It keeps happening. The people I regularly invite into my home keep asking me if they can help clean up after a big meal. Most typically they want to help with the dishes. As the consummate hostess it is within me to decline their help. I love to open my home, serve people, and cook for them. I've learned to embrace the realities of that: an overflowing sink, messy counter tops, and a dining table littered with reminders of time well spent.
I don't expect much when I welcome guests into my home. And invitation to dinner at my home is really an invitation to share stories. That's the best part of the meal. I take the full responsibility of cleaning up upon myself. It's a worthy trade-off to gather around the table with people and make memories. Lately however I've noticed a pattern in my guests. They don't want the night to end. But specifically there's more of their story they want to share, often privately. So the request to help wash my dishes is a façade. What they're really asking for is an invitation to linger. And so I've started saying, "yes, I'd love your help," more often. I get clean dishes but most importantly they get the listening ear they crave.
It's a unique story of how I came into relationship with my best friend. But what you need to know is how we deepened that relationship. She would come over once or twice a week for a couples' dinner or girls night, and she would always stay late to help me wash dishes. At the time I lived in a 1926 bungalow without a dishwasher and boy, did I welcome her help. She was prepping for her wedding at the time. Over that sink of soap, suds, and grease, she shared fears and asked questions. I shared how marriage is both incredibly rewarding and also one of
the hardest things you'll ever do in your life. Anyone who presents just one side of that coin is lying.
I’ve been reflecting on those nights spent around that farm-style sink lately. It is within my nature to not ask for help. It is second hand for me to try and do everything myself. I’ve been trying to ignore that impulse lately. Instead I’m trying to slow down and answer after a moment of thought and considering what a person may really be asking when they ask to stay and help. More often than not the real questions sounds something more like these:
“Can I tell you a hard part of my story?”
“Do you have advice on this difficult situation I’m going through?”
Am I cared about? Valuable? Beautiful? Loved?”
So in my house as I try to make space for stories, community, and real life shared, my kitchen sink is looking less and less like a place to redeem messy plates. It’s starting to look more and more like a place to redeem hearts. It has become an altar of sorts; the kind flanked by bits of food and the smell of Dawn.
Joy is a missionary to Downtown Orlando with her husband, Jason, and drool covered Bassett Hound, Sam. She has a degree in Church Leadership and formerly helped manage the Church Planting office of Converge Worldwide. She teaches women how to intersect their faith and life through intentional missional living at joybrudolph.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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What a great observation! I don't know that I would ever have thought of that. Ironically, I have a real knack for "reading between the lines," and yet do. not. do. subtle. Drop me hints and I will miss them every single time. (I'm pretty blunt, so I guess my brain expects to hear things the way I'd say them.) But how sad it would be to miss such an opportunity just because we missed the real question!
5/28/2014 06:16:15 am
Rachel, I think we're all guilty of that from time to time. I've had to learn to be intentional about slowing down and listening well. I love that God can still work through us even when we miss opportunities.
5/29/2014 11:52:46 pm
WoW I was so touched by this story thank you Joy! I am visiting from Daily Devotionals and this story really impacted me. It is so true. I am the kind of person who loves creating "space" space for people to be real and for people to be open. Its in that space where we find Gods resting space for hearts and lives and stories of emotion. May you be blessed as you continue to create this space!
5/30/2014 04:51:24 am
Aliyah, thank you so much for your encouragement. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. It's so neat to find kindred spirits online.
6/2/2014 06:29:49 am
Insightful, and on reflection, very true. I'v leaned much about women as dishes have been washed and pots are towel dried. Our hearts spill when our hands are busy.
6/2/2014 06:46:11 am
So true, Lisa. We naturally open up when we work shoulder to shoulder.
6/2/2014 11:36:33 am
I love this! :) what a beautiful way to see your kitchen! A lot of life happens over a sink! :) blessings
6/4/2014 10:55:35 am
So true, Kaylene. The kitchen really is the heart of every home.
Oh, how I love that you're listen to the question behind the question. How easy it is to take those at face value or not to take the time to pay attention to the other clues the person is offering. This whole post moves me, especially your heart for hospitality, creating that space where stories can be shared and people can be loved and heard. Thank you for this. Joining from Unforced Rhythms.
6/4/2014 10:56:59 am
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, AMber. Thank you for your kind words. And you're right, it's so important to listen to what people are truly saying.
6/5/2014 07:57:25 am
Indeed, Laura. How neat that this was a shared experience between you and your sister.
11/3/2015 07:24:35 am
I agree that modern conveniences can interfere with personal connection, Belinda. But there are always opportunities to let people love and serve you especially in the context of hospitality. We just have to be intentional about seeking out the opportunities for connection.
11/5/2015 07:56:48 am
That's so very true, Betty. Thank you for reading.
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