Summers and holidays are busy times for entertaining out of town guests!
My friend Barb has guests coming and going all year long. My husband and I experienced true hospitality when we stayed with Barb and her family a few years ago in Wisconsin. I can tell you that we had the best food (yummy lamb!), conversation, night’s sleep, and we can’t wait to go back!
Her family went out of their way to make us feel warm and welcome.
I won’t even tell you how cozy the bed was … And Carlos was outside to greet us every morning. Along with Barb’s sheep and lambs. (Read how my Balcony Girls were able to name Mini May!)
Here’s Barb’s story …
In wanting to have a hospitable home when we married, it seemed natural that a truly open home would occasionally mean overnight guests. Over the years in our family, these guests have ranged from relatives and old friends to ministry associates to total strangers. Overnight guests can be a little more intimidating to host. Issues of food, cleanliness and time management all come into play in a larger way than when hosting for a singular meal. Early on, I decided to consider what I would want if I were staying in my home:
–A clean place to lay my head at night. I do work to make sure a guest room/area and its nearby bathroom are well dusted and scrubbed for our guests.  This doesn’t mean fancy though–it means clean. I remember one well-traveled friend complaining about hotels that don’t wash sheets between guests, and I realized how simple our needs and desires really are. The sheets aren’t 400 count sateen? They don’t even match? Oh well. They’re clean.
What matters most are warm and inviting hosts!
–Food on the table at meal times. Again, a simple need. I would never expect escargot or prime rib. Recently, when hosting college choir students, the weekend got away from me and I decided to order pizza delivered to our home. At dinner, I apologetically told the students we were going low key, with national chain pizza, and they were thrilled. They loved it and said it was the best thing we could have served them! At breakfast the next morning, I intended to offer at least some homemade fare, but forgot with all the other things I had to accomplish.
Our adult kids shared a variety of cereals with the students, and they were fine with it. They expressed great appreciation to us in detail when they left.
It doesn’t take much to fill a tummy, and it isn’t hard to come up with palatable meals in our culture.
–Some space and social comfort. Not being a big social animal, I need a little alone time everyday. Tell me where the TV and books or magazines are (or board and electronic games for youthful guests), and feel free to go about your family business when necessary. Let me know when you need me, and I’ll be up or available. Just give me a little maintenance information, and I’ll take care of myself! When I am with you, please let me help if you’re feeling pressed. And don’t worry about maintaining conversation with me. If we run out of discussion topics, give me a task to do or go about your business and I’ll go read or stitch.
This is your home and I would never want you feeling uncomfortable in it just because I’m here.
In our home, we have tried to designate one room as a “guest room.” However, that room isn’t always sizeable enough, and recently it was otherwise occupied on two occasions when I would have preferred to use it for company. Instead, one of our kids gave up her room for a relative, choosing to sleep on an air mattress in the basement so the relative could have her bed. On the other occasion, the larger group of guests slept in the basement, where a TV and several games are located. Rather spartan, unglamorous accommodations, with only the air mattress and some sleeping bags, but our guests stayed happily occupied long after we headed for bed, and slept quite well once they finally hit the hay themselves!
Again, simple but clean, in a positive and safe environment.
Sharing our home with overnight guests has been well worth it over the years. Our kids have learned to sacrifice for individuals they haven’t always even met before. They’ve also become comfortable themselves with hosting when they’re most vulnerable–early in the morning, half-awake and feeling owly! Sometimes too our kids have been pleasantly surprised, when the guests that they thought were going to be so boring or frumpy turned out to be anything but.
We’ve learned more about ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses, more about daily life in other parts of the country and world, learned the latest on various aspects of the Christian culture, and found commonality with people we’d never met before they showed up at our door.
In sharing our home overnight, we’ve provided safe and inexpensive haven for individuals in need of a temporary place to stay. 
We’ve encouraged others and been encouraged ourselves. And we’ve gotten to know many people who are touched that we would be willing to open our home to them, in a culture where open homes–and lives–aren’t so common anymore!
Do you enjoy out of town guests?
Do you have a special guest room?
Do you enjoy cooking for them, or can it be a burden if they stay too long?