Lately, in the business of this life with young children and SO many needs, I sometimes feel that all I do is give and try to be kind. But kindness is more than just a smile on the face. It’s an outpouring of the heart that results in action. It’s a choice. When I think about “being kind” towards someone, I think about giving.
So my husband and I are trying to learn how to see the need of others in order to act in kindness by opening our doors and our home. We are called to “give of our riches of his grace.” (Eph 2:7) “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16) Hosting people at all stages of life is a very practical way of bestowing kindness and meeting needs.
Meeting every need is not my calling, but I am called to build community. I see all these fruits of the Spirit as being dependent upon the other, flowing from the Holy Spirit. They are all concerned with the Lord's affairs. The more of Him we soak in, the more we have to pour out. We say in our family, "God blesses us so that we can bless others."
Kindness involves sacrifice. It takes time. It's tempting to make excuses. "I have kids. I’m too tired." But it’s such a sweet thing to see someone in the neighborhood or at our church and notice those faces we have hosted. Where conversation has happened. Where our family now knows some of their story. We didn’t do it perfectly, but we obeyed. For the Glory of God.
Kindness involves boundaries. It takes allowing less than perfect giving to be okay. Boundaries give you the freedom to keep meeting needs in a way that is sustainable. If you need people to leave by 9 o'clock, then tell them.
Kindness involves intentionality and prayer. Just plan for it. Pray for someone you can bless. And if it becomes one of those weeks where your guests cancel at the last minute, or your kids get sick, or maybe it’s just one of those weeks, then remain open and flexible. Now you have extra for leftovers or you can bless another family by dropping off a meal.
Kindness involves mess. Invite others to partake in messy life with you. We moved into a house that wasn't finished in construction.... ummmm and still isn't. For weeks all five of us shared the only water source- a bathtub where we brushed our teeth, bathed, washed hands and even washed dishes. I was not feeling kind in any sense of the word. But the Lord really pushed me on the need to keep giving in spite of my circumstance. (Although I did wait to host until I had a couple bathrooms, vanities and kitchen countertops - who needs a kitchen sink when paper products are in abundance at Costco?) These imperfections grow me and remind me of the bigger picture.
Kindness involves simplicity. Does Scripture say we need to host people at a table set with folded (fabric) napkins, homemade meal, wearing an apron...preferably without workout clothes underneath? Are we called to have a house free of dust bunnies and spotless glasses? No. I have tried living up to that standard. But it took me ALL day to prepare. It was a cost to my family, my attitude, and my heart. A true outpouring of God’s kindness will encourage and love all those around us, including ourselves.
Simplify so that you may better obey. I “clean” (translation- run a vacuum downstairs and try to remove what crusty clumps of food and grime is attached to any furniture). I don't dust. I don't touch the upstairs. God help anyone who wants to go up there. I have my children involved with setting the table and I let go of imperfections. I’ve also let go of appetizers. Carrot sticks? Maybe a dip? No cheese. No crackers. And my meal. Simple. Chicken. Chicken Marabella from The Silver Palate. Enormous portions- great with orzo and spinach. One dish meals. Or order pizza or subs. Because let me tell you- getting your house and family ready AND cooking can sometimes be just too much.
I will be honest and say a lot of times, day of, I wish I hadn't invited anyone over. My messy heart is exposed. I wish my husband was home earlier. I wish my kids didn't take out toys after we cleaned. But I press on. I show His loving kindness as best as I can and trust Him to honor my obedience.
Oh, and if someone offers to bring something, I take them up on it. Always.
Kristen Connell is an Ohio native with a love of music, art and the outdoors. She and her husband, Jesse, now live in northeast Capitol Hill with their children Owen, Zoë and Violet and attend NCC's Barracks Row location.