reassuringly says, “You’ll never do it perfectly and that’s okay. Just do your best today!”

When PRACTICE made an appearance in the Bible, I admit I was initially surprised. It doesn’t seem like a particularly holy word. I’m used to seeing PRACTICE hang out with friends like PIANO, BASKETBALL, FLASH CARDS, and PARALLEL PARKING. Nonetheless, I happily waved PRACTICE over to sit down and visit for a moment.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NIV)

Sports are a logical thing to practice. There are rules to memorize, cardiovascular gains to make, and muscles to build in order to succeed. Music makes sense to practice. Success with scales, songs, and styles all require the dedication that only practice time can give.

Most of us can envision what steps must be taken and what benchmarks must be reached in order to succeed in a variety of life-skills. But hospitality? How do you practice hospitality?

In his letters to Titus and Timothy, Paul gives hints on how to build up spiritual disciplines. He tells Timothy to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). He tells Titus to “be a model of good works” and dedicates a large portion of his letter on how the older generations should train up the younger ones through example (Titus 2:7).

I began to think through the examples of hospitality I have witnessed in the lives of gracious women God has placed around me. What hospitable habits have I seen them model? How did they create a welcoming atmosphere in their homes? What attitudes in hospitality have these women modeled to me that I can begin to practice in my own home?

Delilah’s lesson

Delilah resides in a charming home that reflects her lovely smile. Her furniture is arranged for conversation and comfort. Her color palette enwraps its guests with peace and serenity. Her warm greeting at the door is quickly followed with an offer for drink and snacks. Delilah is the picture of grace.

One of the fears of friends or neighbors dropping by unexpectedly is not having enough food to go around. Anxious thoughts can swirl like a tornado. Will my guests leave hungry? Will there be enough of any particular item?

Enter the brilliance of Delilah’s simple, yet elegant, presentations.

Small amounts of nuts or berries can be poured into cute, decorative bowls. An apple, pear, or orange can be thinly sliced and arranged on a platter with some cheese. Fan some crackers around the edge of a pretty plate. With proper arrangement, you can create a mini-charcuterie board that has visual appeal. Provide your guests with appetizer plates and cold drinks.

Delilah’s lesson: Greet with a smile, offer refreshment, and settle in for comfortable conversation.

Laura’s Lesson

Laura is the girl next door. Literally.

Laura exudes casual confidence and makes you feel as though her home is your home. Having moved all over the world as an Air Force wife, Laura understands that too many possessions become more burdensome than joyful. “It’s just stuff,” Laura often says with a shrug.

Laura’s garage is equipped to extend a welcoming invitation to others in her community. Armed with a refrigerator and extra camp chairs, Laura’s driveway is a meeting spot for all varieties of neighbors. Little ones zipping around with red-flushed cheeks on hot summer days are always welcome to grab a juice box or freezer pop. A selection of bottled water or canned drinks are available to bring to the conversational circle of camp chairs.

Laura’s lesson: Cold drinks and camp chairs from the garage can transform neighbors into family.

Judy’s Lesson

As a matriarch in the small, rural church, Judy’s Spanish-style ranch home is the site of many church gatherings. With plenty of space and an open floorplan, Judy will host anything from baby showers to Bible studies. Stress and perfection are the only guests never allowed to cross Judy’s threshold.

“I never mop before hosting a gathering,” Judy confides with a smile. “My floor will be much dirtier after a party than before.”

Hosting people in a home always brings messes. Crumbs get scattered. Bumped elbows spill drinks. Serving spoons spatter sticky drops. Pies get dropped. Dirt travels in with the shoes, and floors bear the brunt of it all.

Saving the hard work of mopping floors until after the guests have left ushers in a new level of stress-free hospitality. Spills and dirt can always be cleaned tomorrow. Today is the time to enjoy the conversation and laughter.

Judy’s lesson: Enjoy the guests now. Deep clean the house later.

Practice hospitality

What these women have taught me is that hospitality is not the same as entertaining. Entertaining involves perfectly planned portions, pleasing the guests’ pallets, and showcasing a variety of complimentary dishes. Hospitality, on the other hand, believes that love is a greater ingredient than perfection. Hospitality will not miss out on an opportunity to welcome others to the table.

People want to feel loved. They want to relax and have a moment to breathe. People want to be able to share their stories, unload their burdens, forget their hurts, and be seen and welcomed just as they are. People will remember the smile at the door, the extra band-aid sent home with their child’s skinned knee, the laughter spilled over a silly game, and the kindness offered at the table.

That’s the beautiful power of PRACTICE. It allows us to try something in our own clumsy way and do it again and again until we get it right. Maybe not right away. Maybe not all the time. But eventually we will be the ones being watched. We will be the ones setting the example, modeling good works, and introducing others to PRACTICE hospitality.

About the Author:

Heather Molendyk

Heather was an imaginative, competitive tomboy growing up in the city of Miami. She spent many barefoot days with her younger  brother hunting dinosaurs, building forts, transforming robots, and sending Barbie on archaeological digs. In 2000, Heather not only married the most handsome man in the church choir, but also graduated with a degree in elementary education from the University of Miami. Now a contented resident of North Carolina, Heather enjoys homeschooling her children, sneaking treats to the pet guinea pigs and rabbits, and stealing dates with her husband at the grocery store (the one place their children never want to go). Heather is the author of “Little Pillars,” a curriculum that teaches preschoolers the doctrines of The Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, and 10 Commandments. You can hang out with Heather on Instagram at @Heather Molendyk.