When we reimagine hospitality, we create warm spaces that radiate with Jesus’s love.

I’d like to think I’m like my namesake in the Dennis the Menace comics, Mrs. Wilson. She’s the kind, grandmotherly type who always welcomes Dennis with a smile and a snack. The sad reality is that I’m much more akin to grumpy Mr. Wilson when it comes to little neighbor boys who interrupt my day.

At Faithwalkers last December, I was convicted when Steve Nelson reminded me that, just as we don’t get to pick our family members, we usually don’t get to pick the members of our church, small group or neighborhood. God often puts people in our path we wouldn’t necessarily pick for ourselves.

I added that truth to my ever-growing definition of hospitality. Sometimes hospitality is a big, well-planned dinner with family or friends. Sometimes it is as simple as putting out a plate of veggies, a bowl of chips and ordering a pizza. But God is challenging me with understanding that hospitality is far more about welcoming people into my home and life than it is about table decorations or the menu.

More to the point for my everyday life, I’m learning that hospitality is choosing a Mrs. Wilson heart when someone knocks on my door and interrupts my well-planned day. What I usually see as an interruption, God wants me to see as an opportunity.

These days I’m choosing to say, “Come in and join us” more often than I used too. Because I’m realizing that hospitality doesn’t mean that my kids have to stop what they are doing to entertain whoever has stopped by. It doesn’t mean that I have to drop what I had planned to do with my kids. It simply means that I respond to that knock on the door with an invitation: “Here’s what we are doing [insert reading a book, working on a craft, finishing up school work or even doing chores] but you are welcome to come on in and join us.” And I’ve been surprised by how meaningful those times have been.

One afternoon my daughter and I were reading Anne of Avonlea aloud when a neighbor girl knocked on our door. We told her we were in the middle of a book but she was welcome to join us. She’d read the first book in the series so she had some idea who the characters were and happily curled up on our couch to join in the laughter at the antics of our favorite red-headed heroine.

Another day, the knock came a few different times from a variety of people. I sat at the kitchen table organizing papers and listening to music. My daughter sat to my left finishing up school work. Across from me our neighbor girl was contentedly drawing pictures and enjoying the coziness of the kitchen, the company and the music. I could hear my son in the living room sharing stories of his latest adventures with the nursing student who lives with us and a friend of hers who was visiting. At some point in all this I realized that the neighbor boy my son had originally been playing with was nowhere to be seen. We found him upstairs, in my son’s room, contentedly reading a book.

That afternoon is a lovely memory of a house full of happy people. I didn’t go out of my way to entertain any of them. I just took the time to welcome them in, to show them where the drawing paper, markers and bookshelves were, and to let them know they were welcome to a spot at the table.

When the Dennises in my world knock on my door, it’s really Jesus knocking on my door saying, “Will you welcome them in, in my name? Will you give them a place to come and be that is warm and comfortable and safe? Will you welcome them into the simple rhythms of your home and in doing so show them my love?”

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” because he saw the children as individuals rather than as interruptions to a greater work. These moments with the neighborhood kids are valuable, even though nothing of great importance seems to be happening in the moment. I’m trusting that these moments will add up to something meaningful in their lives. Maybe they will expand their concept of a home that is centered around Jesus. Maybe welcoming them in, just as they are, will add to their sense of well-being and value in the midst of a world that too often criticizes and bullies them. Maybe these moments will ensure them that this is a safe space to ask questions and share stories about the things they love.

I admit there are days I’m still more Mr. Wilson than Mrs. Wilson. And there are days when I genuinely need to say “Not today” in order to get things done or to spend one-on-one time with my kids. But more and more often I feel the Spirit nudging me to open the door and simply say, “Welcome, come on in.”