Hospitality vs. Loneliness
Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)-Bill Gothard's Characte Traits
The older I got, the more responsibilities I was given. When I last left my mother's list of progeny, she'd just had me (I think). In 1986, she had "Caleb". In 1988, she had twin boys, "Matthew" and "Luke". We called them the Dynamic Duo because they were never still and would go on to win the "most like to end up in the emergency room" award. After the twins were born, my father started travelling alot and my mother had a miscarriage, so it was three years before "Becca" was born, in 1991. All of the children after me were "my charges"/buddies.
1993 was a monumental year for my family...and for me.
Very early on in the year, one of my maternal grandparent's died. The other followed shortly after. We'd moved back to the South by that point and it fell to my mother to plan and host her parent's funerals. She, as it happened, was pregnant with Rachel. By default, the hospitality planning fell to me. Until now, I never realized just how bizarre it was for grown people to pass off the responsibility for hosting a wake to a nine year old child. I'd like to say that my parents must have been doing something right, or that I was preternaturally mature, because I pulled it off.
One of the training sessions that all girls attend in ATI camps involves hospitality. You learn the general rules of hospitality and meal planning for large groups. You learn how to "have a listening heart" and an "anticipating JOY-ful spirit". Translated: you learn how to listen for small clues regarding the needs of your guests and you try to stay one step ahead of them in providing for those needs. I flew around our house in full QF-Queen mode. I didn't even go to the graveside service because I was instructed to stay home and prep for the gathering that would follow.
My mother was devestated by the loss of her parents in such a short span of time. Between the bad blood of the past and my father's imposed distancing, she had limited contact with her parents. They, not wanting to walk away completely, decided to focus on forging relationships, as they could, with their grandchildren. I think they figured that, perhaps, they could help us where they couldn't help my mom. Their estate was given to my mother, who was supposed to divide it up for her children. In reality, they might as well have written my father's name on the will because he was the ultimate decision maker when it came to finances. The money was put into "dowry accounts" for us girls and put into "start up accounts" for the boys. I've never seen my dowry account. I've been told that my dad withdrew the money and put it into a business endeavor for my brother.
I digress. By the time I turned ten, I was capable of running the house. If we had visitors, which we often did, I could prepare all of the meals and prepare enough alternate bedding for us kids (our guests took our rooms). How did those visits shake down, you might wonder?
Usually, the other QF/ATI family would arrive and we'd immediately gather for prayers. One of the fathers would ask for God's blessing on the fellowship. As we all got older, the fathers would ask God to open our eyes to "His Plan". I may be way off, but the manner in which they said this always made me hear this as "open your hearts and listen to the Lord because he may be presenting you kids with 'the one'". However, after this prayer, the segregating of the sexes was almost immediate. The female children would head to the kitchen to prep a meal. The males would head outside or to the pool table. The adults would go to the formal living room (if there was one) to "fellowship".
As much as ATI families try to stay humble and gracious, you couldn't help be feel and hear the vanity and one-upping.
Parents A: Our Ruthie can run a home better than her mother. Teehee.
Parents B: That's wonderful! What a blessing she must be. She would pair nicely with our Janey! Janey can single-handedly clothe our entire family with ten yards of re-claimed fabric.
Parents A: A blessing indeed! Praise God for his wisdom. You know, our Eli is already saving wood to build his bride a home.
Parnets B: He should talk with our John! John is carving his marital bed out of a single piece of maple he bought at an auction.
You get the idea.