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room in the inn

When I lived in Portland, I had a townhouse with a big kitchen, hardwood floors and a fireplace.  I loved living there because it gave me the opportunity to practice hospitality, which I love.

Getting the guest room ready for overnight guests, putting together a basket of travel-sized toiletries just in case they forgot something, buying fresh flowers for the mantle, cooking a 4-course meal from scratch, dimming the lights and lighting the candles….

Even as I write about it now, I get excited.  And then I moved out and started traveling and speaking, and I don’t have a home right now.  Just me and a suitcase I’ve started calling Bob because he travels with me everywhere, and sometimes he’s my only companion and sometimes a girl just needs someone to talk to.

So anyway.  It’s me and Bob against the world. Well, not against it, but you know what I mean.

Mostly, I love it, but sometimes I miss having my own home.  Sometimes I just want to host a 50’s themed cocktail party or a Sunday night dinner party or invite a friend from the east coast to come visit me.  I miss the hospitality that comes with place.

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about a different idea: emotional hospitality.

We often think of the Advent story, and Mary giving birth in a barn because there was no room in the inn.

And we tell ourselves that if we were running that in, if we were living in Bethlehem, if a woman in active labor knocked on our door, we’d do something about it.

But we shut others out all the time.  Sometimes literally (as evidenced in our approach to Syrian refugees), and often, emotionally.

So I’ve been trying to think of how I can practice emotional hospitality in my life.

Instead of walking off-stage and leaving out the back door after a speaking engagement, can I stay for the hugs and tears and stories people want to share with me?

Can I give someone my phone number and tell them to call me any time — and then actually pick up the phone when they do?

Can I generously give emotional energy and time, without expecting anything in return?

Can I treat relationships as more than a tit-for-tat exchange?

Can I use my writing to practice hospitality?  To lay out ideas and say, “I will not yell these at you.  I will not force these on you.  But….I’m going to set the table and if you want to, if you’re hungry, if you’re ready, here’s everything I have, and you’re welcome to it.”

This Advent, can I open the door of my heart and say, “Come in — I would love to make room for one more.”

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Thanks for sharing!

2 thoughts on “room in the inn

  1. I love you, Sarah. Sorry if that’s too much or too creepy coming from a stranger – but I do. Just finished reading ‘The Invisible Girls’ TODAY, and thought to myself, “Self, you MUST meet this Sarah Thebarge some day.” We’re soul sisters, Sarah. I, too, suffer from a devastating disease similar to cancer. It’s called LAM. There is no cure, it’s extremely rare, and I struggle mostly with feelings of isolation (no one, not even my husband, can truly understand this chaos I’m forced to endure). But your book made me feel so connected to you and it infused me with hope and then I felt less lonely. Also, our family has lived overseas for many years – mostly in North Africa – and we have many Muslim friends. I loved reading how you loved on this precious Somalian family. You didn’t withhold any part of you because they were Muslim – heart, soul, mind and strength. I just wrote a blog about what it’s like to have Muslim friends and show them hospitality. Some of the response has been negative because so many Americans are simply afraid right now. It’s hard to be in the camp of people who actually know Muslims, have befriended them, and really, truly, love them. Again, I felt so connected to you. And then I read this blog about emotional hospitality and it was EXACTLY what I’ve been wrestling with since I herniated a disc in my back last week after offering PHYSICAL hospitality to a group of 20! So I’m trying to focus on emotional hospitality for family and friends this Christmas season as I sit here on my heating pad waiting for the narcotics to kick in… I looked up your speaking engagements for 2016 and see that you will be in Grand Rapids (our home) in April. And I’m dead serious about wanting to meet you. So I’d like to offer up our home (back to physical hospitality – my back should be healed by then!) as a place to stay. Again – too much and too creepy from a stranger???? Hope not – because I mean it. Sincerely. (Small caveat: I suck at cooking, but I know the best take-outs and I have the most amazing Italian friend whose cooking is legendary) Think about it, Sarah! You’d make my day. My year, in fact. Grace and peace, sister.

    1. Cindy!!! Thanks so much for the note. I hope you find rest and hope (and pain relief!) this Advent. I would LOVE to meet you when I come to Grand Rapids. Can you check in with me closer to the date? Thanks so much. Sarah

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