OliveHome Essentials: Hospitality

Nov 05, 2020

Henri Nouwen has my favorite definition of Hospitality. It is actually one of the most foundational pieces of OLIVEHOME and it largely informs the way I mentor creatives. In his book Reaching Out he defines hospitality as so: 


“Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but offer the space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear fruit.”  


Hospitality is something that can transform your life. Not just hospitality towards others, but towards your own heart, and ultimately towards God. There is something significant about a life that is completely surrendered and open to the movements of love. 


Hospitality towards self is about allowing the shadow and strangers to be known, to experience light. We all know that our disposition towards ourselves is rarely kind saying things like: “Come in! Make yourself at home!” Our inner dialogue is more often sharp, sarcastic, and quite frankly… just mean. The narrative in our heads is one that communicates that we need to shape up, be better, work more, work harder, write a better song, be more beautiful, be more captivating. It is wild how terrible we can be towards ourselves. I suggest that we will never know hospitality towards others if we don’t first experience it towards ourselves. 


When was the last time you needed something and actually allowed yourself to receive it? Maybe your body was signalling to you that it was worn out and exhausted, and you allowed yourself a 30minute nap. Maybe you were feeling sad and you allowed yourself to feel it and felt the freedom to experience sadness, and felt the ease of it coming and going. Maybe hospitality towards yourself looks like these things, maybe it looks like something entirely different. Maybe it is cheering yourself on towards your dreams instead of thinking of the worst case scenario. Maybe it is allowing yourself to dream about being a full time artist and actually believing that could be a reality for your life. 


In the posts to come I will break down more about hospitality towards others and towards God, but I want to give you some tools and perspectives to just start tying to experience it towards your own heart. 


In our vision statement for our home, one of the lines says, “Strangers and shadows are welcome to come into the light here.” Most of the time that manifests itself in hidden things lingering in our hearts and strange emotions and memories we have not tended to for years. I can connect with my husband and those I love much deeper when I simply allow my heart to be seen, known, and loved. Most of the time we act out in rage and lose control of our emotions and thoughts because we have been suppressing too much for too long. We have been afraid of what might happen if we are kind to ourselves. We dread the work it takes to allow ourselves to simply… be. 


The last year for me has been practicing hospitality towards myself. I learned how God has shown hospitality towards me and I asked that he would teach me. I knew that it was time to learn this when I realized I was quickly exhausted from loving others. It was revealed to me that my capacity to love others will always be stifled if I do not know how to be loved. So for the last year I have brought my gift of neediness to the table, and I have experienced wild generosity from others, God, and myself. I have watched my pace slow down tremendously and I am actually experiencing my life as it comes. I am beginning to recognize the beauty that is within me and right in front of me. And it truly is like clockwork, my capacity to love others has grown overnight and my love for the Lord has bloomed like no other. 


It is really about waking your heart up. No longer ignoring your need, no longer suppressing your voice and allowing yourself to come as you are to receive transforming grace. It will change you. 


TOOL: Empty Chair 


Find some solitude and pull up two chairs facing each other. 

You can close your eyes or keep them open, but take a couple deep breaths and allow yourself to picture you are sitting down with yourself. 

You ask yourself a series of questions and take time to listen to your responses: 

How are You? How is your heart? How is your strength? What are you seeing/feeling/hearing? Do you feel silenced or shut down? Do you feel free? Where do you feel free? How can I serve you? 


Journal out your response and move forward towards hospitality in this space, even if it is finding one way to allow yourself to “come as you are” this week. 




A huge aspect to hospitality is slowing your pace. I think about my time in England where I experienced some of the most hospitable company, and the pace of life was slow, intentional, and powerful. Most of the time we cannot care for our hearts because we are too busy. We are in a rapid hurry. We are exhausted from the hustle and have no energy to care for anyone. This week, notice your pace. Notice when you are doing more than one thing at a time. Notice when you make careless mistakes because you’re in a rush. In these moments, allow yourself a one minute pause. Coach your heart and mind: “There is enough time. Time is not running out. I am right on time.” Find a way to be slowed down this week. 


Alright friends, more on hospitality to come. I am learning with you. I took a thirty minute nap before I wrote this and I am actually headed off to do the empty chair tool myself. I’ll chat with you soon, much love. 


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