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By Tom & Connie Wilkening – Spring Lake, Michigan

We often say, “Wow, thank you God for what you’ve provided for us! It’s more than we could ask or think.”

We enjoy living in a wonderful home on a lake that has always been an open door for family, friends, acquaintances, and even politicians. We want people to feel that our home is a place where they can be genuinely loved.

This isn’t their lake, but you get the idea! Photo by Srikar Devaguptapu 

The great joy in having something that God has provided is in sharing it with others.

Labor of Love

For weekend guests, the pleasure of the hosting effort begins several days prior to their visit and continues after they leave.

House cleaning, menu planning, grocery shopping, food prep, serving, clean up, making beds, and finally, resting up! It’s a labor of love!

Most important is the comradery that takes place while the guests are present. Just for grins, we have a sign in the laundry room that reads: “Welcome to the lake house bed & breakfast… you make both!”

The same type of attention is given when guests come for lunch or dinner, whether it’s a couple of people or a group. This is the heart behind the love of welcoming friends, family and guests to our home.

Some of our meals are served with a formal table using a linen tablecloth, fabric napkins, good china and crystal, but many of our meals are just sitting and standing around the kitchen counter.

A Welcome Environment

It’s the laughter with one another that establishes the tone for comfortable meals. We want to make each of our guests feel welcome, and we hope that the environment we provide will achieve that.

It’s in these relaxed and comfortable times when our guests feel free to share their personal hearts. God has truly blessed us, and it’s a great joy to bless others in return.

Whether our guests are here to share a meal or stay for the weekend, we try to be aware of ways we can bless and accommodate them in special ways.

Our guests who work from home may bring their laptop computers and need a quiet place to conduct their online business. Other guests may follow a vegan diet, have allergies, or are gluten intolerant. Still others may have schoolwork to complete.

Being aware of these issues and providing for them blesses them and eliminates awkward moments. Anticipating and meeting a guest’s needs, whenever possible, is the quiet grace of providing gracious hospitality.

It’s been our privilege to share our home with believers as well as with those who aren’t people of faith. God’s light can be shone into the darkness with kindness, compassion and respect.

People often don’t remember what was said, but they do remember how they were treated. Giving multiplies receiving when we open our hearts and homes to others.

Be a Good Guest

Hospitable entertaining is an exercise in social diplomacy and wisdom. And being a good guest is also an exercise in the same!

Being welcomed into someone’s home is an honor, and arriving with a simple gift is a very thoughtful and courteous gesture.

Or instead, we might give a gift at the end of our stay.

On one occasion, we had a house guest who stayed for a month. At the end of his stay, he bought small items to thank us: a scoop for the ice cube tray that we didn’t have and some of our favorite cookies made fresh at the local grocery. These and several other gestures really touched our hearts.

As hosts invest themselves toward making a wonderful environment and memorable time for their guests, likewise, a good guest wants to be a blessing to have around.

Awareness and Adaptation

Adapting in appropriate ways to the host’s home and sharing of their lives is one tangible way to express thankfulness: taking note of when meals are served, or when hosts retire to bed in the evening and arise in the morning.

Do they remove shoes before entering the door? Following the patterns they have established in their home, being a good listener, being complimentary and appreciative… all makes for a memorable time for everyone.

Allowing our host to serve us requires a bit of humbleness. But it’s often appreciated when we offer to help out when it seems right.

As we ask to chip in, our hosts will know when and where they could use the assistance. We might be asked to entertain children to free the hosts, refresh the pet dog’s water or other practical ways to support the household experience during our time together.

Some age-old guidelines for being a guest in someone’s home or sharing a home (like a vacation spot) with others can be simply stated:

If you make a mess, clean it up.
If you move it, put it back.
If you open it, close it.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you break it, admit it and offer to replace it.
If you can’t fix it, get someone who can to fix it.
If it belongs to someone else, ask permission to use it.

 Photo by Leo Reynolds 

After our stay as guests, it’s also thoughtful to send a short thank you note to the hosts. Expressing gratitude in writing is a loving gesture that’s recognized as being from the heart.

Overall, the love of God is the lifestyle of his people, whether as hosts or guests.

For more on the power of hospitality and gathering around a table, read We Can Reach the World Through Hospitality or The Beauty of Breaking Bread.

With decades of service as faithful ambassadors for Christ, Tom and Connie Wilkening are well-known for opening their home and hearts, inviting seekers to be brought closer to God and the Bible. They have been married 55 years, raised three children, and now enjoy their fifth puppy, a golden doodle.